Diane Sifton is in countdown mode. Having celebrated her 20th anniversary this month with the American Red Cross, Sifton will retire next year from her position as Major Gift Officer with the Northeast Florida Chapter in Jacksonville.
“I’ve been so busy with one disaster after another, I haven’t had time to get involved with outside organizations or do anything else,” says Sifton, “but when I retire, I will do what I like most ... reading, taking walks and photography.”
It is Sifton’s photography that moved her to live in the Bahamas for a few years before taking a job with the Red Cross. “When I moved from Canton, OH to Florida at 20-years-old, and later to Jacksonville, photography was my job and it included making souvenir items such as coasters from the various photos taken from around the area.”
Sifton adds that a shop owner from the Bahamas noticed her work and invited her to the Bahamas to take photos that could be used to make souvenir items for tourists that frequented the Freeport International Bazaar.
“The Bazaar had all types of international souvenirs from French perfumes and Swiss watches to restaurants featuring international cuisine,” explains Sifton, “and my souvenir photography items highlighting local attractions.”
Sifton says her items also included portraits of individuals dressed up in Bahamian period costumes that could be made into coasters. “Sometimes people dressed up as pirates and wanted their photos captured on coasters. This was a fun!” notes Sifton.
After giving birth to her daughter Sarah, which Sifton says was the best time of her life, a friend told Sifton about a job opening with the Red Cross in Jacksonville doing special events and gifts entry. “I got the job working as a grant writer and coordinating the golf tournament, which ended up being more of a development manager,” Sifton states.
Over time the position changed and eventually Sifton was named the Major Gift Officer for the Northeast Florida Chapter. “When I started 20 years ago, we used the DOS-based programming system for the gifts entry. Technology has changed but my position still includes securing gifts and coordinating the golf tournament.”
Sifton manages the donor portfolio for foundations, corporations and individuals but still writes grants and grows donor relationships. “Building relationships with individuals can be the biggest obstacle; however, it’s not hard to talk about the Red Cross and the benefits of being a donor to the many programs that we offer.”
Doing research on foundations and corporations is key to finding the best fit for donor giving. “I educate the prospect on the various programs we offer to find which would be the best fit for them. For example, I tell them about Disaster Relief, the SAF and the Home Fire Campaign. We’re very pleased with the support we receive from our donors, and although stressful at times, I enjoy what I do.”
The stress will be a thing of the past in about a year for Sifton who looks forward to spending time with her daughter. “I’m very proud of Sarah! She turned out to be good, productive and happy! She lives and works in Stuttgart, Germany putting to use her degree from UNF in International Studies. I visited her last year and we took a side trip to Majorca, Spain.”
Hopefully when Sifton retires next year, “Sarah is still in Germany and this time, I can stay as long as I want and enjoy precious time with my daughter.”