All the gifts my first boss gave me…

1994-09 Harborview Goodbye Party

Some pals at my goodbye party leaving Harborview; Cliff is on the left, that’s me on the right.

At times, you only understand how good a thing is when you look back on it.

Such is the case with the boss in my very first job – Cliff Sanderlin.

My first fundraising job was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. What a great mission, what great healing, what changed lives! A Level I trauma center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, with heroic stories of healing, Harborview was a part of the University of Washington. They were some of the most dedicated staff – medical staff and non-medical staff – I’ve met. It was a privilege to raise needed funds while there.

And three of us – Cliff, Rebecca Fong and me – were building the fundraising office from the ground up. I was so excited. And I had no idea how it would change my life as I started on a fantastic career journey I’m still on.

I know now that the most important things I got out of my time there were the many gifts that Cliff gave me.

Gift #1 – the opportunity. We often come across this gift in life – a door opened. When we get a gift like this, we always need to make the most of it – take that first step to walk through the door (or even knock on the door to get it opened!). I was intrigued by what fundraisers were doing when I was working at the University of Washington College of Engineering in a secretarial role.  Cliff was the Associate Director of Development there – and when he left to take a job at Harborview, I asked if I could become a fundraiser too – I wanted a job there. We talked. He saw something in me that would succeed. I applied and joined the team.

Gift #2 – he built a great team. Cliff looked for someone he had worked with before (Rebecca), and someone new (me!). Cliff considered his strengths, and tapped another colleague to join him. And then he added me to the team. And then, he worked with us to set expectations and help us grow. He made sure there were times of fun along with the hard work. It may have been the ease and challenge of a small shop, but we felt we could do almost anything! Continue reading

Joy at Work

I love being a fundraiser and I always say that, for me, fundraising isn’t a job but a calling.

So I got excited listening to Shankar Vedantam’s recent podcast, “How to Build a Better Job,” where he interviewed Amy Wrzesniewski, Ph.D., Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management. My ears perked up because I know not every fundraiser is happy in her job. And there lots of reasons for that. (Psst! I don’t believe that there is a perfect job – one that will make you ridiculously happy. After all, that comes from inside YOU.)

“People who see their work as a calling are significantly more satisfied with their jobs, they are significantly more satisfied with their lives,” notes Amy. “They are more engaged with what they’re doing and they tend to be better performers, regardless of what the work is.”

This is great news. Because many of us in the nonprofit space are passionate about what we do. And sometimes, passion isn’t enough.

My maternal grandfather, T. Thompson, with his logging truck in 1943.

My maternal grandfather, T. Thompson, with his logging truck in 1943.

The truth is that too many within the sector work (or have worked) in nonprofits that are dysfunctional, have poor decision-making, or lack appropriate human resource guidance – to disastrous consequences.

In other cases, sometimes fundraisers become discouraged and leave because they aren’t allowed to do the jobs for which they were hired, are unable to unleash their creativity, or are blocked from making any decisions, even within the job scope.

This is where Job Crafting can come into play.

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New Path

I’m so excited to be looking ahead to my new job – I start June 29 at Simon Fraser University! I live in Vancouver, and Simon Fraser University (SFU) is located just outside the city limits, on Burnaby Mountain.

I’m so very excited to join the team there! I’ll be heading up the fundraising efforts at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  I’m excited to dive in and meet the faculty, the students and the other staff members – so many great departments. Can you guess which departments might be my favourite?

And I’ve got to give a shout out to Rory Green. She gave me a heads up the SFU was hiring and what a fantastic team they have.

I’m starting to think about my first 100 days and came across this article – which I think is a perfect read for fundraisers who may be starting a new job. My First 90 Days: Why You Should Have 30 Coffee Meetings. And if you are a new fundraiser, this is a great way to practice your relationship building skills.

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Recap of Love Your Job, Love Your Life

Fundraising heroes, nonprofit friends and craziness! L to R, Simone Joyaux, Tom Ahern, me and Shanon Doolittle

Fundraising heroes, nonprofit friends and craziness! L to R, Simone Joyaux, Tom Ahern, me and Shanon Doolittle


I just returned from Baltimore, Maryland. The 2015 Association of Fundraising Professionals conference was a cracker this year!

I had such a delightful time joining my pal, Shanon Doolittle, in a presentation on how to thrive in work and life as a fundraiser.

As fundraisers, we can be very passionate about our work – but sometimes it can lead to burn out. Or, it can steal from the time you want to spend with friends, family, or pursuing a hobby or education.

Because I care about our profession SO MUCH and Shanon is keen to ensure we continue to be high-fiving do-gooders, she and I curated a book!

You can download the e-book here: 9 to Thrive: Strategies to Build a Heart Happy Life and Career.

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Don’t Hate Work

image by Olivier Schrauwen

image by Olivier Schrauwen

Following on my last post, which, among other things, reminded readers that they are due respect and dignity in the workplace (in the nonprofit sector or another), I wanted to share a great article “Why You Hate Work” by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath, (Sunday New York Times). Below is an excerpt:

“Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly recharge and renew at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.” 

If you lead a team of any size, I urge you to read this.

Even if you don’t “lead” (via title, org chart or nomination), you can act as a leader in your work.

Keeping these four important points in mind can help you feel connected to your team and help your colleagues become and stay happy and motivated in their work.

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