Volunteer Spotlight
Michelle Gorham, ’89, M.S. ’92, Serves her Community with Pride

By Eva Richards

gorrham-imageMichelle Gorham, '89, M.S. '92, is an experienced fundraising professional who uses the practice of philanthropy to advance the mission of an organization by matching donors with their passions. 

As the chief advancement officer at YMCA of Rock River Valley, Inc., in Rockford, Illinois, Michelle Gorham, ’89, M.S. ’92, feels most fulfilled when she can be helping her community. Having earned her B.A. in organizational communication and her M.S. in public health, she is an experienced fundraising professional who uses the practice of philanthropy to advance the mission of an organization by matching donors with their passions. A reliable NIU volunteer, Gorham has strong ties to the school that taught her about that it’s all about relationships.

NIUAA: What has been the impact NIU has had on your life?    
Gorham: I really had my heart set on a small, private school when I was looking for a college. When my parents pointed out that it was out of our price range, I decided on NIU. Turned out to be the best “disappointment” I ever had! NIU helped me become the person I am. I always loved school but at NIU, I became a student for life—someone who wants to continue to learn and grow and get better at everything I do. I learned to say "yes" to new experiences, to make friends that have lasted a lifetime, and to take risks that can lead to big payoffs. I learned to not give up and that it’s possible to find the positive in every experience, because there always is one. 

NIUAA: How did NIU prepare you for your current profession at the YMCA?     
Gorham: My time at NIU taught me to make friends and engage with people in a way I hadn't before. Whether it was working on a group project and inspiring the best work out of teammates or stepping out of my comfort zone and get to know someone new, I learned how to do that in the safety of NIU. Now, my entire job as a fundraiser is about talking to people, making connections, and building partnerships. 

NIUAA: What are you most proud of in your professional career?
Gorham: I have had the opportunity to work with amazing groups of people to do good things in my community—most notably, raising money for important medical equipment, care and comfort items for patients, scholarships for people to join the Y, and scholarships for business students and teachers in the Rockford area. I am proud that wherever I have worked, I have met the most amazing, community-minded people who have remained friends for years.

NIUAA: What would you want to tell current and prospective students about NIU?     
Gorham: I would tell current and prospective students that NIU is a big school with the care and support of a small school. I would tell anyone that NIU is on par with schools that might have fancier names and higher price tags and that they won’t get a better education anywhere. 

NIUAA: What do you enjoy most about volunteering?     
Gorham: I love feeling connected to my University and the feeling that I have something to offer to the staff and the students. I enjoy meeting the students applying for our local scholarship and considering NIU for their educations.

If you are looking for other ways to be an NIU volunteer, please check out NIU Nexus, or contact Liz McKee at lmckee1@niu.edu or 815-753-7400.