Philanthropy Panelists Share their Tips and Tricks with an Audience of Young Non-Profit Professionals

Philanthropy Panelists Share their Tips and Tricks with an Audience of Young Non-Profit Professionals

By Julie Euber, Board Member and Communications Chair, YNPN Phoenix

From left to right, top to bottom row: Chris Sar, Eric Spicer, Jerry Diaz, Jessica Stevens Whitney, Melissa Steimer, and Sentari Minor.


“Philanthropy is science meets art,” Jerry Diaz, Vice President of Marketing and Development, Ronald McDonald House Charities

As summer slowly winds down and Phoenix begins to experience fall not by a change in the color of leaves but by the color of license plates, the fundraising cycle whips up again in a flurry of chicken dinners and luncheons. Of course, there are many ways to fundraise and develop philanthropic relationships as discussed by the exceptional panelists featured at Young NonProfit Professional Network (YNPN) Phoenix’s Philanthropy Panel on August 29. Better Business Bureau Arizona provided the perfect space to dissect details of fundraising that are, at times, uncomfortable – what do foundations look for in a development professional? Does it ever get easier making the ask?

A few themes came up several times during the panel:

It is important to foster a culture of philanthropy at your organization and beyond.

No matter what you do at an organization, you have a role in fundraising. It may be providing stories for fundraisers to share, volunteering at an event or sharing posts on social media, but developing a culture where fundraising is supported organization-wide is an active process. Development professionals need to communicate how the process of philanthropy works within their organizations. Organizations that embrace the culture of philanthropy are in sync and on board to support each other, so if you find that your philanthropy takes place in a silo, consider how this approach might impact your ability to maximize your fundraising potential.

Two key skills to develop as a development professional are being teachable/eager to learn and being people-oriented.

Philanthropy and the social sector as a whole are always evolving, especially through innovative and updated technology. Make time to learn something new every day and be open to being taught by others – including your supervisor and mentors. There are many ways to be a lifetime learner beyond the traditional classroom including TED Talks (Try this Dan Pallotta talk for a great perspective on fundraising), blogs, podcasts and mentors.

While technology has become a key component of philanthropy, it cannot replace relationship building and face-to-face interaction. You should never say, “I don’t know, I sent an email and never heard back.” Find that person and have the conversation. A thank you email is a nice touch, but a handwritten thank you note is rare enough to make a big impression. Network so that people know who you are. These “soft” skills are key for a successful career.

How we raise funds really matters and can shape the social sector.

Fundraisers keep getting better at talking about the impact of non-profit work beyond direct programming. The more we talk about so-called in-directs (Ex. Administrative salaries, rent, utilities), the more normal they become to funders who may hold the misconception that non-profits do not need the same resources, long-term planning and operations staff as for-profits to continue advancing their mission.

During audience Q&A, important discussions arose around managing donors who restrict funds in ways that can make the funds irrelevant, or perhaps even contradictory, to an organization’s mission. The panel discussed building relationships with donors so you know when the partnership is not a good fit and understand the times when you can’t comfortably accept a donation.


A special thank you to the rock star panelists who shared their incredible time, inspiration and expertise with us:

Chris Sar (Moderator) - President and Founder, Cascalote Philanthropic Consulting, AFP

Jerry Diaz - Vice President of Marketing and Development, Ronald McDonald House Charities

Sentari Minor - Director, Gen Next

Eric Spicer - Executive Director of Development, Arizona State University

Melissa Steimer - Chief Development Officer, UMOM New Day Centers

Jessica Stevens Whitney - Vice President of Marketing and Development, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona

The panelists in action at Better Business Bureau Arizona.

Interested in learning more about philanthropy and the larger Arizona nonprofit sector? Consider becoming a member of YNPN Phoenix! Contact for more information.