AFP Member Spotlight: Mark Chilutti, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Mark Chilutti, CFRE, who shared with us how a life-altering event led him to the fundraising profession. He’s spent the last 22 years making an impact at the organization that made a phenomenal difference in his own life.
Q: How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there?
A: Like many, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a fundraiser. I actually was a jeweler and in December of 1996 my store got robbed. I cooperated completely and still got shot. That bullet severed my spinal cord, leaving me paralyzed from the chest down, and changed my life. After two weeks in an acute care hospital, I came to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital for my rehab and to figure out how I would move forward with life. After my discharge I got involved at Magee as a volunteer doing public speaking and helped with fundraising. A few years later, in January of 2001 when it was time to put my time and talents to use, I started at Magee in a fundraising role. I’ve been here for over 22 years now and have been able to really make an impact in my second career. It also feels good to give back to the hospital that made such a difference in my life.
Q: When and why did you decide to become an AFP member?
A: I became an AFP member in my first month on the job, as I was chosen as a scholarship recipient by the Greater Philly Chapter to attend the Fundamentals of Fundraising course at Villanova. My boss was active in our chapter, so it was easy for me to get involved. I also knew about AFP (though it was still called the National Society of Fundraising Executives then) since I was recognized by the chapter for my volunteer fundraising efforts during National Philanthropy Day in November of 2000.
Q: Are you doing anything innovative at your organization (or a past organization) that you think other fundraisers could benefit from?
A: Those who know me from sessions I’ve led locally, virtually, or at AFP ICON know that I am a HUGE stewardship guy, so I am always creating fun ways to thank our donors frequently for the impact that their support has made. We work so hard to secure the gift and stewardship should be treated as the year-round celebration of it. It also can be a lot of fun and leads to stronger relationships.
Q: What is your favorite word? (only one word) How has this word influenced or inspired your career?
A: If I could only choose one, it would be impact, as I am always trying to share with donors the impact their support makes on our patients and their families. I talk with volunteers and board members about the impact that their service makes, and I also talk often with fundraising colleagues about the impact that we make through our work.
Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: That’s a tough one, as there have been many, but I would have to pick completing the campaign for the Creative Therapy Center and Healing Gardens at Magee. It was our first successful campaign, it exceeded the goal, and the project has made a significant impact on our patients, their families, and our staff. Each day when I come to work, I get to see people participating in art, music, dance, and horticulture therapies. I also see patients relaxing out on the patio with friends or family members, or working with their therapists to achieve their goals. Having been a patient here myself, I know how important all of that is, so to know I have played a part in it makes me smile and feel pretty good.
Q: How has being an AFP member and participating in the AFP affinity groups benefited you in your career?
A: I had no formal fundraising training or experience when I started and am grateful for all that my local chapter offered that enabled me to learn, grow, and find mentors. Years later, those mentors became friends, and AFP then provided me with the opportunity to give back and help others as they embark upon their careers in fundraising. As for being a part of an affinity group, the disability group was a small one when we met at ICON this year, but we shared something in common, and supported each other over the next few days. It was a new group of friends that I was glad to have met.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
A: There are a lot of organizations raising money and doing great work, but all of us need to cultivate and steward the next generation of philanthropists, and that is a challenge. We need to adapt to different ways and techniques that appeal to them, and provide them opportunities to get engaged.
Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?
A: Our work is hard but incredibly rewarding, so I am thrilled that I ended up in this career. Find a mentor early on who can support you. Join AFP and get involved with your local chapter. Take the time to learn about your organization and the impact that philanthropy makes on it, and that’s the story you want to share with others. And, most importantly, stick around long enough to see and enjoy the impact of your work. It’s not all about what your title is or how much money you made, it’s about the impact you made and the legacy that you leave behind. That’s what we will be remembered for.