Except when they are begging the government for a bailout, bankers don't usually need to do fund-raising. So, in 2006, when Wachovia bank regional president Vikram H. Dewan became chief executive at the Philadelphia Zoo, he had to add fund-raising to his job description.
"There are many people who say, `ooh, that’s the worst part of the job,'" he said. But, "I like it when I can see how people can get excited about the difference they are making, if you can translate it into something that matters to a person.
"I don’t know that there’s a secret to it," he said. "If you are a good listener and you are able to understand what a donor’s intention is, your role is to translate that intention into a reality. Then you are really helping them bring their dreams to life, as opposed to [what] many people believe that fund raising is -- twisting somebody’s arm to do what they would otherwise not do.
"That can never be a successful fund raising strategy," he said.
"Long term, you have to tap into what people care about," Dewant said.
For example, Dewan explained, if you find out that the potential donor wants to make a difference with his or her life in the lives of others, then you can say, "`We have an internship program here, I’d like you to be a part of that. I’d like you to mentor a high school junior from a Title One school [and say] how the experiences that shaped your life can help you shape theirs. And I’d like you to be involved in it financially.'
"That is not a hard conversation for me to have with anybody and neither is one where I say, I’d like you to give at this level and they say, `I can’t do this this year.' That’s not a hard conversation, because then you say, `Well, I hope next year you can do more.’’’
Click here to read my recent story on the demons that bedevil people who raise funds for a living.