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San Fernando
Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Priority Fundraiser

Brigette Loden is the executive director of Community Foundation of the Valleys, a nonprofit that provides financial resources and consulting to charities in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. Loden, a lifelong volunteer, also served as vice president and major gifts officer at Providence Health and Services from 2000 to 2016. She sits on the advisory boards of Building Healthcare for Humanity, KHTS 1220 AM Radio and Valley Nonprofit Resources. Loden has received the Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” award for not-for-profit leadership, as well as the Southern California Association of Healthcare Development’s “Outstanding Leader of the Year” award. The Business Journal caught up with Loden to learn about how she got her start in the nonprofit sector, the ways she’s grown as a fundraiser and how she aims to encourage Valley stakeholders to give back to their community. Question: Why are you invested in helping the Valley in particular? Answer: It’s my community, right? I know both valleys very well. I think there’s so much need and there’s so much we could do. We have the largest surface area in L.A. county. We have the most population, we have the most wealth, the most transfer of wealth coming, but also we have the most poverty. And yet we don’t give enough. Maybe 40 percent. And even if that 40 percent gave 5 percent more, it’d be $300 million more in our valley. How does the Community Foundation of the Valley’s aim to address these issues? Our mission is to inspire, encourage and facilitate charitable giving for lasting impact on those who live and work in our valleys. I think the way that we need to do that is through education, communication and working with corporations because we can facilitate their charitable giving. And it’s also working with professional advisers. Another thing we really hope to accomplish is to build up assets. So, for example, when the Ventura Community Foundation helped with the Thomas Fire and then the mudslides, they were in a position in the first three weeks to give away $1 million. That’s where we need to be as we build a culture of Valley giving. Community foundations are the best bet when you’ve got an emergency because they can act quickly. How else do you plan to get more people involved? Our hope is that we can engage the next generation, whether it’s through social media or spending time with organizations. Some of the kids in the private schools have to do volunteering while they’re in school for credit, but there really isn’t a whole lot after that. And there’s a lot that they’re not even aware of. Title: Executive Director Organization: Community Foundation of the Valleys Education: Associate degree, El Camino Junior College Born: Pasadena, 1957 Family: Married Most Admired People: Judy Roth; husband Hobbies: Dogs, reading, volunteering Do you think younger generations are interested in giving? I think they are interested. I think the younger generation coming up is different. They’ve seen what their parents did or didn’t do and they want to be more engaged. There are quite a few programs in place and those that are popping up to start educating them. Ideally, I would love to see us have a young professionals board. Maybe they would have a representative on boards of directors to start mentoring them and getting them excited about an organization. How did you get involved in the nonprofit sector? From a young age, my aunt always encouraged me to volunteer. She was very engaged in the community. She would always have me help her with special events or other things that she would do, and that continued throughout my life. My first career was actually in the securities industry. But after a number of buyouts and takeovers that were going on at the end of the ’80s and early ’90s, I decided to change careers. Why the change? I didn’t enjoy it anymore, so I started looking for what else I could do. I’d kind of been a jack of all trades in operations and in different areas, so I started looking into human resources. One recruiter asked me if I’d ever done nonprofit work. She had me do an addendum to my resume and ultimately, I was hired as the executive director for the Arthritis Foundation for the valley chapters, which included San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys. How challenging was it to make that career switch? That was the biggest challenge that I’ve had to overcome. Because when I went to the Arthritis Foundation, one of the people that was on my staff was actually overlooked for the position. I got in there and had this office that overlooked the San Fernando Valley, and it was gorgeous. But after maybe a couple of days I thought, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” So here I’m in charge of staff, I’m in charge of a board and I’m in charge of fundraising and special events – all kinds of things. And I realized I didn’t have the tools, and there was no one in the organization that was going to help. Everybody was busy doing their own thing. So, I started looking for resources and I ended up putting myself into the UCLA fundraising certificate program. There, I was able to really get the basics of fundraising and running the development office. I had peers I could ask questions to and it just opened up a whole new world. Did your colleagues notice your improvements? At my first annual review, my boss actually said to me, “I didn’t think you were going to make it. I don’t understand what happened. Something all of the sudden clicked and you’re soaring.” I didn’t tell him what I’d done. … That also got me into mentoring because I had a mentor help me change careers. I