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Humans of Fundraising: Gavin Stevens

Gavin Stevens at Alamance Price with a large check

This was a proud moment for me as a community leader and fundraiser that did not impress my 3 year-old at ALL.

Gavin Stevens

Executive Director
Alamance Community Foundation

In the early days of the pandemic, I found myself in the “room” (the Zoom room, that is) for several conversations about how much small businesses in our community were hurting. In partnership with several local organizations (with whom the Community Foundation had never before worked closely), we pooled public and private dollars to establish a revolving loan fund that provides access to loans for small businesses (primarily minority- and women-owned) that are working to survive through and recover from the impacts of COVID-19 in our community.

These fixed-rate, low-interest loans have provided traditionally undercapitalized businesses in our community with the resources they need to survive and advance in this challenging time. The “revolving” part of this revolving loan fund is the most exciting aspect to me because as the loans are being repaid, they are going back into the fund to be loaned out again to help more businesses. Now we are in the process of planning and dreaming what this fund will mean for our community in the years to come when we are able to move beyond “COVID Recovery”.

I’m incredibly proud of the way we were able to lead the effort to turn something awful into something that will be an ongoing resource for our community – not just now but long into the future!

When things get difficult, I remember all the scenarios in which we learn so much: the mistakes, the hard days, and the tough conversations. It’s certainly not as much fun as learning from the triumphs, but sometimes that makes the lessons that much more valuable.

It’s exciting to work in this field at a time when it is changing so much. From technology causing donors to want to see the specific results of their giving, to the pandemic forcing us to move away from in-person event-based fundraising, the landscape is definitely shifting.

Working in the community foundation world causes me to think a great deal about generational philanthropy. I often wonder how we are teaching today’s youngest generation about giving back and investing in their own communities. When I was growing up, the physical act of giving could be easily observed on a regular basis. I can remember watching my parents drop money in the collection plate at church every Sunday. For my birthday each year my grandparents sent me two checks: one for me to spend on myself and one for me to give to a charity of my choosing.

Gavin Stevens at Fundy Tide in Nova Scotia

In my pre-pandemic life I loved to travel! Here I am in September 2019 watching the pull of the incredible Fundy tide in Nova Scotia.

Today, automatic draft payments and Facebook fundraisers have replaced many of those acts of giving that we knew in the days of yore. There’s certainly something to be said for the ease of giving today. Link your credit card and you don’t even have to remember to make that gift every month! I do worry, though, about how we are teaching my children’s generation about their responsibility as tomorrow’s philanthropists. How will they know that giving occurs if they don’t see it happening, and will they feel any desire to step into the role of donor when the Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials aren’t here to do it anymore? I view myself as both fundraiser and educator because simply bringing dollars in the door isn’t enough anymore. We also have to be engaging, teaching, and laying the groundwork for the next several decades as we go.

Both my parents have had long careers in fundraising and grantmaking, so philanthropy was a regular topic of conversation at the dinner table when I was a kid. I started out working in the nonprofit sector after graduating from college, but always felt as though the career path had chosen me and not the other way around.

When I finished graduate school, I decided to go a completely different direction and moved to New York City to work in the corporate sector. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I missed making an impact in a smaller community doing work that felt meaningful and fulfilling. When I moved back to North Carolina from New York, I switched back to the nonprofit fundraising world but was working in a neighboring county to the one where I lived. After our first daughter was born, I realized I was spending all my time investing in a community that was not her home. It was at that point that I took on my current role (as Executive Director of Alamance Community Foundation) so I could apply my focus to making her hometown the best place it could be.

Gavin Stevens at Color Factory with Family

My mom has been the leader of a private foundation in my hometown in South Carolina for nearly two decades and has been a huge inspiration to me. Here we are pre-pandemic at The Color Factory in San Francisco on an impromptu trip we took with my oldest daughter.

It often starts with a simple act. Each day when I send my daughter off to school, I remind her to be a kind friend and a good listener. It’s a philosophy I try to apply in my own day, too. I think if we as humans can get those two things right, most everything else will fall into place.

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