Recently, I had the honor of delivering a message at National Philanthropy Day Breakfast, hosted by Association of Fundraising Professionals of the Cape Fear Area (AFP).
AFP brings together staff and board members who raise critical funds to support nonprofit missions. We learn from each other, bring in guest speakers for special topics, celebrate success, and help each other through the challenges.
National Philanthropy Day recognizes organizations, volunteers, and fundraising executives who have delivered exceptional results over the past year. As I prepared my message, I reflected on the event’s purpose and all that AFP has meant to me since I joined.
It was 2009 and WARM was in it’s 13th year of operation. We had completed 44 small scale (max $5,000) rebuilds in 2008 with a budget of less than $200,000.
Our board was heavily involved in the operations. They reviewed applications, recruited volunteers, and managed all home rebuilds from cost estimating and material delivery to volunteer oversight and quality control.
The demand for WARM’s services grew much faster than our ability to deliver them. In many cases, the requests were too large for our volunteer project managers. The waiting list had grown to over 300 qualified homeowners, a seven-year backlog at our current rate!
Knowing the need far exceeded WARM’s capacity, the board applied for and received a grant from The Duke Endowment to hire staff. I was selected as WARM’s first fulltime executive director and worked out of a Sunday School classroom in the back of Wrightsboro United Methodist Church.
The number one priority of my position was to raise money so we could help people faster. While I have a knack for public relations and promotional writing, I didn’t know much about the nuts and bolts of strategic fundraising. Fortunately, one of my board members recommended AFP to help me grow those skills.
Over the past decade, the lessons I’ve learned from my colleagues in AFP have helped WARM more than quadruple the annual number of households served in just 11 years!
In addition, we’ve taken on larger jobs where costs exceed $30,000 in materials plus hundreds of volunteer hours. This is only possible through the generosity and dedication of hundreds of WARM supporters who donate over $2 million and 30,000 hours every year!
With all operations now handled by a staff of 16, board members can focus on making WARM known in the community and securing new resources.
Immediately after Hurricane Florence, WARM was well-positioned to hit the ground running after the wind died down. We’ve completed nearly 100 Florence rebuilds in addition to our ongoing urgent repair program.
I do not claim that fundraising skills are the only — or even the most important — key to growth. An AFP workshop taught me fundraisers are only as successful as the rest of our organization. WARM’s talented team walks every homeowner through the application process, empowers volunteers of all skill levels, ensures high quality repair services, and accurately reports on all expenses and outcomes. It takes our entire team to deliver results with professionalism and outstanding stewardship, ensuring supporters will return again and again.
When I shared WARM’s story at National Philanthropy Day, I looked out over the crowd of compassionate, hard-working, generous people that make our community a great place to live. Whether they support land conservation, adult literacy, housing or some other cause, we share a drive to improve the world around us. We believe in one another and help one another thrive. They are all a part of WARM’s success. I know I am a part of theirs as well.
You see, fundraising success isn’t about raising money; it’s about raising hope. Fall in love with a cause, believe in the human spirit, and bring out the best in those around you. That “best” is where giving comes from.
JC Lyle has served as WARM’s Executive Director since January 2009. Under her leadership, WARM's annual revenue and productivity have more than quadrupled. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, Lyle worked at McKim & Creed on subdivision design, rezoning and permitting throughout coastal North Carolina. Lyle earned her Master of Business Administration from UNCW's Cameron School of Business and has presented workshops on affordable housing issues and nonprofit management at state-level conferences. Lyle serves on the Planning Commission for the City of Wilmington and the North Carolina Housing Partnership, the board that oversees the state's housing trust fund. In 2012, Lyle was named Wilma Magazine's first Woman to Watch in the Nonprofit Category. In 2014, she accepted WARM's Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Nonprofit Category, given by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In 2018, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Cape Fear Chapter named her Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year.
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