Walking the Talk

Posted by Pamela Miller on Mar 21, 2018 7:30:00 AM

Following in Their Footsteps

A career in fundraising was not in my initial career plans. Instead, a wonderful opportunity to serve my alma mater became available at a time in my life when I not only needed a job, but a meaningful calling. I was a fundraiser because I believed in my alma mater; from then on, any role I took on had to be one in which I was fully dedicated – I don’t know anything other than 100%.

Nor did my mentors. Each one “walked the talk,” and patiently and joyfully guided my steps. My dedication to continuing their legacy was 100%, too. Like they had for me, I made time for every colleague and student – sharing my experiences, sharing materials when possible and appropriate, offering feedback, providing references and recommendations, and encouraging professional development opportunities. To see their careers flourish has been their gift that I will forever cherish.


Philanthropy Begins at Home

In my career, I served only those organizations in which I shared the passion for their mission. To effectively and persuasively ask another to share his or her time, talents, and treasure meant that I had to be sincere in my feelings – I just couldn’t do so otherwise. And I had to have already made my contribution to the organization as well – both a sustaining gift and a legacy commitment. I felt empowered by my investment, and I felt joy!

When I headed employee giving campaigns, I emphasized that 100% support by our team – no matter the size of the gift – sent a strong message to our board and all potential donors: we believe in each other, and we are committed to our cause.


Focus on the Future

In the March 7, 2017 Perspectives blog, Andrew Hibel informed us that, “Nearly 70 percent of gift planners have made their own planned gift commitment – good evidence of their focus on the future.”

When I retired in 2014, my husband and I updated our estate plans that had already included several charitable bequests. The shoe was now on the other foot – I was the donor – "walking the talk," not the gift officer. Working with those organizations closest to our hearts, our bequests were now imbued with our “personal philanthropy.”

One of the legacies for which we are most grateful to provide is “The Pamela Miller and Michael Cummings Endowed Philanthropy Department Scholarship” to benefit the Department of Philanthropy at Children’s Mercy. My years at Children’s Mercy were life-changing, both professionally and personally. Because we all understood that the children came first, we became adept at pursuing professional development opportunities at little or no cost. However, if we could help these exceptional colleagues further their own skills and expertise, then we would help them better help the children and families they serve.

So we did. This is not just our legacy. It is also our calling…we will live on through them.


We Are the Lucky Ones

So please consider this as an opportunity for your legacy. As an opportunity for those who have been instrumental in your fundraising departments – to foster excellence and career advancement, while easing budgetary needs. To continue to mentor those who will come after us.

A passage in Scott Spencer’s Waking the Dead (irony so noted) beautifully captures how I feel about my calling in life. May it resonate with you as well. 

Sarah: But...so few people get what they want. And the ones that do aren't really the lucky ones anyway.

Fielding: They're not? Who are?

Sarah: The ones that do what they are meant to.


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Topics: gift planning, Mission, Purpose, Professional Development