The annual RAISE Awards honor the vision, passion, and dedication of top fundraising professionals and their nonprofit organizations.
And what a group of #FearlessFundraisers it is.
Check out the award winners from past Raise Conferences.
This award acknowledges the rockstars among us, who aspire and inspire us each and every day. These individuals live out the organization’s mission, are dedicated to the donor experience, never stop learning, and always gives 100% to the cause.
This award goes to a Nonprofit recognized for excellence in communicating their purpose and vision through branding, narrative, and promotion that informs the mind and moves the heart.
This award goes to the Nonprofit most marked by creativity in the fundraising process. This organization is one that pushes itself, inspires others, and consistently reaches for new heights by implementing new ideas.
Katie joined United Way 3 years ago, leading an organization that hadn’t hit its fundraising goals in over 10 years.
She’s shown everyone that impossible is possible – encouraging her team to think outside the box. Her employees call her the heart of the organization. A boss lady that walks beside you, props you up when you need it most, and carries you when things get tough.
Under Katie’s leadership the organization has now hit its fundraising goals three years in a row. This past year they broke records, raising more than they ever have in their rural community.
Throughout Bill’s nearly 20-year career in fundraising, he has helped raise more than $1 Billion.
When Bill came to the Kean University Foundation 3 years ago, he wanted to instill a culture of philanthropy with current and former students, collaborating closely with faculty and the administration.
The Kean University Foundation is a “self-support” operation, on the path to complete self-sufficiency. It is the only institutionally related foundation in the country with this unique and innovative model.
In the 2020 fiscal year, Bill led the Foundation to its best year in both total dollars raised and the largest gift ever received since its founding in 1984.
For more than 16 years, Nathan’s expertise and passion has enabled RAIN to rise to meet the new challenges and needs of individuals living with HIV.
His innovative leadership has grown the organization’s three major fundraising events – from small, unique gatherings to major events that are highly anticipated by the community – with a fellow nonprofit professional calling their 1,400-person Bingo event “the hottest ticket in town.”
These events are not only effective at raising money but also educating the community about the mission of RAIN.
Since Nathan joined in 2005, they’ve seen dramatic increases in the agency’s budget – from less than $500,000 to over $3.5 million in 2020.
Stray Rescue takes in animals no other organization will help. They share the individual stories of animals in need of urgent medical care, bringing supporters on their journey from the initial rescue.
One of the most impactful stories they’ve shared is that of a dog named Harris. After posting his story with a fundraising plea for his medical care, Stray Rescue shared daily updates on his progress – like the first time he sat up on his own, when he took his first steps, and the day he found his voice and barked for the first time!
Donors became emotionally invested.
They now have more than 358 thousand followers on social media from around the world.
The stories from Canine Companions are authentic and organic. They are the stories of volunteers, puppy raisers, and real people whose lives are dramatically improved by their expertly trained service dogs.
Dr. Susan Ryan was photographed during the peak of the pandemic, exhausted on the floor of the hospital with the Canine Companions puppy she was raising.
This image inspired a powerful message: “Disability doesn’t disappear during a crisis. Neither do we.”
This single image would go on to be featured on social media, tv interviews, print campaigns, and even a virtual stream event.
Throughout 2020 – their awareness and engagement grew online to an astounding 4.7 million impressions and acquired 2,872 new donors.
Food Outreach depends on dozens of canned food drives to support individuals living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. Due to COVID-19, they were forced to discontinue canned food drives for the safety of their staff, volunteers, and immunocompromised clients.
The team came together and developed a “Virtual Canned Food Drive” allowing supporters to form teams and compete against one another.
This 2-month campaign shattered its goal to become one of their largest fundraisers in the agency’s 33-year history – providing more than 26 thousand meals.
They continued to innovate rolling out drive-thru lunch meals and expanded home delivery, distributing more than 500,000 pounds of food to clients in need.
Under guidance from JDRF’s National Signature Events team, local chapters took lessons learned from spring 2020 virtual galas and shifted to create JDRF’s virtual “2.0” program, developing out-of-the-box virtual experiences that centered around mission driven, dynamic storytelling, and community building.
These new formats resonated with supporters craving authentic connection. The JDRF Signature Events program is projected to net 35% more than their original goal.
Anthony is fearless in confronting philanthropic challenges.
Whether through tapping into a donor’s passion for cooking or infusing himself in the company culture of potential corporate sponsors, Anthony is committed to finding that connection to the mission and allowing that passion his organization.
