Seeking growth pays off for award-winning young fundraiser

publication date: Sep 27, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Be organized. Pay attention to the small human details that build personal relationships. Be yourself. Those principles fuelled Nancy Horvath's trajectory from a short-term, entry-level role "to raise money for grad school" to the 2011 New Fundraising Professional Award from AFP Greater Toronto Chapter in just five years.

Despite being steeped in fundraising from birth (mother Susan Horvath is VP, leadership advancement at the Canadian Cancer Society), Nancy wasn't aiming for a career in fundraising. But once she'd had a taste of the generosity that drives donors, volunteers and sector professionals, she was hooked.

"It's a fantastic career," she would say to anyone considering the role. In her first full-time position at Stephen Thomas, she was able to serve organizations that aligned with her values. Soon she found herself hungry for contact with actual donors, rather than clients whom she helped to work with donors.

"I wanted to hear their stories directly," Horvath recalls. "I wanted to hear, ‘Your organization changed my life,' and ‘I want to help this organization by supporting...'"

Was there life after grad school?

At the same time, she paid close attention to the experiences of friends who had been able to enrol in graduate school. "Their prospects were really limited," she muses. "There weren't many jobs in their fields, and they had to go wherever those jobs were." For someone so intent on developing relationships, the idea of cutting new and old ties to follow a job held little appeal.

In search of donor relationships, she moved on to CAMH Foundation in 2008, where she helped to develop a strong annual giving program that consistently surpassed revenue targets and included media-friendly mini-campaigns that boosted the foundation's profile.

Now she's a senior development officer at St. Michael's Hospital Foundation, where president Alayne Metrick names staff growth as one of her top priorities.

"Staff members are encouraged to develop their expertise on the job, with the help of training (AFP, AHP, CAGP courses), and by taking on new assignments to round out skills," Metrick explained in a 2007 interview for The Offord Group's Perspectives on Canadian Philanthropy. "They receive feedback from their supervisors to help them develop their own skills. We do ask people to take on new jobs if they are wanting ‘to grow.'"

Seek growth, not status

Next to passion for the cause, says Horvath, the chance to learn is her most important consideration for career development - more important than title, status or size of organization. "My only intentional move when considering a new job is to be in an organization where I could see growth opportunities," she confirms.

That keen interest in improvement served her employers so well that CAMH and St. Michael's collaborated to prepare her award nomination. "I was really touched," Horvath recollects of the moment when she learned she'd won.

Like all the fundraising leaders she admires, she's already working hard to give back to the sector. She helped organize AFP's 2011 Fundraising Day and co-chaired the 2010 day, as well as serving on the chapter's education committee.

What's next? Horvath doesn't have a five-year plan, but she does have a commitment that extends far longer than that - to continued professional growth, to service in an organization that inspires her personal passion, and above all, to valuing the colleagues, donors and volunteers who invest their lives to make worthwhile work happen.

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