Nonprofit life is full of intrigue, twisted paths, pure luck, genius, generosity, and more. This is the second in an occasional series of fictional fundraising short stories.
By Mel And Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw
“Director of Development.” Elana Avery said the words out loud, trying to feel some enthusiasm. Yes, the salary and benefits were more than what she earned as Vice President, Development at the regional Kids First affiliate, but the title didn’t reflect her experience and abilities. “If you don’t have a doctorate, or ‘terminal degree,’ we can’t hire you as a vice president.” That’s what human resources emailed to her with her contract, but not what President Taylor had promised. Based on his word, she gave notice and transitioned all her top donors to the president of Kids First and a few board members. She told everyone of her great opportunity; she couldn’t turn back now. Elana clicked the box adding her electronic signature to the contract and hit send. “Here’s to what’s next.”
What’s next was an email from President Taylor. He wanted to see her in his office right away. “What, can’t we Zoom” she muttered, throwing on her jacket. Entering the president’s offices she was greeted by the ever-effervescent Alex Anderson, assistant to the president no matter who the president is. “Elana, I am so glad you’re here. The chair of the faculty committee just left, and I think the Congressman needs something more than platitudes and promises.” Alex continued to refer to President Taylor as “the Congressman” as if the title rose above that of “the President.” “You have to be elected to Congress,” was his stated rationale.
Hearing their voices, President Taylor, opened his office door, smiling a weary smile. “Alex, let Ms. Avery in, you know I need to talk with her.” With that Elana was whisked into the office, taking a chair across from President Taylor who sat behind his oversized mahogany desk. “Elana, we have to turn this situation around fast. I want to bring the board together next week and present a plan to transform the college. Especially fundraising and admissions.” He hoped she didn’t see his nervousness. The faculty were privately threatening a vote of no-confidence while publicly praising the trustees for their hiring decision. What if word got out? Again he wondered how he had been talked into this “opportunity.”
Elana looked directly at President Taylor and spoke calmly. “You can’t produce such a plan in a week.” Inside she was fuming. Is this the man who walked on water, pulling money out of nowhere for all his constituents, all the time? Is this really the visionary who could find a way out of no way? Then she remembered the words of her girlfriend Carrigan, “you know, they don’t do the work. It’s their aides. Why do you think they’re all Harvard graduates?” It rudely dawned on Elana that President Taylor was expecting her to pull a rabbit from a hat. She kept her silence like her mentor had encouraged her to do, but inside she was fuming. “Tricked again.”