Fundraising and nonprofit life are full of intrigue, twisted paths, pure luck, genius, generosity, and more. This is the third in an occasional series of fictional fundraising short stories.
Ruby pulled her Audi into the parking lot, grabbed her bag, and scrolled through her emails while walking to the elevator. Saving a minute here or there could be the difference between perceived competence and skepticism. Staying on top of everything was a requisite illusion. No one called the others out, but she knew they watched her every step. No letting up despite the years and all her successes. Edison Electric was still an all-boys club regardless of what they tried to portray. The important decisions were already made before Ruby entered the room.
Watching the executives at Edison Electric taught her a lot and she used that knowledge as often as she could, mixing it with her own unique brand of charm. She made everyone look good. If things looked like they might go off course Ruby sat up at night pondering plan A, B, and C. “Never go in there without a backup plan.” That was her mantra. And as things changed in Everston, she continued to update her plans, connections, and contributions. As a senior vice president, she had community obligations to uphold. She made sure her service wasn’t pigeonholed. She served on the boards of several youth organizations, including the regional Kids First affiliate. But she also lobbied for appointments to the board of the redevelopment agency and the federal reserve bank. Her service on the board of Monroe-Smith was her commitment to her alma mater. Her degrees from Monroe-Smith opened doors for her and she wanted to make sure those doors stayed open for those who followed behind her.
Taking a minute between meetings Ruby cleared a space on her desk and began listing her thoughts quickly lest they escape. “Review of financial systems. Technology assessment. Competitive landscape. Uniqueness.” Ruby knew what needed to be done at Monroe-Smith and she was depending on Congressman Taylor to get things done. The prior president had been nothing but a caretaker. Yes, he kept everything from erupting out into the open, but he did nothing to change the underlying systems and culture. And no-one asked him to. That’s what really got to Ruby: how could the trustees let the college slowly – but surely – decline? When the board voted nine to seven to remove restrictions from the endowment and use almost a third of the funds to backstop the deficit, Ruby made it her business to stop the hemorrhaging.
Ruby was the one who sought out Congressman Taylor. He could turn things around. He had connections, drive, and he owed her. She had been consistent and persistent in promoting his leadership and accomplishments. She’d worked behind the scenes to ensure he always had prominent and positive media placement. She was the silent fundraiser, opening doors, accepting checks, and ensuring his donors were looked after. Now he could make a difference. She’d be dammed if he did anything less.
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