The power of individual leaders in fundraising

by Ashley Kasprzak, JVA Consulting

At JVA Consulting, a week doesn’t go by that I don’t talk about the power of individual leaders in fundraising. There’s clear evidence that individuals of all backgrounds and wealth categories can have influence in fundraising for charitable causes. When I received an email invitation from local businessman Peter Kudla, founder of Metropolitan Homes, I decided to call him to find out more about his motivation to jump off a building for the Cancer League of Colorado for its third annual Over the Edge Event. During this event, supporters rappelled down the side of 1600 Glenarm on to the 16th Street Mall and secured donations for their efforts. I know that Peter is very stylish and drives a black mini Cooper, but while these qualities are impressive, they don’t equate to a super hero-style jump off the top if a building. I wanted to know more about Peter’s motivation. Here’s what he shared:

How would you describe your experience of “taking the big jump” for the Cancer League of Colorado? Are you glad you did it?

Peter: The Big Jump was very comfortable for me. I do have vertigo, so the toughest part of the adventure was stepping out onto the ledge of the skyscraper. You have apparatus holding you, but you still had to face outwards to get onto the ledge and then you turn around before rappelling over the edge. It was a little anxiety provoking. It took six to seven minutes to get down to the ground and you get snapped if you go too fast. Happened to me three times, but bottom line: it was fun. The governor was there, and I raised over 10 Gs. I heard that there were 100 jumpers and it grossed in excess of $225,000 over two days. Fundraising is becoming more distinctive. It’s necessary to be creative. The market is evolving.

What motivates you to be involved in so many varied philanthropic efforts?

Peter: I get hammered (without exaggeration) to support different groups about 10 times each week. I get involved in causes where I can be a leader and generate enthusiasm. People can always ask you for money, but greater than any capital is leadership and mentorship. If I can influence three to six people at a time (with my fundraising efforts), then that’s powerful to me.

What are your best tips on fundraising?

Peter: The new model of fundraising is stimulating. It involves personalization. I was amazed by the Obama campaign. Friend-to-friend fundraising and personal commitment brought in dollars. I believe that getting the younger demographic is the wave of the future. I like to share my enthusiasm for causes and I think others do, too. My upcoming projects will involve a huge program to honor nonprofits. At District 475 [in the new Vallagio at Inverness complex] we are going to have Friday night fights for education. Like the old fights where people dressed up, drank and had good cigars.

While I frequently talk about the power of individual leaders, Peter’s story is a great real-life example of how important motivating others is in fundraising. It’s easy to give $20 to a cause you care about, but it’s much more effective if you can get your friends and family on board, too. Peter also raised the important issue of distinctive fundraising. Events like the Over the Edge fundraiser engage participants and the community at large and utilize individual leaders like Peter to leverage new potential donors—a win-win situation.

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