By Mike Suchcicki, Pensacola State College

Fundraising specialists from a variety of agencies throughout Northwest Florida were “Fired Up” by fundraising expert Gail Perry, who delivered her “Art of Raising Major Gifts” workshop Sept. 26 at Pensacola State College.

The room of 50 attendees listened as Perry, who’s based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, spoke on the importance of prospect lists and building relationships with prospective donors.

During a break, Perry said she was energized by the mix of agencies and experience represented in the room.

“Usually when I do a workshop like this, you see people who are not at all familiar with fundraising, who are just learning and trying to gain confidence and then also people who have been doing this for years and are looking for more strategies.”

She said the variety of agencies and their needs pose no problems in developing her materials.

“The same strategies apply to everybody,” she said. “It’s the same methodology, just executed slightly differently.”

The self-described “nonprofit missionary” said a workshop such as hers tends to gather a special group of people.

“It’s fun, because right here in this room you have the safety net for your community,” Perry said. “You have the cultural arts for your community, you have your educational resources and your chamber and your health system. You have the people who care for the elderly and for the children and those working for racial justice. It’s my honor to work with these people.”

Her goal, she said, “is to help them focus on donors who can help them strengthen this whole community.”

Perry said any concern about nonprofit competition for the same dollars is unfounded.

“People talk about donors who are over-tapped and about donor fatigue. We don’t believe in it,” Perry said.

“When you, the fundraiser, are all about the money, the donor feels beset. But if you’re educating your donor and are inviting to them and paying attention to them and listening to them, it’s a lovely thing. This kind of fundraising is not about the money. You do this other, softer work, the fun work, the relationship work, then the money flows. That’s the strategy.”

Participants in the workshop agreed on the importance of Perry’s message.

Jerry McIntosh, president of the Pensacola-based civil rights and social justice nonprofit Movement For Change, said, “We’re kind of living on a shoestring budget, so we’re learning how to find good donors to make sure the organization is self-sustaining. We’re learning there’s a lot of work that has to be done to cultivate a good board.”

Yolanda Petty, second-vice president of Progressive Black Women’s Coalition, said, “You have to find people that have the same interests and care about what we care about. As Gail would say, ‘What is your Why?’ When you’re able to connect with people and share your vision and the ‘Why,’ you’re at that point that you can make a big difference. When you come across those people and they are willing to give, let them know how what they give impacts your organization and let them know you appreciate their thoughtfulness and care.”

Troy Moon contributed to this report.