December 2015 Member Spotlight


Name: Leticia John
Institution: HelpMeSee
Position: Donor Engagement Manager

ADRP member for one year



How long have you worked in donor relations/stewardship and how did you get involved in this profession?
I started my career in nonprofit development in 2007. In my opinion, donor relations and stewardship encompasses all aspects of nonprofit management from programs, volunteerism and of course fundraising. While obtaining my master’s degree at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University – I pursued development and fundraising positions to grant me access to nonprofit organizations that I was passionate about, but did not necessarily have experience or expertise in their subject matter.

What do you like most about being a member of the ADRP?
I appreciate the fact that ADRP has an active member base that is responsive, thoughtful and kind in helping other members develop professionally, and create new systems/concepts, etc., in an effort to advance the field as a whole. It’s a great network and there is something special about being in a group of like-minded people who speak your “language,” experience your challenges, champion your successes, and validate/critique your work.
What is your greatest donor relations/stewardship achievement?
There are so many types of “wins” as a donor relations professional. Some are direct and others are indirect. My “greatest wins” are when you introduce or cultivate a prospect, who had little or no interest in your cause, and over time they become your organization’s greatest champion. It takes strategy, good communication, and consistency to empower your organization to develop meaningful relationships with their donors and friends. I hope my greatest achievement is yet to come.

What is the most important professional goal you are currently pursuing, i.e., attaining a degree, preparing to give a presentation, launching an initiative at work or in your community, etc.?
Academic institutions have set the standard for donor stewardship and engagement best practices. I am fortunate to have started my career in that sector. I find it interesting and challenging trying to implement such practices in other health care, government, and social service-like nonprofits. Perhaps the key is that these nonprofits don’t have a natural affinity or membership base which makes it harder to connect and or reconnect in competing for donor attention.

I would like the experience of developing and/or incorporating donor relations/stewardship systems in all the major nonprofit sectors. I am truly passionate about health-related causes and, at HelpMeSee, our mission is to solve the crisis of preventable cataract blindness in the developing world in two decades.

The majority of our donors are located in the U.S. and some are international. Our work, however, is solely focused in Asia, Africa, and Latin America – where untreated cataracts are the cause of vision loss in 90% of individuals who become blind.

Our success is a collaborative effort. In addition to partnering with local healthcare practitioners to deliver surgeries, we have also formed a multinational team of medical and engineering experts to create a cataract surgical simulator and a geographic mapping technology to train surgeons and expand our reach.

In my current role, I am tasked with building/instituting better donor relations and stewardship communications and practices. One of my immediate challenges is proving the ROI for our stewardship efforts and changing the culture in which we, as an organization, treat our donors, and establishing strategies that meet the needs of our various donor demographics.

How big a role does the use of social media play in your work?
Currently social media does not play a major role in my work strategy. That, however, is largely due to technology limitations. I would love to work in a platform/interface that would allow me to more routinely integrate donor stewardship practices via social media. Successful peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding via social media is a game changer. Mastering the art of tracking, thanking, and updating individuals for their efforts would be ideal. I imagine the technology is out there, as major retailers always make me feel loved and appreciated. The nonprofit sector, I’m sure, needs a discount.

Is there a resource, i.e., book, blog, website, etc., that you would recommend to other ADRP members?
My “Ah-ha” book is by Marshall Howard – Let’s Have Lunch Together. Among many other things – I appreciate this resource because it simplistically highlights the power of building good relationships and treating people with kindness and respect, not just as a dollar figure. It’s a fast and easy read.

What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?
Smile. (Be aware of how your resting face may appear to others.)
First impressions make a difference.
Listen first, talk second.
Always have a business card on hand.
Honor your presence and be open to offer your “services”/network to others.

Are there any particular stories, insights, etc., from your experiences in donor relations and stewardship that you would like to share with our colleagues?
Donor relations is often the “connector” between different programs or departments. I make it a priority to spend extra time with my co-workers to learn about what’s going in their world. I am always surprised by the things/initiatives/developments that somehow fall under the radar as not being important or relevant. I prefer to be proactive rather than reactive in everything I do – and it sets me apart from the pack.

If you would be interested in being featured in this column or have someone you would like to suggest, please contact Dianne Dyslin, Member Spotlight editor.

Back to the December 2015 Hub