Though she says being a Queen’s graduate isn’t a prerequisite to doing her job, Lisa Sykes admits it’s an asset.
“You’ve got to be passionate about your cause,” she says with a smile. That’s because Sykes works as a Development Officer with the faculty of Arts and Science, where her focus is on major gifts -- or donations to the university of more than $25,000.
“My role is to maximize philanthropic support from Alumni and friends of Queen’s,” she says, explaining that she serves as a ‘front line’ person, meeting regularly with donors and working to determine out how their gifts can best help and support Queen’s.
“A lot of the time I work with donors to learn what is most inspiring for them about the university,” she says, describing funding opportunities that encompass everything from funding for student support and professorships, to support for buildings and seminars. “For example, somebody who really benefited from student aid when they were at Queen’s, might then be inspired to give back and start their own scholarship. That’s a wonderful thing to be part of.”
‘I think you were born for major gift fundraising'
Sykes,who graduated with an undergraduate degree in film in 2004, says she never expected to work in fundraising. She had been doing communications and public relations work for a small rehabilitation hospital in Toronto, when Sykes says she was “set loose” at an event that some of its major donors were attending.
“At the end, the president came up and said ‘I think you were born for major gift fundraising,” she laughs. “I remember, I said ‘what’s that?’” Once she’d had her first taste of it, however, Sykes knew she’d found a meaningful career path. “I just loved it,” she says it’s very inspiring to see the power of philanthropy and the impact it has on Queen’s. "I am thrilled to be part of the giving cycle and to see just how much it can make a difference. .”
When her now-husband got accepted into the Master’s program in Industrial Relations at Queen’s, Sykes returned to Kingston, but she didn’t expect it to be a long-term move. That changed, however, when he was recruited for a permanent job in the city.
“I thought well, if I am living in Kingston, the only place I want to work is Queen’s!” she recalls. That’s when, serendipitously, she saw her current job posted advertised online. By November of 2009, she was back on campus in a new capacity -- and as satisfied as ever.
“The people who work here are incredible, and I love the opportunity to represent my Alma Mater and to be able to talk to all the wonderful donors and Alumni," she adds enthusiastically. “There are just so many lovely people that I have the pleasure to meet!”