[How I Work] Selling a solution to community hunger

Lauren Banta Holloway has been serving as Associate Director, Individual Giving for The North Texas Food Bank since 2013, helping raise the annual budget ($19.6 million in 2016) that funds Food Bank operations. We spoke to her over the phone from her Dallas offices.

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My un-official title: Friend and Fundraiser.

My role, the short version: Raise money. At the end of the day, that’s what I have to do!

My role, the long version: I focus on major gifts, $10,000 and above. I manage a portfolio of donors who currently give or have given at that level, engaging them and raising those funds from them. I also prospect new and potential donors by attending events and other, broader activities that help raise friends and funds for the Food Bank.

What the job requires: A bachelors, a minimum of 2-3 years experience in nonprofit fundraising, the ability to work with a team, and strong written and verbal communication skills. Someone who’s goal-oriented, self-motivated, and has strong people skills.

How I got here: I got my BS in international business from Trinity University, and served in the Peace Corps after I graduated. That experience—teaching business skills to women in rural West Africa—was life changing, and started me down the path to the nonprofit sector. When I returned to Dallas, I got a Masters in international economy, with a focus on public affairs, which included some basic nonprofit classes. While still in Dallas, I ended up doing some grant-writing work for a small nonprofit based in Delhi, India. Through that, I met the chief philanthropy officer at the Food Bank, and learned about a role on the corporate team. That was five years ago. I started on the food sourcing side, working with food donors in much the same way we work with money donors – raising food instead of funds. It was very different, and a great entry into the food banking world. I was in that role for two years, then moved over to the individual giving side.

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How my role is different from my for-profit counterparts: Fundraising is often compared to sales in the for-profit sector: You have to be comfortable with cold-calling, and be able to communicate about whatever you’re selling. The difference in nonprofits is that you’re selling a solution – in this case, a solution to hunger in the community – that’s going to help others. To that end, working in the sector is very fulfilling – asking the community to help – but also very challenging – asking people to open their wallets to help someone else. What they’re getting is a feeling, not something they can take home for themselves.

My favorite way to support coworkers: It’s kind of simple, but we keep orange and green cowbells at our desk, and ring them whenever we get a major gift to celebrate the gift officer.

One of my proudest moments: My first seven-figure ask was a proud moment not just because it was successful, but because of the donor, who I had been getting to know for three years. She had become involved because of her late husband, who passed away suddenly. It was his dream to feed people, so it wasn’t just about making the ask but honoring her and her husband, and giving her the opportunity to make a legacy gift that will live forever in the work of the Food Bank. She was able to carry out his dream for him, and it ended up being one of the most honest, emotional, and powerful moments of my career.

The North Texas Food Bank provides access to more than 170,000 nutritious meals each day for hungry children, seniors, and families across 13 counties. Last year, the launched a 10-year plan to increase that number by almost 50 percent, to 92 million meals annually. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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