Wilmington fundraisers organize

By Laura Williams-Tracy

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Nonprofit leaders in Eastern North Carolina aim to build a network of support by launching the Cape Fear Region Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

It’s the first North Carolina chapter east of I-95 and the goal is to create a matrix of professionals who can share ideas and stay motivated.

“While there’s a need to share information and knowledge, there’s also a need for moral support for what we do,” says Julie Rehder, development director for Davis Healthcare Center/Champions Assisted Living in Wilmington.

In the fall, the national Association of Fundraising Professionals, a 28,000-member association of individuals responsible for generating philanthropic support for nonprofits, held a meeting in New Bern to explore areas ripe for a new chapter.

Rehder and two other Wilmington-area professionals attended, leaving with solid plans to initiate a new chapter.

Within 30 days the group had sent 300 letters inviting nonprofit leaders to joint the effort and held its first exploratory meeting.

The Triangle chapter of AFP is serving as the sponsor for the new chapter and provided $500 in seed money to kick-start the effort.

“There is no chapter east of Raleigh so those people there are at a disadvantage professionally,” says Shirley Robinson, director of development for The Rural Center and a Triangle AFP member.

Other North Carolina chapters of AFP are in Asheville, Charlotte, Hickory and the Triad.

New Bern is also considering starting a chapter.

The new Cape Fear Region chapter already has 18 members, three more than the required minimum, and has elected officers and set committees.

Laurie Taylor, development director for the Lower Cape Fear Hospice and Life Center, will serve as president of the chapter, and Melissa Boehling, director of public support for American Red Cross Cape Fear Chapter, will serve as president-elect.

The chapter is completing the required paperwork for nonprofit status, and Rehder expects the nationalAFP to approve the new chapter in March.

The resulting network of development professionals aims to help nonprofits do a better job of fundraising by keeping members abreast of changing trends in giving, and by helping groups better identify or pass along tips about potential grant sources.

The fledgling chapter is compiling a community calendar of campaigns, golf tournaments, silent auctions and other events as a tool to help local nonprofits maximize their ability to attract valued donors.

At the same time, the international organization will provide members with valuable education resources as well as guidance on ethical pitfalls of fundraising, says Robinson.

Organizers say the group also serves as a valuable tool for nonprofits without full-time development officers by providing executive directors and other staff with needed training.

The new chapter is planning a series of seminars in April and May focused on planned giving.

Held in conjunction with local banks and financial advisors, the seminars will be designed to help members begin talking with their donors about ongoing giving.

“There is a great need there of the services nonprofits provide,” says Robinson. “These are people with good hearts and many nonprofits have so few resources.”

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