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Breaking Bread & Strengthening Chicago’s Communities: Key Insights from our On the Table Discussion

How can we ignite young professional interest in philanthropy and fundraising? On May 16th, Campbell & Company tackled this weighty question during an On the Table lunch at our Chicago office with emerging and established nonprofit leaders from across the city. Organized by The Chicago Community Trust since 2014, On the Table brings together tens of thousands of Chicagoland residents who gather in small groups to discuss our region’s challenges and opportunities. The annual forum serves as a catalyst for conversation, collaboration, and action.

On the Table 2017.jpg
 Back row (L-R): Anthony Seaman, Eric Horner, Matt Roan, Alice Barda, Steve George; Front row (L-R): Elizabeth Weber, Jessica Johnson, Mark Boyle, Michael Daigler, Kris McFeely, Matt Blatchford, Christina DeMarea, Melissa Berliner, Andy Smerczak-Zorza

In our discussion, we explored how organizations can make Chicago stronger by promoting fundraising careers and Board service to young professionals and connecting them to associated opportunities. Our guests represented both ends of the spectrum—seasoned professionals and new talent—and came together to learn from each other and share ideas. Read on for the main takeaways on attracting and retaining young professional Board members and fundraisers:

On Board service:

  • OTT-2017-Call-Out1.jpgThink outside the corporate community. The nonprofit sector can sometimes be slow to
     embrace change. Involving high-profile influencers from creative fields can bring new strengths and perspectives to your Board and can also help attract corporate professionals.
  • Shake up the idea of Board service. High-performing young professionals have hectic schedules and value flexibility. Explore how your organization can be more adaptable to accommodate Board members with fast-paced lifestyles and offer new ways to participate.
  • Communicate that Board service is mutually beneficial. Volunteering on a nonprofit Board is a significant time commitment. While Board members need to be mission-driven, it’s natural that they also see service as an opportunity to network and build connections. Make sure prospective Board members understand that volunteer work can help further their careers.
  • Learn from the experiences of other Boards. Collaboration between Boards can be extremely helpful. Sharing common issues, solutions, and new ideas between presidents or other members can help nonprofits advance and better serve their communities.

On the fundraising career path:

  • OTT-2017-Call-Out2.jpgTap into the fulfillment factor. Many college students get a taste of fundraising through campus groups and understand the fulfillment that comes from giving back. Emphasizing the benefits of contributing to a worthwhile cause can help attract new fundraisers.
  • Create informal mentorship opportunities. Mentor-mentee relationships can be extremely valuable to young professionals starting out in fundraising. Creating a culture of informal mentorships can help new fundraisers learn the mechanics of the profession and prepare them to move up and take on managerial roles.
  • Give new fundraisers the latitude to test their ideas. Encouraging young professionals to be entrepreneurial can give them a greater sense of meaning in their work and produce tangible results for your organization.
  • Emphasize the flexibility of the career path. While fundraising is primarily about building relationships, development professionals often have the ability to craft their positions. This welcoming, flexible environment is a huge selling point, offering young professionals the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop new skills.

Our On the Table lunch was only a launching point—we are looking forward to continuing this discussion, building ties between nonprofits throughout the Chicago region and across the country, and helping to empower our communities.

A special thanks to the following organizations that were represented at our event:

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Lola Banjo
Lola Banjo is the Director of Marketing Communications at Campbell & Company, with responsibilities of overseeing marketing programs, brand management, employee engagement and internal communications, business development, thought leadership, and...
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