Raising Fundraisers

Sometimes, fundraising can run in the family.

In honor of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day on April 27, Currents collected lessons from advancement professionals who grew up with family members involved in fundraising.

Here’s an excerpt from Raising Fundraisers, an exclusive article available in the Currents app (for iPhone or Android).

Courtney Morsberger with her father Michael

Courtney Morsberger

  • Alumni relations and booster club coordinator, Montverde Academy in Florida
  • Daughter of Michael Morsberger, vice president for advancement/CEO of the UCF Foundation at the University of Central Florida

What was it like growing up with a father in advancement?
When I was younger, I used to tell people my dad worked in “development” and they ALWAYS assumed that meant construction. So I started defining his job as “asking people for millions of dollars.”

Has your father helped you overcome any advancement obstacles?
At a previous institution, I experienced a situation where data was intentionally erased or completely altered. I remember calling my dad upset because I didn’t even know where to start. My dad said, “Court, you cannot dwell on the past. What’s done is done. That data doesn’t matter to a third-grader who needs financial aid. Fix it. That kid is depending on you.” His words were a reminder that while challenges will always arise, I cannot let them distract me from my job, which is to raise money.

Without correct data, I wouldn’t be able to run lists, send appeals to the correct donors, etc. But I needed to raise money for that third-grader, so whatever the data issues were I had to come up with a solution quickly.

Mark Dini (left) with his father Richard (center) and brother David (right)

Mark Dini

  • Chief advancement officer at St. John’s School in Texas
  • Son of the late Richard Dini, who worked in development at Rice University before founding Dini Spheris Nonprofit Fundraising Consultants. Mark’s brother David is headmaster at St. Mark’s School of Texas.

Do you have any advice for fundraisers of the future?

Understanding ways to spend time with people where they are comfortable has been helpful to me in my career. In order to do that, it doesn’t hurt to know how to play golf and understand golf etiquette. This is a great opportunity to spend time with donors or even colleagues. I also have a favorite Italian restaurant near my office where they take very good care of their regulars (of which I am one). It’s wonderful to have a place to take people where you know you will be well taken care of and can always get a good table. When you happen to run into your donors at a restaurant, pick up their tab. It’s a nice gesture and can generate lasting goodwill—we are ambassadors of goodwill for our institutions.

Robert Osborne with his mother Karen

Robert Osborne

  • Principal of The Osborne Group in New York and former director of development for St. Aloysius School in New York
  • Son of Karen Osborne, senior strategist at The Osborne Group, who’s held leadership positions at Trinity College in Connecticut and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from having a parent in fundraising?

Having a parent, who is also a colleague and friend, in fundraising has made me understand the value of asking for advice and being open. Since I’ve always asked for advice from my mother and understand I don’t know everything, I think I’m good with asking others and being open to learning. Not having to pretend I know everything has really helped in my career.

What’s the best piece of advice your mom has offered?

“Everybody gets fired once.” This might seem like a strange piece of advice, but it’s let me be pretty fearless in my career, because instead of worrying about keeping my job, I worry much more about doing my job right. I see so many advancement officers fail because they are afraid of being fired, and then they get fired anyway because they didn’t do what they needed to do to succeed.

Curious about more lessons from fundraising families? Download the Currents app to read the full article.

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