Julie Varee, MA, CFRE is the Donor Relations Director at the Anchorage Museum, where she works with individuals wishing to make leadership-level and legacy gifts.
Julie has been working in development for more than 30 years. She began her career after earning a bachelor’s degree in English and Telecommunications from Indiana University in Bloomington. After working with nonprofits in Washington, D.C. and Monterey, California, Julie moved to Anchorage, Alaska where she has lived since 1989. In 1985, she earned a master’s degree in Philanthropy & Development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. In 1998, Julie was honored by AFP, Alaska Chapter as the state’s Outstanding Professional in Philanthropy.
Deeply committed to advancing the profession and interacting with a diverse group of professionals, Julie has served on AFP International committees and remains an active member of AFP, Alaska Chapter. She is Alaska Chapter’s 2016 Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair.
What inspired you to become a fund raiser?
After a year at my second job out of college, at Very Special Arts International, I was given responsibility for a large fundraising event and ran with the opportunity. Over time I had the good fortune to begin working directly with individual, corporate and foundation donors. I was and continue to be inspired by people’s commitment to making change possible.
How do you explain your profession to your family and friends?
Some start out saying, “I could never ask people for money!” But as most of my friends and family members are philanthropic themselves, we talk about what they enjoy about giving and the kinds of relationships they want to have with the organizations through which they give. They learn my approach to what I do: facilitating the kinds of philanthropic experiences they value themselves.
What is the best advice that you’ve received related to your career?
One of the first chief development officers I worked with always put his family first and encouraged everyone on our team to do so. “Nothing is more important,” he would say. “Don’t lose sleep over things at work.” I was a single mom for many years and remembered these words whenever work threatened to take over my life. I keep things in perspective; my career matters to me but it’s not all I am.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a fund raiser?
Work hard to love people. If you can care genuinely about what a donor wants to achieve, even when that donor is challenging to work with, you grow as a person and a professional. This doesn’t mean failing to set healthy boundaries in your interactions or not speaking up for yourself; it means keeping your eye on how a donor, deep down, wants to impact her/his community. I think love always wins, even when a relationship tests you.
What are you most proud of in your career?
As a development professional, I get to see people at their very best. I get to witness them sharing what they have for something larger than themselves. I’m proud of helping people, including donors and colleagues, take part in moving important work forward.
Should more people of color be engaged in the profession? Why?
The tremendous rewards of helping people engage in philanthropy should be promoted intentionally to people of color. The more prospective practitioners from communities of color are able to experience the value of and opportunities available in this field the richer will be our family of professionals. It’s crucial for experienced development professionals of color to offer others pathways to networking, mentorship and continued professional development.