Can Development Directors Save The World?

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When I was younger, I had dreams of saving the world. Correction, for a short time I had dreams of being a night nurse because I knew that meant I would be able to stay up past my bedtime. However, once I realized that as a grown up I could set my own bedtime…I wanted to save the world.

My world saving career didn’t begin with a cape or a cat suit, but started when I was seventeen in a domestic violence shelter where I volunteered twice a week. Then, I went to college and majored in social work. World saving was still the goal. I vowed to never do anything but direct service. (Spoiler alert: I would eat those words.)

What is our perception of our impact?

But, this blog isn’t really about me or my journey. It is more about the realizations along the way. It’s about the perception of “saving the world” and how it can take on many forms.

Now, over a decade into this world saving business, I find myself as the director of development of an amazingly wonderful nonprofit. But, how did I get here? And, how do I quench my world saving thirst? Easily.

Some (and by “some” I mean lots) may say that fundraising is a chore. It is a “necessary evil” of the nonprofit world. They may say that it makes them “feel bad.” And, I get this. But, I’d say that person is viewing fundraising all wrong.

Do we make donors better?

Research shows that, while paradoxical, donors end up with more income after making their gifts. And, the act of giving to charitable causes makes people happier than had they spent the money on themselves.   This is confirmed by researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia.

As a development professional, you will find that the real magic of fundraising goes much deeper than temporary happiness or extra income for the donor. It creates meaning.  Nonprofit professionals serve others, and help champion causes. But just as important, by providing opportunities to give, development professionals empower others to breathe more meaning into their lives. And, they impact not only the donor, but the programs for which they raise funds. Growth and expansion are made possible through fundraising. The ripple effect of this work is monumental.

Do we make a difference in the lives of others?

So, as a development professional, you may not sit in a room with a client and walk with them through trauma. You may not visit orphans in a developing country or pass out meals to the hungry. You may not be seen as a world saver by all. Be okay with that. Because the reality is, you are making a difference in the work of your organization and in the lives of those you invite to give.

I encourage you to go to bed, as I do, knowing you are making a difference, saving the world. In addition to this knowledge, and to honor my inner child, I go to bed whenever I feel like it. But, I always first honor my teen self, hungry to make the world better than when I entered it. I am making a difference in others’ lives – it just looks different than I originally envisioned. But, it is no less important or impactful.

emily carroll headshotEmily Carroll is the Director of Development for The Refuge Center. Emily Carroll has a BS in Social Work from the University of Tennessee and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from North Park University in Chicago, Illinois. The act of serving others is in her blood and has been a lifelong driving force. Emily is a gifted communicator and relationship‐builder, and she is in her element when conversing and connecting with people. She is extremely passionate and is able to transfer that passion to others. Emily is excited to expand the reach and mission of the agency and truly believes in the work of The Refuge Center for Counseling.

Also check out Attachment-Based Leadership (Part 1)


Brian Lord

I'm passionate about helping kids internationally, both directly, but also by equipping and encouraging others to do so. I've got a great wife and two little girls who always find cool ways to serve and love others.

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