The Dot Org Solutions team describes their versatile career paths
The staff at Dot Org Solutions was asked to reminisce on their versatile career paths and describe them in one word.
Amy Wong, president
When I look back at my career, there are many ways I could describe it: challenging, tiring, diverse, unexpected, educational, rewarding. But when asked to pick one word, “fulfilling” is the first thing that came to mind.
I never expected my career path to turn out like it has. When I graduated with a journalism/PR degree from Bowling Green State University (Aye Ziggy!), I wanted to live the agency life or work in corporate communications. The recession of the early 1990s made finding a job in those fields difficult and I ended working for a bare-bones nonprofit where fundraising and PR were my job. I didn’t make much money, I made some mistakes, but I learned from the experience and knew that working in the nonprofit sector would be an interesting career path to pursue.
Before I had that first job, I never expected to be a professional fundraiser, which isn’t surprising given that most people don’t pick it as a career choice. But the 17 years I worked in the field plus founding and running Dot Org Solutions since 2009 have made it a fulfilling career, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Nonprofit fundraising and marketing have given me opportunities to travel, to learn, to try new things and to make a difference. I’ve met amazing people (famous and infamous) who are changing the world one day at a time. I have learned to be more empathetic, patient, kind and understanding about what others are going through. And, I go home every night from work knowing that the work I did that day will somehow, some way make a difference in someone’s life.
Working in and for the nonprofit sector isn’t always easy and there are always challenges that many in the for-profit sector don’t understand. It is rewarding, however, to see how the nonprofit organizations and professionals continue to fight for what they believe in and for the people they serve. They are truly heroes and make our world a better place. Knowing them and knowing the work their organizations do have made me a better person.
While I didn’t end up in the field I originally chose, I am able to use my education and talents every day. I get to work with people who are inspire me to do better. I am involved in projects that challenge me to think differently. And I know that the work I do makes a difference. That is my definition of fulfilling.
Sara Lundenberger, director of nonprofit consulting
I did not grow up thinking I wanted to be a fundraiser. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know that was a job. Most of my life revolved around sports: either playing them or watching them. When I finally decided to go to college at Mount Union, my first thought was sports management. I had worked at the Pro Football Hall of Fame the summer before college and thought it seemed fun. Once I got there and thought a little more about what I really wanted to do, I switched majors to physical education, thinking I would become a volleyball coach and physical education teacher. Fast forward to the summer of 2003 when teaching jobs, let alone physical education teaching jobs, were hard to come by. I spent the 2003-2004 school year substitute teaching, hoping that one of the schools I subbed at would have an opening the next year. When that didn’t work, I went back to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and worked for about a year as marketing/accounting/whatever needed done assistant. My fundraising career began in 2005 when I was then hired as the development assistant. I learned a lot and figured out what to do and what not to do in the few years I was in that position. By that point, I felt like I found my niche. I was surprised how much I enjoyed helping to plan and facilitate the events we held so when I felt like I was ready, I applied for an events coordinator job at Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation. The foundation was a whole new world of fundraising. I went from a two-person shop focused mainly on major gifts to a 15-person staff with a massive grants program, large annual fund, multiple major gift officers, stewardship personnel and a massive third-party event calendar.
What I learned more than anything else, is that no matter how big or small your staff or operating budget is, fundraising principles are the same. They are also very similar to how I like to lead my life:
1. Create relationships based on trust, honesty and respect.
2. Ask for help when you need it.
3. Say thank you.
I may be pretty far away from what I thought I would be doing, but I was extremely lucky to find something that I love to do. Here at Dot Org, I can combine my knowledge and enthusiasm for helping nonprofits become successful with my natural inclination to be bossy and tell people what to do. I also finally get to fulfill my gym teacher wish to wear sweatpants to work every day, at least while we are working from home.
