By Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
Gail Perry knows how to find money. Little pockets of money here and there. At times, she finds enough money to fill the deepest of pockets. She’s found more than $500 million to date. And you don’t find that much money looking under couch cushions.
No, Perry did it by listening, learning and building friendships ─ the personal touch.
She uses relationships to help raise funds for nonprofit organizations. And few are better at the arduous and often stressful task of fundraising than Perry, who was recently ranked 10th in Philanthropy Media’s list of “America’s Top Fundraising Experts.”
Does fundraising need to be arduous and stressful though?
“Fundraising is not scary,’’ said Perry, who heads Gail Perry Associates, a fundraising strategy firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “It’s not about the gift, it’s about the donor. It’s about listening and finding out what potential donors are interested in. You have to make it about them and their interests and concerns.”
Perry will share her knowledge and skills with area nonprofit organizational leaders and others interested in fundraising on Sept. 26 when she will lead the “Fired Up Fundraising: The Art of Raising Major Gifts” workshop and discussion at Pensacola State College.
The event takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the G. Thomas Delaino Student Center, Building 5 on Pensacola State College’s Pensacola campus. Registration fees are $75. Those interested in attending can register at https://foundation.pensacolastate.edu/nonprofit-center/.
Perry has 30 years of experience as a fundraiser for various nonprofits and literally wrote the book on the topic: “Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action.” She also authors the popular blog, “Fired Up Fundraising,’’ which is available on her website at https://www.gailperry.com/.
“I follow her; she’s a national expert,’’ said DeDe Flounlacker, executive director of Manna Food Pantries, which helps feed the poor and hungry in Northwest Florida. “I receive her newsletter. She has a great reputation across the country. So I’m really looking forward to her session and the chance to ask her questions that can help us out.”
Perry said that while she will be instructing workshop participants and will do plenty of talking, she said listening is a key aspect when trying to raise major gift funds.
One organization that she has advised has even started “listening tours” with prospective donors, a trend she hopes more organizations will follow.
“They want to be heard like anyone else does,’’ Perry said of donors. “I like to talk and do a lot of it, but I know as a fundraiser I need to keep my mouth shut. It needs to be about the donor, not yourself. A lot of it is just good manners, which you have plenty of in the South.”
She said one of the worst fundraising mistakes is “hitting people up” for money, a term that is anathema to those in fundraising circles.
“If you’re just calling and asking for money, you’re doing it wrong,’’ Perry said. “No one wants to be sought after just for their money. There has to be that relationship.”
Those relationships are especially important when the non-profit has a low profile, or is just starting up, said Milton Usry, who along with his wife, Dona, recently donated $100,000 to establish The Dona and Milton Usry Endowed Accounting Scholarship at Pensacola State.
“The personal touch is important,’’ said Usry, a legendary University of West Florida retired faculty member who was the school’s first Eminent Scholar. “That friendship is important. It’s the same mode of effectiveness for sales in general.”
The Usrys are well-known in Northwest Florida for their generosity and philanthropy, and have financially supported groups ranging from the Pensacola Symphony to Manna Food Pantries, and, of course, Pensacola State, where Dona Usry was a member of the Board of Trustees for 15 years, serving as board chair for two two-year terms.
Milton Usry would still urge nonprofits to foster and tend to personal relationships with donors, but added some organizations sell themselves.
“It’s the personal knowledge and overall reputation of the organization that would be important,’’ Milton Usry said. “PSC has been around a long time, just as have other organizations such as the Symphony. That long history speaks for itself.”
Perry’s workshop is just the latest in a series of events hosted by Pensacola State’s Nonprofit Center for Excellence and Philanthropy, a recently established venture to assist area nonprofit organizations. The Nonprofit Center for Excellence and Philanthropy was established with a $150,000 donation from the Gulf Power Foundation.
The Nonprofit Center for Excellence and Philanthropy’s previous 2019 workshops included “How to Create a High Functioning Fundraising Board,’’ “Success with Comprehensive Campaigns’’ and “Surviving and Sustaining in a Grant Seeking World.”
The last 2019 workshop, “Donor-Centered Proposals & Presentations,” is scheduled for Nov. 21. The workshop will be led by Catherine Brown of The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
The Nonprofit Center for Excellence and Philanthropy also will conduct a two-day “Nonprofit Summit” on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at the Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio, Building 23, at 1000 College Blvd. Cost for the summit is $250.
Summit speakers include Chuck Loring of Loring, Sternberg & Associates; Penelope Burk, Cygnus Applied Research; Mary Claire Walther and Michelle Buchanan of the nonprofit consulting firm Dini Spheris, which has offices in Texas and Colorado; and Debbie Douma, Dean of Grants and Federal Programs at Pensacola State College.
Andrea Krieger, executive director of the Pensacola State College Foundation, said it is a coup for the upstart Nonprofit Center for Excellence and Philanthropy to deliver top-notch speakers and information to non-profit organizations. And she called Perry one of the best.
“I met her years and years ago when she was starting her blog,’’ Krieger said of Perry. “I was at a conference where she delivered a keynote and she asked participants to look over her blog and give her some feedback. Since then, her reputation has just grown and grown and grown.”
Perry hopes that many nonprofit board members attend, because “board members are the worst” when it comes to fundraising, she said.
“They tend to hire a fundraiser and then don’t worry about it,’’ she said. “Board members have to be enthusiastic and not embarrassed to tout their fabulous nonprofit and volunteer organizations.”
If you go
What: “Fired Up Fundraising: The Art of Raising Major Gifts” workshop
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 26
Where: PSC’s Nonprofit Center for Excellence and Philanthropy, G. Thomas Delaino Student Center, Building 5, Pensacola campus