Meet Our Award Winners!
Last month, FundRaising Success named the winners of our 2008 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards. Take some time now to learn a little more about them and their perspectives on fundraising.
Fundraising Professional of the Year
Vice president of development and external relations
Old Salem Museums & Gardens (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Organization’s mission: To preserve, interpret and operate the restored town of Salem, from its founding in 1766 to the mid-1850s, as one of America’s largest living history museums.
Annual operating budget: $5.8 million
How much raised annually: $6.9 million
Role models: My staff. They’re my source of inspiration, and they inspire me every day with their commitment and dedication to our mission, to our donors, to the team and to each other.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: I love the process of seeing people connect with a mission they care about in order to advance that mission. It’s always personal for them, and it’s inspiring and very emotional for me when they share their stories.
Greatest fundraising challenges: Growing unrestricted giving to meet operational needs while performing the necessary administrative duties of this job.
Challenges facing fundraisers in general: Since I started in development more than a decade ago, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the administrative demands placed on chief development officers. At the same time, revenue needs have grown exponentially while competition for those dollars continues to escalate.
Keys to success (in fundraising):
*Treat every donor’s point of encounter with you and your organization as if your life depends on receiving their gift — even if it’s $25 — and see what begins to happen with your program.
*Treat your staff as you would your donors. After all, they represent the brand of your development department, and they carry that brand within their donor contacts as well.
*Send a handwritten thank-you note to whatever level defines your “society” giving. For us that level
consists of gifts of $1,000 or more.
Keys to success (in life): Know what you believe because your actions reflect what you believe. Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: Receiving a District III Grand Award in 1999 from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in the Total Fundraising Programs category, and receiving this 2008 Fundraiser of the Year Award. Both reflect building a comprehensive development office from the ground up, consisting of individual, foundation and corporate giving strategies, and raising significant funds at the same time.
How would your co-workers describe you: Focused, dedicated, loyal, giving, warm, funny.
Greatest lesson ever learned: Never procrastinate anything you dread doing.
Personal philosophy: I strive to make every personal encounter I have with people a positive one.
Tracey Van Hook
Director of development
Foundation for Excellence in Education (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Organization’s mission: To identify, quantify, reward and foster replication of excellence in education.
How much raised annually: We are in our first year, so no numbers available annually.
Role models: As entrepreneurs and founders of Tate’s School of Discovery, a private school for children from preschool to fifth grade, my parents are my most significant role models. They taught me to value honesty, integrity and the importance of education.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: It was a great way to impact positive change in our world.
Keys to success (in life): It is vitally important to value each person that enters your life. Each has a lesson and will contribute to your personal growth and the
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: In October 2006 (on a volunteer basis), I brought together 50 Humane Societies from Florida for the inaugural Humane Society Appreciation Reception & Conference hosted by former Gov. Jeb Bush and first lady Columba Bush at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, Fla.
How would your co-workers describe you: Organized and fun.
Greatest lesson ever learned: If you enjoy what you do, blessings will follow.
Other thoughts on fundraising: I encourage others who enjoy working with people and have a passion to change the world to consider a career in fundraising. Often, we are limited not by our ideas, but by available funds. As a fundraiser, you have the opportunity to empower donors and impact change.
Annual giving coordinator
BETA Center (Orlando, Fla.)
Organization’s mission: To give our community’s children and parents the knowledge and support needed to build strong and healthy families.
Annual operating budget: $3.07 million
How much raised annually: $2.67 million
Role models: Mom taught me what it means to be generous. She’s the person about whom I’ve always thought, “That’s who I want to be like!”
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: I applied for an internship at the Kennedy Center. When they asked me if I was interested in a fundraising position, I imagined myself making cold calls during dinner, selling cookies door to door and ringing a bell outside the grocery store. [But] all of my preconceived notions about fundraising were annihilated. I discovered how challenging it is to come up with strategies, how delightful it is to talk to donors and how rewarding it is to create win-win situations for donors and organizations. I was hooked!
Greatest fundraising challenges: There is so much competition for the donor’s attention. People are bombarded with media messages, and donors are experiencing information overload. It is more difficult — and more important — than ever to break through the clutter, capture the donor’s imagination, and provide compelling information about the organization and mission.
