During their time at the school, undergraduate students learn how to articulate the causes they care about and pursue careers based on those passions.
Throughout this series, students from Dr. Patricia Snell Herzog’s course shared various lessons that they’ve learned in visits to a variety of organizations.
In their final class visit, students went to the Indianapolis Zoo, where they learned about the characteristics that make fundraisers successful and general life advice.
At the Indianapolis Zoo, students met with Julie McDearmon, the Director of Institutional Advancement. Reflecting on her professional journey in philanthropy, McDearmon said, “During your fundraising career, you may be at an organization, whose mission, while worthy and important, might not speak to you personally. It can be difficult to raise money for something you are not completely passionate about. It often takes time to find that passion, or even match your career with that passion. It’s important to continue to work hard to find that match, and while doing that, learn all you can and refine your skills. This will make you not only extremely valuable in the workplace, but will keep you fulfilled in your career.”
Leah Humphrey, a sophomore civic leadership major said this about McDearmon’s advice regarding the link between passion and career commitment in fundraising: “Convincing people to donate money or their estate to your cause takes good communication skills, intelligence, and passion. If you do not believe that you are raising money for a good cause, it will be difficult to get others to believe that this is a cause that they should fund.”
Research backs up Humphrey’s point. Faculty members Genevieve Shaker, Ph.D., and Sarah Nathan, Ph.D., analyzed the personal characteristics of successful higher education fundraisers. Their study found that emotional intelligence, an achievement orientation, ethical grounding, mission focus, and an intellectual aptitude all contribute to a fundraiser’s success.
Likewise, Stephen Morrow, a first-year international studies and pre-human resource management major, with a minor in philanthropic studies, said about McDearmon’s advice: “You don’t always find your passion on the first try at something; it can take time to find your passion. If you are in a position that you are not passionate about, be willing and open to doing whatever that job entails because what you can do in this job now that doesn’t seem important can be important in where you want to go in the future.”
Katelyn Summit, a junior tourism, event, and sport management major and philanthropic studies minor, said, “When one of our hosts, Julie, mentioned that it’s difficult to raise money for an organization or cause that you’re not personally passionate about, she meant that it is important to be happy for the right reasons while working for a particular organization. Julie loves animals and loves the zoo; it was evident that fundraising efforts for her almost come naturally and definitely come easily. It is important to make yourself happy and strive for self-fulfillment in the workplace.”
During the visit, students also met with Edward Sandifer, Planned and Major Gifts Officer, who offered this advice: “Life is what you make of it. You should always seek opportunities to:
- Learn – Continue to grow in your personal and professional development;
- Serve – Do something to help someone or something in need, and the need will always be there;
- Meet – Develop a healthy network of friends, professional colleagues, and other contacts who will be there to help you along life’s journey.”
Morrow reflected on Sandifer’s advice by saying, “Learning is doing something to develop yourself further. Serving is serving those who are in more need than you are; there is always something that you can do to add value to others. Meeting is connecting and finding common bonds with others that you can use to help you get to places in the future.”
Also reflecting on this advice, Humphrey commented: “There is always something you can learn every day. By committing to learning every day you open yourself up to opportunities to improve yourself, and the work. Ed said that when you are committed to serving, that means you are adding value to others. Remembering that the work you do is not just a job, but is to help improve the lives of others. Meeting means that you are networking and building relationships with people in and outside of your field so that you can develop social capital that can come in handy later.”
“Ed gave really unique advice,” said Summit. “This was a great organizational visit! I think it stood out in the most positive ways.”