Featured Fundraiser: Justyna Jonca

March 23, 2011

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

Justyna PictureI am the Manager of Major Gifts and Stewardship at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) is Canada’s only national foundation dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. The foundation works to end violence against women, move low-income women out of poverty and empower girls with confidence, courage and critical thinking skills. CWF is ranked as one of ten largest women’s foundations in the world and it has supported over 1000 programs in every province and territory since 1991. I manage the Major Gifts campaign at the foundation. My role includes securing donations and cultivating a base of major donor prospects ($2,500+) nationally. I develop cultivation and solicitation strategies for current donors and assigned prospects, conduct prospect research, attend major donor fundraising events throughout the year, and correspond monthly with visits, e-mails, phone calls other means of communication. All of this is done toward the ultimate goal of securing individual major gifts.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

It’s an amazing foundation to work for; the work that we do is important and rewarding at the same time. I also work with an amazing group of volunteers. The world of philanthropy is changing. There is a transformation in the way society’s problems are solved. No longer able to be reliant and wholly dependent on government funds for support, organizations and foundations have turned to the private sector and individual givers. I work with an amazing group of volunteers that have the ability to give money, raise money, attract media, attract other wealthy individuals, and single-handedly draw attention to issues at a level previously unknown. Unencumbered by excessive red tape, political cycles, or demanding shareholders, these philanthropists can think long term and act quickly. Together we are affecting significant, widespread and lasting change in our society.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Have fun and don’t take it too seriously. It’s easy to get bogged down by the small details of fundraising. Excel lists, fundraising databases and daily correspondence can get frustrating at the best of times. Remember why you’re there and what your work is helping to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to talk to your donors and individuals involved; it is the main part of a fundraiser’s job. More importantly, don’t forget to listen. Part of your research should include listening to the people who benefit from this work. Understanding the problems you are trying to address cannot be done effectively without seeing them through the eyes of those who feel them most. Also, the best ideas and campaigns come from the engagement of volunteers and staff. Create a positive environment where ideas are shared, knowledge is deciphered and everyone is part of the overall goal, strategy and success.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

No matter how big your goal is, how hard you work or how successful you are it seems there is never enough money to address all the needs. You have to focus on the positive stories, the lives you did change and what you did accomplish. Also, the world of philanthropy and the number of nonprofits and charities has really grown recently. There are 161,000 registered non profits and voluntary organizations in Canada. The charitable sector has become highly competitive. Donors, regulators, the media, and others have increasingly high standards for charities and their operations. This is of course a good thing. It has however made fundraising a little more competitive and leading edge. You have to be constantly evolving in a manner that is engaging and compelling in order to retain and secure current and new donors and volunteers over and over again.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

All I can say about any of my donor visits or solicitations is to keep your enthusiasm and passion about the work you do. These are fundamental key points and requirements of fundraising and a fundraiser. When your donor senses the commitment, energy and excitement in you you’re half way there. Also, be sure to encourage your donors to commit their time, energy, and insight, and not just their dollars, to the initiatives they support. The deeper and individual is invested in a campaign or initiative, the greater becomes the probability that they will provide long term support and aid in expanding the fundraising base of the non-profit.


Featured Fundraiser Jody Waits

January 19, 2011

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

Picture of JodyI am the Director of Community Giving with Pride Foundation. Pride Foundation is a community foundation, focused on LGBTQ equality, providing grants and scholarships across the Northwest. We have about 3,500 donors and volunteers every year – who pool their resources together at Pride Foundation – to make those grants and scholarships possible. I work on our overall fundraising strategy and donor communications plan as well as major gifts work and planned giving. I also provide fundraising coaching and training to our grantees. We just hired five new staff members to have a person in every state we serve. Supporting their work will be really exciting! I am lucky to work with a smart and caring team of people – and with a Board of Directors who believes both in the power of philanthropy and the importance of bold action.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

Laughing. Hearing stories from our donors. Finding out that one person’s life was made better because of something that your organization was able to provide. I am the child public school teachers, so to some degree, a professional life that has social impact is just part of who I am. Yet, there are hard days, as is the case with any job. Today we received a note from a 14 year-old who had attended a camp for LGBT youth last summer – a grantee of Pride Foundation. The summary would be that her week at camp was the first time she ever felt safe, comfortable and applauded to be herself and proud of her accomplishments. Just wanted to say thanks… those are the emails and notes you keep for a hard day. By and large, I can’t think of any other job that would as interesting and fun!