He’s credited with instituting new, successful fundraisers and programs such as Dodging for Dollars, a new tradition of hosting an annual Gala, and developing a corporate sponsored Thanksgiving and Holiday Meal that ultimately turned into a regular food program where sponsors teach kids and their families how to cook.
Anthony stresses that fundraising is nothing more than relationship-making – you have to find what a prospective donor enjoys doing, and then cultivate their passion into a way that positively impacts the kids.
He stands outs among his peers and colleagues because not only is he a skilled fundraiser, but he is also committed to building up other individual fundraisers who can make an impact.
In his time with The Boys & Girls Club of Stoneham & Wakefield, Anthony brought the organization from deficit to six-figure surplus, stewarding more than $2 million in major gifts increased revenue by $300,000.00 every year since he started.
Blair has been the biggest supporter and fundraiser for Accountability Lab since it began – training for an Ironman Triathlon to raise $12,000 to get the organization off the ground.
The Accountability Lab was founded in early 2012 as an effort to develop new ideas for accountability, transparency and open government. It has evolved into a global network of local Accountability Labs that are finding new ways to shift societal norms, solve intractable challenges and build “unlikely networks” for change.
Blair has grown Accountability Lab from an organization with $0 and no programs or staff to a global organization with an annual budget of $4 million across 9 countries with 115 staff, as of 2020. All of this happening in some of the most difficult places in the world such as Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mali.
And as many nonprofits were, the Accountability Lab was hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. Blair led the teams to pivot and adapt, focusing on countering misinformation and fake news, raising 8 new grants across Africa and Asia. He is an advocate of radical transparency and champions the development and commitment to the cause of others through giving power away.
He has raised more $100,000 through crowdfunding and has set new fundraising records for the organization every year since it began, even surpassing their $4 million 2020 fundraising goal in June 2020.
When Erik took over as Chief Development Officer, the organization was in a post-capital campaign slump. There had been a significant staff turnover, including the entire leadership team, and what was left of the development team was new and inexperienced. The donor records were in shambles, and many long-term loyal donors hadn’t been contacted for over a year.
Undaunted, Erik set to enlist board and volunteer support and enrolled the full team in major gifts training.
Two and half years later, Metro Caring had closed out its second year in the black.
Each board member manages an active portfolio of donors, nearly 100 people have joined a then two-year old, multi-year giving society, and their annual events are more effective and profitable than ever.
In the words of Metro Caring’s CEO, “Erik is more coach than point guard.” He leads his development team by example. He puts in the hard work and inspires his staff to do the same by connecting their values to the larger mission of the organization.
Open Heart Magic’s mission is to use the therapeutic power of magic and laughter to energize and strengthen seriously ill children. They strive to reach young patients one-on-one regardless of their disease, medical situation, or physical ability.
During the pandemic, Open Heart Magic pivoted to telling their story via social media as part of a campaign to replace their large in-person event.
What started out as Zoom calls with their internal community, quickly turned into a week-long storytelling series with 120 pieces of content highlighting their personal experiences.
Across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and emails, they brought to life what it’s like to walk into the hospital room of a sick child and transform their day through magic.
While they were thrilled with the fundraising and engagement success of the storytelling campaign, they are also celebrating the energy it brought to their volunteers, Board members, and Hospital partners as they were be able to share their connection with Open Heart Magic.
Fleece & Thank You is a Michigan-based nonprofit dedicated to providing connection, comfort, and hope to children facing illness and their families supporting them.
Their signature blanket-making program hosts over 400 events every year to help them achieve their goal of 30,000 fleece blankets – one blanket for every child in Michigan that goes into the hospital for inpatient treatments.
Before the pandemic they relied heavily on corporations, schools and community groups to host blanket events. With the uncertainty of when these groups will be back together, they needed to rethink their outreach strategy.
Fleece & Thank You launched their first ‘Virtual At Home Blanket Making Events’ – providing an opportunity for those in quarantine to come together and make a blanket and video message. These children were left scared and alone as the number of family and friends allowed to visit them in the hospital was abruptly reduced.
At launch, their innovative at-home initiative was featured by the local news immediately bringing in 121 new donors and 368 blanket orders to eventually end up in the hands of 368 comforted kids!
For more than 10 years, Alma has been a champion of mothers and babies in Puerto Rico. She is a true servant leader, who believes no job is beneath her, no one should work alone and that everyone deserves care and respect
There is no greater example of Alma’s leadership than the commitment she demonstrated during Hurricane Maria, ensuring all of her staff were safe, even when she couldn’t reach her own children.
