Biz Briefs: Data Axle, Graham-Pelton, Law & Order

Niely Shams was appointed president of the nonprofit division of Dallas, Texas-based Data Axle. She had been serving as executive vice president of sales and client services.

Shams has been with the firm for eight years. She assumes her role at a time when donor activity is on the rise worldwide – but the means for that activity continue to evolve. According to a recent survey by Data Axle, “New best practices to connect with today’s charitable donors,” while donation preferences tend to vary by age, cross-channel communication and fundraising strategies are more important than ever.

Survey findings indicated that when it comes to how people like to contribute to their favorite charities, donors are embracing more and more options. Data Axle continues to advance its strategies and solutions to help nonprofits reach and connect with this evolving cross-channel donor profile.

“Over my time at the company, Data Axle has deepened its commitment to the nonprofit sector and focused on ensuring our clients have access to integrated strategies and solutions at scale. We serve some of the most prominent nonprofits in the world, so this omnichannel perspective and roadmap are essential,” said Shams. “Given my foundational work with our clients and internal consulting and agency teams, I’m incredibly excited about the evolving donor profile and how well Data Axle is positioned to serve nonprofits in this incredibly dynamic sector,” she said.

“As we continue to build out our Nonprofit Solutions Division and survey the sector for top talent, it’s notable that we return to our own phenomenal internal team,” said Data Axle Chairman and CEO Michael Iaccarino. “Niely’s long-standing dedication to serving our clients, and their respect for her will continue to fuel our vision and our growth. The focus on omnichannel fundraising and donor acquisition programs that Niely brings and her intimate knowledge of the nonprofit space position us to serve our clients even more effectively, in their global donor development efforts.”


Graham-Pelton Targets Healthcare With New Service

International fundraising consulting firm Graham-Pelton has launched a new service line designed to improve how patients and their families are engaged to participate in philanthropy. The new service, named Beyond Gratitude™, addresses the analytical and relational domains of a robust grateful patient fundraising program to ensure a fully integrated approach and optimal outcomes. Modular and scalable in nature, it can be fully tailored to respond to any institution’s needs, regardless of size or sophistication.

Beyond Gratitude has been developed under the leadership of Senior Vice President Walt Edwards. His work with more than 1,500 medical practitioners has informed the development of Graham-Pelton’s distinct Beyond Gratitude model. Edwards also serves as the assistant vice president for talent development at the University of Texas at Austin.

“While the service is new in name, it has been decades in the making. It’s a rare opportunity to launch something that is at once new and proven,” according to Elizabeth Zeigler, president and CEO of the Summit, N.J.-based firm.

In the past, many healthcare professionals have been reluctant, if not downright unwilling, to play a role in fundraising. Beyond Gratitude creates an authentic bridge for development and healthcare professionals to form trusted relationships, united in their shared motivations of delivering life-saving patient care and conducting breakthrough medical research, according to Edwards.


Finance Manager Charged in $4.7 Million Theft

The director of business and finance at a Huntington, W.Va., nonprofit has been charged with allegedly stealing $4.7 million from the organization.

Ruth Marie Phillips, 68, of Chesapeake, Ohio, was charged with stealing funds from River Valley Child Development Services (RVCDS) in Huntington, W.Va., according to documents filed in U.S. District Court Southern District of West Virginia. She worked as director of business and finance at RVCDS for almost 34 years, from approximately Dec. 1, 1986 to on or about Sept. 1, 2020. During this time, Phillips was responsible for all financial operations, including monitoring accounts receivable, creating and submitting invoices, reconciling bank accounts and issuing checks.

The criminal complaint alleges that on or about April 2, 2002, Phillips opened a BB&T bank account under the name RVCDS without permission from the organization. Phillips listed her home address on the bank account and used it to allegedly convert approximately $4.72 million of RVCDS funds to her own use.

The criminal complaint further alleges that Phillips used the embezzled money for her own personal use and to fund Attitude Aviation, a full-service fixed-base operator authorized to provide aeronautical services, including fueling, rental of hangar space, aircraft rental, flight instruction and maintenance. Attitude Aviation has offices at Lawrence County Airpark in South Point, Ohio, and Tri-State Airport in Huntington. Phillips owns Attitude Aviation with at least two other people, according to authorities.

RVCDS Executive Director Susan Brodof was cited in local media reports as saying a new bookkeeping employee noticed a few “red flags,” which prompted a full review and led the agency to contact federal authorities.

Phillips, who could not be reached for comment, faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.