Working in an office at Gleaners that is quite close to Jackson is Debbie Russell, the director of donor engagement. Russell has worked in development for almost 20 years, but she did not begin her career in fundraising.
When she was working in human resources for a for-profit corporation, Russell began volunteering at Horizon House and fell in love with the mission. When the executive director noticed Russell’s zeal for the organization, he asked her to head the volunteering program. Then, when a new executive director came on board, he noted Russell’s effectiveness and engagement with visitors, and asked her to lead their development department.
However, she had no fundraising experience.
“I had never done it before and didn’t have the confidence that I could,” she explained. “A volunteer and donor mentioned The Fund Raising School. He said, ‘we have the best fundraising school in the nation. I believe that because of your passion for Horizon House, you can learn how to fundraise well.’ He offered to pay for my schooling. With those words of encouragement, I decided to try it.”
The result? Russell enrolled in the original course, Principles and Techniques of Fundraising. And her instructor? Dr. Tim Seiler, then director of The Fund Raising School.
“Dr. Seiler not only gave great instructions during that class, he became a mentor to me over the years as well,” she said.
After taking that course, Russell decided she needed to take three other courses* to earn a Certificate in Fund Raising Management. Over the course of several years, she finished the certificate and also enrolled in other courses with The Fund Raising School to help her garner more knowledge about the fundraising field.
She found Principles and Techniques of Fundraising most useful when she supervised entire development departments at Horizon House and then Second Helpings.
It was when she moved to Gleaners seven years ago though that Russell developed her passion of working with individual donors and building relationships with them. To do that, she utilizes knowledge from the Major Gifts course in her every day work.
“I still go back to those course books in my bookcase to look at a definition or technique, especially when I’m trying to explain something to someone new to the field,” she said.
When she helps other individuals build their knowledge about fundraising from her own experiences, Russell also encourages fundraisers to take classes with The Fund Raising School.
“The courses provided the whole foundation for me to launch what I wanted to do in fundraising and also gave me an important network of other fundraisers to reach out to when I had questions,” she said.
“I will be forever grateful to The Fund Raising School for showing me that I could fundraise and do it successfully.”
*The Certificate in Fund Raising Management comprises the following courses:
- Principles & Techniques of Fundraising
Then, you choose three from the following.
- Developing Major Gifts
- Developing Annual Sustainability
- Planned Giving: Getting the Proper Start
- Managing the Capital Campaign