Nonprofit Leader Series: Q&A with Rachel Muir
When she was just 26 years old, Rachel Muir founded Girlstart, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering girls in math, science, engineering and technology. She was told as a child that girls are not good at math and science. One day, a major light bulb went off over her head and she decided to do something. Several years later she raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Rachel Muir, CFRE, is a speaker, trainer, and nationally-recognized nonprofit founder and thought leader. Her career spans running nonprofits, leading an online fundraising consulting practice, and managing major gift portfolios. We had the honor of getting to know Rachel more and her important role in the nonprofit world!
Can you start by introducing yourself? Tell us about your background and how you got involved with nonprofits?
Hi. I am Rachel Muir, CFRE.
I am just as crazy, overwhelmed and passionate about making the world a better place as you. Born to unsuspecting parents in 1971, I was told as a child that girls are not good at math and science. That cost me a lot of opportunities so when I was 26 I decided to do something about it. I quit my job and started a nonprofit to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of my apartment with all the money I had: $500 and a credit card. It took me years to pay off that credit card but along the way I got to impact thousands of girls, be featured on Oprah, raise 10 million dollars, work every side of the Rubik’s cube that is the nonprofit sector, and learn more about fundraising than you may ever want to know.
It took a lot of inspiration and a truck-load of guts to get to where I am today. I have the best job in the world: helping thousands of fundraisers land big gifts, delight their donors, and love their jobs!
What do you enjoy most about your work with nonprofits?
I have the best job in the world – helping people love their jobs, raise more money and make the world a better place! What do I enjoy most? I love helping fundraisers, Executive Directors and board members banish their fear of fundraising and discover the joy of giving. I love helping burnt out fundraisers with a task list that stretches from this continent to the next get excited and jazzed again. I love saving fundraising newbies expensive, time consuming mistakes and helping them get it right from the get-go. I love doing board retreats where I can give board members that light bulb moment when they realize that they have a ton of contacts they can’t WAIT to introduce to their cause because I’ve helped them realize their passion and volunteering for the cause is actually a source of pride for everyone they know! I love being in the field doing custom trainings and board retreats. I love getting up on stage at fundraising conferences, national philanthropy days and AFP events where I can get the whole room energized and teary eyed at the amazing difference they’re making in the world.
What drives you to be involved with the nonprofits you support and volunteer with?
What motivates me to give is the same thing that motivates ALL donors to give – genuinely feeling like my gift helps and makes a difference. When I see a compelling need firsthand I can’t wait to jump in and help. Getting updates and knowing that I was a small part of their success fills my heart with joy.
What’s the biggest challenge nonprofits face today?
There’s never enough time or money to do it all. The space is crowded and getting (and keeping) your donors’ attention and winning their hearts, minds and wallets can feel like an uphill battle. We all have the same 24 hours in the day. Nothing can replace the strong relationships you build with donors. At the end of the day it’s just that – there is no magic bullet.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is a new adventure! Most of my time is spent preparing custom trainings for non-profits, creating board retreats or creating keynotes or breakout session for conferences. If I’m not preparing content I’m in front of people delivering it! I also do a lot of webinars for my list, clients and partners in the space. Like many nonprofit professional, I have more ideas than time! When I’m not working I’m raising my 12 year old boy/girl twins with my husband who is the recreational director at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
What is one piece of advice you would share with a fellow nonprofit leader?
Invest in professional development! Being a fundraiser or an Executive Director can be lonely, isolating, stressful and scary. You can’t be a fundraising dynamo if you have no idea what to do, haven’t ever done it before, aren’t sure who your best prospects are, don’t have the tools to get in with your donors or aren’t being taken on visits to see how it’s done. You don’t have to be terrified and overwhelmed; help is out there! It works, too! According to fundraising research each form of training is associated with a $37,000 boost in income.
Learn more about Rachel at www.rachelmuir.com