Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Post- The Donor Relations Profession

Please enjoy this wonderful guest post by my friend and collegaue Erika Bernal--Anothe rpost coming later this week on Social Media and the 2011 AFP International Conference!

Have you ever had that day as a stewardship professional when your expertise simply isn’t carrying the weight that you need it to? You’re sitting around a table of vice presidents, development officers, budget managers, and grant administrators, and although you have read hundreds of effective gift agreements in your career, for some reason or another, today the players have reverted to that single problematic agreement that slipped through the cracks years ago. What to do…

Above all, remember, you are the expert! Donor relations, in all its glory (and un-glory), is arguably the single most diverse field in advancement. When it comes down to it, they ask YOU to prep an event in a single day. You jet set meaningful recognition items off to your largest donor and draw a smile from across the nation. You can explain endowment policy to your gift officers, and convince the dean of your institution to take a different spending path to best honor donor intent. You have seen it all and have the best tools necessary to get the job done efficiently.

We strategize…we communicate…we innovate and implement to help keep our donors engaged in the missions of our institutions. What we seem to most commonly fail at is recognizing ourselves as a critical piece of the puzzle. Celebrate the expertise that you bring to the table. Be conscious of all opinions, and at the same time make sure that putting yours on the back-burner doesn’t happen in every circumstance. Our profession honors the actions of others. I, personally, think it makes sense to take credit for the effort and experience that we are all able to claim because we were asked to sit at that table from the very beginning.

Erika Bernal

Erika Bernal currently serves as Sr. Donor Relations and Stewardship Coordinator for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. In her current capacity, she focuses primarily on strategic donor correspondence, donor-restricted grant reporting and other written stewardship activities for the benefit of the Medical Center. Erika has a strong interest in creating reporting efficiencies in order to satisfy specific donor requests and to successfully illustrate gift impact over time. By thinking creatively and in a systems-oriented way, Erika hopes to share with donors the extraordinary innovations, treatments, and cures discovered by Cedars-Sinai’s scientists and researchers. She is working to make information more accessible to donors and to illustrate the profound effect that each donor has made.

Previously, as Associate Director of Donor Relations at Pomona College, Erika had been charged with monitoring stewardship activities undertaken in the academic departments and campus programs. Additionally, she managed stewardship for endowed professorships, instructional funds and other restricted gifts; assisted development officers with researching and drafting of gift agreements; contributed to the development of donor and alumni publications including the annual honor roll of donors; conducted stewardship audits; and initiated academic department communication on endowed and other restricted funds as well as external donor correspondence on fund use. As part of her professional philosophy, Erika recognizes that a donor characterizes trust in the goodwill of an institution and faith in the institution’s ability to successfully implement programs to achieve its mission. Her personal approach is to uphold the responsibilities and accountability that institutions feel in respect to their donor relationships in order to strengthen them.

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