Many of us hear the word “development” and are immediately intimidated, because we dread “asking people for money.”
Bethanie Constant, the new vice president of development at WCBR, doesn’t see it that way at all. “I look at development and advancement work as building relationships,” she explains. “A good relationship is one in which you learn about each other, and you take care of each other. You learn who they are and what they’re interested in and why they’re interested in it.”
She explains that you learn about the things in which people want to invest their time, talent and treasure. As the relationship grows, you show that you care about those things, too, and you talk about how the organization you represent addresses those concerns.
She compares it other kinds of personal relationships. “If you’re in a relationship with somebody,” she says, “and then that person proposes, the proposal is a moment in that relationship, but it’s just a moment.” Most of the relationship involves the vast stretches of time before that, and after as well.
The “after” is important, because good development and advancement work requires follow-through. You’ve shown the person you care, and then you have to keep showing it. You have to “make sure that all the things we promised happen.”
Bethanie discovered she loved this kind of work as an intern, the same year she graduated from Lander University with a bachelor’s degree in history. She found herself on Capitol Hill in Washington, advocating for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (now the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation). She sat through hearings, and followed the politics of stem cell research.
“If I had to point to just one moment,” that launched her on the path that led to WCBR, that was it. She found that she loved the nonprofit environment, and even more that she loved building the personal relationships.
Since then, she has worked in a variety of organizations:
Most recently, she served as vice president of advancement at Marymount University in Arlington.
You’ll see that she has been in Virginia for quite a few years. This is her first time in Charlottesville, but “I have lots of connections here. My best friend of 31 years lives here,” and she has visited a lot, not only to see her friend, but “for apple-picking and UVA football games.”
“We feel very fortunate to have Bethanie find us and to relocate to Charlottesville,” said Gary Selmeczi, President and Chief Executive Officer of WCBR. “In addition to her deep knowledge and experience in advancement work, she possesses the qualities and values that are important to us. I think she’s a perfect fit for WCBR.”
Bethanie says she wanted to come to WCBR because she could see its dedication to “mission and focus.” She says her new job, which involves supporting the WCBR Foundation – which, she reminds us, is “a 501(c)(3), so fully tax-deductible” – is “the very definition of people-centered work.”
“Belief is important to me,” she says. “You have to believe in the work that you do.” And at WCBR, she can definitely do that.
This is her first time working for a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), but she has considerable personal experience in the area. Both of her husband’s grandmothers lived in such establishments. She also knows the alternatives, since her own grandparents aged in place. She has “always been very involved in my grandparents’ lives, probably more than most.”
In her free time, she loves gardening, and hiking – every weekend. She shares the hikes with her husband and son, a weekend practice that she says “kept us sane during COVID.”
She likes her new office, which has big windows through which she can see “chipmunks, squirrels, and cardinals.” But that’s not how she spends most of her time. In her first week, she has been going about getting to know everyone – residents, associates and board members.
Because for her, it’s always about the relationships.