Fundraising pioneer Jimmie R. Alford, the founder and chairman of the eponymous consulting firm to nonprofits, died this morning at his home of an apparent heart attack. He was 69-years old.
“He was a visionary, mentor, colleague and inspiration to everyone at The Alford Group. This past summer upon winning a Lifetime Achievement Award from a Chicago business organization, Jimmie related that he was so grateful that he was able to live a life of significance. We were continually humbled by his dedication and passion and we will mission him,” according to an announcement released by The Alford Group.
A member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) since 1973, Alford had almost 50 years’ experience in the nonprofit industry. In 1979, he founded The Alford Group, which is headquartered in Evanston, Ill., and has offices in Boston, Mass., and Seattle, Wash.
He is a former chair of the American Association of Fundraising Council (AAFRC), now called the Giving Institute, and a former board member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation and the Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy. Alford was included in the inaugural NPT Power & Influence Top 50 list in 1998, and again in 1999.
AFP President and CEO Andrew Watt recalled the valuable advice Alford offered when he was considering taking the helm of the Alexandria, Va.-based fundraising association several years ago. “He said, ‘AFP is an organization with a great past that needs a more extraordinary future.’ It was his vision for AFP that AFP act as a convener rather than a dictator. That was one of the things that made AFP a profoundly interesting organization,” said Watt.
“The Alford Group had always been one of AFP’s most important partners,” said Watt, calling Alford a “passionate supporter” of NSFRE (National Society of Fund Raising Executives) and the causes they represented.
“He was a very strategic and thoughtful individual and the legacy he left at The Alford Group has continued through the years into an extraordinary organization,” he said.
Our profession has lost one of the leaders of our generation,” said Robert Hartsook, chairman of Hartsook Companies in Kansas City, Mo. He called Alford “a great spirit of professional fundraising who set his mark not only through his personal example, but his philanthropy. In business, he was a great competitor and a good person,” said Hartsook.
“Jimmie lived philanthropy. He believed it, thought about it, practiced it, cared about it, trained others to be involved in it,” said Nancy Raybin, senior consultant and principal at Marts & Lundy, Inc. in Lyndhurst, N.J. “It is quite sad to know that a leader, a friend and a hero is gone. Jimmie was a giant, and his ongoing influence will be missed,” she said.
AFP’s chair-elect, Bob Carter, called Alford a “true pioneer” in the fundraising industry. “I was fortunate enough to present Jimmie with the Lifetime Achievement AFP Award several years ago and he has continued to make contributions to benefit not only the profession but the millions served. We shall miss him,” said Carter, president of the Bob Carter Companies in Sarasota, Fla.
“Jimmie was a highly respected competitor in our industry for many years ands served clients with expertise and integrity. We served on the committees at AAFRC and he was always objective and wise in helping shape our industry,” said Carter.
Alford was an early advisor to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, according to Eugene R. Tempel, Ph.D., president emeritus of the IU Foundation and founding dean of Indiana’s University’s School of Philanthropy. “From his tireless involvement with Giving USA Foundation and helping make Giving USA a valuable resource for fundraisers to his firm’s commitment to strengthening nonprofits’ capacity to fulfill their missions, he was dedicated to helping people and nonprofits make a difference in the lives of others,” said Tempel.
He cared deeply about attracting exceptional young people to work in the fundraising profession, said Tempel, and was “very helpful in assisting us in placing our graduates in meaningful fundraising positions in the Chicago area and elsewhere.”
Alford and his wife, Maree Bullock, were presented with the 2012 “Spirit of Youth” award last month from the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS). They are long-time supporters of the Chicago, Ill.-based agency, which recognized their work and dedication in helping to keep runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.
Alford held a master’s degree in administration and organization behavior, in addition to an honorary Doctor of Laws from North Park University and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Aurora University. He served as member of the Board of Directors for North Park University and the advisory board of North Park’s Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management. He was executive in residence at Axelson and taught graduate courses in nonprofit management as well as seminars at Notre Dame University.
Alford also was a board member for Aurora University and The Barat Education Foundation, a member of the Business Advisory council of Trinity International University, as well as chair of Families International and former board chair of the Alliance for Children & Families. Alford was editor and chapter author for the book, “Building and Managing An Asset Base,” published by the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy’s New Directors for Philanthropic Fundraising program.
Bereavement details will be announced in the coming days through The Alford Group.