Title: Vice President of Walk MS and Emerging Events, National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Location: Denver, CO
Number of years as a fundraiser: 37
Number of years at current organization: 37
What inspired you to do this work?
I was introduced to the nonprofit world at an early age often volunteering during summer vacations when my mom realized it was a good way to keep my sister and me occupied. As I entered college, my older brother started a career with the Boys and Girls Clubs including both local and national positions. He had a strong influence on my interest in nonprofits. I completed an internship with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Orange County, California while pursuing a degree in Communications/Public Relations. It was happenstance that I landed at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and I could never have imagined that I would have such a rewarding career for so long with this organization. At the end of the day, I feel good about the work I do leaving the world a little better at night than I find it in the morning.
What has happened recently that pumped you up?
I am excited about our newest event called MuckFest MS in partnership with Event 360. The Society has strong roots in special event fundraising including Bike MS and Walk MS. MuckFest MS provides an opportunity to engage a new audience interested in a fun and challenging 5K obstacle course – many with a connection to MS. It’s especially interesting to launch a new event in this day and age of technology by creating awareness and promotion through social media platforms. I’m looking forward to applying the learnings from MuckFest MS to more mature campaigns that are grounded in traditional marketing. I’m especially proud that last year our fundraising events raised over $165 million!
Tell us of a recent challenge that you’ve faced?
I always look at challenges as opportunities, too. Like many other organizations we need to ensure we are engaging people through a variety of channels – mail, e-mail, social, mobile. At the same time, technology and constituent behavior are changing rapidly. Whether it’s investing in online fundraising tools, mobile apps or responsive design, we have to stay relevant and meet people where they are. It requires significant investments in technology and the ability to follow and respond to trends quickly. In our event planning, technology requirements are front and center with an emphasis on ROI.
What is next for you as a P2P fundraiser?
It’s interesting and exciting that this work is not really just event fundraising anymore. I see peer-to-peer fundraising as a way to build and maximize relationships with event participants, teams and corporate partners. Events not only represent the Society’s largest source of revenue, they also help us engage hundreds of thousands of people in our mission to bring us closer to a world free of MS.
We are concentrating on a Society-wide recognition program that honors donors, fundraisers, teams and corporate partners for “giving” and “getting” both annually and cumulatively. There have been significant advances in treatments for those living with MS as a result of our successful P2P fundraising.
What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in athletic event fundraising?
Make sure that you are passionate about the cause and the work you’re doing at the organization. Early in my career I often heard about my job ‘that putting on events must be a lot of fun.’ But the truth is, the work is hard just like any job. Nonprofits have the same expectations as any business in order to support vital research efforts and programs. My advice is to understand that the work is very fulfilling and enjoyable but be prepared to work hard and you will make a difference.
Editor’s Note: Not long ago, the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum conducted a series of interviews with leaders in the field to gain insights that would be helpful to their fellow fundraisers. As we prepare for a New Year, we wanted to share some of the best interviews here. Look for more P2P Spotlights in the coming days.