Pulse: ProFile: Amy Franze, JDRF
People tend to think the nonprofit world is vastly different than the for-profit world. But as Amy Franze, executive vice president of development at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, exemplifies, the two worlds aren’t as different as they might appear.
Franze has been involved with charities since she was a child. And after seven years working in corporate America in various sales and marketing roles, she ventured into the nonprofit sector at the recommendation of a mentor and quickly developed a successful career, despite some initial resistance.
“It was interesting, when I first interviewed in the nonprofit world, several people who had been in nonprofits had said, ‘Oh wow, great résumé. She’s done some terrific things, but how does this fit?’” Franze admits. “So actually I had to use my sales skills to convince those in fundraising that I could really add value, and that relationship skills and relationship building were very transferable to fundraising, and that understanding how to work with people and manage people and inspire and motivate people in a for-profit world would certainly be a huge benefit in the nonprofit world.”
Franze broke into the sector and in 2002 joined JDRF as executive director of the Illinois Chapter, where she increased the chapter’s revenues to more than $14 million annually and spearheaded a $100 million, five-year local campaign supporting the global JDRF “Research to Reality” campaign.
Recently, we caught up with Franze to discuss her path to fundraising.
FundRaising Success: You mentioned how you were raised in a family where philanthropy was important. What sort of charitable causes were you involved in both growing up and as an adult prior to joining the nonprofit world?
Amy Franze: It started at an early age, working at the local food pantry. What I remember most about the pantry was that I went to school with some of the kids whose families we were helping. So at a young age, I learned to be discreet and appreciate my good fortune.
We also raised money for Red Cross, the Cancer Society and our schools. It was not a matter of, “Should we give back?” but “How much?” and “How often?”
Being raised Catholic, I was taught that giving back was an essential part of leading a good life, and I have tried to instill this in my family, friends and associations.
In my adult life, I have been a tutor for literacy societies and continue to raise money for breast cancer outreach and research. I am also an active fundraiser and donor to JDRF, as I feel it is essential to personally give when you work for a nonprofit organization.
FS: What have you taken from your experience in the for-profit world that has helped in fundraising?
AF: The worlds are not really that different. In any job, whether it is for-profit or not-for-profit, you must work hard, be sincere and connect with others. The for-profit concepts related to sales, marketing and communications are really at the heart of fundraising strategies. Maintaining and growing volunteer/donor (customer) relationships while establishing the advantages and benefits (marketing) of aligning with our organization are keys to our success.
Also, it is critical that everyone in the organization is kept up-to-date and the messaging is clear (communications). It does continue to surprise me when people assume that nonprofit organizations don’t understand marketing or finance — some of the best business minds are in the not-for-profit industry.
FS: What are some of the biggest challenges fundraisers face, and how do you overcome them?
AF: The economy is having an impact. At the moment it appears that the extremely wealthy (net worth of $50 million-plus) are giving at the same rate as in the past; the middle and upper middle income levels, however, have cut back. I think there are misconceptions that despite the economy and increased taxes, people are giving at the same levels. It is simply not true.
We are working to overcome these tough times by deepening connections with our donors. We’re redoubling our efforts to make sure our donors know the impact their donations provide, while thanking and appreciating them more than ever. Communications is critically important at this time.
FS: What do you like most about working in the sector, and JDRF in particular?
AF: Volunteers. JDRF was founded by volunteers, people who have diabetes themselves or who have a family member with the disease, and as a result, bring an incredible amount of passion and a clear vision to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. The continued commitment of the volunteer base is a key aspect of what makes my job so rewarding. I have the opportunity to connect with some of the most intelligent and committed people in the world who do this because they care, [not] for a paycheck or for personal acclaim. It is a pretty spectacular and moving environment.
FS: Any dislikes?
AF: That we are still in business — we are all frustrated that a cure for Type 1 diabetes hasn’t been discovered yet. All joking aside, JDRF has a clear mission to improve the lives of those living with diabetes and to put an end to this disease. There is no other organization or institution more focused on curing diabetes than JDRF. FS
Joe Boland is copy editor and staff writer for the Target Marketing Group at FS’ parent company, NAPCO. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org