AFP Member Spotlight: Carole Richard, J.D., CFRE
AFP Member Spotlights are a recurring series of interviews with AFP members, highlighting the unique individuals and career paths that exist within the fundraising profession. If you know an inspiring fundraising professional who deserves to be featured, please email email@example.com.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Carole Richard, J.D., CFRE, a recent retiree from the fundraising profession. She shares with us how she helped create the Yosemite Chapter of AFP and the work that she did throughout her career on behalf of causes like education, healthcare, and the arts.
How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there?
I was introduced to the fundraising field through my legislative work. After earning an undergraduate degree in political science and my law degree, I spent the early part of my career in various positions in the California State Legislature, focusing on education. During that time, I met the Chancellor for the Yosemite Community College District, Tom Van Groningen, who was an expert in school finance. When he left office he introduced me to his replacement, who informed me of a director of grant development opening. From there, I was promoted to the executive director of resource development, expanding into other areas of fund development for the college district’s two foundations.
I stayed in that position for a few years, before I was recruited to help launch a capital campaign for a local hospice organization, Community Hospice. After ten years there I moved back into education, serving in development roles at UC Merced and Cal State University, Stanislaus.
Finally, in 2015, I accepted a position as director of development for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, which I retired from in 2022.
What do you enjoy most about the fundraising field?
What has brought me the most joy in the fundraising field is the wonderful people I have met. Their generosity, passion, and kindness show me how these individuals have made positive changes in the community. I have also appreciated the many connections I have made with other fundraisers, with whom I have made lasting friendships.
When and why did you decide to become an AFP member?
I became an AFP member around 1998 while in my first fundraising position, director of grant development. As a law school graduate, I always remember the old axiom, “If you’re not competent, get competent!” I knew I needed fundraising professional development, so I attended a local AFP chapter meeting in Sacramento. Soon after, I attended an AFP international conference in Los Angeles. I was hooked! We had no local chapter in my area and making the 75-minute drive to Sacramento prevented many of us from pursuing educational opportunities, so I worked with a couple of colleagues to create the Yosemite chapter of AFP, the 150th chapter of AFP Global.
Our AFP chapter is now thriving, and it is so rewarding to see how it has grown, providing others the opportunity for professional development. Last year, we had a record number of members attend AFP ICON in Las Vegas. I’m confident they recognize the value of AFP, from the conference, as well as the courses, webinars, and other professional opportunities being a member of AFP offers.
How has AFP helped you in your career?
AFP has been the most valuable professional organization in my career, offering me endless opportunities for professional development, as well as lifelong friendships. The international conferences have always been a source of new information as I developed my fundraising skills. Locally, our chapter was able to connect with leaders from California, and throughout the nation, and bring them to our chapter meetings to improve the skills of the fundraisers in our community. AFP was essential in helping me prepare for the CFRE, with education in annual and planned giving, and major gifts. I am proud to note that we have many more CFRE credentialed fundraisers now than ever before in our chapter.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
While I was working for Community Hospice in Modesto, California, we embarked on a capital campaign to build a hospice house for the region. During the campaign, I was fortunate to meet a couple who generously answered our ask to make a significant gift to meet our campaign goal. It was a cold, winter day when the couple visited our office, and we shared a replica of the house with them. We were so pleased when the wife wanted to make one gift to honor her parents. Her husband, however, wanted to do more, to honor his late father. We presented the opportunity to have the house named in his honor and they agreed to a gift to do so. Our CEO, Harold Peterson, and I honored their request and it was named The Alexander Cohen Hospice House, a beautiful home that continues to serve those at the end of life.
I also have to add that I am so proud of all the donors with whom I connected at Modesto Symphony Orchestra, whose passion for music and the arts have helped to maintain its viability in the community. For over 90 years, it has continued to provide music because of generous donors in the greater community.
What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals or people interested in getting into the field?
My advice to other fundraising professionals is to ensure that you take advantage of opportunities for education to become a competent, if not excellent, fundraiser. Join AFP! The profession is constantly evolving and it is so important for us as fundraisers to stay current and develop new skills. And, I would urge any new fundraiser to be committed and passionate to the mission of your organization. That means connecting with your donors and getting to know them. You will realize far more in return, than you give, by doing so.
Are you continuing to stay involved in the profession post retirement?
After retiring I moved to the Midwest, which I am enjoying quite a bit! Despite my move, I’m still a member of the Yosemite Chapter of AFP. I look forward to using my free time to serve on a committee or the AFP Foundation Board. I am also exploring a grant writing opportunity that was offered to me.