It’s really hard to write about “a day in the life” that deals with my job as director of development of the James Madison Institute (JMI). My tasks vary from day to day, but they are all aimed at one goal: finding sources of support to help JMI grow and advance our mission to limit government and provide practical free-market solutions in Florida’s public policy arena. As Morton Blackwell once famously said, “You can’t save the world if you can’t pay the rent.” This is what makes being in development so important. If you don’t have water, it’s hard to put out a fire.
On the surface level, it seems easy to pinpoint my responsibilities: raise money, find new members, and advance the capacities of the Institute. That involves things like writing grant proposals to foundations, thanking donors when their support comes in, making sure our staff follows through with the programs and initiatives we get support for, and then following up with foundations and other donors with reports on how we’ve used their funds. On another level, my job involves going out and meeting with individual donors all across the state of Florida, asking them for support, but more often simply visiting with them to provide a personal report on what we’re doing with their donations and what’s ahead for the Institute.
My job also involves working with my colleagues to put together meaningful events across the state (and it’s a big and very diverse state!). Many of these events involve membership luncheons, which start with deciding whom to invite, putting together lists of existing donors and prospects, advertising the event locally, and bringing in dynamic speakers to address us on a particular subjects. This really gets to some of the exciting parts of the job, where I’ve been able to interact personally with people like John Fund, Larry Reed, and Marco Rubio, and meet superstars like Jeb Bush and John Stossel, among many others.
As I have worked in this movement, I’ve come across so many interesting people—whether they be celebrities or simply donors with amazing life stories. It’s astonishing how many millionaires I’ve met that on the surface wouldn’t appear to me to be millionaires. I don’t think I’ve met a single wealthy person that donates to JMI that didn’t personally create their own wealth through their own work. I’ve heard story after story of entrepreneurs turned millionaires— and I’ve learned that’s often why they donate to organizations like JMI. They recognize the opportunities given to them in a free-market economy and they want others to have the same opportunities.
This week, I traveled to West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Jacksonville, before making my way back to JMI’s headquarters in Tallahassee. We put on a “Madison Day” civics education event in West Palm Beach, introducing hundreds of high school students to the life and thought of James Madison through a professional “James Madison” re-enactor. In Orlando and Jacksonville, we had meetings with two select groups of JMI members, and had Larry Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, give talks to both groups. I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with Larry during and between these events and learn from his own life experiences and quality scholarship.
Right now, I have a stack of thankyou calls to make—to new and existing members that responded to our most recent direct mail campaign, so I’ll quickly attach this email (among my many others) and get back to work. In an hour, I have to attend a meeting of Florida’s Center Right Coalition and hear directly from a few of our state’s top elected officials. I hope you can see this job is never boring—and if you do it right, you’ll be having such a blast, you’ll forget you’re at “work.” Speaking of which, I’ve got to go.