When I first decided to come to San Francisco, I planned on programming all day, meeting entrepreneurs, and maybe even joining a startup. Well, those plans are on hold.
Today was my first day of working with a fundraising agency that teams up with nonprofits to help them raise money. As there is a blogging policy that I have yet to become familiar with, I’m going to omit both the agency’s name and the nonprofit we are currently representing just to be on the safe side for now.
I’m really excited about this job, because it will give me an opportunity to spend my time working for a good cause, indulge my favorite hobby of talking to strangers, and get paid for doing so. What more could I ask for? Despite the fact that I don’t really need the money, having some positive cashflow instead of watching my savings slowly bleed away will be a welcome change.
I ended up with the job due to random encounters with one of the fundraising managers at the agency. I originally met her on my way to Target, where she disarmed me with a friendly smile and talked to me about the nonprofit. When the topic of donating came up, I told her that I was trying to save money since I was living off of my savings. She asked me if I was looking for a job, to which I cocked my head, thought for a bit, and replied that I didn’t want one right now. Understandably, she was quite puzzled. I decided on the spot that this might be a fun gig to do for a while, so I passed along my info and the rest is history. (Actually, there was some kind of miscommunication and I really didn’t get any information until I happened to run into her again, but that part really isn’t that interesting.)
One aspect of this job that I’m looking forward to is experimenting with different ideas to see which tactics are most effective in getting people to donate. I love social psychology, and I’m going to read up on the science of giving and try to figure out the best ways to apply our understanding of the human mind in order to convince more people to give to a good cause. Maybe starting a conversation out with a genuine compliment will open people up to helping others. Or maybe it’ll backfire by making them think that I’m being disingenuous and cause them to be more closed off. Since I’ll be working in the field 30 hours a week, I’ll have plenty of chances to try A/B tests and find out what works and what doesn’t.
Entering the world of fundraising after having worked only in tech is already proving to be a very eye-opening experience. Although there have been some significant technological advances in fundraising, there is still much, much room for improvement. Systems can be a lot faster; data input methods can be much more streamlined; more data can and should be captured. In the technology world, data is king; every action taken by every visitor to a website is tracked and extensively analyzed. I wish that there existed a Google Analytics for donation solicitations where I can easily view how likely 18-20 year old white males are likely to donate on a sunny day at 2 in the afternoon as opposed to their female counterparts so I can optimize my time accordingly.
Although my new job will not help me become a better programmer, I know I’ll develop important people skills that will help me better understand humans which in turn will hopefully make me a better thinker, communicator, and most importantly, a better person. While I know I won’t make a career out of this job since my passion always will be in using technology to create products that improve people’s lives, I’m looking forward to seeing how much I’ll grow through this experience. Onward.