Weiser Memorial Hospital Foundation
“Fundraising is indeed a calling, and as a fundraising executive for 25 years, it is fun to see someone who didn’t know they had a calling become a fundraising natural,” writes Layna Hafer, executive director of the Weiser Memorial Hospital Foundation. She explains that she was delightfully surprised when retired educator Judy Grunke “ignited our board with a renewed ‘we can do this’ optimism, ‘let’s try something new’ encouragement and especially her excitement for ‘let’s celebrate our success.’” While Judy isn’t a paid fundraising professional, she no doubt exemplifies the mind-set that paves the way for board members to be a vital part of an organization’s fundraising success.
“Judy joined the hospital foundation board just over a year ago because one of the board members told her it would be a lot of fun and that she would be a part of a couple of fundraising events,” Hafer writes. “She soon learned that although the board is indeed fun, the members take their fundraising responsibilities seriously beyond two events, raising money throughout the year. The learning curve was steep, and during her first year she was eager to learn all the details … as well as what hospital projects needed the foundation’s fundraising efforts.
“For the foundation’s 26th annual Festival of Trees in December, Judy began in July looking for ways to make the event more financially successful, and after incorporating two new fundraising opportunities within the weeklong event, Judy raised an additional $8,000, pushing this year’s event over the $32,000 mark,” Hafer writes.
We salute Judy’s attitude and commitment. Here’s hoping this recognition gives other board members something to strive for!
Digital Account Supervisor
Justin McCord joined Stratmark in 2012 (after five years in sports marketing), taking on Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the height of a media controversy. With net revenue dangerously below expectations, he went straight to work on a donor-centric digital communication strategy that would remind constituents of Komen’s true mission. As he fought to make up for net revenue losses in 2012, Justin implemented gender testing and specialized marketing for donors who gave in November and December 2011. Under his guidance, Komen released its first-ever mobile-optimized e-mail campaign.
According to Amanda Wasson, senior vice president of digital strategy at Stratmark, Justin’s plan exceeded all fundraising goals — increasing Komen’s expectations by more than 30 percent in 2012. “With the support of his Stratmark team, he rose to the challenge with optimism, adopting new technologies to engage donors on a personal level and reconnect them with a cause they care about,” she writes.
Justin also helped the National Shrine of St. Jude increase its revenue by 23.26 percent for December 2012 by performing a series of design and gift string tests to increase traffic, conversion rate and average gift amounts. And he used a public goal campaign, multiple e-mails with subject line testing and a site-wide pop-up design to exceed Liberty Institute’s end-of-year goal by 23 percent. We’re honoring Justin this year for this ability to jump right in and make the most of a difficult situation, for recognizing the importance of bringing donor attention back to the core reasons for support, and for developing highly successful, insight-driven strategies.
Director of Mission Advancement
New Directions Youth & Family Services
Jeff Mendola is another fundraising newcomer who impressed us with his ability to jump right in and his immediate enthusiasm for fundraising. In May 2008, Jeff transitioned from a career in sales and marketing to the role of fundraiser at Mercy Flight of Western New York, one of only a few remaining not-for-profit providers of emergency air medical helicopter services. He quickly joined the WNY chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and its professional development committee.
A year later, he was co-chair of the committee and was just re-elected to his second term on the AFP-WNY board of directors. In 2011, he presented a session at the AFP International Conference in Chicago on how to successfully utilize for-profit sales and marketing techniques in the nonprofit arena.
In her nomination, Jerilyn Hickey, senior director of major gifts at the American Red Cross/Erie & Niagara Counties, lists many of Jeff’s other accomplishments, including working with his development team to raise almost $4 million over the last four and a half years; and creating a new, dynamic website and an active social-media presence that resulted in a 2,000 percent increase in website traffic for Mercy Flight; and a direct-mail appeal that resulted in a 45 percent increase in donations with more than 30 percent gains in both the number of donors and average donation size.
But admittedly we were jazzed by the concept of Jeff’s “Mercy Flight Was Here” campaign that placed 2,000 street corner signs at the scenes of prior helicopter landings throughout Western New York. A board member donated a companion radio campaign featuring past patients talking about Mercy Flight.
“The resulting public awareness and subsequent media coverage was tremendous,” Hickey says. “In order to capitalize on this extraordinary exposure, a broad, donor acquisition mailing was conducted. More than 3,000 new donors responded with gifts that totaled more than $120,000. Indeed, Jeff is a Rising Star.”
Motley Zoo Animal Rescue
According to the animal rescue’s co-founder, Bryan Thomas, Motley Zoo “keeps rocking on, stronger every day” due in large part to his wife and co-founder Jme Thomas’ perseverance and refusal to even consider obstacles. Jme (pronounced “Jaime”) co-founded and has worked full-time, unpaid, for MZAR for the last four years and in that time has helped the group accomplish some amazing feats.
“She has an unusual way of seeing only possibility where many wouldn’t even know where to begin, and she has helped instill this kind of ‘why not?’ approach in the rest of our board, as well as helps inspire our volunteers and other rescuers to believe in the impossible,” Thomas says. “She has helped get the community behind us, which helps open doors for our organization every day.”
Jme’s determination helped MZAR win a 2013 Highlander in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program in June 2012, taking 43 percent of the vote on MZAR’s featured day in the social-media contest. “Jme not only designed a unique reminder program so people would remember to vote, but she literally pounded the pavement and left no stone unturned in terms of ensuring she got the word out about our voting day. She enlisted the help of many local businesses, social media, and other free and unconventional advertising options as well.”
That win opened more doors for the organization, increasing its presence in the community and, subsequently, its fundraising capabilities. The local alliances Jme nurtures, her newsletters, social-media savvy, and the opportunities she pursues “have truly turned the tide in terms of our revenue,” Thomas says.
We’re honoring Jme this year for the “why not?” attitude that frees her thinking, fuels her creativity and keeps her from backing down when it comes to moving her organization forward.
“Jme is never afraid to do what it takes to pursue the goals and challenges she sees in front of her,” Thomas says. “We can’t wait to see what other crazy feats she will help us pull off this year!”
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