YSU Foundation’s McFadden Shares Insights on Fundraising

POLAND, Ohio — Area fundraising professionals got a crash-course from a local fundraising leader Thursday during a workshop, where discussion about a successful campaign and predictions for the future were outlined.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Mahoning-Shenango (MASH) held a Philanthropy Trends workshop, led by Paul McFadden, president of the Youngstown State University Foundation.

During the program, “Current Trends in Philanthropy and Lessons Learned,” McFadden discussed the We See Tomorrow fundraising effort – the largest in the university’s history. The seven-year initiative generated $125 million.

In his presentation, McFadden attributed the success of the We See Tomorrow campaign to university leadership – from YSU President Jim Tressel and First Lady Ellen Tressel, and college deans and faulty who helped with the cause, to YSU Foundation staff and a volunteer cabinet led by Jocelyne Linsalata.

“Leadership permeated every level. It was all-hands-on-deck,” McFadden said. “That’s why we succeeded.”

The We See Tomorrow campaign ran from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2021. It shattered the previous Centennial campaign, which generated $47 million against a goal of $43 million. It was soon into the campaign that McFadden noticed the trajectory.

“Our first goal was to reach $100 million. We hit that a year and a half early,” he said.

After achieving the goal, McFadden said he thought the Foundation would hold steady, but Tressel set a new challenge to meet $125 million.

“We had to really roll up our sleeves,” McFadden said, adding that it provided opportunities to forge new relationships and continue to grow fundraising efforts.

The university has a data base of 100,000 alumni, McFadden said. More than 50 gifts in the “We See Tomorrow” campaign were $100,000 or more and came from outside the Mahoning Valley.

McFadden said that other nonprofits don’t have that kind of reach at their fingertips like the YSU Foundation. While some YSU graduates move outside of the Mahoning Valley, there is still a sense of hometown pride.

“That’s a responsibility we have at Youngstown State, to embrace those relationships and to bring those funds back to town,” McFadden said.

Just like with most other disciplines, times have changed in fundraising. Holding a red book at the beginning of his presentation, McFadden said almost every page has notes. The book is a directory of alumni, but instead of working out of a bound copy in present-day, fundraisers now use a data base on computers.

“So much has changed, and I think we’re on the cusp of even greater change in the near future,” McFadden said.

One of his predictions for the future of fundraising includes more efforts going virtual. Holding in-person events costs organizations money. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a shift of events going online.

Although they don’t generate as much, the overhead is lower.

For example, McFadden said, in 2019, the Ronald McDonald House Northwest Indiana raised $1 million during an in-person gala, which cost $300,000 with expenses. That compares to an online gala the organization held in 2020, which generated $800,000 against a cost of $35,000.

During meetings, both current and prospective AFP members are invited to attend workshops to educate local fundraisers in various aspects of fundraising, said Linda Kostka, vice president of programs.

Postponed from last year because of COVID-19, Thursday’s presentation is timely as YSU just completed the capital campaign, Kostka said.

“Hopefully people can use what Paul discussed and take it back to their organizations to create their own fundraising programs for 2022,” Kostka said.

It also helps when professionals come together to discuss fundraising, as the greater Mahoning Valley has many nonprofits and most seem to approach the same donors or apply for the same grants. Holding workshops to discuss fundraising is important, Kostka said, because it inspires fundraisers to think outside the box.

For more information on AFP, visit AFPGlobal.org.

Pictured: Paul McFadden, president of the Youngstown State University Foundation, gives a presentation on fundraising.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.