Meet Our Award Winners: Gene Petrucci
In our February issue, Fundraising Success named the winners of our 2010 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards. In this recurring "Meet Our Award Winners" series in the Advisor, you will have an opportunity to learn more about these distinguished nonprofit professionals and their unique perspectives on fundraising. Here, meet Gene Petrucci, who was named one of this year's Fundraising Stars.
associate executive director
Twilight Wish Foundation (Doylestown, Pa.)
Organization's mission: To honor and enrich the lives of deserving seniors through wish-granting celebrations that connect generations. Our vision is “to make the world a nicer place to age, one wish at a time."
Annual operating budget: $370,000
How much raised annually: $289,613 in 2007 and $453,907 in 2008
Role models: The military commanders I have had as an officer in the United States Army, and my current boss, Cass Forkin, of Twilight Wish Foundation. They have shown me that dedication, loyalty, persistence and cooperation amongst diverse individuals, striving for a common good, can achieve unimaginable results.
Why did you choose fundraising as a career: I have always been good at connecting with people and, through my military experiences, I have extensive training in logistics and organization. Those two attributes together lend themselves perfectly to fundraising. I also have a love for the elderly, which is the whole reason for Twilight Wish Foundation, so what better way to use my talents than by fundraising for seniors?
Your greatest fundraising challenges: By far the greatest fundraising challenge I have ever faced is the current economic climate. Sponsorships have dried up substantially. Grants have been cut back dramatically, and even individual donations have dropped off. I have never seen it this bad.
Keys to success (in life): Number one: You MUST have hope and maintain a positive outlook on the broader picture. You cannot lose focus on the ultimate goals you have set by the setbacks you encounter along the way. Number two: Work the details of all those “sub-tasks” toward your goal as much as you possibly can. The detail you neglect early WILL come back to haunt you later.
Keys to success (in fundraising): Relationships and one-on-one conversations cannot be overemphasized. People give to the charities and causes they believe it, because someone took the time to engage them and share the passion for the need that they themselves were introduced to.
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: We needed a title sponsor for our gala this past New Year’s Eve, and through a connection, I was introduced to the principals of Marshall Financial Group. I then prepared a presentation and set up a lunch with them that my boss and I attended. Afterwards, they agreed to give us $10,000 for the gala, but that was only the beginning. They have also been financially responsible for many of our most funding-intensive wishes and have supplied key people/connections to our board of directors and sub-committees. They fit our mission perfectly, and we have gained much, much more than just a financial sponsor.
How would your co-workers describe you: I would say that they look upon me as a passionate, (sometimes overly dramatic), dedicated, caring individual who works well as part of a team with shared goals and aspirations. They know I will support and defend them if called upon to do so without hesitation and that my heart lies with the cause of America’s seniors because of our mission, but also because of their hard work and loyalty.
Greatest lesson ever learned: Never assume something is absolute because of what you see on the surface. Most situations and people are much more complicated than meets the eye. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and analyze as much as you can before making a judgment call or decision that may affect someone else.