Margaret Jenkins: “Listen more than you talk”
What advice would you give new fundraisers and alumni professionals? Margaret Jenkins, Assistant Director for Communications, Development and External Relations at the American Section, offers her thoughts alongside other professional insights.
What inspires you?
Training events, conversations with members of my school community and other development professionals, articles I read. When I’m trying to come up with an idea I talk a lot with others, do some internet research and try to find some quiet time to sort through the “files” I’ve stored in my brain.
The answer usually comes together over a period of time, so I build tiny blocks of time for thinking about upcoming projects into my weekly schedule.
“It is quite easy to fall into the trap of doing, just because we’ve been doing this at this time and in this way for the past few years, rather than questioning if we should be changing our approach and/or method.”
What has been your greatest challenge?
Prioritising. The development office consists of me and the volunteers that I recruit, so it is important to be clear about what is important and where we should be channelling our efforts. It is often challenging to find the time to think strategically as well, as every minute of the day can easily be consumed with urgent action.
It is quite easy to fall into the trap of doing, just because we’ve been doing this at this time and in this way for the past few years, rather than questioning if we should be changing our approach and/or method.
What advice would you give to new and early career fundraising/alumni relations professionals?
Get them to know your community and the history of your institution. Listen more than you talk. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and ‘do.’
What are some of your major accomplishments as development director?
Creating a comprehensive development programme. When I arrived, the programme consisted of a yearly ask letter sent by the Board of Trustees and a gala that was focused more on community building than fundraising. During my ten years in the American Section we have gradually created a multi-pronged annual giving campaign, professionalised our gala, revamped communications, and instilled the school with a real culture of giving. Our call is “time, talent and treasure.”
At our first gala planning meeting this year, witnessing the mix of dedicated past volunteers (several whose children have already graduated from the school) and enthusiastic new recruits, I had a real feeling of satisfaction that our years of work to create the all-important “culture of giving” have finally paid off. There is still quite a way to go, but we are well on our way.
What makes a good training event?
The shared experiences of others are often translatable into my reality, if not directly then as bits of ideas that bide their time in a corner of the brain, ready to germinate when the need arises. I like to hear about concrete things; events, campaigns, projects and ideas as well as the successes and failures.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in schools development?
Through my current job I have discovered that what I most enjoy (and seem to have some talent for) is project management. I love the challenges of creating something from nothing, be it a school magazine, a regular giving programme, an event or the process of overhauling/updating things like a website or the school volunteer programme.
So, if I didn’t work in schools development, I would most probably be working somewhere where I could put these skills to use, perhaps in a start-up or an NGO. Not a big corporation or university with hundreds of employees, but somewhere small and flexible with lots of room for innovation and growth.
The American Section is a member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Find out more about CASE at ww.case.org.
Margaret Jenkins is Assistant Director for Communications, Development and External Relations at the American Section. The American Section provides a comprehensive international education within the context of the Lycée International.