Advancing in world of fund-raising

Advancing in world of fund-raising

By Annabel Girard on Feb 4th, 2001 12:33 PM

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In 10 years, Danville man has built Global Advancement into a major player in the field of raising money

LEXINGTON  Robert K. Lewis beams when he talks about his staff at Global Advancement. "Our 19 professionals have a combined 197 years experience in institutional advancement."

Counting Lewis, four of the 19 call Danville home. However, don't expect to see all four Danvillians, or even the full staff hanging out at the office. Lewis puts 40,000 miles a year on his car plus spends a lot of hours in the air.

To provide a full-service, fund-raising business, Lewis over the years has put together a team that includes full and part-time staff each bringing special talents to the company that not only helps non-profits raise money for a particular project such as $2.8 million for Lexington Children's Theater, but also can help with board building, executive searches, annual campaigns and communications.

"What's important is the synergy of our group," he said. While the staff works together, each has a different area of expertise. John Hudson, former superintendent of Kentucky School for the Deaf, currently is working with the Kentucky division of the national Dollars for scholars. Those duties include overseeing the organization of a new governing board and raising money.

Linda Barnard's interest in the arts led her into the development field after getting a degree in arts administration. The director of the arts administration program knew Lewis because he had taught a course on fund-raising and suggested Barnard get in touch with him. While her background has been focused on classical music, her venture into the arts field has exposed her to a variety of arts, ranging from classical to country.

Jason Embry's areas of expertise include annual giving, alumni relations, volunteer management and comprehensive campaigns. One project that pulls together several staff members is the Kentucky Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame at Renfro Valley, which is launching a $3.5 million capital campaign. Global's involvement includes producing much of the fund-raising material.

"To the best of my knowledge, we are the only full-service, fund-raising firm in Kentucky," Lewis said. "We are the only one listed." There are about 15 certified fund-raisers in Kentucky, he said. Five, including Lewis, work for Global Advancement. Only eight members of the staff come into the Lexington office on a regular basis. Four are full-time. Some even live out of state. But with telephone calls, e-mail and networked computers, everyone keeps in touch. Each quarter, there is a.

Only eight members of the staff come into the Lexington office on a regular basis. Four are full-time. Some even live out of state. But with telephone calls, e-mail and networked computers, everyone keeps in touch. Each quarter, there is a breakfast meeting of staff members where ideas and issues are discussed. Everyone available, except those who live out of state, shows up for these meetings.

Lewis, whose background is in fund-raising and communications, stated Global Advancement in 1990, working out of his home, which at that time was in Lexington. A Danville native, Lewis graduated from Centre College. From 1963-1967, he ran Centre's annual fund, then worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense serving as spokesman, a job he also did for the naval Academy. For five years beginning in 1983, he did development for Virginia Polytechnical Institute and University. During that time, the university held a major campaign that raised $108 million in three years.

It was a natural that his first client was Pikeville College. Then came Cardinal Stadium. "That really made it possible for us to move in here," here being the World Trade Center in Lexington. What Lewis has found is that one client leads to another. While he was working with Pikeville College, Cumberland College asked for his help. As he wrapped up the contract with Pikeville, Lewis picked up Cumberland. "I didn't want similar clients in the same geographic area."

Work for the Southern Center on Human Rights in Atlanta led to work for the American Cave Conservation Association, based in Horse Cave. One of the center's board members is a board member of the cave association.

Handling the fund drive for Lexington Children's Theater was an outgrowth of an earlier project tracking down a grant for the arts group.

Cumberland College continues to be a client. One avenue Lewis used to give the college visibility was to recommend it establish a communications council. Media representatives from throughout the state are members. Not only are they briefed on the college, the members also provide tips to the college on how to get more recognition. One outgrowth of that is the Kentuckian of the Year award that has been established by the college.

"When we first started, big jobs would go to firms in Chicago, Los Angeles. We would get the little ones." A turning point for Global was when it go the contract to handle the Legacy II fund drive for the Kentucky History Center, which raised $4 million over two years. That established Global's reputation. "We have gotten our share of major contracts," Lewis said. "It took us time to build relationships and build credibility."

He estimates about 70 percent of the business comes from Kentucky and 30 percent from national clients. In the beginning, there was a lot of "beating the bushes" to get the name and reputation of Global before non-profit organizations. Now that the company is established, "we have a lot of people call," Lewis said.

"It's taken 10 years to get to this point."


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