Name: Wendy Folk Vizek
Title: Director, Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Number of years as a fundraiser: 17
Number of years at current organization: 1.5
What inspired you to do this work? Or, what keeps you motivated to do this work?
My dad taught me at an early age to get involved in the community. Growing up we did events and volunteered. I loved it! I loved interacting with volunteers, rallying the troops. I am motivated by mission, working toward a goal and changing lives. Raising money for research, services and a cure keeps people signing up year after year. I also love the personal stories and hearing how people are impacted by what you do. As professional peer-to-peer fundraisers, we don’t always get to see that side, but when we do, it is so impactful.
What has happened recently that pumped you up?
We are focusing on growing our volunteer base and it has been exciting to see, in a short time-frame, how quickly things are changing. It has made a great impact on our fundraising numbers and ultimately the disease. We are training staff and volunteers and investing in new resources. I am personally spending a lot of time traveling to visit our Chapters . The interaction with volunteers across the country has enabled to me to provide hands-on help and understand their challenges.
Tell us about a professional challenge you’re facing.
I’m newer with my organization, so I am learning a new disease state. I want to really understand the research and the wide breadth of programs and services available. I need to know that side of our issue to be a good fundraiser. I have a family connection to the disease, but I still have a lot to learn.
What’s a fundraising tactic you’ve employed in the last year or two that you’d suggest others try? Please describe what it is and what impact it had for your group?
We focus on getting people started immediately on their fundraising. Once people sign up it’s key to engage them from the start. We build in safeguards and checkpoints, but the most important thing is to get started as soon as possible.
What has been your proudest accomplishment as a fundraiser?
My proudest accomplishment is seeing our staff and volunteers being successful – supporting their accomplishments. If they are successful then they can empower more people in the fight and the program is successful. That means that we are raising the money that we need to raise and providing the experience we need to provide.
What is next for you as a peer-to-peer fundraiser?
I am going to events, seeing volunteers in action and getting energized. It doesn’t matter how nationwide or large a program is, it is still important to create connections in local communities.
What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in peer-to-peer fundraising?
Get involved on the front lines. I started out staffing events in a local office and recruiting volunteers in the community. Now, when I meet new staff I can relate to them in that I have been there. I have coordinated walks in the pouring rain, carried the boxes and personally understand all of the obstacles that they are facing. You don’t forget that experience. Then, don’t lose track of that feeling and empathy as you move up in your career. And always celebrate your volunteers – they should be at the front of everything, not you. Don’t forget the details or the people who give their time, energy and resources to make it happen – people need to be thanked and celebrated along the way.
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 begin a New Year, we wanted to share some of the best interviews here. Look for more P2P Spotlights in the coming days.