Building deep relationships with fundraisers

Katie Wood & Valerie Cunningham-Trainer of Make-A-Wish join the podcast to share their strategies for building deeper relationships with peer-to-peer fundraisers

Do you ever find that your relationships with your peer-to-peer fundraisers seem to be a one-way street? As dedicated P2P professionals, we invest substantial effort in crafting the perfect email messages, texts, and social media posts to motivate our fundraisers to take action. But how often do we take the time to truly understand why they are passionate about fundraising in the first place?

In a world where answering calls from unknown numbers is increasingly unlikely, it’s essential that we explore innovative ways to connect with our supporters and put in the necessary time to foster genuine connections.

In this episode, P2PPF’s Marcie Maxwell sits down with Make-A-Wish Alabama’s Vice President of Advancement, Valerie Cunningham-Trainer, and Make-A-Wish America’s Chapter Events Fundraising Manager, Katie Wood. Katie and Valerie share a passion for one of Make-A-Wish’s signature P2P programs, the Trailblaze Challenge – a single-day 20+ mile endurance hiking event – and the community it has helped them build for their local chapters. Together, we delve into how they leverage the comprehensive training program and year-round community events to establish profound, authentic relationships with their fundraisers.

In today’s episode, we’ll explore:

      –How Make-A-Wish is connecting their fundraisers to their mission
      -Strategies to turn a small group of event participants into a large year-round community
      -Ways to spot future champions & leaders among P2P fundraisers

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Podcast Guests

Valerie Cunningham-Trainer

Vice President of Advancement, Make-A-Wish Alabama

With over 15 years of nonprofit experience, Valerie has played a pivotal role in increasing Make-A-Wish Alabama’s revenue by more than 150% since she began in 2015. She has held numerous leadership positions in community organizations and was named one of the “Women Who Shape the State” in Alabama in 2020. In addition to procuring the chapter’s first million-dollar corporate partner, Valerie also launched Alabama’s Trailblaze Challenge program, which has grossed nearly 4 million dollars in six years. She has established two volunteer regional councils, spearheaded numerous new events, and helped retool the chapter’s volunteer program. Seeing donors become volunteers, volunteers become Trailblazers, Trailblazers become board members, and wish parents become donors—these full circle moments are her favorite parts of her job. Valerie is a proud graduate of Auburn University, an Enneagram 3, an ENTJ, and the mother of two daughters who share her love of the sun, Harry Potter, and personality tests.

Katie Wood

Chapter Events Fundraising Manager, Make-A-Wish America

Katie brings over 15 years of relationship-based fundraising, program and project development, and event management knowledge. She has worked in a forward-facing leadership role for much of her professional career and has found a home supporting mission-driven organizations dedicated to transforming lives. Katie previously worked at Make-A-Wish Illinois on the Mission Delivery team, and at Make-A-Wish San Diego, most recently as their Director of Event Giving. She joined Make-A-Wish America in May as the Chapter Event Fundraising Manager, supporting fundraising, event strategy and execution, across 58 Make-A-Wish chapters enterprise-wide – specifically Walk For Wishes, the Trailblaze Challenge, and Gala and social events.
Katie’s strengths lie in creating radical connection with donors to support RORI – return on relationship investment, and ROE–return on engagement. As a fundraiser, Katie believes in prioritizing donors by better understanding their unique entry points into an organization and then acting as a driver and a champion for their unique donor journeys. In this way, Katie prioritizes both the organization’s revenue and relationship goals, while curating donor specific outreach and development efforts based on each supporter’s needs and interests. Her deep understanding of donors as real people has driven charitable giving commitments up to $1million dollars, six-figure multi-year corporate and community partnership agreements and has contributed to the identification and onboarding of new board members and long-time, dedicated volunteers. She is proud and grateful to have played a part in creating community, and to both lead and learn from so many impactful change-makers.
Katie innately understands the value of creating human connections. Her experience has allowed her to live and work with purpose and execute her job with passion – not only transforming the lives of wish kids and donors, but her own life as well.

Podcast Host


Marcie Maxwell

Managing Director, Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum

Marcie Maxwell is the Managing Director of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. Marcie joined the P2PPF team in 2021 after 15+ years as a front-line fundraiser, national events & campaign director and fundraising consultant. In her role, Marcie serves as a primary thought leader and community builder for the peer-to-peer fundraising industry. She started her career in fundraising with 10+ years at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she ran local fundraising events, managed national volunteer partnerships and launched their national walk program. She then spent 5+ years as the Director of Chapter Fundraising Events with Make-A-Wish America, where she provided strategy, support & training to 60 chapters on the full event portfolio – walks, school fundraising, an endurance hiking program and galas & social events. In her most recent role at Charity Dynamics, she partnered with clients to provide strategic guidance and analysis to help them optimize and grow their peer-to-peer fundraising events & campaigns. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in Ethical Leadership from Christian Brothers University. She resides in Memphis, TN.