We infuse everything we do with who we are. And everything we do is related to others, interconnected with them and with the world around us. In my interview with Jenny Mitchell, a fundraising coach, Chief Visionary Officer and Founder and President at Chavender, we catch a glimpse of how diverse experiences and capacities, personal values and impassioned goals weave together to create a meaningful, fulfilling and collaborative profession. As Jenny so aptly states in this interview, “there are so many ways to live your life and contribute.”
You have a background as a classical pianist. How is your work enhanced by the musician in you and by your experiences, knowledge and, exposure to the arts – an area that relies heavily on fundraising? What personal values and capacities overlap and compliment your experiences as a musician and as a leadership/fundraising coach and business owner?
I learned all my life skills from my music career. I learned how to be persistent, dedicated, creative, intuitive, and thoughtful from my life as a musician. I also spent a lot of time working with people as a musician – chamber music was one of my favorite areas as a performer. I loved the experience of coming together with other people to create something bigger, more beautiful than its pieces. And we did all of this without words! Fundraising feels a lot like this – the idea that together, we can build something that is bigger than ourselves. It might be a school, a stadium, a space to help those living on the street. This dream would be impossible without everyone participating, giving and engaging in the project. That’s my favorite part about fundraising – bringing people together to do more good!
You describe yourself as “crazy curious” (a wonderful phrase!). Where does that curiosity lead you when you begin a dialogue with an organization? How does that personal curiosity help you to understand an organizations goals, purpose and, objectives?
I get right into the weeds when I work with new organizations. I want to understand how they generate their revenue, what natural strengths they have, how they operate, and what possibilities are there to capitalize on. I also am crazy curious about people. One of my earliest memories is sitting in the back of my parent’s car while driving down the highway. I saw all these cars going the opposite way, and I thought “Wow. The world is a big place. In every car there’s people going somewhere, doing something. Each one of them has a story.” Fundraising is a beautiful profession because you get a chance to really connect with core values of people. What do they believe in? What values do they want to uphold in the world? What kind of legacy do they want to leave on this planet? That’s what keeps me curious – there are so many ways to live your life and contribute.
You have a unique perspective from your experiences working with different organizations and areas that do extensive fundraising (the arts, healthcare, sports, community development, education, to name but a few). Collectively the organizations you have worked with define the different components that build humane and caring communities. Can you comment on your unique eyes view and relate it further to one of your impassioned goals which is building an overall culture of philanthropy?
My company was created to help others do more good in the world. While I am a for profit entity, my clients are charities and not-for-profits. As volunteers and donors, we have the capacity to make a difference in the communities where we work, live and play. The social profit sector is where I choose to make my contribution.
Philanthropy is defined as the love of humankind. Caring enough about others to volunteer your time or to make a meaningful gift is part of that beautiful story. Philanthropy requires leadership: it’s scary to be the first person into the ring when it comes to a big donation. It takes leadership to host an event and invite people to attend (what if no one comes?). Fundraising often makes people feel vulnerable (the whole asking for money part!). But fundraising is also about inviting people into something special, something magical – helping them see how they can make a difference with their gift. Philanthropy is about the future, and making the world a better place. I believe everyone has the capacity in them to give. I believe that all volunteers want to help, but not all volunteers know how to help. That’s where a great fundraiser comes in. They show people how their gift will make a real difference in the lives of others. They teach people the gentle art of giving.