AFP Member Spotlight: Alta King
AFP Member Spotlights are a recurring series of interviews with AFP members, highlighting the unique individuals and career paths that exist within the fundraising profession. If you know an inspiring fundraising professional who deserves to be featured, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Alta King, director of development at the Quincy Art Center. She shared with us how she got her first fundraising job through her passion for the organization’s cause. She describes making connections as her “superpower” and discusses how she has benefited from participating in AFP’s arts and culture focused education.
Q: How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there?
A: I was working for my local chamber of commerce as a communications specialist when the director of development position was created at Quincy Art Center. I was happy where I was at the time and not looking for a career move. It opened a second time and I still wasn’t ready. However, I was volunteering for the Art Center, my local community theatre, and my local art faire organization. Through my volunteer work, I learned more about how the arts contribute to the local economy, how they can help with mental health, how they bring a community together, and more. I’ve always loved visual and performing arts. Eventually I began considering a career with an arts-based nonprofit. When the director of development position opened for a third time, I applied. I was confident I would get the job, not because of experience (this is my first fundraising job), but because of my passion for the organization and because making connections is my superpower. I have been the director of development for the Art Center since November 2020.
Q: When and why did you decide to become an AFP member?
A: I won a scholarship to the St. Louis AFP Gateway Conference in August 2023. I was impressed with the connections I made and what I learned at the conference. I was planning on joining AFP, and I won a 1-year membership!
Q: Are you doing anything innovative at your organization (or a past organization) that you think other fundraisers could benefit from?
A: Something that has helped me is I have been having 1:1 meetings with donors and asking them about their history with my organization, why they support us, what they’re excited about with our organization, and their dreams for our future. Through these meetings, I’ve learned what they prefer to support, and it has helped me to go back to them later and ask for gifts for specific exhibits/programs.
Q: What is your favorite word? (only one word) How has this word influenced or inspired your career?
A: Connection is my favorite word. I learned that it’s my top value after participating in Dare to Lead work. I’m always seeking connections that could develop into friendships, benefit my organization, help my colleagues, and more.
Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: I recently secured three large gifts for my organization.
Q: How has being an AFP member and participating in the AFP affinity groups benefited you in your career?
A: I have only been an AFP member since August 2023, and I have found it highly beneficial. I participated in an Arts & Culture Affinity Group meeting where I learned that there are other art museums in the nation dealing with similar challenges. It was a relief, and I plan to have virtual meetings with a few people who were on the call. On October 4, I participated in the Arts & Culture Spotlight Session, and took 10 pages of notes! The Tiny Events/Big Impact concept blew my mind. I can’t wait to try it out at my organization! I also learned a lot from the “Developing a Fundraising Growth Strategy Using Data & Analytics,” and “Leveraging Your Museum in Donor Cultivation & Stewardship” sessions. I have joined an Emerging Professionals Committee and am excited to share my time and talents on that committee.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
A: Lack of support is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit profession. Some fundraising professionals end up being the only one in their organization doing the fundraising, when it’s supposed to be a “team sport” with the board and CEO fundraising as well. For others, their development departments are short-staffed.
Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?
A: For other fundraising professionals, my advice is to join AFP and to participate in other professional development opportunities as much as possible. I would recommend the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy based in Indianapolis for classes because of their excellent research, teachers who have had experience in the nonprofit world, and the opportunity they offer to make connections with colleagues. Professional development helps one become better at what they do and in turn better serve their organizations and communities. In addition, the connections made through professional development are invaluable.