Keys to success (in fundraising): Treating people as people and not as merely a source of money. Listening to people. Really listening. You can’t fake listening — even children can tell if it’s real.
Keys to success (in life): I say thank you as often as possible because I really do value the support of others.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood was in the middle of a public-relations crisis dealing with art censorship. I represented the center at a city council meeting. After I spoke, the mayor said, “Usually I write my own speeches, but if I decide to run again, I might hire you to write them.”
How would your co-workers describe you: Dogged perseverance, razor-sharp focus and a good sense of humor.
Greatest lesson ever learned: You can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you react to it.
Personal philosophy: If you’re going to look back at this and laugh, you might as well laugh now.
Major gifts manager
WaterPartners International (Kansas City, Mo.)
Organization’s mission: WaterPartners International is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to providing safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries. Working in partnership with donors and local communities, WaterPartners has helped hundreds of communities in eight countries develop access to safe, sustainable water supplies. WaterPartners not only offers traditional, grant-funded programs, but also is harnessing the power of microfinance to address the world water crisis in a new and innovative way.
Annual operating budget: $3.2 million
How much raised annually: $3.2 million in FY 2007
Role models: WaterPartners donors — I am inspired daily by their success, generosity, compassion, humanity and willingness to take action to ensure that this world is a better place for people they most likely will never meet — and the women who paved the way for me in fundraising by proving that women can aggressively negotiate, ask, exceed fundraising goals and perform as top-level executive fundraisers.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: To help women and girls, in the U.S. and globally, have greater opportunities for education, health, empowerment, financial independence and equality.
Greatest fundraising challenges: Managing an international donor base.
Challenges facing fundraisers in general: There are too many nonprofits doing the same thing, competing for dollars. Instead of creating new ones, we should work toward capacity-building those with proven models for success.
Keys to success (in fundraising): Focus on and listen to what your donors need and want. Keep your promises to them. Realize that you are privileged to be a liaison who brings about powerful partnerships that provide the donor with a once-in-a-lifetime experience while also serving people who need their help.
Keys to success (in life): Set high standards. Practice kindness. Be confident. Speak up. Be present in the moment. Be someone who makes things happen.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: I am most proud of the relationships I have developed with donors who, partly because of my effort, have become committed, lifetime donors to the organization. These relationships are what made a 91 percent donor retention rate possible for FY 2007.
How would co-workers describe you: Decisive, confident, committed and clear-sighted.
Greatest lesson ever learned: Listen.
Personal philosophy: Life is ephemeral, so make the most of every day.
Other thoughts on fundraising: The significant wage gap that exists for women in the field is something that our profession must address. Pay equity and the persistence of a “glass ceiling” should be a call to action for our profession to compensate and promote talented women at the same rate as their male counterparts.
Top Fundraising Stars
Mid-Atlantic zone director
Jewish National Fund (Baltimore and Silver Spring, Md.)
Organization’s mission: As the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners (Jewish people everywhere), JNF will strive to improve the quality of life for all Israelis through this century and beyond.
Annual operating budget: $60 million
How much raised annually: $60 million
Role models: My board members and lay leaders who continue to amaze me with their perseverance and dedication toward improving the world.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: Actually, I think fundraising chose me. When I first graduated with my MSW, I was working as a counselor with families whose loved ones were disabled through head injuries. In the evenings, I was volunteering at a local community center. A board member approached me about a job opportunity involving grant writing for services for the elderly. I took the job, and I was hooked!
Challenges facing fundraisers in general: Staying focused on your goals and bottom line while at the same time engaging new gifts and leaders.
Keys to success (in fundraising): Positive outlook; commitment to the organization you are serving and its cause; hard work and diligence; focus; networking.
Keys to success (in life): All of the above and, in addition, the love and support of great friends and family.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: I am most proud when I take my donors to Israel and show them how their gifts have literally transformed a country due to their efforts and financial contributions.
How would your co-workers describe you: Creative, energetic, committed, fun, responsive, intense and slightly offbeat.
Greatest lesson ever learned: Never cancel an event or meeting. Each encounter offers tremendous insight and possibilities for the future!
Personal philosophy: There are limitless opportunities; one only needs more hours to the day! Make each moment count!
