1990s and Earlier
1996 to 1997
During these two action-packed years, I provided full-time, hands-on capital campaign assistance to the Dallas Zoological Society, orchestrating a capital campaign under the outstanding (courageous) leadership of volunteers Mary McDermott Cook, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, and the late Edgar A. Robinson, Exxon Corporation (now ExxonMobil). Then-Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk served as honorary campaign chairman. The Dallas Zoo is a City-run institution; I worked for the Zoo’s nonprofit support group, DZS.
A consultant from a large fundraising firm had been hired to assist DZS at the start but was paid off and relieved of duties within a few months because I was able to handle all the required work. After two years, I received an award for excellence and a standing ovation from the Board of Trustees, at which point $8,000,000 had been received and pledged, and a significant number of campaign prospects had been identified for the organization going forward. I left them in very good shape. In fact, several years later I visited by phone with the director of development, and she told me she was still working off my tables and charts! I did this entire campaign by hand using Microsoft Word and Excel.
Among the donors with whom I worked specifically were, in order of size of gift, The Meadows Foundation, Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corporation, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, Crystal Charity Ball, The Kresge Foundation, Hoblitzelle Foundation, J. C. Penney Corporation, A. H. Belo Corporation Foundation, The Rosewood Corporation, O’Donnell Foundation, Boeckman Family Foundation and others.
I was honored when DZS committee member and legendary Dallas fundraiser, the late Charles C. Sprague, told me I was the best at running a major gift campaign of anyone he had ever seen. This was the beginning of my freelance major gift fundraising career.
To read more about my experiences, follow the links to:
- Asking for Donations | The Best Laid Plans
- Gadgets Are the Root of All Evil? | Children and Nature
- Taking a Step Back Will Lead You Forward
Other Work in Dallas
Additional brief consulting activities were subsequently undertaken in Dallas with such organizations as the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas, Dallas Arboretum, American Red Cross, Episcopal School of Dallas, The Greenhill School, and the Urban League of Greater Dallas and North Central Texas, some of them via a brief six months with The Dini Partners. These assignments involved advanced prospect research, campaign organization, strategy development, and grant and case statement writing, skills sorely lacking at the time in development staffing in North Texas. I discovered that I preferred my independence, however, and so I left The Dini Partners. I am somewhat of a “boutique” independent fundraiser, handling one nonprofit at a time and tailoring my work based on their specific needs. My mantra still today is to leave my nonprofit clients in better shape than when I began working with them. I personally believe I do better work than larger fundraising firms, smiles. I am much more focused and I both design and implement.
Following this experience, and on my own initiative and in consultation with the late Edgar A. Robinson, Treasurer of ExxonMobil, I set up and opened the Dallas satellite office of a national environmental nonprofit entirely by hand (and it was very hard work). I ultimately found the organization to be unethical, racist (with an article on this topic appearing in the Christian Science Monitor, based upon the headquarters’ leadership), sexist and verbally abusive. Despite that, some of my best work was done during this assignment, and many important work contacts across Texas and beyond were made. Ultimately, I reported the organization in person and in writing to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Still today I believe they should be shut down. To the core, they are founded on questionable principles. It is rare for me to say such a thing. Even when I disagree with the leadership of the nonprofit organizations with which I work, I rarely think their nonprofit should be closed. But here, I do!
To read more positive notes about my Dallas experiences, follow the link:
1992 to 1996
To read about my experiences during this time, follow the links to read more on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog:
- A Brief Account | A Fortune 500 CEO, Two Kittens and “Asking”
- A Brief Account | George Plimpton
- A Brief Account | Fabio | Meeting Locations Matter
- A Special Event | An Environmental Breakthrough for Texas
During my tenure at Texas Nature Conservancy (the Texas chapter of the national nonprofit organization), I helped create the first Corporate Conservation Leadership Luncheon, a program that has since generated millions of dollars and enhanced corporate financial support for the organization. The event has been held in other Texas cities and in other states. The first two events I organized in Austin and Dallas were partnerships with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Dallas Regional Chamber.
I worked as part of a team of three statewide development professionals at Texas Nature Conservancy. We focused on major gifts and related cultivation activities to support the acquisition of rare wildlife habitats in regions across Texas. My first region and training ground was South and Central Texas. The second half of my work involved moving to Dallas and opening the North Texas regional office there.
I would like to recognize Dallas volunteer Robert L. Thornton, III, without whose assistance opening the Dallas office would have been impossible. You might also enjoy reading the text of a speech given at my request to the Dallas chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (formerly NSFRE) by the late conservation champion Richard C. “Dick” Bartlett, when I lived and worked in that city during the 1990s. You can find it on ISSUU.
The Corporate Conservation Leadership Luncheon was created with the invaluable assistance of Mike Hicks and Rob Miller of HIXO. I received an award for excellence from the Conservancy for work on this and other activities.
1992 and Earlier
My first development positions occurred at The Contemporary Austin (formerly Laguna Gloria Art Museum), The University of Texas at Austin (College of Fine Arts), and very briefly, St. Michael’s Academy (in-between those two). During this time, I was an active volunteer for other nonprofit organizations in Austin. My papers from these assignments and projects are now found in the Austin History Center. At the College of Fine Arts, I was responsible for managing the Advisory Council (statewide alumni) and assisting five divisions of the College with their respective fundraising activities. I organized twelve special events/meetings annually, provided donor communications concerning numerous endowments, and organized and raised funds for a new graduate scholarship in the theater department honoring the former dean. I also participated in and helped staff the grand opening of Bass Concert Hall and was a liaison with the late Barbara Smith Conrad during her various residencies. With Advisory Council chairman Alfred A. King, I worked to ensure open communications between local Austin arts groups wanting to use College facilities (often a challenge).
- To learn about my early career from a development standpoint, follow the link to my 2022 post, “How to Launch Your Grant Writing Career.” In this article, I discuss my early work at Laguna Gloria Art Museum.
I secured two degrees from The University of Texas at Austin in the late 1970s and mid-1980s, and I put myself through school with a number of part-time jobs: College of Education, College of Liberal Arts, College of Fine Arts Slide Library and the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery (now the Blanton Museum), and Laguna Gloria Art Museum (The Contemporary).
If you would like more information, please use the secure contact form to reach me.
To read more about these and other early experiences, follow the link to the following articles on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog:
- A Brief Account | The CEO of American Airlines and His Western Art Collection (during my graduate school years, not long before I would become a development professional)
- A Brief Account | Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe Jr.
- Development as a Profession | Lots of Zeros
- Listening to Donors and “Serendipity” Happens
- Development as a Profession | Mentoring and “Real World” Fundraising
- Ph.D.s and Fundraising
- Development as a Profession | Trust Your Instincts | Early Career Lessons
- Development as a Profession | You and the Donor
Quick links for my biographical pages:
Dallas skyline image is courtesy of Adobe Creative Cloud.