While effects of Hurricane Maria consumed the island, and thousands lived without fresh water, reliable power and significant damage to their homes – Alma held steady that moms and babies needed the March of Dimes and she ensured their partners were able to support the community with – diapers, formula, water, and home healthcare visits.
When the national office re-forecasted their fundraising budget in the wake of the hurricane, Alma disagreed. She believed that the community would rise to ensure the mission remained at the forefront.
In the end, under Alma’s leadership March of Dimes Puerto Rico raised more than $500,000, exceeding their previous year’s fundraising!
Alma’s life is testimony that no fundraiser can claim any obstacle is too big. She was able to lead her team of staff, volunteers, families, and the community to such success when the basics needs of humanity where in question.
After several years of declining attendance and revenue, it was clear the traditional gala model was no longer working for CCRF’s Annual Dawn of Dream Gala.
Going into the event’s 38th year, the team was determined to change up the event to enhance profitability, elevate the attendee experience, and attract the next era of supporters.
The initial refresh started with venue selection – taking the long-standing dinner to a unique, historical venue turned concert hall.
The team wasn’t afraid break the mold of their declining annual event –moving the once fall-based event to the spring, and ultimately renaming the event to “Dream”, pointing to the major developments in cancer research.
The first half of the event catered to a slightly older demographic with larger giving capabilities with a reception, formal dinner program, and live auction.
The team then orchestrated a masterful venue flip clearing 94 tables and 940 guests in just 27 minutes to open doors to another 2,000 guests for a private concert with singer, songwriter, Andy Grammer.
Dinner guests continued to receive the VIP treatment, as they were personally escorted to private suites for the concert.
All concert attendees were then invited to give through a text-to-give link, to keep fundraising at the center of the second portion of the event.
The reimagined “Dream” gala raised $1.3 million that night, marking a 36% increase in overall revenue from the 2017 event. In addition, there were increases in sponsor sales, individual ticket purchases, table purchases, silent and live auction revenue, and directed giving.
After facing the devastation of pediatric cancer firsthand, Gwen left a high-level position in public broadcasting to devote herself in support of families facing pediatric cancer.
At the PUNT Foundation, Gwen strives to create opportunities to bring people directly to the mission whenever possible. Whether that is taking supporters to the pediatric oncology unit, sharing a thank you note from a family they have assisted, or passing along a picture that captures the amazing work they do.
Without a robust marketing budget, endowment, large corporate sponsor, or major donor in their back pocket, Gwen entered their annual gala with the goal of connecting with each guest. And connect she did.
During the event, she shared the story of Nya, an 11-year-old girl who nearly lost her life to cancer, and is now an acclaimed, competitive dancer.
Then, in front of more than 350 guests, Nya was brought on stage to “perform” to tee up a fundraising dance challenge that included getting people up on stage with her.
The result? A stage packed, from end to end, with dancing guests. Before long, EVERY SINGLE GUEST was on their feet, their hearts open, raising money, and celebrating Nya’s victory!
A truly unforgettable fundraising moment propelling the event to a record-setting year.
Morning Light operates a nationally recognized residence for terminally ill individuals who have nowhere else to go during their final days.
As National Hospice month approached in November – the Morning Light team kicked-off a storytelling campaign with a 4-part feature series coordinated with the local newspapers featuring portraits and stories of residents spending their final days at Morning Light.
The idea of the campaign was to let the resident’s share their personal stories – the stories that usually go untold.
They didn’t just deliver the stories once. It was reinforced through all their fundraising efforts over the next 6 months.
They intentionally told a version of the same stories through their year-end emails and direct mail, as well as through television and radio interviews. This multi-touch efforts helped donors and the general audience to truly get to know the residents, building that critical connection with the people they were serving.
At their largest fundraising event in March, the resident profiles were also spotlighted on each table. Keeping the faces and stories consistent again drew that connection back to the residents. That night, the event brought in a record-breaking raise in funds.
As a result of this four-month storytelling campaign, Morning Light more than doubled unsolicited online and walk-in gifts and increased major gifts by 69%, while also doubling Volunteer applications.
Andy Stein founded The Orphaned Starfish Foundation in 2001 to help orphans and victims of abuse worldwide escape the cycles of poverty through technology education and job training.
While on a work trip to Chile, Andy saw firsthand the struggles of orphan girls who at the age of 18 were required to leave the orphanages that offered their only source of support and stability. With limited education and no job prospects, almost everyone fell victim to human traffickers or were forced to live on the streets.
