If you see a man sporting an Opportunity International-branded sweatband running through Chicago’s western suburbs this summer, it might be Jim Delaney—Opportunity’s new Director of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising and captain of Team Opportunity.
Delaney’s new role combines three of his favorite things: making an impact, tackling big challenges, and rallying new friends around a common goal. First up: the New York City Marathon this fall in support of Opportunity’s incredible clients in Malawi. And this is just the beginning. Team Opportunity has its sights set on hiking the Grand Canyon, running races across the country, and even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro!
Delaney started at Opportunity as a marketing intern, then joined the team full-time as a Donor Relations Assistant in 2017. With the opportunity to try a number of different tasks, Delaney gravitated toward fundraising strategy and began learning from his colleagues—figuring out the ins and outs of the nonprofit world and what it meant to be on a development team. Eventually, he became the Philanthropy Strategy Manager for the Office of the CEO.
Launching Team Opportunity
As Delaney began considering his next steps at Opportunity, he had a key realization: “It felt like there was a gap in who we were sharing Opportunity with,” he said. “If I could share Opportunity’s mission with people who are having similar life experiences as me—people in their 20s to 40s—that would be really exciting. I could be part of a shift to spread our mission to a younger, more diverse group of people and build a movement and awareness that previously wasn’t there.”
With Team Opportunity, Delaney’s vision is coming true.
“With the peer-to-peer program, we are building a community of dedicated Opportunity supporters. We’re getting people excited to take on challenges and physically daunting things—run a marathon, climb a mountain, go on an extreme hike. But we’re also helping people put themselves out there by trying to reach a fundraising goal. And through it, we’re building a community of like-minded people. People who are diving in and taking on these challenges.”
“These shared experiences are difficult. Training is difficult, events are exhausting. But within those struggles, I want to find people who are willing to grow together and be supportive of one another. People who come together—whether in the same city or scattered across the country—to be part of something bigger than yourself. I want to give people a reason to run, a reason to climb, a reason to hike. I want them to feel more connected to Opportunity than they ever have before—whether that’s to other runners, our work, clients, or our supporters.”
“My hope is that people can experience Opportunity the way I did, at a young age, and realize that there is more to the world than meets the eye. Because once you see it, you can’t really unsee it. Your whole perspective shifts. How you go about your daily activities shifts.”
Living a Life of Impact
For Delaney, who is also training for and participating in these physical challenges, his motivation is simple: Opportunity’s clients.
“I recently traveled to Malawi to visit the work we’re funding with the peer-to-peer program,” he shared. “There are 120 women in the ultra-poverty pilot program—but there are thousands more just like them in the community. Their entire lives, they’ve been outcast, pushed aside, forgotten about, and taken advantage of. Every day is a struggle—where will their next meal come from? Can their kids go to school? Will they have work?"
“But seeing them change their lives by going through this graduation model, they start building businesses. They earn an income and feed their family every day. They give their children peace of mind that they won’t be sent home from school.”
“I’ve been blessed beyond belief in this world, and I know I have the opportunity to help similar families in the same situation. That is the reason I’m launching Team Opportunity and running the marathon. Every run during training is a reminder of their stories and a chance to share Opportunity’s mission with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. Every time I run, I’m running for these women.”
“So yes, taking on this challenge, taking on this endurance, it’s pushing yourself to the limit. But what these women have to push through, what they have to do, is so much more. They are so much stronger, braver, and more dedicated than I’ll ever be—but if I can take on a small challenge every day, which can be turned into something good, something for them, so they don’t have to struggle as much, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“These endurance challenges can sound so scary and so big—but anybody can do them, to a certain extent,” Delaney said. “If there’s even the smallest voice saying you might want to try, reach out! I know it might sound crazy, but if there’s some part of you that‘s saying yes, I encourage you to take the risk.”
If you are interested in learning more about Team Opportunity, running a race with us, or simply staying up-to-date on future challenges, please fill out this form.