JANUARY 2023 - MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Nicole Trautsch (She/Her)
Director of Development, WildCare
How long have you been involved in the nonprofit sector? And in fundraising?
I have actively volunteered for various nonprofits for most of my adult life, keeping me directly connected, heart and mind, with issues that I care about. My volunteer service led me to take a paid job at WildCare, a wildlife hospital and nature education center in San Rafael, five years ago. I started at the front desk – a job that fit my life perfectly at the time as my young son was in school and I was just returning to the workforce part-time. I fell in love with the organization and when I was offered a position on the development team, I jumped right in. I started as WildCare’s Stewardship Manager three years ago and now run the department.
Please describe why you chose to work in nonprofit fundraising.
My previous professional background was in luxury retail management, where I led teams with a focus on customer relationships. I went on to earn an MBA with the intention of advancing to for-profit business leadership, but my heart wasn’t in it. Nonprofit fundraising has turned out to be a remarkable fit with my customer relationship building expertise and business skills. Most importantly, nonprofit fundraising is very meaningful work, and I feel honored to be supporting WildCare’s impact in such a fundamental way.
Please tell us about your current role and responsibilities.
I am currently the Director of Development and lead an incredible team in growing our community of supporters and help them stay connected with our organization and the impact they are making possible. I work closely with our Executive Director and Board of Directors in ensuring the current financial health and future stability of the organization.
How has Covid-19 affected your current role, organization, and career path?
I joined WildCare’s development team in February 2020, with only weeks in the office before the pandemic hit. WildCare was deemed an essential service in Marin County, so we continued operations, uninterrupted but without volunteers. It was an extraordinary time with heightened fundraising urgency -- telling our story and keeping our community engaged was of the utmost importance. Learning the ropes during that period helped inform my approach to fundraising and continues to serve me in meaningful ways.
What are some silver linings since the pandemic began in March 2020?
The pandemic prompted our team to focus more strongly on connecting one-to-one with our donors and trying new, innovative ways to bring our community together. The relationships strengthened and built during the pandemic are particularly enduring. And our understanding of what our work means to people really came into sharp focus and energized our plans for the future of the organization.
What are some highlights in your current role and in your career?
Every time I get to show a donor first-hand what they are making possible with their support of our work is a moment I hold on to. Giving tours of our Wildlife Hospital and Nature Education Center to funders who haven’t yet seen our work behind-the-scenes inevitably brings moments of compassion, gratitude and awe. That never stops being meaningful to me.
Also, my team growing, getting stronger and working incredibly well together is a joyful thing to be a part of.
What professional knowledge would you impart to other nonprofit fundraisers?
Take time to maintain a wholehearted connection to the work being done that delivers on your mission. It will sustain you through the challenging times and fuel authentic relationships with your organization’s supporters.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
Burnout and relatively low salaries in comparison to less stressful for-profit careers make nonprofit fundraising a difficult choice sometimes.
How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life?
It is definitely something I have to keep a conscious eye on. I take care to prioritize time off and seek out joyful experiences with family and friends.
What are some activities you enjoy outside of work?
I love to run and hike with friends, cook with my family on Sunday evenings, travel whenever we can. I used to love salsa dancing and am planning to take that back up again soon.
What is the last book you read or movie you watched?
I recently saw All That Breathes, a beautiful and poetic documentary that tells the story of two brothers in New Delhi who run a wildlife hospital that focuses on rehabilitating raptors. Highly recommended.
What career goals do you still want to pursue or accomplish?
I aim to successfully complete a large, transformative capital campaign.