It was there Andy established the Foundation’s first computer learning center where these girls could be trained in basic computer and internet skills.
Over the past 18+ years, Andy has single handedly managed the fundraising portfolio – hiring the foundation’s first Director of Development just in 2020.
The foundation has seen tremendous growth under Andy’s leadership, now serving more than 13,000 children with 62 technology centers in 27 countries all supported by just 5 staff members.
In the summer of 2019, the Boys & Girls club of Noblesville set out to create a campaign that would tell the club’s story from an insider’s perspective – the youth members that attend on a regular basis.
As part of this campaign, they created a marketing video to generate brand awareness and increase social media reach in Noblesville and beyond.
The video was strategically released on social media and email platforms a week before #GivingTuesday to drive awareness with donors, parents, and community members.
Not only did the promoted video help them stand out and achieve a high amount of visibility; it helped drive their #GivingTuesday campaign to bring in 40% more donations over the previous year.
By coordinating renewals and end-of-year solicitations with the Superhero-theme story, the organization was able to increase donations to their annual campaign by 65%.
In 2020, the local chapter was able to serve 2,082 members, and no one was turned away.
Susan is an incredible mighty staff of one, overseeing day-to-day operations, managing volunteers as well as leading all development and strategic responsibilities. The Helene Foundation provides immediate support and services to mothers fighting cancer in North Carolina.
Her mission is to help families with meal delivery, tutoring, child care, house cleaning and assistance with transportation costs to medical appointments and treatments.
She’s not afraid to take chances on new ideas and ways to engage the local community, even racing plastic ducks down a slide at the community pool to raise funds.
The Helene Foundation’s annual gala is their largest fundraiser. Every dollar raised directly impacts the number of families the foundation can support that year. And under Susan’s leadership, they saw a 27 % increase in donations in 2018.
Through all of the hard work and determination, the organization was just able to set up services for their 177th family in 2018.
Darcie embodies a “Lead with Mission” approach to everything she does. She is a caring and committed mentor, advocating for professional development training beyond the leadership team to all levels of the organization.
She knows where and how to push her team and is an inspiration to those she works with. Under her leadership, the Greater Houston Market had seen goal shattering success, already exceeding their budgeted annual revenue and net income for 2018.
Among a long list of accomplishments include:
In April 2018, the Austin chapter turned what had been the Annual “Pink Party” into “The Big Pink Give.” They cut expenses in half for the event and created more exclusive opportunities for attendees to give.
They began by capping the event to 200 seats and expressed their goal of attaining 100% participation in the room. In doing so, they created an intimate VIP experience for what would end up being an evening of unique giving opportunities.
For their live auction, guests were able to bid on exclusive items that would then be donated directly to a breast cancer survivor.
Then, instead of going home with their auction items, these guests went home with a Big Pink Give box, filled with items, generously donated by corporate sponsors. The first live auction item was the opportunity to give a one-of-a-kind, diamond and pink sapphire necklace to the breast cancer survivor who raises the most money at Race for the Cure. The donated necklace was valued at $5500. It sold for $100,000.
The second revenue driver of the evening was a Buy One, Give One purchase. Here, guests could spend $150 to get one piece of jewelry — and then choose a second piece to give to a breast cancer survivor. Each gift included a personalized note to the survivor.
The risks paid off. Susan G. Komen Austin netted a 61% increase in revenue over the prior year’s event and enjoyed record-breaking engagement with 70% of the room donating that evening.
Heather became a crusader to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma after her son Henry was diagnosed at 16 years old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Her powerful journey from patient family, to donor, to volunteer, to staff is an inspiration for all she meets.
Heather’s caring nature, determined work ethic, and professionalism truly set her apart, as she is able to seamlessly work in FDA approvals and clinical trials into casual conversations.
She is a champion for personal development, and hosts “lunch and learns” for staff; telling the organization’s story and strategies for how to interact with patient families.
She fosters a sense of community at every event and is the first to remind the group that we are all there for one mission.
Heather was instrumental in helping the organization raise a record breaking $14.5 million, making them the #1 revenue grossing LLS chapter in the country.
Your causes are at the center of everything we do. Stories of your creativity, success, and impact are what keep us going.
These awards are about you.
– Steve Johns, OneCause CEO
Entries are reviewed by a committee of peer Nonprofit professionals and members of the OneCause team.
Award submissions for 2021 are now closed.