I have gained a vast array of knowledge from working with GreenLight Fund Detroit this summer, so it was definitely challenging to narrow down my top three takeaways from the experience. After some deep thought, I have determined that my three main takeaways involve the topics of fundraising, willingness to learn, and of course, the city of Detroit.
I have learned that fundraising is more than just raising capital to reach a goal. An experienced fund seeker should understand that fundraising is built upon key relationships. These relationships are fostered through a mutual desire to contribute to addressing a social problem that is deeply personal to the investor/donor and the partner organization. If these connections are managed sufficiently, then there will be a higher chance of receiving an investment from an individual who truly cares about the community in need. I also learned the importance of ensuring that the donors are representative of the community that is being served. If the donors are deeply involved in the target community, then they will be more likely to participate in initiatives that create further social change.
In one of the Friday Learning Sessions, the fundraising process was described as a relationship cycle: meet people from networking → use storytelling skills to teach them about your organization's mission/goals → make an ask or wait for an offer → acknowledge and thank them (even if they don’t provide you with funding) → follow up and teach them about the impact of their donation → and then the cycle repeats. I found this comprehensive/simple framework to be very helpful in explaining an act that can sometimes feel daunting.
Willingness to learn:
When I first started working alongside GreenLight Fund Detroit, I would have never expected that I would be working in the communications/graphic design space. This is not because I don’t have an interest in this space, but because I was never given the opportunity to explore it. I’ve realized that I have become so comfortable with doing tasks such as conducting partner and fundraising research, that I forgot to experience other sectors of work. Now that I have completed a couple of tasks in the communication/graphic design space, I can happily say that I enjoyed the work more than I thought I would!
With this all said, I am thankful to my GreenLight Fund Detroit supervisors for challenging me to try out new areas of work. This experience has taught me the importance of being open-minded and willing to wear different hats when the job calls for it. Working in the nonprofit sector is all about taking calculated risks, so sometimes a person has to attempt to take on a new project that is way out of their comfort zone.
The City of Detroit:
Through attending some of the Detroit-based virtual events and webinars, I can 100% confirm that Detroiters have an overwhelming amount of pride, love, and passion for their city and the people who live there. There are so many leaders in Detroit who are doing great things to uplift their communities by creating social impact that directly reflects the needs of the residents (shoutout to my GreenLight Fund Detroit supervisors!) Even though I was not able to spend this summer in Detroit, I still feel that I was able to build a long-distance connection with such an innovative, strong, and supportive city.