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An interview with Susan, 1%'s VP of Organizational Development

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Susan Comfort is 1% for the Planet’s VP of Organizational Development. A UNC-Chapel Hill grad, former Americorps Director and VP at Environmental Working Group, she brings with her two decades of environmental… “rabble rousing”, as she calls it. A newbie to the blog, I thought to introduce Susan with a quick interview.

Tough questions first. What’s your greatest eco-virtue?
This year marks #20 as a vegetarian.  Caveat: I am from Baltimore so very occasionally I might have a few crabs. It’s my culture, hon.

And your worst eco-vice?
Just one? I take long showers in winter. I fly in airplanes. I don’t re-use ziploc bags. 

Do you have a favorite fundraising tactic?
My favorite fundraising tactic…drum roll please…asking for money face-to-face.  Fundraising obviously depends on asking for money, but too often The Ask is in the form of a “Donate” button or a direct mail letter or a telephone call.  Face-to-face opportunities (like individual meetings, giving a pitch at a house party, or door-to-door canvassing) allow for relationships to be established, questions to be asked, body language to be read and that special glow to be seen when someone says, “Yes! I’d like to support that.”

Is there something about the 1% movement that’s most apt to catch a donor’s attention?
Donors like it when their beneficiary isn’t totally dependent on them. And since 1% is supported mostly by its membership dues, our foundation and individual supporters can make special projects and outreach efforts happen that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to consider.

Can you give me a snapshot of the ‘then, and now’ of Susan Comfort, the environmentalist?
Just out of college, I was placed by organizing bootcamp Green Corps in Sacramento, California. I devised a “Haircuts Not Clearcuts” fundraiser during our ancient forest campaign. We organized “All Species Day” and skits of “The Lorax” on Halloween. Partnered with pioneering utility SMUD on an energy conservation campaign.

The future looked bright.  But that was 17 years ago.  All the problems that were dire emergencies to us then have only intensified since.  Which makes for a dour perspective if you are trying to stay optimistic and raise kids and otherwise be happy as a full-time-card-carrying-environmentalist.

So I practice yoga. It serves as my preferred form of exercise, and it also helps me focus on the here and now of my experience on this planet, rather than worrying about the alarming future I see us rushing toward.

And your work day?
Mostly with bad posture behind a laptop, I concentrate my energies on growing the network of 1% for the Planet.  Growing the funding partnerships, the member businesses, the nonprofit recipients, the citizen supporters.  It’s time well-spent. Last year this network contributed $15 million toward environmental groups and we are on track to give $20 million in 2010.

Stay tuned for upcoming musings by Susan on topics of fundraising and movement building.

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