How Stonehill Trains Fundraisers of Tomorrow

September 7, 2012

by Lauren Daley '05

Growing up in New Jersey, Sara Ricker '14 left, volunteered for charities because her mother "was adamant that everyone should give back."

When she was in eighth grade, and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ricker thought it only natural to fundraise for the Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation.

When she was in ninth-grade, and her mother beat cancer, Ricker started "Club for the Cure" at her school; the club's mission was to fundraise for and otherwise benefit the Komen Foundation.

Nonprofit Passion
"I've always had a passion for nonprofits. When I heard about the Center for Nonprofit Management, I got involved and quickly fell in love. I love that we have a center that focuses on teaching young people how to help nonprofits and charities," said Ricker, 20, a Healthcare Administration major.

Ricker is a 2012 graduate of Developing Fundraising Leaders Institute (DFLI), a joint undertaking by Stonehill's Center for Nonprofit Management and the Advancement Division.

DFLI teaches students everything about philanthropy. Selected students take a 12-week program that includes training modules at the Center for Nonprofit Management, an initial "boot camp," and a cross-departmental training in the Advancement Division. After their on-campus training, DFLI students often intern at area nonprofits.

Entering its fifth year in spring 2013, DFLI, which does not give course credit as students participate because they are genuinely interested in nonprofits, already has 42 graduates.

Helping Old Colony Hospice
"While I'd been involved with nonprofits my whole life, I didn't know exactly what everyone did at one," said Ricker, who interned 40 hours a week this summer at Old Colony Hospice in Randolph.

She made a stellar impression there, playing a key role in its annual fundraising golf tournament where her idea to ask attendees to give a "Day of Comfort" brought in $6,000.

"Sara is bright, thoughtful and articulate. She gets it. From the first meeting I had with her, I knew she'd be spot on. She understands philanthropy," said Linda Werman, director of Development at Old Colony Hospice in Randolph. "I'd steal her away and hire her full-time right now if I could," she said with a laugh.

DFLI "takes students and introduces philanthropy to formally trains them in management style, in the language of philanthropy and why it works, how it works, and the impact it can have in their communities. DFLI is fantastic," Werman said.

Positions with Purpose
Nationally, youth have a growing interest in fundraising and philanthropy - the main driver for the establishment of this program, said Georgia Antonopoulos, director of the Center for Nonprofit Management. She added that DFLI's alumni have gone on to work in nonprofits from healthcare to international development to education.

"Stonehill attracts students with an innate drive to pursue mission-based work. With DFLI, students pursue fundraising positions with purpose, armed with skills that will differentiate them from other entry-level development staff."

Stonehill alumnus Wendell Cosgrove '11 left, is putting his DFLI education to use in Cleveland, Ohio, working for the Catholic Community Foundation, which recently raised $125 million for the Cleveland Diocese. Cosgrove works local parishes, advising priests on how to ask for major gifts-$25,000 and up-from their parishioners.

Fundraising 101
"It was not until I learned about Stonehill's Annual Fund, Corporate and Foundation Relations, Major Gifts and Stewardship, that I began to understand why people give to organizations.

"The first thing I learned was from Doug Smith, Stonehill's Director of Development who explained that the number one reason people give is because they are asked. Fundraising 101," said Cosgrove, 23, "I like asking for money."

"Smith also explained that people give 'to change lives and save lives.' That's why I have decided to invest my life in fundraising. I want to help change the world," added Cosgrove

There are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S., and for some of them survival is based on their ability to fundraise, said Smith.

"Learning about philanthropy and fundraising is something that is not offered by most colleges. If students are interested in a nonprofit career, knowing how to fundraise is critical," he said.

Providing Days of Comfort
Ricker called her Old Colony Hospice internship "probably the greatest experience of my life. Linda let me run with anything I wanted. She taught me a lot about every aspect of Old Colony Hospice."

With Ricker's help, the Hospice golf event raised $90,000-$30,000 over the initial goal, Werman said. Ricker's idea for auctioning off a "Day of Comfort" brought in $6,000 alone.

"I felt people would be more apt to donate if they knew it was for a specific cause," Ricker said. "So I had the idea to ask for $100 donations for that would go toward medications and room and board at a nursing facility which insurances may not cover."

When people are officially in hospice care, Medicare or Medicaid may stop paying for pain medication or nursing care facilities, Ricker said. "Some medications are so expensive that Medicare has a limit on them. When a person is in hospice, worrying about pain medication is the last thing they need," Ricker said.

Eye-Opening Experiences
"The DFLI program taught me about fundraising, donor relations, and a lot of little things I wouldn't have known," said Ricker. "It was an eye-opening experience. DFLI broadened my horizons. It was more than just sitting there; it was taking a part in life."

Cosgrove also urged Stonehill students to take advantage of DFLI:

"I looked forward to going to a two-hour session that I was not getting credit for in my last semester as a senior. That does not happen that often. I could not believe what I would learn in two hours. Advancement and the Center have done an incredible job organizing this program and more students should take advantage. It's a terrific opportunity to gain insight in a field that will always be growing."

For more on DFLI, call 508-565-1856 or email


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