Meet Turner C. Bitton, Executive Director of Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and eighth in our lineup of AFP Utah Members highlighted for August Appreciation month!
Having worked in non-profit fundraising for about four years, he notes that the field of philanthropy is in a period of transition. "After a very divisive and polarizing presidential campaign, many organizations are working hard to recommit to their important missions. As development professionals we are on the forefront of providing the resources to the organizations that are working to bring our country together to resolve our country’s most pressing issues," he says.
As his greatest pride and accomplishments, Turner points to his relationships with his nonprofit staff and volunteers that has developed over the past several years. "I’m proud of the incredible dedication, vision, and grit that these fine people demonstrate everyday in resolving the most pressing and difficult issues in our community," he explains. "Each and every day I have the opportunity to establish new relationships and build collaborative partnerships with individuals across the state and country."
Turner says he is an AFP member because of the professional development opportunities the organization offers, saying that every time he has attended an event or networking opportunity, he has "left inspired and enriched." he adds, "I’ve met friends, mentors, and professionals that have helped me grow as a development professional. I highly recommend membership in this incredibly high caliber organization."
Our next AFP August Appreciation spotlight goes to Aimee Dunsmore, Development Director of the Utah Arts Festival!
As a fundraiser for 11 years, she has witnessed firsthand the ever-changing methods of donor communication. "It’s not just letters, lunches and phone calls anymore, though that’s still a really important part cultivation and retention," Aimee says. "There are so many ways to reach people now and the opportunities to develop and maintain relationships with donors, are vast and constantly evolving with technology and social media."
With this in mind, she says her greatest challenge is strategizing donor communications while integrating donor communication preferences. "It’s incredibly exciting, but can also be a little bit daunting," explains Aimee. "I think a challenge we face is how to balance staying in front of our donors and reaching new donors in ways that are meaningful to them in such a fast-paced, ever-changing environment without losing our focus or organizational voice."
When Aimee started her position at the Utah Arts Festival, the organization had very few individual donors, and individual giving represented a very small portion of their contributed income. She saw this as a huge area for growth, and after much thought, analysis, discussion, and planning, she helped launch an individual giving program now called “Friends with Benefits." This, program, which has grown individual contributions by leaps and bounds over the past five years, is what Aimee cites as her greatest current accomplishment. "It has been really rewarding to see our whole team get behind this program (staff, board, and program coordinators) and to watch support steadily grow year after year," she adds.
Aimee says she's an AFP member because she believes being part of a community with varied experiences, information, and resources to draw from is essential to her ability to grow and succeed.
Today's August Appreciation spotlight goes to AFP Utah Chapter member Diane Parisi, Development Director at Pioneer Theatre Company!
Diane has been working as a fundraiser for 27 years, and her first job was with Utah Musical Theatre at Weber State University.
Currently, one of her greatest challenges is working in the nonprofit performing arts, where the business environment is both commercial and philanthropic. "We have to find ways to connect patrons with theatre in a way that helps them see the value beyond the mere investment of a ticket," she explains. "We try to focus on the patron first because it can’t just be about our value to the community, it has to be about our value to that patron."
Diane experiences her greatest sense of accomplishment when she has the opportunity to mentor novice fundraisers. "My own mentor, Patti Choate, had a tremendous influence on me in my early years as a fundraiser. It is very rewarding to witness the professional accomplishments of those I’ve mentored," she says.
When asked why she became a member of AFP Utah Chapter, Diane says, "AFP membership is comprised of so many wonderful and talented people. I value the opportunity to be a part of a professional community where I can commiserate, share ideas, and have 'lightbulb' moments."
AFP Utah Chapter, meet Hannah Whitney, Development Director of HEAL Utah, the latest member to be spotlighted as a part of our August Appreciation Month!
Though Hannah has had an official fundraising-related job for a little less than one year, she previously provided fundraising support, both in a volunteer and paid capacity, for quite a few small organizations. Her first such gig was as the fundraising coordinator for the Western State University of Colorado Mountain Rescue Team in 2003 during her college years. "That's nearly 15 years ago!" she says."
Hannah lists her biggest struggle as understanding the intricacies of HEAL Utah's campaigns in order to write and report about them in grants. "We work on some complicated issues like air quality and renewable energy," she says. "Fortunately we have great organizational communication and regular, well-facilitated meetings, which are helping move me in the right direction."
HEAL Utah recently received a new and unexpected grant that Hannah wrote with the organization's former Executive Director, and she cites this as her greatest recent accomplishment. "It was a somewhat last minute scenario. It showed how we're able to successfully spring into action when opportunities arise!" she explains.
As a new development professional, Hannah decided AFP membership would be an important step to building a network of skilled allies. She adds, "I'm always on board to work smarter, not harder, and I know there are so many helpful resources out there to guide me as a new Development Director."
Our AFP Member Appreciation spotlight today goes to Amberlie Phillips, Chief Development Officer at YWCA!
Amberlie began her career in development in 1999, just out of college, and with the exception of two years, she has worked as a fundraiser her entire career--almost 16 years.
While she is currently navigating the obstacles of building infrastructure within the YWCA Utah development department to increase efficiency and maximize potential, she is also excited to see the continued growth of the YWCA’s major gifts program. "We made a conscious decision to focus on major gifts about four years ago, and we are seeing some amazing gifts as a result of this sustained effort," she says.
When asked why she became an AFP member, Amberlie says,"Very early in my career I attended the AFP International Conference in Seattle, thanks to a supervisor who recommended I attend. It was a great experience that opened my eyes to the diversity and depth that exists within the field. It is wonderful to belong to a professional association dedicated to fundraising-- it allows for idea sharing, networking, and that great feeling of being in a room where everyone feels your pain (or joy!)"
And now for our third member spotlight of August Appreciation Month: Kirk Huffaker of Preservation Utah!
Kirk has served as Executive Director and the staff lead on fundraising for the last ten years, though he's been on staff at Preservation Utah for a total of twenty years. "I realized early in my time at the organization that it's everyone's job on staff be part of the fundraising effort, whether it's making an event successful, writing a grant, or helping in the identification and cultivation of members and donors," he says.
Kirk lists his greatest fundraising-related struggle at the moment as trying to keep the momentum going with Preservation Utah's supporters, who helped the organization (formerly Utah Heritage Foundation) meet big fundraising goals for it's 50th anniversary last year and facilitated a success rebranding campaign.
As for his greatest accomplishments, he says "In my ten years as Executive Director, we've exceeded goals for three fundraising campaigns, and been able to start an endowment. These have provided us with a stronger foundation for continuing to build long-term organizational strength."
"I'm an AFP member because I don't have it figured out and am always seeking how I can get better at my job. At the same time, I'm seeking how to best establish our organizational culture around fundraising. Surrounding yourself with the professional community for networking and peer learning opportunities is one of the strongest ways I believe to put us on the path to what works for us."