The NIRSA Foundation is the heartbeat of the entire NIRSA organization. It is the lifeblood that allows our professional organization the opportunity to impact not just the professionals in this field, but the customers we all serve day in and day out at our home institutions. By funding scholarships, research, and other opportunities, the Foundation provides stability to the professional organization and ensures members are developed both personally and professionally.

If you’ve met me, you most likely know that I’m a firm believer in Gallup’s CliftonStrengths. My top five strengths are: Positivity, Woo, Communication, Includer, and Activator. Said another way, I can effortlessly and enthusiastically win others over through clear channels of communication—taking into consideration all viewpoints—and leverage these conversations to get things started. I use these top five strengths daily, and I know they give me the power to strategically align my career goals with positions that continually hone my critical thinking skills, sharpen my communication tools, and demonstrate my leadership abilities in a multitude of settings. My deliberate application of strengths led me to my current position on the NIRSA Foundation Board—in fact, I wrote an introduction quite similar to this one on my Board application! Yet, my journey to the Board of Directors took many years, even when I wasn’t aware of the path I would eventually be on.

At Belmont as an undergraduate, I got involved with the Development Office and worked for two years cold calling young alumni and sending hand-written thank you notes to folks that pledged a donation with me. It was an experience that fostered a sense of “giving back” and helped me realize that donations big or small made a tremendous impact on both the donor and the receiver. During that time, I started to sharpen my communication skills and perfect my “donations-make-the-best-gifts” pitch. In that small cramped room at the end of a long hallway in Freeman Hall, I developed a propensity to give back.

Three years later, I would receive a NIRSA Foundation William N. Wasson Endowed Scholarship to attend the NIRSA Annual Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Once there, I had the chance to give back in a different way: volunteering my time at the Foundation Table. At that conference, I discovered I had a talent for connecting with complete strangers and compelling them to buy a shirt—any shirt—for the sake of the NIRSA Foundation.

See related: Fund the Revolution at NIRSA 2019

Build a foundation for future generations at NIRSA 2019

I still hold the same belief as I did in my Belmont days almost 15 (!!) years ago: Giving back is, in some ways, more impactful to the donor than the receiver. Personally, I have been involved in NIRSA Foundation giving since 2009, starting off with small, yearly donations at the Annual Conference and working my way up to a monthly, recurring donation over the past two years. The career, friendships, and mentors I have acquired in the years since my scholarship continue to motivate me to “pay it forward” to provide others in NIRSA similar opportunities.

I want others to feel that same fire, that enthusiasm, towards giving back as I do.

I want others to see how important the Foundation is to NIRSA and how their contribution—whether time, money, or talents—translates to meaningful opportunities that can be shared by all members of the Association.

Diving deeper into NIRSA through supporting the Foundation feeds all five of my strengths in ways I couldn’t have predicted when I took my first strengths assessment 13 years ago. I am fortunate to work alongside incredibly talented, passionate individuals who seek to build a solid foundation (pun intended) for the future generations.

Donations made to the NIRSA Foundation between February 1 and March 1 will count toward our Annual Conference campaign. Our goals are to:

  • Inspire 501 donors to pay it forward to their NIRSA family by making a donation
  • Raise $90,000 in support of campus rec to ensure the future of our Association

Will you be one of our 501? Won’t you join me in funding the revolution? The Includer in me would love to see you on the front lines!


Associate Director - Health Lifestyle Programs at Georgia Institute of Technology | NIRSA Profile

Caroline Dotts is currently the Associate Director - Health Lifestyle Programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a member of the NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors.