Reach for the Stars!
FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR
Vice president of development and external relations
Old Salem Museums & Gardens
When Michelle Speas arrived late in 2006 at Old Salem Museums & Gardens — one of the top five visited museum institutions in North Carolina with more than 100,000 annual visitors — she inherited a development program in decline. Although Old Salem is a 54-year-old institution and maintains a $50 million endowment, the development department’s efforts had been unable to keep pace with the growing needs of the institution over the past 10 years, and the annual operating deficit had reached $880,000.
Old Salem’s president and board believed that through Michelle’s leadership, the development office’s capacity would increase and help retire the operating deficit over three fiscal years — all the while funding programmatic expansion and growth. In just nine months under her guidance, Old Salem increased its development revenue 310 percent from $1.4 million to $5.7 million; the number of donors grew from 783 to 1,596 — a 104 percent increase; and visitation increased 20 percent.
All of this growth occurred simultaneously as Michelle took on the task of persuading the organization’s leadership to invest in her development team, which when she arrived stood at 1.5 full-time employees. Michelle successfully lobbied the president and board to invest in her department, enabling her to hire a director of grants, director of development, manager of gift records and a manager of membership.
We’re honoring her with this award for fearlessly embracing what amounted to the total overhaul of her organization’s development staff while completely turning around its fundraising efforts and breathing life into a stagnant program. That’s exactly the kind of wherewithal that takes nonprofit fundraising to new heights.
Chairman and founder
Creative Direct Response
Ray Grace has worked in direct-mail fundraising for 35 years; he founded Creative Direct Response in 1982 and sold it 100 percent to his employees in 1998.
Ray has been a stalwart volunteer in the nonprofit community for his entire career, and was a founding member of the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel and the business advisory council of the National Federation of Nonprofits (now the DMA Nonprofit Federation).