Other thoughts on fundraising: I feel very fortunate to be working in a profession that allows me the ability to create vision, and make significant differences in the lives of people and their communities. In addition, I feel thoroughly honored to be working with high-level professionals and board members all committed to a common goal.
Donor relations specialist
Bill Wilson Center (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Organization’s mission: To support and strengthen the community by serving youths and families through counseling, housing, education and advocacy. BWC serves more than 10,000 clients in Santa Clara County annually.
Annual operating budget: $10 million
How much raised annually: $231,626
Role models: Barbara Zahner, former executive director of San Jose, Calif.-based Sacred Heart Community Service, who demonstrated that developing strong relationships with donors is the best way to assure continued financial support.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: To feel I’m making a difference in the lives of others.
Greatest fundraising challenges: Staying “up” so I always sound enthusiastic and ready to listen when talking with others about BWC. The donations just seem to come when people feel they can help make a difference.
Challenges facing fundraisers in general: To let donors and prospects feel assured that donations will be utilized in an efficient way.
Keys to success (in fundraising): Building and maintaining relationships with donors, prospects and others in the community.
Keys to success (in life): Laughing often.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: Getting a pledge for $10,000 a year for 10 years at my first ask visit.
How would co-workers describe you: “She’s always on the phone!”
Personal philosophy: My greatest satisfaction comes when I see I’ve motivated others to help those around them.
Vice president of development
Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties (Calif.)
Organization’s mission: To actively promote family planning and healthy, responsible reproductive and sexual behavior through the provision of high-quality, comprehensive educational, counseling, medical and referral services.
Annual operating budget: $10 million
How much raised annually: $2 million
Role models: My parents, Gloria Steinem, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Jane Goodall.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: It chose me. As a volunteer, I was avidly involved in raising money [in a former position] to protect the environment and wildlife of southwest Florida and had the opportunity to become the director of development for the organization.
Greatest fundraising challenges: Inspiring and energizing a new generation of activists to become the change-makers of tomorrow.
Challenges facing fundraisers in general: Donors feeling overwhelmed by the increasing number of charitable organizations requesting donations as well as the increasing number of asks from individual organizations.
Keys to success (in fundraising): Honesty, integrity, passion for the mission.
Keys to success (in life): Honesty, integrity and compassion.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: Mentoring others in the fundraising profession; receiving the national award for excellence in fundraising from my Planned Parenthood development peers.
How would your co-workers describe you: Dedicated, patient; great with people and building relationships with donors.
Greatest lesson ever learned: Get over it and move on!
Personal philosophy: Follow your heart and be true to yourself.
Executive vice president
Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (Middletown, Ohio)
Organization’s mission: To improve the treatment, quality of life and long-term outlook for all individuals affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy through research, advocacy, education and compassion.
Annual operating budget: $5 million
How much raised annually: $5 million
Role models: Pat Furlong, PPMD president.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: I didn’t choose it; it chose me — truly by accident.
Greatest fundraising challenges: Working in rare disease, your primary donor base is already small. So fundraising within that community, but also being able to break out and into other markets is very difficult when you are raising funds for something no one has heard about.
Challenges facing fundraisers in general: I think keeping things fresh, keeping current with trends and not exhausting your donor base are a few of the biggest challenges we face.
Keys to success (in fundraising): For us, having a strategically developed plan, integrating it with all programs, and marketing and being honest with measurable outcomes are a few keys to a successful campaign.
Keys to success (in life): It’s all about balance. Balancing family, home, kids, work and play isn’t easy. But if you can manage to put your whole heart into each of those things and enjoy even small moments, it is wonderful.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: Run For Our Sons — taking a whim of an idea (needing 20 runners to qualify as a team) and turning that into a program that has united our families and community. It has grown to five races per year and is now raising more than $1.2 million annually.
How would your co-workers describe you: Slightly crazy, always busy, but, hopefully, creative and committed.
Greatest lesson ever learned: The only thing you can expect is the unexpected. Sometimes when you think you have a great idea and the right people, you don’t. And sometimes those you least expect to step up will step up to the plate, and a small idea will become a real winner.
Personal philosophy: Just keep swimming. OK, so perhaps one shouldn’t have a personal philosophy that comes from Finding Nemo … But if we do “just keep swimming” and we happen to be swimming together, good things will come about. It is all about keeping moving and moving in the right direction. FS