Applying Professional Skills and Fundraising for a Great Cause

After several years of hosting fund raising dinners and parties and delivering a couple thousand dollars to the worthy organization, I decided to put my PM/BA hat on and approach my desire to give back using the best practices that my professional life centers around. Why couldn’t I raise more money? What was stopping me? Could I put a plan together and execute it well? I decided to put my theory to the test and planned to raise $10,000 for Dress for success Twin Cities during the One Night One Mission last year. www.dressforsuccesstwincities.org.

Dress_for_Success_AwardThe organization was an easy choice for me. I’ve always been passionate about helping women find their leadership voice. I had amazing mentors – both men and women – when I was young, starting with my Dad. He taught me and others that having both female and male voices at the leadership table in every aspect of our lives was critical to success. He was a loud voice in the midst of the 1970’s, a time of great social change for women in business. I came of age in that time and have been encouraged since my school days to strive for a seat at whatever table I have my eye on.

So what happens to the women who haven’t had that encouragement; who haven’t the job or opportunity to get one where she can add their voice to the world? Who finds herself below the poverty line with no hope of getting on top of it. The answer is that she cycles through the system; from one social organization to another and back again. Unless she are lucky enough to be referred to Dress for Success where she meets a group of women volunteers who help her pick out an interview suit, learn critical interview skills and when she gets the job, return to fill out her professional wardrobe so she can focus her earnings on child and/or healthcare. Armed with new style and confidence, she joins the DFS’ professional Women’s Group where she networks with other professionals and learns the skills and tools to keep her job and to grow in her career. It’s not an easy journey but it is a way out with a group of women paying it forward.

So I had my organization and my goal. Now what?

I looked at my network. Did I know 4 people who could give $5000? 10 people that could give $1000? What about 20 who could give $500? $500 felt like a good number so I built a list of names and started calling. If I threw a party in the Fall, would they come and bring a check for $500? It took me 29 phone calls and I had my $10,000. It was remarkably easy – much easier than I thought.

The goal for the organization was $25,000 for that campaign. I raised $10,000 of that all because I looked at the “project” with my analyst hat on and built a project plan. And then executed my plan well. At the planning meeting for all fund raisers this year, the team asked me to explain what I did. This year we raised over $50,000!

To acknowledge my success in raising $10,000 in 2012, Tiffany’s created a crystal plaque with my name engraved on it. I am honored and a bit humbled. At our planning meeting early next year, I’ll present that plaque to the top fund raiser for 2013 with her name on it. She raised over $30,000! Someone else who also believes that we need more women leading successful careers, raising successful children and hosting successful fund raisers!

Laura Kelly