Fundraising with Joy Interview – Diane Crane

Diane Crane, Senior Associate Vice President of Development at Oklahoma State University Foundation

Diane headshotDiane and I connected through the professional association APRA back in the mid-2000s. Diane is a fundraiser committed to creating meaningful experiences that allow her donors to connect their passions and their philanthropy. I began to coach Diane not too long after she moved to Oklahoma. She is passionate about living her values and using her personal strengths. It has been a pleasure to watch her claim a more senior role and create her own definition of leadership. I see her as the best type of leader – one who empowers her team and brings out the best in each person. Diane gives with passion – to OSU, to her team, and to her donors. I admire how she is also committed to living in the moment and enjoying many passions such spending time with family and friends, creative pursuits, travel, appreciating the beauty in nature, and of course college football.

Janice: What made you choose a career in the social profit sector?

The desire to be part of a mission greater than myself and to contribute to our society’s well-being was always strong for me. I began in journalism, which is also a mission-driven venture, serving as the critical Fourth Estate in a democracy. I gravitated to higher education and fundraising because I was raised to value the life-changing impact of education and wanted to help others have the same opportunities and access that I was able to enjoy, in part because of donor-funded scholarships.

Janice: What does philanthropy mean to you?

Philanthropy is the joy of sharing, of transforming a mere asset (cash, stock, land, etc.) into an opportunity (education, health care, clean air, etc.) for others, which in turn enriches the communities we share.

Has your definition changed over time?

When I first began working in Development, as a prospect researcher, I thought fundraising was pleading with people for money. I thought, “I could never do that.” I grew up in the self-reliant Midwest and West; asking for help just isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable with. It wasn’t until I began interacting with donors and saw how deeply moved they are by the impact of their giving that the light switched on for me. Development officers help people achieve something highly important to them, and being a part of that is deeply gratifying. When a donor hands me a check and says “Thank you” to me – that’s humbling and moving and affirming.

Janice: How does your organization’s mission connect to your personal values?

My grandmother was a small child when her family immigrated to the United States from Poland; at the age of 14, her mother took her out of school so she could help support the family, and she went to work in a Chicago stockyards slaughterhouse. That was the end of formal education for her. In turn, she was determined that her children would graduate from high school, and under her indomitable will my father reluctantly finished high school. He, in turn, determined that his children would graduate from college, and my parents sacrificed and worked hard and made significant life decisions around that goal: we would have the opportunity to go to college and get jobs that didn’t require us to break our backs and that paid well so we could live a better life than they or their parents had known. I know how a college education can change the trajectory of a life and of an entire family. Public education is about access; the land-grant mission is about applying that gained knowledge to improving the public welfare; as a fundraiser for Oklahoma State University, I help students (many of them first-generation college students) achieve more than they ever dreamt possible for themselves, often through the support of people just like them, who grew up in small towns and on family farms, who remember their own pioneering ancestors and the help they received along the way.

Janice: What brings you the most joy in your work?

The donor’s look of happiness and excitement when I show them how making a donation can enable them to accomplish something very meaningful to them. And, again, that astonishing moment when the donor hands me a check and earnestly thanks me.

Janice: Your job focuses on cultivating relationships and supporting others, what do you do to recharge your batteries?

Since I am an introvert who has to act like an extrovert much of the time, I need peace and quiet, which I usually find in the early mornings. I love to sit in my sun room looking at our backyard and pond, watching the wildlife and trying to catch a picture of a bird in flight. I also love to travel, even if it’s just for a long weekend, to another part of the country or abroad for longer trips every other year or so. I like to see how other people live and sample the local cuisine (caussoulet, tom yam goong, gelato). I read for the same reasons (minus the food), and I keep an occasional journal since I like to be introspective and truly check in with myself: am I treating other people as well as I want to, am I stopping often enough to savor the best moments, am I appreciating what I’ve worked hard – and what my parents and grandparents worked hard – to achieve?

Janice: Research shows that philanthropy and volunteerism are proven ways to increase happiness. How have you experienced this in your work and life?

Happiness – beyond the fleeting happiness of a good cup of gelato, for example – derives from just a few sources in life. For those of us who are very devoted to work and career, we will be happy if that work aligns with our values, so I am definitely happy working in fundraising and probably would not be happy working for Widget Inc., even if that company made the best gelato machine in the world. In terms of my own philanthropy, I recently made a stretch commitment to my alma mater for an endowed scholarship honoring my parents. The commitment level is actually a little scary, but I can’t wait to meet the fund’s first recipient in a few years and to tell my parents about it, which I’ll do at Thanksgiving. Knowing that my family’s faith in and commitment to education will be indelibly etched brings me a great sense of satisfaction, which is a lasting form of happiness.

Janice: Our work in the social profit sector allows us to make a contribution. What is the lasting impact you want to make during your career?

I don’t want to be regarded as a highly productive fundraiser (even though I want to be that); I most want to be regarded as a colleague who helped others grow and become better at doing their work, particularly by recognizing that when the donor’s joy of giving is the central focus of all we do, we find joy and satisfaction and meaning in our lives as well.

© 2013, Janice Cunning. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this posting if you include my contact information. Please contact me if you wish to reprint any portion of it in any periodical or on a website

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About Janice Cunning

As a certified coach and fundraiser, I am passionate about partnering with people and teams to increase their personal and professional Joy Quota.

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