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Young Professional Spotlight: Kayleigh Stampfler, CFRE

July 26, 2017

Kayleigh StampflerQ: Tell us a little about your upbringing. Did you want to be a fundraiser growing up, or be involved in the philanthropic sector?

A: My parents taught me the importance of giving back at a very young age. I grew up in a small town in Northern New York, so neighborly values were strong. By elementary school I was a pro at raffles, pancake breakfasts, and selling out the local ham dinner. I had no idea there were people in the world who made a career out of managing volunteers, events, and donations. The philanthropy I grew up with is different than what I focus on in my current job. However, it was the sense of volunteerism that my parents instilled in me that led me to where I am today. I carried my love of humanity and my neighbors with me to Rochester when I went to college. My first full-time nonprofit job was working at the place I volunteered at throughout my undergraduate classes

Q: What is the mission of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, and what does it do?

A: The Community Foundation improves the quality of life for people in our eight-county region through leadership and strategic grantmaking. Our mission is to empower donors and community partners to strengthen our region through philanthropy. We lead, inspire, and support positive, enduring community change.

The Community Foundation is a steward of both charitable funds and endowments. As a leading grantmaker, we focus on two broad goals. The first is Creating an Equitable Community. We work to close the academic achievement and opportunity gap, fostering racial and ethnic understanding and equity, and partnering against poverty to help neighbors in need. The second is Strengthening Our Region’s Vitality: supporting vibrant and diverse arts and cultural offerings, preserving our region’s rich historical assets, and promoting successful aging.

Q: You were just promoted to Senior Philanthropic Advisor earlier this year. Tell us a little about your job now and its responsibilities.

A: I joined the Community Foundation at an exciting time of growth. I helped our philanthropic engagement team become more proactive. After two years of building a new strategic framework to engage donors, we realized we needed more help. As the only gift officer, my portfolio was becoming too large, and we had more ideas than we did time to execute them.

Earlier this year we added two new members to our team, and both report to me—it’s my first foray into management. One took over half of my portfolio so I can focus on our top tier donors. The other is a jack-of-all-trades who alleviates many of the day-to-day tasks for our entire team. We are able to approach our jobs with more creative space because of the newfound efficiency, and our meetings are becoming less about tasks and more about the big picture. The first item on our agenda was to better engage our professional advisor connections. I spend a large portion of my time working with trust and estate attorneys, financial advisors, and accountants.

But my favorite piece of my job will always be sitting down with donors and finding out their passions. Whether helping someone start a donor advised fund or setting up legacy plans, I love watching their eyes light up as they tell you the mark they hope to leave on this world.

Q: You received your MPA in Nonprofit/Organizational Management from State University of New York College in Brockport. What was that like?

A: During my first full-time job at Gilda’s Club, I had a colleague who was halfway through SUNY’s MPA program. I had been thinking I would go back for an MBA, but with her guidance I decided a part-time MPA was better for me. I was hired at Gilda’s Club to work on the program side of the business. After the economy took a sharp downturn, I realized I needed to help fundraise to keep the programs running. The more I got into fundraising – crowdfunding, grants, special events, major donors, etc. – the more I enjoyed it. Graduate school was a logical next step. There are many MPA programs in New York State and beyond. Brockport was an easy choice for me because of its proximity and local reputation. I am very glad I worked full-time while taking classes. I feel I got more out of the program seeing the lessons I learned take place in real life on a daily basis.

Q: What were your first couple of jobs like in the sector? What did you learn? Was there anything surprising to you when you first began working as a fundraiser?

A: My first jobs in the field introduced me to organizations of varying sizes and purposes. I’ve worked at organizations with budgets less than $400,000 to those with assets over $400,000,000. I’ve raised money for arts and culture, human services, and even unrestricted endowment for an entire region. I’ve quickly learned that I am in fundraising to advocate for the donor and the greatest needs of our community. I loved my time at organizations with specific missions, but I found I disliked putting donors “in a box.” If a potential donor came to me wanting to feed the hungry and I was raising funds for the arts, I did not like the feeling of helplessness that came with not being an expert on hunger. At the Community Foundation I can help almost anyone achieve their philanthropic goals.

The most surprising aspect of fundraising in our region is the sheer volume of requests received by funders. We have around 5,000 nonprofits in the Rochester region. This situation creates a highly competitive environment and lots of donor fatigue. I wish there was less ego and more collaboration when it came to creating new programs and reinvigorating longstanding ones. I am very thankful to be at an organization like the Community Foundation that strives to understand the greatest needs of our community and fund those needs first.

Q: What is your dream job when it comes to fundraising and the nonprofit sector? Do you have a specialty or type of fundraising you most enjoy?

A: My favorite part of fundraising is working with donors on their legacy planning. Working at a community foundation allows me to sit across from someone with no agenda other than wanting to help them be as charitable as possible. The authenticity this allows is critical for me. While I have raised money for specific causes in the past, working at an organization that supports many nonprofits allows me to be a “Jill-of-all-trades.” I like to be the person that knows enough to be dangerous about many topics.

Q: You’re one of our first Outstanding Young Professionals. What do you think when you first got the news?

