Five Questions with…Diane Gulyas, CASL Development Director

May 3, 2019

Philanthropic work is often misunderstood. Raising money for important causes is not about closing a business deal, but about connecting donors with their passions.

We recently caught up with Diane Gulyas, CASL development director and current president of the Association of Fundraising Professional’s (AFP) Metro Detroit chapter, to ask about her work, the profession and the important role of the AFP.

Describe your current position and the path that led to it. Did you always think you would have this type of career?

Currently, I am the Director of Development for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters. My focus is to help advance the college's priorities by engaging individuals and facilitating opportunities for them to share their time, connections, and financial resources with the college. I recently heard someone say "tuition, fees, and state funding provide an average university while private contributions make a university exceptional." This sums up my position well - my role is to secure resources to help CASL and UM-Dearborn provide an extraordinary educational experience for students.

I have been doing this type of work for more than 25 years and like most people in my age group, there was not an established career path to becoming a fundraising professional. I really had no idea I would end up in this profession.

After graduating from U-M Ann Arbor with a degree in philosophy, I started my career working in marketing. I got my first development job at Hospice of Metro Denver and I felt I had found my calling. I always wanted to help people and while I was not trained to provide direct services, I found a home in development where I could help people by making sure the organizations serving them had the resources they needed. At my next position, as chief development officer for a family resource center serving families who had children with special needs, I learned to plan, manage and implement all types of fundraising tactics, and I realized that I wanted to focus on individual giving. When the opportunity to become the Director of Development for CASL became available, I jumped on it because it was the next logical step in my career offering a focus on major and estate gifts. 

What are the things you like best about what you do and where you work?

There are so many things I love about my work. I find great satisfaction in helping people achieve their philanthropic goals, working with Dean Marty Hershock and CASL faculty/staff to move the college's mission forward, and seeing the impact of the gifts I secure on the lives of students, faculty, staff, and donors. For me, it is an honor and privilege to do this work.

I enjoy working at UM-Dearborn because of the student demographics and transformational nature of the education provided. I feel I am really helping make a difference in the lives of UM-Dearborn students. CASL is also a great fit for me since I have two liberal arts degrees. Both of my degrees are from U-M (one from Ann Arbor and the other from Dearborn) so it's even more fun working for my alma mater. I am also extremely grateful to work as part of a great team of UM-Dearborn development professionals and to have access to the many development resources offered by the Office of University Development in Ann Arbor. 

What are some common myths about fundraising?

Fundraising is a misunderstood field. Most people believe fundraising is about begging for money and that a majority of time is spent asking for money. This couldn't be further from reality. Fundraising is about making dreams come true and improving the world in which we live. The process for major and estate gift fundraising is connecting with people who love the organization's mission, engaging these people with the organization in meaningful ways, providing opportunities for them to help support the mission financially and in other ways, thanking them for their support, and showing them the impact they are having on people's lives.

Asking for gifts is a crucial part of the process but does not take up the majority of time. In fact, if you have spent an appropriate amount of time doing the other parts of the process well, then “the ask” itself usually happens quite easily and naturally. And the exciting thing about working with individuals is that this process is ongoing and again, if done well, people will continue to give and increase the size of their gifts.

Many don't understand that all of this takes time and the timeline is determined by the donors. You can end what could have been a fruitful, lifelong relationship for the organization by skipping any of the steps in the process. For example, by asking too soon or for something the donor isn't interested in or by not thanking the donor or sharing the impact of their gifts. If someone likes to work with people, is patient and persistent, is a good listener, and wants to help others, fundraising could be a great career for them.

Congratulations on being elected President of the Greater Detroit Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)! What does the AFP do and why is it so important? What have you been doing and will continue to do as president?

Thank you! The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is an international membership-based organization that promotes ethical fundraising through professional education, networking, research, and advocacy. AFP is so important because it inspires positive social good through fundraising best practices. For example, AFP members must abide by a Code of Ethical Standards and The Donor Bill of Rights. AFP also provides high quality educational opportunities for professional development and credentialing in the field. As the largest association of charitable fundraisers in the world, AFP educates the public about the fundraising profession and the importance of philanthropy. 

Since starting in this role in January, I have been working to improve the chapter's processes, collaboration among our committees, planning for the chapter's financial future, and empowering our Board members and volunteers to expand the reach of the chapter's work in SE Michigan. My plan is to continue this work and to identify ways the chapter can educate the public about the fundraising profession. My presidential rallying cry is "Be inclusive in all we do." I would like the chapter to be viewed as the premier resource for local fundraising professionals and others involved in fundraising as well as an association that welcomes and encourages involvement from anyone who believes in our mission and wants to help.

What do you do in your free time? Plans for the future?

Free time - what's that?  I'm kidding. I enjoy spending time with my husband, children, other family and friends, and our dog and two cats. I am also a big fan of cultural activities offered in Detroit so I like to attend the symphony, opera, Broadway shows and concerts. International and domestic travel is also a high priority for my husband and me.  However, we recently purchased our vacation/retirement home and this year plan to spend most of our free time there. I don't have specific plans for the future at the moment, but I am thinking about doing more professional writing and presentations.

No matter what the future holds for me, I will always be a Wolverine. Go Blue!

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