Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Way of Life

I’ve always considered fundraising to be not just a profession, but a way of life. Some cynics may scoff at that or consider it a snide way to elevate fundraising at the expense of other professions, but I think there’s a lot of truth to it. After all, with most jobs, when you leave work, the last thing you want to think about is anything associated with your work.

But not so with fundraising. I know that many members are very much involved with philanthropy in their personal lives—donating, volunteering, getting involved and giving back to their communities and organizations they believe in. We clock in long hours at our professional organizations and then turn right around and wear a different hat—volunteer, donor or adviser—with other charitable organizations, often offering our fundraising expertise and experience.

That’s one of the unique aspects of our profession, and one of the most uplifting. I get a lot of great emails from around the world about the tremendous volunteer and charity work that AFP members perform outside of their professional lives. But I received one recently from Sharon LeeMaster, CFRE, in our San Diego Chapter, that I feel compelled to share with you.

Christina (Christy) Wilson, a member of the chapter, sent an email to about 20 of her colleagues saying that her husband, Jeff, had not been able to find a kidney donor and asked if they knew of any individual who might be a candidate.

Three days later, Karny Stefan, CFRE, a member of the San Diego Chapter board and executive director of Waldon Family Services, called Christy. She didn’t have a candidate. Instead, she said she wanted to be considered. It turned out Karny was a match, and the surgery was performed successfully.

Christy and Jeff later wrote in an email: "From Jeff’s perspective, he finds himself understanding the enormity of the gift that Karny has given him—a chance for renewed life and health. We can honestly say that life is a gift—whether you come to understand this because you have just received an organ from a donor, experienced the miracle of childbirth, or just enjoyed a walk on the beach with a loved one or friend. Take time to remember this, savor a moment in time just for the sake of doing so and take time to live, love and laugh!"

What a wonderful story. I'm so pleased for Christy and Jeff, and Karny, you epitomize what it means to be a professional fundraiser.

I'm not about to suggest that fundraisers are more philanthropic than any other professionals. The great thing about philanthropy is that it knows no borders or boundaries. But it is uplifting to be part of a profession where you can hear about these types of extraordinary stories all the time, and even on occasion, be a part of them.

Have a story to tell about a colleague’s unique gift or volunteer effort? I won’t be able to highlight every one of them, but I'd love to hear them.

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