Julie Casimiro of North Kingstown became development director in September 2013 at Family Service of Rhode Island, a statewide nonprofit human service and educational organization for which she’ll provide a focus on fundraising events and major gifts. Previously she served as vice president of advancement at Children’s Friend and director of product marketing at MetLife. She also serves on the boards of Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Rhode Island, SWAP, the Fund for Community Progress, and Southside Charter School. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Providence College in 1984. She discusses how she will raise funds for her organization.
PBN: As the new development director for Family Service of Rhode Island, what are your objectives for the coming year and the next 10 years?
CASIMIRO: I am very fortunate to have joined an organization with such a generous donor base. In the years ahead, I will concentrate on increased giving from these donors as well as expanding the donor base itself. My focus will be unrestricted giving: funding that can be directed to any program. This allows us to provide programs that wrap around the people we serve to better meet their individual needs and challenges.
Working with vulnerable families and disenfranchised clients presents dynamic needs and we need to be able to react quickly to make a difference and provide brighter futures for all those we serve. There is no reason why, as the largest social service agency in Rhode Island, we can’t increase giving dramatically in the long-term. We have a long, solid tradition of serving the state as we work for a way forward, a way out of the cycle of poverty, a way toward healthy lives, and a way of hope.
PBN: What types of sources will you need to focus on when raising funds and seeking major gifts?
CASIMIRO: The business community has embraced the work being done by Family Service of Rhode Island, which is evident by the record-setting Brighter Futures luncheon held in the fall. It has become a signature event for the business community. I will continue to build on this as well as continue to seek increased giving from philanthropic individuals.
PBN: Your 9,000 clients are adults but also largely minority children from low-income families. In pitching to funders, what resources do you indicate the nonprofit will bring to bear on the lives of these constituents?
CASIMIRO: Matching a potential funder to his or her interest will play a role. However, my focus is unrestricted giving. Funders need to look at us for all the work we do that is positively transforming lives across Rhode Island.
I do want donors to experience individual programs as much as they can as it does create that exceptional donor experience that helps strengthen donor relationships. For instance, the community is really talking about the Walking School Bus program, part of the Providence Children’s Initiative. I have used this experience to introduce Family Service of Rhode Island to potential new funders. Once a potential funder walks a route and meets the children we are serving in that capacity, they always get creative with potential funding opportunities – they may be interested in funding the asthma portion of the program, purchasing coats and hats for children who don’t have them, or financing the community garden.
Funders always want to help when they experience firsthand the work we are doing. I will work to do that across all programs so the donor can get a comprehensive view of all the work we do across the state. The Walking School Bus is on Facebook. I hope people will have a look and give me a call: www.facebook.com/PCIWalkingSchoolBus.
PBN: AIDS Project Rhode Island merged with your group a few years ago. How do you distinguish between their financial needs and the needs of the larger organization?
CASIMIRO: AIDS Project Rhode Island became a program of Family Service of RI in 2008. They brought with them a treasured brand name, a strong donor base and excellent services. Family Service of Rhode Island has been building on this for the past six years and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Dining Out For Life, AIDS Project Rhode Island’s upcoming fundraising event, is just around the corner and I have been working to expand on its success. The event is scheduled for April 24. More information can be found at www.aidsprojectri.org.
PBN: Does your organization quantify and measure results? What do your results tell you about where you are successful and where you need to improve?
CASIMIRO: Family Service of RI does an outstanding job of measuring results including results in the fund development area. We have extremely successful events such as the Brighter Futures luncheon, Dining Out for Life, AIDS Walk. I will work to build upon these successes. Unrestricted giving, for most organizations, continues to be a challenge, so I will concentrate my efforts on major gifts in this area.
Funders can be easily convinced to fund a program, invest in capital, and support a specific need. Unrestricted giving, however, allows us to meet the unmet changing needs of a diverse client population. It allows us, as an agency, to be more nimble and effective in planning for a child, an adult or a family.