Kirsten Rigsby is the Executive Director of the Village Community Resource Center (VCRC) in Brentwood, CA and a graduate of the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at JFKU’s Fundraising Academy. Since she graduated from the Academy, Kristen and her organization have been up to a lot and were recently the recipients of a major grant. We caught up with Kirsten to get her insight into philanthropy at this moment in time and to hear some things her organization is doing that work.
JFKU: As the new decade unfolds, can you share some of your aspirations for philanthropy that could transform your motivation and resiliency in this field?
RIGSBY: In this new decade I find hope in the actions of so many young people who are becoming philanthropically active. Seven in ten young adults self-identify as a social activist and one in two young adults donate time to causes they care strongly about. I believe the future of philanthropy will be bright as these young adults take on increasing levels of leadership in our local communities and our country.
JFKU: What pervasive belief about philanthropy sustains you in your work or sustains your organization as a whole? What gets you and your employees out of bed every morning and coming in to work?
RIGSBY: The strength and resilience we are witnessing from the families and communities we work with inspires me and definitely keeps me going. I believe that philanthropy means we are all connected and that we need each other. The strength of the organization depends on the successes we see among the clients we serve and the commitment of the donors. The donors are key to continuing the philanthropic work we are all about.
JFKU: What trends in philanthropy are you optimistic about or leave you with concerns?
RIGSBY: Compensation of nonprofit workers is an issue our entire sector needs to examine and address through honest dialogue with one another, our supporters, and the public. I am concerned about our nonprofit workforce and especially about the outlook for fundraising professionals. The 2019 AFP Compensation and Benefits study found that between 2017 and 2018 average compensation rose by 7.7% in the U.S. (to $83,826); however, most of those people surveyed by AFP only saw a 1%-3% increase in salaries or wages. Additionally, since 2016 the share of employers that offer coverage for specific types of health care (prescriptions, dental, vision, etc.) has declined. These trends lead to high turnover, decreased productivity, and major challenges for our nonprofit organizations and those we serve.
JFKU: How has SIP helped you address fundraising challenges and enhanced your outlook and perspective?
RIGSBY: SIP has helped our organization address the challenges of engaging board members in fundraising activities. It has helped us to have difficult discussions, speak openly and honestly, and develop a shared sense of responsibility for fundraising.
JFKU: Can you share how you’ve been able to overcome any challenges related to board or volunteer engagement to support your fundraising efforts?
RIGSBY: We are very clear at the outset about our expectations of what is required for board members and volunteers. We also utilize dashboards to track performance and accountability in all areas including strategic planning, fundraising, and other areas. Additionally, one practice that has been successful for us in terms of relationship-building with donors and also putting our board members to use is having board members call donors to thank them for their support of the organization and also to just chat with them and get to know them.
Stay tuned for more insights from the SIP community coming soon!