A: I was giddy! You do not become a fundraiser for the adulations – you do it to give that feeling to your volunteers and donors. Receiving recognition like this was truly humbling. I was honored someone took the time to write my nomination and touched that others who read it felt my accomplishments were deserving of the award. Most of all, I was excited that a little place like Rochester, New York, could compete with the other cities on the list of awardees.   

Q: You’ve done an amazing job already in your (relatively) young career. Any secrets to your success, or pieces of advice, ideas, or principles you’ve taken to heart that help you move forward?

A: Fundraising should always be about the long game, the relationship. My advice is to work extra hard to get a better gift next year or in a few years than to worry about hitting an arbitrary goal. The donor doesn’t care about your goals. Do not push your agenda on a donor. Make sure the fit and timing are right. Be authentic and always put your donor first.

At the same time, your donor also deserves the opportunity to say “yes” to a gift, so don’t use donor-centricity as an excuse to never make an ask. Balance is critical. If the project is an absolute fit for your donors, they deserve to know about it. If you are embarking on a campaign, and they would be embarrassed to see their names left off the list of supporters, you owe it to them to at least make the ask. Be respectful of past gifts and share that they are too important to not be among the first to know about the newfound opportunity. 

Q: What do you think are the one or two most important issues for the profession to address at this moment?

A: I see two key issues right now. The first is equity in fundraising. We need to work harder as an industry to understand what “giving back” looks like in different communities. When discussing the face of philanthropy and vehicles of giving, we should remember the various value systems that make up our region.

The second is succession planning for both senior leadership and donors. Nonprofits are not planning—or perhaps not adequately communicating the plan—for leadership transitions. This is not an issue for any one organization or region; it is across the board. The same issue also holds true when looking at major donors. Gen Xers and Millennials have a different relationship with philanthropy than other generations. We need to get ahead of the curve so that our communities thrive through the transition.

Q: Why did you decide to get your CFRE?

A: It can be hard to get respect and earn trust as a young fundraiser. I achieved the CFRE to add credibility to my name.

Q: Do you think the profession is doing a good job of reaching out to young people and encouraging them to get into fundraising and philanthropy? What could we do better?

A: The field has changed drastically over the past ten years. There are many more degree and certificate programs funneling young people into the fundraising career path. I wish I saw more fundraisers talking at career days and offering internships to get youth excited about what we do.

Q: What would you say to young professionals looking for their first job in fundraising?

A: It’s all about the mentor. Find an organization that has a leader that you trust, admire, and respect. Get face time with that leader and learn as much as you can. Say “yes” to new projects and take the time to find the area of the business you like best.

Q: Sounds like you've had an important mentor relationship. Can you tell us how that started and then developed?

I am very lucky because of the great many mentors in my life. The majority of them are people I met at or during previous jobs. I am inquisitive by nature and like to understand the big picture. Those seasoned professionals who bore the brunt of my questions—and found them charming rather than annoying—typically stuck by me, even when my path took me away from the origin of our connection.

Just like relationships with donors, relationships with mentors need to be cultivated. Most of my mentors have become dear friends. I am at a point in my career now where I too am a mentor to others. My favorite mentees are the ones who also teach me. No matter the age or experience level, fresh and varying perspectives always add value.

Q: Has it been easy to find and network with other young professionals? What do you do (if anything)?

A: I attend the AFP Young Professional Networking group on occasion. I much prefer the one-on-one setting, so more often than not you will find me asking other young fundraisers for lunch or coffee.

Q: What has your experience with AFP been like? What could AFP be doing better?

A: AFP has provided excellent learning and networking opportunities. In our small region, there is a lot of competition among nonprofits. At AFP Genesee Valley Chapter events you truly feel a sense of comradery. I am so grateful for that. I do wish there were more scholarships to send employees to events like the annual International Fundraising Conference. It can be hard for grassroots nonprofits in smaller cities to find budget money to send people to events in big cities. 

Q: How do you balance work and your personal life?

A: I set boundaries. It is so easy to be connected 24/7. I admit that I have been known to answer emails after midnight, but I have learned that setting aside time to recharge makes me more efficient overall. I also like to find personal volunteer projects that overlap or complement my job.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I like to travel in my spare time. The Finger Lakes are a quick car ride away, and my husband and I enjoy hiking with our two dogs, winery hopping, and sampling the local craft brews.

Q: Last three songs you’ve listened to?

A: Today in the office we listed to Mumford and Sons Radio on Pandora. At home my Spotify is tuned to the “Trolls” soundtrack—oh, the joys of having a five year old niece!

Q: Current book you’re reading, or show you’re watching (binging, or otherwise)?

A: My husband and I just discovered the show “Travelers” on Netflix. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment of “Doctor Who!”

Q: You have a long night of working ahead.  What do you order out or make for dinner?

A: A long night of work for me typically means I am playing hostess at an event or being a dutiful volunteer at a committee meeting. Events usually mean snagging appetizers as they come around and the standard gala-style chicken dinner. Committee meetings usually mean the emergency granola bar in my desk, or pizza if the meeting organizer is feeling extra generous!



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