San Diego State University’s incredible run in the NCAA tournament this year had many people cheering on the Aztecs. However, “Aztec for life” has resonated for me since I began my time at SDSU as a student. From my early days as an undergraduate and student leader, to my times teaching and volunteering, to my time as orientation co-advisor, my move to an advancement professional and leader, and most importantly, as a proud alumnus, the culture has spoken to and been a part of me.

We used to call San Diego State a roll-up-your sleeves type of place — a campus where the impossible becomes possible. Not a lot of resources, but a desire to leave camp better than you found it. Tenacity paid off. Hard work was a staple. And our can-do attitude was hallmark. As was our Aztec Pride.

As I continue to relish the Aztecs’ historic run to the final dance (and especially the Butler Buzzer Beater in the Final Four), I can’t help but think of the parallels between the Aztecs’ run and our work in fundraising.

Our Aztec dream team was filled with persistence. Tenacity. Collaboration. Strong coaching with a commitment to individualization. Fun in working towards a common goal. They gave us something to dream about and believe in. At the finals in Houston, the Aztecs created bonds, rekindled memories and friendships, and created a greater passion for the work of SDSU. March Madness built community.

While we do not all have March Madness or cheering in the stands, every day we create magic at our institutions. And we use the same traits to make it happen: Persistence to create that magic and to invite others into it. Collaboration with our internal partners who set vision and carry it out, and with colleagues who help the entire advancement function rise together. We invite prospective donors in and engage them as individuals toward a common goal, toward a vision. We dream, and we invite these partners to be part of the dream through their generosity. When we do it at our best, we create life-long connectivity, and a greater passion for our institution. We build community.

The question for each of us, then, is whether we’re creating magic for the institutions and causes we represent. What does our magic look like, and how can we use it rekindle our connection to our supporters and build shared passion? How can we use that spirit to build a community of generosity?

We all have that opportunity if we’re willing to take it. And we all have it in us if we’re willing to try.

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