I invite you to dive deep into your passion and let your fears behind as we take a plunge into the life of Darcie Champagne Wells.

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A reflection of lessons learned from a fundraiser who has raised over $100 million

“You have to have fire. Don’t do it unless you’ve got fire for it for some reason. Whether it’s the person you wanna learn from or the mission you are going to serve, have fire for it.” Click To Tweet

When it comes to pursuing a career in fundraising, people like Darcie Champagne Wells are worth watching. She is the Nonprofit Executive and Market Leader at March of Dimes in the Greater Houston Area. She’s deeply passionate and recently celebrated a major milestone —  she and the team she manages have collectively raised $100 million! She has been with the March of Dimes for the last 12 years and been in this profession for the past 25 years, but for her, this is just the beginning of the journey. She’s hoping to raise her next $100 million in just half the time. 

Darcie and I know each other from our collaboration on The Campaign to End Premature Birth for the March of Dimes where our team designed and ran a major gifts program for individuals, starting with the launch of the capital campaign (shout outs to a few teammates at the end of these show notes.) In this episode, we have a friendly conversation that veers away from formality into a place of truth and authenticity (my favorite kind of pod!).

Fundraising is a collaborative and team effort

Darcie caught the “philanthropy bug” while in an MBA program at the University of Houston (UH). One of her professors offered her a job as director of development — a role and career Darcie didn’t even know existed. She quickly realized she had talent and passion for this industry of inviting people to tackle meaningful societal challenges by funding critical programs. While studying at UH, she met her first major gift donor. This man was not only the first major gift donor she’d worked with, but the experience of receiving this $25K gift 25 years ago has stuck with her — he remains a mentor to her today. Donors like him and many others inspired Darcie to pursue a career of impact through fundraising. 

Darcie is a community connector. For her, the real reward as fundraisers lies within the relationships we form along the way. More so than the accomplishments, the awards, and the amount of money raised, Darcie believes that building a reputation of trust is building community. Knowing that this is not work that you do by yourself, but as a team and with the help of volunteers, feeds the soul. Together we impact change. 

Passion gives you energy

Getting in the flow. Feeling like nothing else matters. Like you are in the place you are supposed to be. That’s what true passion feels like, and if you don’t feel that way about your current occupation, it’s time to rethink your career choices and ask yourself, ‘what lights me up?’. Passion can come from many different places, so if you have a lack of emotional connection with the person you are working — or with the mission — I invite you to find that thing you are great at and that you would do for free. 

Key Takeaways: 

01:53 – Being a player and a coach at the same time: How Darcie handles her dual role as an Executive Director and Market Leader. Plus, lessons she’s learned in leadership along the way.

06:07- How to create alignment when organizations have different priorities.

11:15 – Integrating the humanization element of the virtual-meeting atmosphere that COVID-19 has created into the in-person business world and addressing the issue of formality in meetings.

11:53 – Mentors and leaders: The timeless lesson that a major-gift donor taught Darcie and the impact it has had on her life.

16:23 – How to uncover your natural gift and turn it into a career that’s fulfilling and promising.

22:56 – Follow your passion: how to make sense of the job-hopping that happens in fundraising. 

Darcie and I met while working together on the March of Dimes Campaign to End Premature Birth from 2015 to 2016. Shout out to Nicole Stratton who was my partner in this effort while under the expert management of Rick Happy at CCS. Also, a nod to my friend and former client, Sterin Bird who hired us for this project to launch a major gifts program via the campaign. Darcie also mentions her mentor and a partner in our efforts, Paula Ransom.

Connect with Darcie

Connect with Darcie on LinkedIn

March of Dimes | Healthy Moms. Strong Babies.

Episode Resources

8: Rick Happy | Philanthropy During a Time of Crisis 

9: Sterrin Bird | Major Gifts Fundraising

Look Up Child by Lauren Degold Daygold

Dare to Lead by Brenee Brown

Indian Matchmaker

The Unmistakable Creative Podcast

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman 

Connect with donor Barrye Price on LinkedIn

Connect with Bob Casey on LinkedIn