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Follow-through every single time, use the phone and listen more than you talk. Remember that your donors are just people who want to make a difference, and you’re the conduit. Only work somewhere you do (or would) volunteer or be a major donor. Be authentic. Figure out what the very best of your development skill-set is (be it major gifts, events, research or database management) and then find an opportunity where the majority of what is asked for, comes from your best. Have a good story in your pocket. Be grateful. Build a community of other development professionals to count on as your brain trust for idea-bouncing, double-checking instinct, venting when needed and the occasional pep talk over a glass of wine. Be sure to have hobbies or regular activities away from work! I am a culinary nut (pun intended) and committed pinball player.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

The nights I stay up fretting are always when there isn’t enough time. Too many things to do and not enough time… trying to delegate or prioritize… very hard. I also think there are times when you just have to let an idea go. It isn’t the right time, or the best use of resources… Just for me? I have to admit that the first word out of my mouth when I read this question was: “auctions.” Ha!

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

One of my very first major gift solicitations, I got myself so worked up, I got sick in the car. I had a whole new outfit, shoes and lipgloss ready to go. Changing in the bathroom at Starbucks was humbling. However, the visit went well in the end! On a less gross note – I remember visiting with a Board member while at a different organization. We chatted about her leadership, hoped for impact with the organization, learning goals and passion for the mission. I asked her to double her gift. She replied before I could barely finish the sentence… “Yes, sure, absolutely!” To which we both giggled and she admitted she’d never been asked directly before, so she was just as nervous and was relieved it was actually kind of fun and exciting. She has continued to be an major gifts advocate for them!


Featured Fundraiser Bonnie Berry

December 15, 2010

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

Bonnie Berry PictureI am currently the grant writer at Bellevue College. Because the activities and programs at the college are wide ranging and various, I pursue federal, corporate and foundation grants that support innovation and advancement of student success, as well as teaching and learning excellence.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

Development work is very exciting to me. It takes money to make positive change in the world and in people’s lives. Development work can drive that change. I used to do more events based fundraising and that is an important part of the whole development picture. But when I realized that the planning and preparation to prepare a compelling grant proposal can also help program staff collect their thoughts about program improvements, innovation or new programs that are crucial to helping those in need, I knew that is where I wanted to invest my skills and abilities.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

The most important tip I can give is NOT to have concepts about who may or may not give to your cause. We can often have concepts about people by the way they look or how they live as to whether they will want to give to our cause. In reality, we cannot know whether our cause will touch someone’s heart unless we share about it. If we are passionate, and can create an honest human connection, more often than not, people will want to help. We will never know if we don’t ask.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

One of the most frustrating things I have experienced in fund development is when a fundraiser gets so competitive with their team members that they lose sight of the synergy that can occur when the team works together for a common goal. I believe that a strong fundraising team that engages their full potential and works closely together to advance an organization will have the most profound results that will be monetary but also will build significant support for an organization that includes a strong board, volunteers and a broad base of donors that is enthusiastic about the cause.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

I have had many memorable successes that have included mentoring program staff who have not been involved in the pursuit of grants before, working closely with the staff member to develop a response to a grant solicitation and then experiencing the excitement of receiving the grant award. I really enjoy mentoring others in the grant writing process. But my most treasured memory is before I was focused solely on grant writing, when I invited a woman to an event whom I did not believe would donate because she had her own very significant projects. I invited her because I thought she might enjoy meeting the founder and director of the organization I was fundraising for because they had a lot in common. My concepts were blown away when this woman made an ongoing pledge that has resulted in a six figure gift.

Who has inspired you as a fundraiser?

I would like to tip my hat to fundraising consultant, Susan Howlett. I have had the opportunity to take classes from her, see her at work as a consultant and get her feedback about challenges I am facing on a number of occasions. She is always upbeat and positive, encouraging and constructive and full of common sense about fundraising based on her long and deep experience. Susan is a great asset to the Seattle area development community. I am grateful for all I have learned from her.


Featured Fundraiser Amy White

November 22, 2010

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I am a Financial Development Director for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. The YMCA has been my only employer since graduating college and it has always been a mission match organization for me. After many years of Youth Development work I wanted a change. Relationship building is the heart of youth work and it turns out it is also the core foundation of fundraising. So I left youth work to become a fund raiser. I was initially hired to help our organization complete its $40M capital campaign, which provided facility upgrades and built 3 new Y’s. After the campaign was over I transitioned into one of our brand new YMCA’s (the Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac) to focus on fund development through annual campaign, major gifts and grants.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

I’m a list maker. It’s how my brain works. The following words best describe why I do what I do what I do: Passion, innovation, being a change agent, taking risks, dare to dream, fun, opportunity, value, transformative.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