Kayleigh Stauffenger, marketing and PR services manager
I’ve never liked leaving things to chance. Something about my type-a personality makes me crave structure and seek certainty. When I chose my college major and minors, I strategically picked areas that I was not only interested in, but that I knew could help me get a job when I graduated. I loved to write and edit, so I thought communications with a focus in journalism was a natural fit. However, after watching the industry struggle with growing pains through my dad’s career, I felt uneasy about setting my sights on becoming a reporter. I decided to add marketing and Spanish minors, thinking I could round out my love of writing with some business experience and immersion in another culture and language. I thought that if after graduation I could find a job I was good at, I would surely enjoy it.
Through conversations with connections I made in the field, I decided public relations might be a good way to blend my love of writing with my new interest in strategy and marketing. After several internships and an entry-level position at Zeno, a public relations agency in Chicago, I felt like something was missing. I was working on big, exciting campaigns for large, well-known brands, but helping my clients sell makeup and microwaves just wasn’t cutting it.
After months of wondering if I chose the wrong career, I came across a marketing and grants coordinator position at an independent all-girls school, Josephinum Academy. After reading the description, I knew there would be a learning curve (I didn’t know anything about nonprofits or grant writing... and I really stretched my skills to become the school’s graphic designer), but I knew I had to give it a shot. It was in that role that I felt like I found the purpose I had been searching for. Using my writing and strategic thinking skills to help the school rebrand and bring in support through grants and other fundraising efforts was exhilarating. I fully believed in the mission and loved that I found a way to contribute to it and help spread the word about it so that more people supported the school. Eventually, I decided it was time to move closer to family in Cleveland and found a job in marketing at Case Western Reserve University. While I enjoyed my time there, I missed the hands-on strategy and marketing work I was used to at Josephinum.
That’s when I came across Dot Org Solutions. In my role at Dot Org, I’ve been able to take everything I learned at PR agencies and working for nonprofits to help my clients build strategies, structures and messaging that help them grow, raise money and serve the community. Every day, I get to work with and help organizations who are committed to making northeast Ohio a better place to live, work, learn and grow. And for that, I’m very grateful.
Meredith Beesing, administrative assistant
When I was in college, a professor told my class that the average adult will work 12-15 different jobs in the span of his/her career. To me, that seemed insane. I am not a person who thrives on adventure and change. Once I find something that suits me and is comfortable, I will happily stay in that place forever. However, in my 18th year post-college, I am now at job #10 with many years of pre-retirement to go. My career has been broad, diverse, but more than anything, adaptable to my experiences and family’s needs.
My first job after college was as a teaching assistant at a private school in northern Virginia. By Thanksgiving, a fourth-grade lead teaching position became available and I was asked to fill it. While my English degree did not cover classroom management or lesson planning, my fellow teachers and administrators helped me make it through that year and the next. In 2004, my husband was transferred to southeastern Virginia where I found a job in quality assurance at a publishing company. During my time there, I also worked in data programming, layout and eventually became the manufacturing department supervisor. In 2007, upon the birth of my first child, I transitioned to a part-time data programming position from home. After baby #2 was born in 2009, I took a break from the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom. To keep my mind active and to socialize with people who did not spit up on me, I also worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including as a health and fitness coach at the local YMCA, a personal assistant and a soccer camp coordinator for my church.
Once my children were school-aged, I reentered the working world as a communications coordinator at a private school. The experience and skills I learned in teaching and publishing contributed perfectly to this position. After a few years, I was promoted to the role of director of communications and marketing and, in addition to my previous responsibilities, oversaw the admissions, development and special events for the school.
In 2019, my family moved back home to northeast Ohio. My children are at the ages where their schedules are full of sports and extracurricular activities, but they still need a chauffeur. To ease the logistical burden for our family, I looked for a part-time job. My experience in communications, combined with my love for the nonprofit sector, made Dot Org Solutions the ideal place to apply. Since September 2019, I have worked as the administrative assistant and have enjoyed additional responsibilities that are available at smaller companies, like managing social media and other marketing tasks. I am grateful to work at a company that positively impacts nonprofits, utilizes the skills I’ve learned from a variety of different jobs, while also allowing me the flexibility to manage my familial responsibilities.
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