DER Member Spotlight: Melissa Perez, Senior Consultant, Glavin Jacobson

While working at AT&T, Melissa coordinated the March of Dimes and United Way campaigns for her business unit, reaching thousands of employees.  Realizing she wanted a more fulfilling career, she began to take classes at Jewish Vocational Services which helped her transition from a for-profit to a nonprofit career.

Although officially working in development for 15 years, during a recent conversation with a client, Melissa realized that she has been fundraising much of her life, “When I was in 8th grade, I established the first-ever class gift to the middle school.  I then seemed to always fall into student leadership positions that required fundraising.  I’m not sure that I realized that this was a life calling until recently.”

Over the years, Melissa has seen many changes in the field. “I believe that younger donors are more philanthropic and engaged now than they were when I started,” she says, “Many generous donors in their 40s and 50s, and younger donors are actively fundraising through peer-to-peer online platforms. Years ago, someone had to be sent a letter or called, but with social media, friends can passively and easily bring attention to organizations that they care about. I’m excited to see how this transforms giving and philanthropy and develops a stronger culture of philanthropy in the broader community.”

Melissa also believes that donors are more educated and engaged with the community, having a deeper understanding of systemic problems and root causes.  She sees a new generation of board members and community leaders ready to step in.

Melissa sees the growth in technology to be a great asset. “For example,” she says, “Visiting with donors is so much easier with Google Maps. I have no sense of direction so meeting with donors and clients was extremely challenging for me.  I used to handwrite thank you notes in between meetings on the road. Now, I can do research on my phone, borrow Wi-Fi from a restaurant, work on my laptop in the car and even hold a video conference call with a client.”

During COVID, Melissa rediscovered the outdoors and is more committed to exercising intentionally and not relying on a walk to BART or coffee shop as exercise.  “I was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia in 2019 and now feel better than I have in years,” she explains, “Riding a bike and climbing hills brings me so much joy.  Also, I really shut down on Friday night and try not to work on the weekends and set business hours. I may glance at my emails but I try to delineate the work week from the weekend.”

Melissa has been a member of DER on and off for 15 years, initially attending programs focused on board and volunteer management, and major gifts.  Since joining the board in 2018, she regularly attends programs and learns something new every month. “I have found DER to be very supportive and non-competitive.  Everyone wants to help their peers be successful.  Being a development officer can be a challenging job, call on peers for help and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Fundraising is experiential and we can all learn from each other.”

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