Camp Aranzazu
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Camp Aranzazu

5 Hidden Talents of a Development Director

Written by: Kate Plouvier, Development Director

Kurt (left) and Kate (right) stand and smile in front of tables under the pavilion at the Greater Houston Sports Club

As a graduate student, I took high-level courses in nonprofit management to prepare myself for a career in the sector. I enjoyed studying theories of social entrepreneurship, human resources in nonprofits, youth development programs, philanthropy and fundraising, and leadership in public management. It was fun to realize the fundamental differences between nonprofits and their corporate counterparts — and how these differences influence operating structure and define unique needs.

But once I started working in development (aka nonprofit fundraising), I quickly realized that real life is very different from school life. There’s a running joke in the nonprofit sector that every job description ends with “Other duties as assigned.” So, while I studiously enjoyed my graduate school pursuits, here are the top five hats I didn’t know I would wear as a development director:

  1. Gift wrapper extraordinaire — You will quickly learn how a beautifully tied bow can help dress up the plainest gift bag. You’ll learn how to stuff, fill, and fluff a cello-wrapped gift basket. Your perfectionist side will come out and argue that your gifts look nothing like Martha’s…and you will remind yourself that after 20 minutes on one gift, you need to move on to the remaining gifts.
Kate takes selfie in front of packaging and framing of artwork for special event

2. Meal delivery driver — Pivot a barbecue dinner and concert into an at-home experience in the midst of a pandemic? Absolutely! We’ll make it happen! It just means your living room will temporarily turn into event central with gift basket making taking up most of the space (see point #1) and mapping/developing the drop-off strategy taking up the rest. Pro tip: You should always wash your car before dropping off a gift to a donor.

Kate takes selfie in car while delivering packages to donors. the back of her car is full of large white gift boxes

3. Paper weight and sheen guru — Do you use cover or text? Is that paper weight too heavy to score and fold? Should that program be uncoated or have a sheen? Do the rounded edges really double the cost of the printing? These seemingly minor details matter…to your print budget and to the product’s look (and your donor’s perception of that event). Your designer is your guide. (Thank you, Cynthia!!)

4. Travel concierge — Let your imagination and dreams for your favorite vacation run wild as you plan a live auction item featuring a vacation to remember! You start with an idea of where your guests want to go. Then you’ll figure out which airline could donate airfare, how to give guests the option of a weekend stay at the hotel, the most reasonable substitute for a private driver and that over-the-top dinner experience. You’ll also think about the gift basket (really wasn’t kidding about point #1) that will most entice your guests to bid.

5. Concert promoter — Riders and contracts and headshots, oh my! You’ll need to learn how to get an artist (usually a combination of networking and blindly hoping as you fill out an online form to contact the artist’s manager). You’ll also need to figure out how to wade through contracts and riders that seem simple but could put your A/V guy (and your budget) into a tailspin. And you’ll need to make sure your marketing materials use approved media assets…and are appealing to your guests (see point #3 above).

I may never have expected to play these roles, but they’re fun and they help ensure that we can continue doing the work we love at Camp Aranzazu. Working at Camp Aranzazu has helped me to grow as a professional and as a person. Most of all, I’m grateful every day that I get to work beside some of the most creative, driven, passionate people to make our mission possible.

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Camp Aranzazu

Camp Aranzazu

Regardless of any physical or developmental limitations, everyone can fully participate in and enjoy all the typical camping activities at Camp Aranzazu.