by Dan Schipp
Early in my development career, someone asked my daughter, Mary Ellen, in my presence, “So . . . what do you want to be when you grow up?” She answered without hesitation, “A development director!” With that response, the buttons came popping off my shirt as my chest swelled with pride. But then Mary Ellen added, “Because you get to eat out a lot and stay at motels with swimming pools.” And with that clarification, my pride deflated.
Mary Ellen is the first and last young person that I have heard respond “development director” to that often-asked question about career aspirations. Yes, Mary Ellen’s interest in the field of development was naively based on what she perceived to be the perks of travel; she really did not understand what development entailed. But what if her six-year old mind could have comprehended what it meant to work in development? What if she could have understood how fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding a career in development can be? Might she have responded even more enthusiastically, “A development director!”?
It is privileged work we undertake in development. We are enablers of works that save lives, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, educate minds, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, create beauty, offer hope, and inspire souls. We are builders of organizations and institutions. We are facilitators of dreams. We are providers of opportunities to experience the joy of giving! Not bad work for a 26-year-old or a 66-year-old!
Perhaps, if we made more of a concerted effort to encourage young people to consider a career in development, spoke more openly with them about the challenges and opportunities in fundraising, offered them more internships in our advancement offices, and participated more frequently in career days, we might have more young people aspiring to be development directors . . . and not just because they want to eat out a lot and go swimming in motel pools!