had a wonderful mentor. What did you find that you enjoyed about nonprofit work? Being able to make a difference. And being able to help people. It’s about helping match desires with needs. Most of my fundraising career has actually been in health care. So, when I was able to help a donor, or work with a doctor to make sure that they have their equipment, or like the first capital campaign that I did with Holy Cross, when they needed an emergency upgrade – who can say that isn’t a need? It was just really compelling. People really got excited about it. It’s where they would take their kids. They wanted to make sure that there was the right equipment there. It’s taking that need and being able to match it. When people give – there are white papers on this – they typically live longer and they’re healthier. What else? I like people. I find people really interesting. And you have to be curious. So, I love hearing people’s stories, where they came from, what their interests are. When I was younger, I used to love puzzles. And it’s kind of like a puzzle to figure out what somebody’s really passionate about and how to engage them. What did you accomplish during your tenure with the Providence Holy Cross Foundation? It was a fabulous experience. One of my mentors and instructors at UCLA encouraged me to apply for the job at Holy Cross. Providence had purchased Holy Cross a couple years prior, and it was a new position for major gifts – so working with individuals and families. When I got there, they didn’t have anything. They had a secretary that was putting her finger in the dike to keep up with writing letters and putting together a gala. So, I was taking on an organization that was basically grassroots and bringing in less than $100,000 a year. There wasn’t a culture of philanthropy. Now, I think that Holy Cross is bringing in $4 million annually. It went from being nothing to growing to having a strong board and raising capital campaigns and recruiting hundreds of volunteers. What was rewarding about that experience? When you do fundraising for a hospital, you’re able to help your donors when they come in at the toughest times. I would get calls on Christmas Eve telling me that someone’s on their way to the emergency room. I would go down and hold their hand or meet with them. It’s being able to ease their way in frightening situations. You build some pretty deep relationships. What did you learn while working at Holy Cross? In 2013, the organization blended operations with the South Bay branch, so it became more of a Southern California region. And at that point I was given the opportunity to oversee deferred giving or planned giving. What was fun was that I was able to approach it with the mindset of a frontline fundraiser. I think sometimes fundraisers make deferred giving and other types of giving opportunities a little bit too difficult to understand. The average person just glazes over and we didn’t have the basic tools to explain it to them. We had up to 25 fundraisers when I left, and we gave them whatever they needed so they would know how to do an elevator speech. They’d know how to talk to a donor and figure out their interest. I’m not an estate attorney, I’m not a CPA, but at least I can share how to talk well enough to help people understand how you to build assets. Would you say being a good communicator is one of the most important skills in fundraising? You have to be a little bit of a chameleon when you’re communicating because not everybody communicates the same way. Not everybody has the same hot button. Not everybody has the same motivators. If I was dealing with a certified public accountant, I knew they would want a lot of detail. So, if I’m working on a charitable gift annuity or some type of vehicle for them, they want all of the fine print. Versus working with somebody who’s a chairman or owns their own business, most of the time they just want the bottom line. Also, being able to really share the passion and the purpose and the story. You have to remember what’s in it for them. And being able to touch people’s hearts and help them see the possibilities. What did you learn from your prior career in securities that you apply to your current job? By understanding enough of the financial markets and securities, that helps when you’re working with people. If people give, say, appreciated stocks when they’re planning their giving or estate plans, they get much better tax benefits. On the other hand, it is very different, because the focus is working with donors and planning for their charitable giving versus just asking them for money. Where did you grow up? I was born in Pasadena. From 8 years old, I lived in the San Fernando Valley and then moved to the South Bay for about 10 or 15 years and then came up to Santa Clarita. What are some of your hobbies? I have three dogs so I’m an animal lover. I like gardening, reading, volunteering myself and mentoring others. I’m a lifelong reader and I love to learn things. Mentoring was so important in my life, especially during that career transition. I find, especially in the nonprofit arena, most people are very willing to share and very willing to help each other. It’s just they don’t always have time. I work with Executive Service Corps and a group called the Alliance of Women Directors to help them put together a fund development plan. Did you have any mentors? One woman, who’s been gone for a few years, was Judy Roth. She was an executive in the publishing business. She mentored a lot of people. That was kind of her passion. Judy helped me see my transferable skills or transferable personality strengths. We don’t usually do that with ourselves. We sometimes put ourselves in a box and that’s how we see ourselves.

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