Revolving Door at Top Nonprofit DM Positions

Three of the most influential women in direct response marketing made career moves in the past few months, two testing the consulting field, and one making an internal move.

What trickle down effects might occur in an organization when one of the direct response-marketing gurus leaves the nest, especially one that has had a significant impact?

One of the three women who were featured in the March 15 NonProfit Times Direct Marketing Edition, Margaret Guellich, CFRE, was the director, direct marketing at Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) until a recent promotion to director, international fundraising partnerships.

Lindy Litrides, the former senior vice president, relationship marketing for the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta, along with Aggie Alexander, who was senior vice president, national direct marketing for ALSAC-St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., have both hung up their nonprofit executive fundraising cleats to pursue consulting careers.

These women, with over 60 years of knowledge in the third sector will continue to influence direct response marketing – but in different capacities.

Guellich, who has 30 years experience, is now involved in CRS’s day-to-day operations but will remain a part of fundraising strategy meetings. Her focus will be on empowering the organization’s partners through building successful fundraising programs.

“My focus is to work with our partners overseas to help them build their own capacity and sustainability in fundraising,” Guellich said. “For many years our partners would say that they wanted to raise more money on their own, they wanted to be a bit more independent.”

CRS has never had anybody that it could deploy internationally until Guellich, who has already made several trips globally in her time at the organization.

“I guess it was highlighted with the honors I had received, particularly last year, and Ken (Hackett, executive director at CRS) felt it was CRS’s opportunity to be and put forth, and to respond to our partners’ needs overseas and say you know we’ve got somebody,” explained Guellich.

While Guellich, who is always offering tips to colleagues, is excited about spreading her knowledge throughout CRS, Litrides and Alexander are dipping their toes into the shark-infested consulting waters.

Litrides has formed her own consulting firm in Atlanta, Litrides & Associates, and has lassoed three clients since launching the firm August 15.

“I gave the Arthritis Foundation 11 years of my talent and expertise and I wanted to make the change so I could impact a large number of organizations,” Litrides said. “There are a lot of good nonprofit organizations out there doing good work with great missions, and I just feel that I’m at the point in my career right now where my talent and expertise can be shared with a lot of organizations. So that I can give more back to the industry.”

One aspect that Litrides will focus on with her firm is privacy and she said if an organization is interested in creating a privacy policy that goes throughout the enterprise she would work with them to do that.

“I am having so much fun right now that it would be very difficult for me to transition back into a nonprofit organization structure at this point in time,” Litrides said.

Litrides said she is enjoying the new challenge so far but added she could “never say never” to a return to a nonprofit.

Alexander spent 13 years at St. Jude’s and is currently in limbo about whether to consult or take on another nonprofit position. She said moving from Memphis is conceivable if the ideal opportunity comes along. The phone has already rung a few times with people inquiring about her consulting, she noted.

“I haven’t really committed to either one,” she admitted in a phone conversation from Memphis. “In other words, I’m not telling anybody, ‘well no I’m trying to put my own company together, I’m not interested in working for you’ because you know if a really good opportunity comes along (at a nonprofit) I certainly am open to that.”

According to Alexander, she was hired to do a job at St. Jude’s and she delivered. She increased revenue while decreasing the cost.

“So we put it all together and it was … it was just time to move on … If I didn’t go now I wouldn’t go,” Alexander said.

Filling the vacancy

David Edell, executive recruiter and president of Development Resource Group in New York City, said organizations are looking for two specific things when seeking top-level development executives.

First of all, does the executive have the potential to see the entire fund development picture and the issues that relate to membership development, donor development, expanding the base, broadening the image, and stewarding relationships with key funders?

The second issue, he said, “I think that people look for the kinds of people who have the confidence and the presence to be out and working one-on-one with funders and donors.” Edell said, “To meet with donors, to meet with funders, to negotiate gifts, and to be very proactive in terms of the whole external side of what the business is.”

CRS’s Hackett said it’s currently in the process of recruiting Guellich’s replacement, but the overall focus is on a comprehensive and cohesive marketing strategy.

“Hopefully we can envision as we continue to grow and build on the many successes we’ve had, many of them in the direct mail arena led by Margaret. … We can extend basically both our brand a little bit because we’re still not that well known,” Hackett said. “And build that extension on the solid base that Margaret helped create.”

Although Hackett sees no reason for major alterations to the direct marketing component of CRS, continuing Internet activity and nationwide advertising will be intensified.

“As part of our strategic plan one particular and very important element is the building of relationships with our partners and our broader community,” said Hackett. “We recognize that we cannot do everything alone and it is through our partners overseas — and our partners here in the United States — that we will achieve the results that we want to achieve.”

According to Arthritis Foundation President & CEO Tino Mantella, the organization has promoted from within the organization, with two people taking over the reins left by Litrides. Angie Moore, group vice president, direct marketing, is now in charge of the direct day-to-day operations of the department and will report to Becky Burkett, who was hired as chief development officer.

“(The two) have lots of years experience and I have 100 percent confidence, that they’ll keep us moving onward and upward here,” said Mantella. “It does represent about 700 contributors and $21 million, so it’s an important program to us. We’re committed to it.”

Mantella said the organization seeks different ways to de-tangle the infrastructure. There’s three categories: membership, donor acquisition, and then also the magazine Arthritis Today, he added, and the goal is to bolster all of those.

“Like any organization, and new people coming and looking at it, we’re looking at ways to even take it to another level,” said Mantella. “As we started to look at the organizational structure I decided to have a chief development officer then five people/five different departments report to the chief development officer, which I like more. I like to have a flatter organization.”

St. Jude’s, like the Arthritis Foundation, found a replacement in-house, transferring the senior vice president for gift planning, after conducting an extensive search, said Richard C. Schadyac, the organization’s CEO.

Schadyac said he was shocked when Alexander told him of her decision to leave, but added that he understood because she’s indicated in the past that she was considering the change. “But I’ve always talked her out of it (until now),” he quipped.

“We were very strong in gift planning. We promoted the number two person to the number one shop – gift planning,” explained Schadyac.

“I think she’ll have her own footprint on it (fundraising strategy).”