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The invitation I received to join DLead in July, 2020 said,

“If we break down the territorial walls of development professionals and create a community of practice, we can help one another navigate this crisis, but maybe more importantly, improve our organizations, our industry and create important systemic change within the Jewish philanthropic landscape.”

Frankly, I thought it would never work.

I wondered if a community of practice for development professionals would be boastful and competitive, and worried that our meetings would be nice but not impactful. I was fully wrong.

As the group formed and pushed past introductions, one of the turning points for me was an ice-breaker we did to name the best fundraiser we know, and the quality that makes them the best. We said words like authenticity, knowledge, and passion a lot, and reflected that those qualities are never the metrics we use to evaluate our team. Being vulnerable about something we do wrong helped to set the tone for future conversations.

As the first COVID weeks dragged on to months, we grew comfortable as a cohort and discussed plenty of real challenges and concerns. By mid-2020 there was no reason to feel guilty about needing advice about a virtual donor event.

Having a community of practice for Jewish fundraisers delivered on its promise to connect with colleagues that I never would have met and share real challenges that I’m struggling with. I believe many in my cohort will spend the next several decades as the professional leaders of the Jewish community–so while it seems a little pie-in-the-sky, the way we collaborate to respond to the challenges we face actually *could* create systemic change within the Jewish philanthropic landscape. I was converted and I’m a believer.

DLead exists in part to help members grow in their leadership – and leaders speak. I hope this blog can introduce you to new ideas, and new industry leaders for the Jewish community.

I also hope this blog can bring some attention to a career in Jewish fundraising. Many of us are in this line of work because of a series of happy accidents. My first job after college was doing research on the major gifts team at Carnegie Hall. I learned that many people who work in development at Carnegie Hall love classical music and feel the best way they can support the sector isn’t by picking up a violin, but by making sure the resources are there for those that do.

I feel exactly that way about being a fundraiser for the Jewish community. I don’t write the books for PJ Library, but I can make sure the funds are there to reach hundreds of thousands of families. No professional network existed to attract me to this work or guide me when I arrived, but I am hopeful DLead and this blog may serve that purpose for someone else.

On this site, expect to see content that might be valuable to fundraisers, learn more about development challenges, and learn more about the Jewish history of our line of work. Welcome to the Dlead blog.

Will Schneider

Will Schneider

Will Schneider is the Director of Fundraising and Community Advancement- PJ Library/Harold Grinspoon Foundation and serves as co-head of the DLead Blog.

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