An Interview With Meryl Sheriden, Chief Development Officer, Horizons for Homeless Children
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
MS: The recent recession was a major setback for us in that the foundation and corporate support we were hoping for was significantly decreased this year. This has forced us to re-evaluate our approach in our work with foundations and corporations and to take time to research and strategize differently. It also means that we will increase our stewardship efforts in this area as well as increase the number of grants we submit to offset those that are rejected.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
MS: My advice is to believe in your mission and present it with passion! Never lose sight of your donors and their interests. Stewarding donors is essential in charitable work. Our donors are loyal supporters who want to know what is going on at all times in our organization. They want to feel assured that their dollars are well-spent and that our programs are healthy. We never miss an opportunity to invite them to see our programs firsthand, volunteer with us or attend an event.
Never take your donors for granted. We constantly call donors to thank them for their generosity. There are many organizations competing for the same dollars and it is our charge to be grateful and worthy of their contributions. Recruiting, educating and retaining new donors are also an essential part of a healthy development office. Understanding your constituents and involving them in a way that works for them will create loyal supporters.
People are inclined to be generous, and they feel good about giving back. Our job as fundraisers is to help guide their dollars to places of impact and interest.