San Diego resident Todd Kaprielian this month was named the 2019 Outstanding Fundraising Professional of 2019 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals after working for St. Paul’s Senior Services Foundation for 15 years.
Kaprielian, who also serves as president of the Downtown Lions Club, has raised more than $12 million in his role as chief development officer at St. Paul’s Senior Services Foundation. He was one of seven nonprofit professionals who was recognized this December.
“Todd embodies the importance of ethical excellence in fundraising and how it contributes to the well-being of our community – he is truly making a difference,” said Mark Lagace, board president for the Association of Fundraising Professionals San Diego Chapter.
Kaprielian, a graduate of UC San Diego, spoke with Times of San Diego to offer tips to other nonprofit professionals on how to successfully fundraise for their charities.
What are the biggest challenges facing nonprofits?
Where to begin? Innovations in technology are creating large waves of disruption across all of our social institutions. I expect in 10 years, those waves will become tsunamis of change that will redefine how we think about our collective social needs, how we should address them and, especially in the case of government funding, who will pay for them.
For instance, St. Paul’s Senior Services has a program that provides healthcare services to low-income seniors. Talk about a rapidly changing landscape. As a nonprofit and industry leader, not only do we have to provide services, we also regularly inform local, state and federal government about our “frontline” experience as a provider; at the same time, we have to remain adaptive as they rollout new pilot programs and initiatives.
It’s not enough for nonprofits to simply provide their services and expect today’s business model to continue for the next 10 years. The greatest challenges facing nonprofits today is advocating for those being served and still have the leadership bandwidth to adapt to change.
How can nonprofit professionals quickly grasp a potential donor’s attention?
This is a $1 million question! I’m skeptical if someone has one magical act. Having said that, many years ago, the late Russell Kirbey, gave me some invaluable fundraising advice. “Keep it simple. Tell people about your project, ask them for a gift, spend the money as you said you would, and don’t forget, thank them for their gift as you show them how it is being used.” If you do this on a consistent basis, it may not be a solution to quickly get someone’s attention, but it is a potent way to maintain credibility in the community as an organization worth supporting philanthropically. San Diego is still a small town, in some regards. Word will get around.
How can nonprofits differentiate themselves from the other charities when approaching donors?
Consistent communication about your programs is key. First, clearly explain how your organization meets a specific, unmet need in the community. Highlight who will fall through the proverbial cracks without this service. Second, illustrate how your organization partners with other organizations to provide a greater good. This illustrates not just managerial competency, but also leadership in the community and within your industry. Third, underscore your underlying organizational values that inform what you do and how you do it.
On another front, I’m a big advocate of fundraising professionals joining service clubs. I belong to the Downtown San Diego Lions Club. Many of St. Paul’s supporters see the Lions pin and right out of the gate, I hear, “My dad was a Lion.” It breaks the ice. Through my membership, people see a different side of St. Paul’s that goes beyond simply providing services.
What are the biggest mistakes nonprofit professionals make when seeking donations?
It’s imperative for fundraising professionals to clearly outline the community need for a service or initiative as they make a solicitation for financial support. A big mistake a professional can make is not being able to explain how the gift you are requesting speaks the donor’s values. It takes time to learn the values that motivates their giving. Knowing that critical bit of information can transform a transactional gift into a more joyous act.
What’s the one thing all nonprofit professionals do to raise funds?
All fundraising professionals must become master communicators. Whether it’s through print or speech, a professional has to learn how to connect with their audience and effectively share a vision. I strongly encourage everyone to join a Toastmasters club and start their journey in becoming a seasoned public speaker.
Another thing all successful fundraising professionals need to learn to is to get out of the office, away from their computer and meet with people. It takes more time, but I regularly learn more about someone from face-to-face meetings than I can ever hope to gain from an email or text.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: