In her three years in development at Covenant House Florida, Paige Cauthron created and implemented three new fundraising strategies and, in her first year, took a portfolio of donors and grew its giving by 25 percent. She also has managed some of the best special events the organization has ever held. She launched Covenant House Florida into the world of social media and found a way to have its website redesigned at no cost. She creates copy for direct-mail appeals; storyboards for TV and radio ads; and contributes content for the website, Facebook and Twitter, and collateral materials for myriad other uses.
She's an energetic Jill of all trades, but underlying everything she does, according to Covenant House Florida Executive Director James Gress, is her forward-thinking belief that fundraising and public relations not only can but must work hand in hand if an organization is going to thrive.
"Many nonprofits divide this work in such a way that fails to recognize the critical overlap between fundraising and public relations," he says. "Paige continually develops new ideas and materials with a keen recognition of the need to maximize the relationship between these areas. She thinks like a marketer, works like a laborer, acts like an executive, and speaks to everyone she encounters with absolute respect and a conviction for the mission."
Southern NCSY is an international organization that works to improve the lives of Jewish teenagers around the world. Executive Director Todd Cohn realized recently that it was time to shake things up — especially in terms of the organization's approach to fundraising. Enter Ben Gonsher, a former teacher who jumped headfirst into the role.
Ben brought with him intense people skills and immediately set out to meet as many players within the organization and the community it serves as possible. His enthusiasm and energy turned out to be highly contagious.
Cohn outlines Ben's many accomplishments, including doing away with expensive, time-consuming special events in favor of more one-on-one meetings with donors; producing the organization's first useful database; creating its first multichannel year-end campaign; orchestrating an $18,000 increase in a prior donor's contributions; and soliciting $15,000 from a new partner.
But what we like best about this nomination is that Ben found a way to get NCSY staff members, volunteers and even constituents to become active parts of the organization's fundraising — without requiring them to ask for a dime.
"For an organization of individuals who recoiled at the thought of fundraising," he says, "[Ben has helped] us become as passionate about raising the funds we need as we are about investing them."
Denni Hill Peebles
director of development and donor relations
Centers for Exceptional Children (North Carolina)
Stepping out of a legal career and into development at the Centers for Exceptional Children, Denni Hill Peebles has racked up a list of accomplishments in three short years that many more seasoned fundraisers would be proud to put on their curriculum vitaes.
In year one, she created the organization's first annual campaign, raising more than $40,000 for annual operating support and at least $200,000 for the endowment. She raised $38,000 in grants and more than tripled the organization's donor database. She also raised $94,000 in net proceeds from the first-ever Children's Center gala and found new ways to engage volunteers.
In year two, she guided the newly established Friends of the Children's Center and the annual fundraising campaign to $125,000. She created unexpected revenue through a Charity Bridge Tournament and helped with the successful merger of the Children's Center and the Special Children's School.
Now in her third year, Denni is uncovering new sources of support on a regular basis.
"Denni generates much good will throughout the community, contributing toward building awareness of the organization and creating opportunities for participation," Douglas Shouse, president of Doug Shouse Marketing, says in this nomination. "In every way, Denni exemplifies the best of the profession and is, indeed, a shining and rising star."
In the spring of 2009, the Peel Heritage Complex — home to the Region of Peel Archives, Art Gallery of Peel and the Region of Peel Museum — was awarded a $6.6 million Infrastructure Stimulus Grant and $5.6 million from the Region of Peel. For years, staff had hoped, dreamed and planned to expand its buildings to accommodate its growing programs, collections and community, and it finally got the green light.
But there was one small condition: come up with an additional $3.5 million for outfitting costs.
With Josie Premzell at the helm, phase one of what would be the largest campaign in the organization's history saw an overwhelming return of 7.5 percent, translating to more than $400,000. Premzell currently is finalizing phase two of the campaign, which is scheduled to launch this spring.
Under Josie's guidance, PHC has seen an increase in return of more than 4 percent in its annual campaigns and increased corporate donations. But perhaps her greatest gifts lie in her dedication to relationship building.
"Josie is known to go the extra mile with donors. [She's] always ready and willing for a cup of coffee or a phone call," PHC Development Coordinator Denise Gouveia says. "It is this personal touch that donors appreciate the most. But the truth is, Josie treats everyone this way — from donors to colleagues to visitors, everyone is made to feel they are an important part of the Heritage Complex success.
"We are eager to reopen our doors this fall and show our community, and the world, what supporting arts and heritage means," she writes. "And we, quite literally, have Josie Premzell to thank for it!"
We have to admit that we're enamored with folks who really "get" the esoteric and perplexing elements of database marketing. So we like that Moira Kavanagh Crosby, president and founder of full-service direct-response agency MKDM, says that Eliza Temeles "wrote one of the best explanations I've ever read of how to determine statistical validity in direct-response testing, as well as a remarkably user-friendly explanation of how modeled lists are created for direct-mail acquisition."
But that's not the only thing that sets Temeles apart as a Rising Star. According to Kavanagh Crosby, she is a thoughtful and talented data geek who also writes powerful donor communications that rival the work of some of the industry's most seasoned professionals. And, perhaps most importantly, she's a fundraising explorer.
"With donor communication channels evolving so rapidly, it's not enough for fundraising professionals to be expert in the known universe of direct-response fundraising tools and techniques," she says. "We have to venture into uncharted territory and explore emerging ones. More than any other part of what it means to be a good fundraiser today, Eliza is energized by the challenges and opportunities of the post-RFM world of fundraising. She has been the architect of a number of original multilayered and multichannel campaigns, as well as the metrics for evaluating them."
But perhaps her greatest qualification as a Rising Star in fundraising, Kavanagh Crosby says, is that Temeles embraces the ethics, community and legacy of the fundraising profession.
Christina Treat has never been a fundraiser before, yet she has revolutionized Happy Hands Education Center's fundraising efforts, according to Development Director Darla Otto. She was responsible for a 37 percent increase in net profit, 33 percent increase in the number of players and 50 percent more new corporate sponsorships for the organization's annual golf tournament.
But more importantly, Christina's enthusiasm, positive attitude and spirit of teamwork have played significant roles in attracting more sponsors, volunteers and donors.
However, anyone who has anything to do with fundraising knows that it's about more than numbers. Personality and the ability to engage supporters on all levels are vital. And that's where Christina really shines.
"[Christina] does not so much 'recruit' new donors and volunteers as she does 'attract' them," Otto says. "She is irresistible and charming, and everyone comes away from experiencing her feeling uplifted and energized."
"Charismatic" is the word that keeps coming to mind as we read this nomination, and that, combined with a talent for actually raising money, is a key attribute for a Rising Star.