Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Fundraising?

A recurring question people ask when I tell them that I am doing a postgraduate program in fundraising is why?

When I first chose the Humber Fundraising and Volunteer Management (HFVM) program, I had very different reasons for why I thought it was right for me than I do now. It was only when I started the program that I really learned why fundraising is exactly what I'd like to do.

I did my undergraduate degree in Global Development Studies (DEVS) and History at Queen's University. No one ever knows what DEVS is. It's an interdisciplinary program focusing on theoretical concepts of development; it's about understanding the history of global inequality through courses in politics, economics and history. This program had a profound effect on how I think and look at the world. It taught me how to think critically but at times, it was very disheartening. To learn about how people have treated each other in our world history is both horrifying and heartbreaking, from slavery to genocides. To realize that my experiences of wearing shoes, owning a computer and drinking clean water is not accessible to most of the people on this planet is something that I still cannot wrap my head around, let alone getting into the rights and freedoms I am (or not) granted based on where I was born and live.

The program left me with a fear that nothing I did could change the world for the better. Ever since I was young, I have always been passionate about two things: people and helping. I thought learning about the world would make it easier to learn how I could combine those interests but it made it harder.

As much as I have always wanted to help people, I have also always leaned towards interests of a less noble nature. I've always loved fashion, trends, and been fascinated by a ritzier lifestyle. I always imagined myself working in a fast-paced office, dressing up to work. When I was younger, my dream was to be just like Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner.

I stumbled upon the HFVM program while researching public relations programs. I read an article that suggested fundraising was sort of like public relations for non profits and it seemed like the perfect balance for me. It would allow me to work for a cause I really believed in, raise money to make a difference and yet manage some of those lifestyle options I wanted, like getting dressed up for work on some days (of course depending on where you work).

As I started the program, I had a hard time adjusting to the practical side of knowledge. My undergraduate program left me criticizing the methods I was learning, of whether they would really help to create an impactful change. But as I gained more knowledge in the field, I began to reconcile critical thinking with a certain hopefulness. Fundraising is a vehicle towards creating change. The more important part for me would be the cause I choose to work towards. And I gained a sense of belonging.

There are so many different options within the field, and a world has opened up to me that I had not known existed. I know many older fundraisers happened upon the field, but for me, it was a choice I made straight out of university and one I would not take back. Fundraising is the balance of creating change, building and managing relationships and working with people. It provides the opportunity to work in events and communications, which always interested me but leaves a sense of satisfaction knowing that the money I would help raise would go towards helping people and making a difference in something or someone. Of course, maybe this is from the point of view of someone who has just dipped her toes in the water. Talk to me in 5 years, maybe I'll be singing a different tune.

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