Elevate Philanthropy ™

Humans of Fundraising: Molly Griffith

“I’m so encouraged by how service and giving back is even more culturally ingrained than it was in the past. It is becoming a natural part of many young people’s lives. What once was the purview of a select very wealthy few has become more accessible to so many.”

Molly Griffith
Executive Director of Regional Advancement
Emory University

What was strong development work when I began my career nearly 20 years ago is strong development work now: the fundamentals of relationship-driven development work are sound.

What has changed is the technology that informs and supports that work. From more advanced CRMs to artificial intelligence, we have more tools at our disposal today than we did even five years ago. I believe these advances in technology allow us to better customize a donor experience and ideally reach more constituents than in years past. I’m excited about these developments but believe it is essential that we first master the fundamentals of good, basic advancement work. If we can layer one on top of the other, we’ll have great success.

In tandem with industry advances, I’m so encouraged by how service and giving back is even more culturally ingrained than it was in the past. It is becoming a natural part of many young people’s lives. What once was the purview of a select very wealthy few has become more accessible to so many.

I’m of the generation where you didn’t necessarily go to school to become a fundraiser but fell into it. I’m certainly thrilled that I did. Even as a college student, I always felt compelled to work in the nonprofit sector. I studied some serious humanities (French and studio art) and wanted to find ways to put those passions to work. A first job out of school landed me in an environmental nonprofit as a receptionist, but I became interested in philanthropy work, and a year later found myself working as the assistant to the director of advancement at the High Museum of Art. From there, I had a terrific perspective on nonprofit management, development, membership, and events and was able to participate in a $100,000,000+ capital campaign.

Surviving the past 15 months has been the best example of a simultaneous personal and professional triumph. On the personal front, like so many, juggling work, two young children, and a lot of homeschooling has felt overwhelming at times. I’m incredibly grateful that our family has stayed healthy (and employed!) and that we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While this year has been occasionally trying on the professional front, I have been so inspired by the resilience of our team. Emory’s regional advancement team, which I lead, was created in spring of 2019. We had less than 12 months to staff up and begin our work before being grounded. Building a new team culture over Zoom, with staff across the country, in the midst of a pandemic and the seeds of an overdue racial and social justice reckoning has been challenging.

I won’t say we’ve triumphed yet, but we’ve proven our commitment to one another and these issues, and I am incredibly proud of us. And while it isn’t always easy, I try to remind myself of my personal philosophy. It’s a simple one: have fun.

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