We are so excited to be launching our newest blog series, “Meet Our Team Monday!”
Over the next few months, we will do a weekly feature of one of our team members giving you ‘insider access’ to our group of unique & talented folks that are in the field working with DBA clients day in & day out. We are proud to have built a team of industry experts from across the nation that not only know the in’s & out’s of the business but have a demonstrated track record of achieving real success. First up is DBA President, Derric Bakker…
What did you do before joining Dickerson, Bakker & Associates?
I’m one of those rare individuals who have been in fundraising almost my entire career. Out of college I worked for a couple of years at a bank but was recruited into the field a couple years later by a friend who was chairing a search committee to recruit a fundraiser. After about a decade working as a fundraiser (primarily in major gifts), I had opportunity to work with a consultant who helped me complete a capital campaign. Once the campaign was done, he invited me to join his firm. I worked with him for a few years until he retired, and later on joined another firm that specialized in working with faith-based ministries. In 2010 I struck out and formed my own firm, which I merged with Clark Dickerson’s consulting group in 2012, and that’s when I “joined” Dickerson-Bakker.
Where did you go to college?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and my MBA at Michigan State University. Most people don’t know this but I was on a Pre-Med track in my undergraduate studies with a dual major in Biology and Chemistry. After working a summer at a missionary hospital in Africa my junior year of college, I came to the (somewhat late) conclusion that medicine was not for me. The best way I can explain it is to say that I came face to face with the “ick” factor of medicine, and decided I would be much happier working in a career that didn’t involve body fluids.
How did you first hear about Dickerson, Bakker & Associates?
I knew of Dickerson & Associates from a distance as a friendly competitor for a number of years when I was Vice President with another firm. In April 2011 Clark Dickerson and I connected casually for a cup of coffee during a slow time at a conference. Sometime during our conversation he mentioned that he was turning 65, and I asked him point blank – “what are your plans for your company?” Turns out he didn’t have any. We started to talk about partnering together, and “the rest is history”, as they say. Clark and I formally joined forces at the end of 2011, and it’s not only been a great professional relationship, we’ve also become close friends.
Why did you decide to come work for Dickerson, Bakker & Associates?
I just figured that any company that had “Bakker” in the name had to be a great place to work! Not sure what that “Bakker” guy does though – he isn’t around the office much… seems to be flying around the country all the time.
What do you look forward to most when starting to work with a new client?
Generally, clients ring our phone for one of two reasons – either they need help getting “unstuck”, or are looking to take a leap forward towards starting something new. Oftentimes it’s both. Whatever the situation, they have decided that they need outside help to move forward. They are looking to us to help catalyze change, and that is always exciting to me. But in order to help a client get where they are hoping to go, how you start off with them is really important. It sets the stage for all that is to come. I often say to our team… “If you start well and finish well with a client, you can get away with a lot in the middle.” I say it as a joke, but there’s a lot of truth in it. This work isn’t easy, and nothing ever goes completely according to plan. We are always going to face unexpected challenges “in the middle”. We put a lot of planning and effort into starting well so that when the challenges do come we are on a firm footing to see things through to a strong finish.
What is one goal you hope to achieve with a client when starting a new project?
If there is one thing I’ve learned in 15+ years of consulting, it’s that every client and every situation is unique. There are plenty of commonalities, but every organization has walked its own path, is made up of its unique set of people. Each group has their own way of doing things, and their own vision for what they want to achieve. If we are going to help your organization, we need to understand who you are, where you’ve been, where you want to go, what obstacles or challenges stand in your way, and the best way for you to get there. That is why we it is so important we conduct an assessment at the front end of work, and that is how we came up with our Assess -> Plan -> Deliver Results model for how we approach our services.
What is your favorite part about being President of Dickerson, Bakker & Associates?
Frankly I love everything about it. I enjoy the people I work with – the clients, the donors, and the incredible team we have assembled here at DBA. I love the way we are able to help the organizations we work with make an even more significant impact. Years ago, after taking some time off when our kids were little, rather than going back to working in a research lab, my wife decided to pursue a career as a physician. After slogging her way through med school, residency, etc. she finally settled into a job as a staff physician at a local hospital. As you can imagine, that changed the equation for us as a family. I frankly didn’t even need to work if I didn’t want to. I could have gone back to school, written a great American novel, climbed Mount Everest – whatever I wanted to do. I decided that I was doing exactly what God has called and gifted me to do, and that was when I started my own firm.
What’s the best/craziest thing that has happened to you out in the field?
Air travel is probably my least favorite part of this work. If there is craziness involved in this work, it’s almost always going to happen at an airport or on an airplane. I’m sometimes amazed by what people will try to bring with them on an airplane. (I admit that I am guilty myself, having once brought a full-size samurai sword back from an overseas trip as a souvenir. Shockingly they allowed me to carry it aboard rather than check it to the baggage compartment! It was in a case and hadn’t been sharpened, but even so). Another time I was traveling with a colleague and we met for a bite to eat after we both arrived at our destination. As he was fishing through his backpack he suddenly had a very shocked look on his face. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he had a (legally registered) handgun in his bag that he had forgotten was in there. He was mortified! Amazingly he had made it through TSA and flown halfway across the country without anyone even realizing it was there. Needless to say we stopped at a UPS Store so he could ship it home. Think of those stories the next time TSA takes away your hair gel because it’s in a 4-ounce tube instead of 3.
What is one thing about you that might surprise people?
I’m not sure many people know that I’m the son of first-generation immigrants. My parents came over from the Netherlands following WWII. My dad came first. My mom followed him over a year later soon after she turned 18. They got married soon after she landed, and started a family here in the “New World”.
Anything else you’d like people to know?
I think one thing I want people to understand about me and frankly our whole team here at DBA is that we are passionate about what we do. I think many people see that we are a business and just think we are mostly about business. Every single member of our team is in this work for the same reason that most of our clients are in this work – because we believe strongly that what we are doing can make a difference in people’s lives. Yes, we are a business and we run ourselves like a business. But we are a business very much on a mission – to help nonprofits grow and thrive in order to make our world a better place.