  1. Keep it simple, think big, act now. I cannot take credit for this mantra but it is the best advice I have ever received with regard to fundraising. Early in my development career I had the opportunity to attend a training hosted by For Impact of The Suddes Group. This experience revolutionized my thinking about raising money. I still need to do my homework but I don’t need to be distracted by real or imagined barriers.
  2. Make the ask, then be quite and listen. We are always in such a hurry, afraid the donor will say no or that they will counter offer with a lower gift. Shhhhhhhhh, silence is golden, you will be surprised.
  3. Impact drives income. This is one of my favorite concepts to share with co-workers and board members. If we do our part to make a difference then raising the money will be that much easier.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

Working in an infrastructure that ultimately holds me accountable for the outcome, but the outcome is not achievable without effort from the entire team. This can be true for many positions in a large organization – not just fund raising. Holding this concept close reminds me of how important it is to relationship build with my own team. In development we spend a lot of time cultivating and stewarding donors, don’t forget to apply these best practices with the people who help make it happen.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

I was planning for our first annual campaign at the new YMCA. We had a very small budget to host kick-off, weekly meetings and victory. One of our business neighbors is a well respected conference and retreat center. I decided they should host our kick-off and donate the space and catering in full as an in-kind investment. I met with their general manager asked for what I wanted and got it! That was a year ago and the general manager in now on our board of directors and we are partnering their business to host a winter holiday event for foster youth in our community.

Any last words?

Create opportunity. If you have door opener, use it. I skate for the Rat City Rollergirls and I am happy to share this as a conversation starter. It has served as a spring board for great dialogue on visits with donors. And if all else fails, I can always hip check them!


Featured Fundraiser: Miriam Barnett

September 15, 2010

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Miriam Barnett. If you know of a fundraising professional that I should feature here, I’d love to hear your nomination just send me an email. – Jason

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I have been doing fundraising since 1987 when I entered the field of nonprofit management. I just finished raising close to $5 million for a capital campaign for a new domestic violence shelter for the YWCA Pierce County where I am the Executive Director. It was a complete joy since the YWCA has not done a capital project for 83 years. I also teach in the Fundraising Management Certification Program at the University of WA, Tacoma campus.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

Fundraising is all about connecting people who care with causes that matter. It is about creating meaningful relationships and giving people the opportunity to make a difference. I love that I can play a part in making a connection for people to a cause that matters. I think of myself as someone who can help connect the dots. Mission plus passion plus connection equals positive change. It works the same when I am teaching. If I can help the students I teach connect their passion to make a difference with the passion of a donor to make a difference, the world benefits. My personal mission is to do whatever I can to create a better world and promote the greater good. I can’t think of a better way to meet my mission than to work in development.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Never be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes. I always tell my students that if a donor says no, they probably have a good reason. It is not a personal rejection. Live with an attitude of abundance and don’t slip into scarcity thinking. Abundant thinking believes there is enough….enough money, enough goodwill, enough for everyone. Scarcity thinking thrives on fear; it paralyzes and allows us to make excuses for not asking….like blaming the recession. Believe you will succeed and you will. Believe you won’t and you won’t. It’s a choice! Choose abundance!

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund
development?

The most difficult thing is that the reward for meeting your goals is higher goals!

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that
you’d like to share?

One early morning I was sitting at my desk before we open at 8 am. My office is by our front door. It was dark out, and a homeless looking man, knocked on my window. He said he had a small donation for the YWCA and he wanted to bring it by himself. He handed me an envelope. I thanked him profusely for the envelope and off he went. In the envelope was a check for $7000. I tried to find a number for him. The check did not have one listed. I was finally able to track him down and I asked if I could meet with him to thank him personally. He came by my office. I asked him why the YWCA?

He told me that recently a woman approached him who was beat up. She had 2 children in her car and all her possessions and she needed $20 for gas. So he went to the bank and got her $20. But what he really wanted to do is figure out how to make a greater impact. So he did research and found out about our work (domestic violence). For 2 more years, he knocked on my door. Two years ago, he left me a message and disappeared. He always was a bit of a mystery in that I never could figure out what he did. I think of him often and hope he is ok and that one day I will be able to see him again.

What is an observation you would like to share about fundraising?

Like the story above illustrates, you cannot judge a book by its cover. I have met extremely wealthy people who give small gifts and people with hardly anything who have made huge gifts. Some wealthy people have all their resources tied up in large homes and other investments. So treat everyone equally. I treat a donor who gives $5 like I treat a donor that gives $5000. I always write a personal note on both their thank you letters and call (or have a board member call) to than them whenever possible.


