Getting Personal: Becca Guyette

Getting Personal: Becca Guyette

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 40-year-old Becca Guyette, the director of leadership giving at the United Way of Champaign County, chats with The News-Gazette's Paul Wood. She's passionate about fundraising and previously worked as program director and development director at the YMCA of the University of Illinois.

You really love your job, and you say people ask about getting in the field on a regular basis. What do you tell them?

That this field is a wonderful way to help people make such a difference. It is so varied in what you can do, both in where you work and what area you specialize. Fundraising as a profession is about so much more than writing solicitation letters and planning events. Fundraisers have the ability to create a culture of philanthropy in our organizations and communities. We can help people understand that their giving should be meaningful and purposeful, and that giving, when done right, feels so good.

It must feel good to be raising money for beneficial projects. Do you have a favorite memory?

Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work on a capital fundraising drive to renovate the University YMCA. We had supporters who had pledged a significant amount early on, which helped kickstart the campaign. Throughout the rest of the process, we kept them informed of our progress. About a month before the campaign was set to end, it was apparent we were going to come short of our "stretch goal," which meant we wouldn't be able to add an elevator adjoining an external stairwell. Shortly after, they called us and said, "Accessibility is important. We discussed it and would like to provide the funding for the elevator." While I am no longer with that organization, I remain close to these individuals and have learned so much from them about how supporters like to be treated and engaged.

You and your future husband moved to Champaign from Ohio for further education in 2001. Joe was your boyfriend then. Why have you chosen to stay?

It was clear to us early that this is a special place full of special people. This has only been reinforced over the years in our personal and professional lives.

It was after dating three months. Tell us your Murphy's story.

Joe and I decided to come here after dating only three months and moved here not long after that to begin law school (for him) and grad school (for me). We had both changed our previous plans to go out East (me) and down South (him) somewhat last-minute in our senior year because we wanted to be together. Once our parents had left back to Ohio and Michigan after moving us in, we went to eat at Murphy's by ourselves. I told Joe, "You know, I changed all my plans for you. This better work out." He was kind of surprised and said, "I could say the same." Fortunately, it worked out.

Do you have a favorite story about your kids?

There are so many individual stories, but one of the things I love about both my kids is their willingness and ability to engage in good conversation with adults. They both really love to do that.

Do you have any tips for would-be bargain hunters?

I like to stock up on the kids' clothes in advance so I always buy at the end of the season when prices are lowest. I also love some of the resale shops in town, namely Briella's Boutique in Savoy and Karen's Kloset in Champaign.

You've also been active in Junior League of Champaign County, Rotary Club of Urbana, Girls on the Run of Champaign County and the East Central Illinois Association of Fundraising Professionals. How do you juggle your time?

Very carefully. It's really about being selective and trying not to take on more than I can handle. I've learned I don't have the desire to give more than five hours a week to my personal "extracurriculars" in addition to my work and personal life.

And let's not forget sports for you, your husband and your kids.

I stick to a strict rule of the kids not being in more than two activities at a time, and preferably just one. It helps them balance their own time and always helps remind them they are one piece of the larger puzzle of our family dynamics.

What's something almost nobody knows about you?

I performed in the London New Year's Day parade in 1997 as part of the Universal Cheer Association's USA all-star squad. I met a few women who remain dear friends today.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Every Sunday and Thursday evening when the kids are in bed, I sit at my kitchen island and paint my nails. It's total "me" time, and I love it.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

Right now I am reading "Everybody, Always," and I have too many favorite books to choose just one.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Santorini, it looks gorgeous.

What's your favorite sports team?

I'm not a huge sports fan but will always root for the Illini and my undergrad alma mater, the BGSU Falcons.

What would you order for your last meal?

King crab legs and a baked potato with sour cream and butter. My husband just made me this for my 40th birthday.

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

A major philanthropist.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

I'm a big pop music girl, not really loyal to one musician over another.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

The days after having each of my kids. Both sets of our parents were here with us, and I remember feeling incredibly fortunate to have so much love and support in my life.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and my mom. I would serve whatever my mom was willing to cook. Her food is the absolute best, and so is her conversation.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

Hillary Rodham Clinton. I find her to be incredibly brave and strong.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

Laziness in others. In myself, my tendency to doubt myself.

What's your best piece of advice?

Be kind. It really isn't that difficult.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

My first unpaid job was baby-sitting all my nieces and my payment was my sisters' undying love and affection. My first paid job was at the North Pole, the local ice cream place in my hometown, and I made $2 an hour because it was seasonal/part-time work.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

The decision to spend an equal amount of waking hours in the day with my children as I do working outside the home. It has precluded me from some professional advancement and certain positions, but is a choice I know I will never regret.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

Nothing significant, but I constantly am wishing I had more hours in the day to spend more time with those I love most. However, I do the best I can.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I call my mom or husband and/or unplug somewhere outdoors with my kiddos.


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