As a fundraiser for 30 years, it was not a surprise for me to end up in this career.
I started at an early age mirroring my parents’ generosity. Girl Guide cookies when I was 6 years old, a UNICEF box every Halloween when pennies were still currency and all the school sales of chocolate bars and such.
Every one of those I had to make my own pitch. My father would take me to the police station where he worked to sell cookies, but I had to ask every officer myself. One of my parents would walk with me door to door selling my wares but wait at the end of the driveway. What it taught me was to believe in the cause I was representing and to focus on what the result of my efforts would be. I needed to understand why I believed in what I was selling.
As I got older and became a donor, results and impact continued to be important to me. What effect would my donation, usually modest, have on a charity I considered supporting? If I could not ‘change the world’ was it worth making?
This is the time of year when donors of all ages and abilities reflect on questions like these as their mailboxes, both virtual and physical, are flooded with requests. What have the charities they supported in the past done with their gifts? What impact has their support had? Have they heard from the charities and understood the difference they made?
When you choose a charity to support, how do you align it to your personal why?
Gifts at this time of year are often given for three reasons: timing, requests by charities and tax savings.
While all of these are reasons for why people give at this time of year, none of them answer the true ‘why’.
When I meet with a donor for the first time, I like to investigate their personal why for not only their support of the charity I work for but their philanthropy in general.
Why are you philanthropic? How did it begin? Like me, did you learn it as a child or as an adult from your partner? Have you passed the teachings on to your children? Do you practice it as a family? What was the first significant gift you gave? What did it support and why did you give it? Do you continue to support that charity or have your interests changed?
After most of my career in healthcare fundraising, which answered my why through the death of my father at 47 from heart disease, the loss of several close family members to cancer, and my own two-year journey with a brain tumor, I now find myself in the social service/education sector. Growing up in a single parent home, after my father’s death, on a fixed income, the teachings of JA are critically important to my why.
I’m thrilled to be working and personally donating to Junior Achievement South Western Ontario because it aligns with my why. It’s far more than leadership, and financial literacy. JA addresses poverty proactively. It sets young people up with the skills and mentors they need to become successful at whatever path they choose.
I hope that JA SWO connects with your why as you make your holiday gifts this year. Regardless of which charity you choose to support, I hope you are able to take a moment to connect to your why and make a gift in the true spirit of the season.
- Heather J. Scott, CFRE
JA South Western Ontario