PATH TO SUCCESS: Michele Berard, executive director of the Butler Hospital Foundation and president of the Rhode Island chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said “hope is not a strategy.”
Nonprofit fundraising, known as development in the trade, has emerged as a distinct profession only in the past few decades. But even in that relatively short period, career fundraisers have brought standards, ethical codes, best practices, certifications and wide-ranging professional-development programs to the profession. Now, aided by groups like the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a growing number of people are seeking a career in fundraising instead of happening into it.
Michele Berard, executive director of the Butler Hospital Foundation, is president of the association’s Rhode Island chapter, which recently held its annual “Fundraising Day” conference in Warwick.
Berard says development has become a lot more sophisticated and methodical than it once was.
PBN: What makes a good fundraiser in 2014?
BERARD: Well, perseverance is No. 1, but also someone who can elicit trust from the volunteers – volunteers being board members or committee members – and possesses a body of knowledge. There is a valuable amount of wisdom and expertise out there that supports professional fundraising these days.
PBN: When you say knowledge, do you mean expertise in fundraising itself or the particular industry and subject area their organization works in?
BERARD: There’s a little bit of industry expertise, such as knowing health care or social services, that helps you. But the body of knowledge is more about the basic tenants of philanthropy. Philanthropy is a bona-fide revenue stream for nonprofit organizations and it can be leveraged and planned for. That is one of the biggest misnomers that people don’t fully appreciate.
PBN: That it’s not something you just wish for and hope it somehow happens?
BERARD: Exactly. I often put my hands together like I am praying and say, “this is not a strategy.” Hope is not a strategy. There are strategies one can implement in their philanthropy program, and that is all based on best practice and all based on knowledge acquired through the classroom or through experiential learning. Here in Rhode Island the largest employer is the nonprofit sector, with some large universities and hospitals. So if all those nonprofits are truly exploiting and taking advantage of the revenue stream, we may be in a different situation. They can be an economic driver. But public speaking and asking for money are the top two fears people have.