If you’ve been with us for a while, you have read great, expert fundraising articles written by our friend, mentor and business partner, Alex Comfort. This week, we would like to tell the backstory of our relationship with Alex and fill you in on the exciting project he’s been working on over the past year.
About a decade ago, I was at a major transition point in my career. I had joined an organization where it was clear that I wasn’t going to have a lot of success writing grants until our fundraising house was in order. Not one to accept a cop-out, I grabbed the bull by the horns and set about learning everything I could about fundraising. My quest led me to my local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and during a lunch-and-learn event, Alex spoke to our group, ostensibly to share his vast knowledge of the field, but in reality, he was there to pitch his newly created Fundraising Boot Camp.
With my first major capital campaign about to fall in my lap, I decided to sign up for Alex’s very first Boot Camp. It was a live, in-person event lasting four days, and in that time, I gained about 30 years of knowledge. I also established what would become some of my most valuable professional relationships, including gaining Alex himself as both a friend and mentor.
Alex is a hoot. His style is best summed up in the context of his having retired twice, from the US Air Force and as an Episcopal priest, before losing his ever-loving mind and becoming a fundraiser. Way back in the 1980s, Alex was one of the top campaign directors for Ward, Dreshman, & Reinhardt, Inc. – the nation’s first fundraising firm. From there, Alex went on to hold a variety of impressive positions with large organizations including Covenant House and the University of North Carolina, Asheville. Technically, he retired a third time from being Associate Vice Chancellor for Development, Principal Gifts, and Planned Giving at UNCA, then became the executive director of a nearby nonprofit before launching his consultancy, Mountain Nonprofit Solutions. Are you seeing a pattern yet?
Alex’s energy and drive are only matched by his extraordinary talent as a storyteller and his uncanny ability to forge deep, meaningful relationships with all kinds of people. He can and will talk to anyone and everyone. And he’s not the sort of guy who just hams it up either. He elicits a unique respect and admiration from people that stems from how sincere and genuine he truly is with everyone he meets.
For the past decade, I have picked up the phone and called Alex in equal measure when I’ve needed career advice, wrestled with seemingly impossible fundraising challenges, needed a restaurant recommendation, for advice about what to wear to a meeting, had specific questions about how to approach an ask, and was overwhelmed with grief and mourning the loss of a beloved colleague. I often quip that Alex is my career, menu, wardrobe and spiritual advisor.
Alex Comfort is the real deal. Remember that capital campaign that led me to him in the first place? Well, I had the privilege of touring that $52 million building for the first time a few weeks ago. And I can attribute the success of every campaign I’ve been involved with since we met to his mentorship.
During the pandemic, Alex could have gone stark raving mad in isolation. He’s just not the sort of person wired for sitting still. Instead, he’s spent his time pouring his heart, soul and many, many stories from a decades-long career as a successful fundraiser into a book, Even a Blind Squirrel Finds an Occasional Acorn: Fundraising Tales from the Front Lines. I am beyond thrilled to announce that Alex’s book is now available on Amazon. And I would like to encourage you to get yourself a copy and enjoy the knowledge, insight and wit of one of the best in the business.