Featured Fundraiser: Sandy Clark

August 18, 2010

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Sandy Clark. Feel free to leave a comment with questions or let me know if you’d like more information about her organization. If you know of a fundraising professional that I should feature here, I’d love to hear your nomination just send me an email. – Jason

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I am the Director of Development Communications and Annual Fund for the Rural Development Institute (RDI). We work to secure land rights for the extreme poor in developing countries. Check out our new and improved website at: http://www.rdiland.org

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

After a successful career in policy and program management I took a step away – including a one year sabbatical to travel around the world. As a result of this self-reflection I decided to become very intentional and look for an organization that matched my passion for international development with evidence based research and programming. My work at RDI allows me to introduce powerful people in our community and across the world to a powerful idea- that land can and does make a huge difference in transforming lives and societies. There is so much joy in introducing people to this truth and in seeing the steady expansion of RDI thanks to so many committed people in the community who want to support change around the world.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

First, is be focused and patient. Relationships, the really great ones, take time. RDI has been working in this field for over forty years and it is just now that we are picking up momentum. My second tip is to take risks. I am a huge believer in jumping in with both feet and trying out creative ideas. I usually have a couple going in my head at all times. It keeps the energy flowing and excites others to join your cause. Finally, I believe in knowing your subject area. I spend time learning what we are doing and staying informed on current projects and trends in the field. You can’t sell it if you don’t passionately believe it.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

That is simple–providing the level of personalized attention that each donor and staff member deserves.

You recently changed jobs from a large local social service agency to a small international organization. What has been the major difference?

The primary difference has been in the size of our development department. I went from a 14 member team to a 4 member team. With that I have increased the need to multi-task. I am now the event manager, annual fund manager, writer and researcher – to name a few. What I have also found in this change is a closer link to program staff. In my previous organization our development team was a bit removed from program and it was hard to connect with their day to day activities. Departments and programs were in different buildings and many times different cities. At RDI we are all together and we have regular learning sessions where the entire staff is invited to hear a trip report or recent research from program staff. One day I will be learning about deforestation in Kenya and the next day I will hear about micro-plots in India. The learning opportunities are fascinating and provide me with tremendous stories that I can share with donors.


Featured Fundraiser: John Peterson

July 7, 2010

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is John Peterson. He was recommended to me by a friend of mine Joel Lentz. If you read this blog regularly take a second to think if you know of a fundraising professional that I should feature here. I’d love to hear your nomination just send me an email. – Jason

What kind of Fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I serve as Vice President of Development for Youth for Christ USA. Our National Service center provides support and training for 165 local chapters. Each chapter provides its own funding, so our role becomes one of training and assisting them.
Our development department is relationally driven, spending face to face time with major donors and using mail/email/telephone to cultivate entry and mid-level donors.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

I served YFC for 29 years as an Executive Director, leading the charge in a community. As the Executive Director I was the chief development officer. After four years in a national capacity, I can still tell you that I’m driven by our mission…seeing young people who are impacted by the message of Christ. I hear regularly about young people who live in horrific circumstances and their “rescue stories”. For many years I served on the “front lines” of ministry. But I find equal joy in equipping and sending. It is a privilege to be a “sender” of real quality men and women that will impact young lives.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Always keep the mission in front of you and find a way to hear the stories. In the same way that you want to bless a donor with a story of a changed life, don’t forget to enjoy the blessing yourself. While I may agonize over the circumstances that are the plight of so many, I still get a little choked up when I see a smile….hear the excitement in a voice…witness the laughter that has been stifled for too long. I get to witness hope in what was once a hopeless situation. Find someone (or a group of people) to keep feeding you the stories……and go to camps or events to witness them firsthand.

And don’t forget to always view your efforts in a long term picture. Looking at your achievements in a week or month can sometimes be discouraging. You can even have a bad year….but the five year picture can tell you so much more. Development leaders can be their own worst critic.

What is the most frustrating of difficult thing about fund development?

I’m just not a patient person. So the time between the commitment for the gift and actually receiving it can sometimes drive me a little crazy. I’m the guy that will push the elevator button five times to see if I can get the whole process go a little faster. I have to remind myself that God didn’t ask me to get it all done yesterday, he just asked me to be faithful.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

Early in my national development role, I visited a major donor that I had never met. He asked me what my goals were in my new role. One of the goals I shared was one to acquire ten donors at a significant level that I declared to him. His response caught me off-guard. “I didn’t know the price had changed. I always want to be a considered a “major donor” for YFC”. His pledge doubled and I learned a valuable lesson that day.

How has the development world changed in the last two years?

The average major donor had decreased the number of ministries they support…and I believe that they have cut their list by more than one-half. How do they determine who they will continue to support (most often with a few more $$ than the past)? There are two factors…they typically stay with the ones they have been with the longest and the ones where they have a personal relationship….someone who knows more about them than they know about the ministry they support. If a major donor has dropped you in the last year or two, chances are you weren’t very close to them. In a society where trust is a diminishing factor, true relationships will bridge the gap.