Featured September 2014
Name: Gina Butler
Title: Vice President, Peer to Peer, Covenant House
Location: New York, NY
Number of years as a fundraiser: 6.5 years
Number of years at current organization: 6.5 years
What keeps you motivated to do this work?
Where do I begin? Our mission brought me here, but the kids we serve, the team I work with and everyone who supports us keep me here. It’s a beautiful place where beautiful things happen each and every day; however, there is still plenty more work to be done to help homeless kids off the street and to a better life. So long as the kids still need Covenant House, I’ll keep doing my small part to help.
What has happened recently that pumped you up?
It’s hard to identify any one thing. As our programs grow, we always seem to have something great happening! I’d say recent growth has really pumped me up, including the fact that our signature Peer-to-Peer fundraiser, Sleep Out: Executive Edition, is now taking place at all of our U.S. and Canadian shelters. We expect more than 700 business leaders to Sleep Out this November and raise over $3 million dollars to show homeless youth they are not alone. (When we started in 2011, 50 Executives slept out in just one city and raised $500,000.) It’s also exciting to see the initiative grow beyond Executives — within the upcoming year we will expand our editions with Young Professionals, Students, Companies, Broadway Stars, Mothers. Can’t wait to see who is next!
Tell us about a professional challenge you’re facing.
Keeping up with ever-changing technology continues to be a challenge. We want to maintain the integrity of our work, and ensure the maximum amount of funds raised go to our direct services to kids, but with a Peer-to-Peer program that relies heavily on online fundraising, we must continue to invest carefully in web technology. Managing limited resources is nothing new for non-profits, but I find it particularly challenging in this arena.
What’s a fundraising tactic you’ve employed in the last year or two that you’d suggest others try?
Focus on relationships! Strong Peer-to-Peer fundraisers bring as much value as major donors and should be cultivated at the same level. With that in mind, we’ve combined efforts with our Individual Giving team to ensure that top fundraisers are in portfolios, receive regular and personal communications, and understand how their efforts change lives. Not only does it empower those individuals to continue doing great things but it also encourages them to ask friends to sign up too!
What has been your proudest accomplishment as a fundraiser?
I am part of a great team so no accomplishment is ever mine alone. It’s one of the great things about working at Covenant House.
What is next for you as a peer-to-peer fundraiser?
We are in the process of creating a Grassroots program to expand our Peer-to-Peer reach to new audiences. Our plan is to launch in May 2015. While it’s exciting to see the current Sleep Out and Home Team programs grow, I’m very excited to start something new!
What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in peer-to-peer fundraising?
Sister Madonna, a special runner for Home Team (our endurance program) once said “If life doesn’t have its challenges, it’s not worth living, right?” Any type of fundraising is tough, and Peer-to-Peer is no different. But when you get through the challenges, and see the beauty of the work being done and remember why you are doing it, it’s worth it. Just make sure to take a moment at each event — in the middle of the chaos — to appreciate how beautiful it is!