For the past 9 years, Whitney Anderson has been a valued member of the Fox Advancement team. After moving from her small town in North Dakota to the Twin Cities, Whitney began her journey with Fox Advancement as a grant writer, providing her with a strong base of institutional knowledge for stepping into her current role as a campaign consultant. We sat down with her to reflect on her time spent at Fox Advancement and to learn about what she has discovered along the way.
Whitney, you bring a lot of expertise to the firm through your educational background, which includes a Bachelor’s in English and Public Relations and Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Communication. How did your diverse background spark your interest in fundraising and consulting?
When I was getting my Master’s, I took a grant writing course, which led me to a summer job at a nonprofit performing arts center. It was a small staff with an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, and I worked very closely with the development team putting together packages for VIPs and sponsors. I loved the experience working with a nonprofit, and it got me interested in what it might look like to do nonprofit work. I was also drawn to fundraising because I am a curious person who loves to teach and learn. Fundraising is always changing, so there are ample opportunities to study new practices and share these with clients. Finally, as a Ph.D. student, I directed my university’s public speaking course and taught mass lectures to 200+ students. I wanted to pursue a career that had public speaking opportunities, and in my current role, I often give presentations to clients and boards. I believe fundraising is a strong fit for my passions and skill set.
The majority of your professional career has been dedicated to fundraising. What aspect of this profession keeps your interest and is encouraging to you?
Approaching a capital campaign is such a huge hurdle for organizations. I’m always encouraged by the commitment that staff, board members, and volunteers have to reaching the goal. They are not only committed to the financial goal, but to improving the organization as a whole over the course of the campaign. In addition to raising money, our clients are asking important questions: How can we tell our story? How can we do a better job of stewarding our donors? I’m encouraged by the ongoing commitment to answer these questions thoughtfully.
Additionally, I’m always so grateful for the continuing generosity of donors in this area. They’re generous with their time, connections, and financial resources. I’m working with people that I go back to again and again with different requests, and they’re so gracious. That’s just a wonderful part of the work.
Your impact on the firm over your tenure here has been immeasurable. With the benefit of hindsight, what aspects of your work have been the most memorable?
On a personal level, I’m really proud of the relationships that I’ve been able to build through this role. That includes relationships with clients, donors, and volunteers. Everyone is working together toward a really ambitious goal in each campaign, often for a 3-4 year stretch. I feel fortunate to provide advice during this critical time, but I’m also learning from my clients every day. I try to build bi-directional relationships where my clients are gleaning valuable insights and I’m also learning from them.
I’m also proud of the major gift solicitation training I’ve put together. I’ve used this for a variety of groups, small and large, and people have responded positively. There is a role-playing component so it’s not just a lecture about asking for gifts. I enjoy helping organizations embrace a culture of philanthropy rather than a transactional relationship with donors.
What keeps you energized about your work at Fox?
I love doing board education around the capital campaign process. Many organizations we work with at Fox have not been through a capital campaign before, and I enjoy helping them navigate the process. It is energizing to work with organizations who are new to capital campaigns because it allows me the opportunity to build a positive impression of what a campaign can be. Some people have a negative perception of campaigns (and fundraising in general), so I try to be really clear about the process, roles, and how to work together to achieve the goal.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in fundraising?
Philanthropy is the joy of giving, whereas fundraising is driving toward a financial goal. Both are important to organizations, but I would encourage staff, board, and volunteers to approach major gifts fundraising with a philanthropy mindset. In other words, rather than dreading solicitations, see them as opportunities for donors to experience the joy of giving. The experience is more joyful for everyone involved if the process leading up to a financial ask is strategic and thoughtful. Asking for money should never be a surprise. Cultivation is a huge part of the major gifts process. The actual solicitation is a very small part of an organization’s relationship with a donor. I try to help organizations map out fulfilling long-lasting relationships with donors.
Whitney is looking forward to what the next year holds. The campaigns she is working on are all approaching big milestones within the next year, and she’s excited to continue walking alongside her clients as they reach those milestones. Away from work, Whitney can be found spending time with her husband, Brice, and their two kids, son Drew (3.5) and daughter Ellis (1). When they are not playing in the bouncy-house in their basement, they love to play outside, try new restaurants, and cook and bake together.