Veteran fundraiser joins Lanham nonprofit's staff
Kary brings marketing experience to Volunteers of America Chesapeake
For some people, being responsible for raising money for a nonprofit might be like getting the short end of the stick.
Not for Jan Kary.
Kary, who has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and fundraising, recently joined Volunteers of America Chesapeake as its vice president of development and external affairs.
"I have the best job in the world because everyone wins. They feel good, I feel good and the beneficiary feels good," she said. "I don't see my role as pushing people to do anything they don't want to do. It's about being a connector."
With a budget of $23 million and more than 600 employees, the Lanham nonprofit offers comprehensive human services to more than 8,000 people annually. Those services include housing, mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
The nonprofit, founded in 1896 in Baltimore, is one of 38 affiliates of Volunteers of America, a national "faith-based" group.
Kary is responsible for a staff of three a large drop from the 25 she supervised when she was at World Relief, a Baltimore organization that mobilizes and supports global relief efforts. She also manages the strategic direction of all development activities, including fundraising efforts, major gift campaigns, government grants and compliance, donor relations and program revenue expansion.
She comes to Volunteers of America after five years at World Relief, where she helped double the organization's private revenue in less than three years, according to Volunteers of America information. This largely was accomplished through building up World Relief's major gift program, which includes most of the direct personal relationship accounts with donors, Kary said.
"I'm a big believer in helping people at the $10, $20 or $30 level," she said, adding she also improved the direct mailing program to bring in new donors. She started a mid-level gift program for less-involved donors and hired someone to be continually in touch with them.
Kary has worked with nonprofits since 1982, when she orchestrated a Bible education seminar in Hawaii, where she was living, and ended up in a similar position in Atlanta.
"It just felt like putting on a warm sweater," she said of entering the nonprofit sector.
She later was marketing development director at Prison Fellowship in Leesburg, Va., and a managing director with Orr Associates, a Washington, D.C., firm that consults nonprofits.
During the years, Kary has seen donors stray further from cash gifts, forcing nonprofits to become more creative in teaching donors other ways they can give, including vehicles, second homes and other assets.
She was with World Relief during January's earthquake in Haiti, which killed about 230,000 people and injured 300,000 more.
"What stood out was the incredible desire we have in America to go fix the situation," Kary said.
She compared the event to what she called an equally tragic prevalence of homelessness in the Washington metro region, including those in the shelter within sight of the Pentagon.
"My heart just bleeds," she said.
Russell K. Snyder, CEO of Volunteers of America, said Kary brings an energetic level of community service and development experience to the nonprofit.
"We've been very successful over the last year in building our community base. Jan has the ability to take that brand awareness to the next level," Snyder said. "She has a wonderful demeanor very positive and very engaging in what she needs to do."
Kary also views her new position as a chance to learn about fundraising for a local nonprofit, compared with her experience with national groups. She plans to write a book on the similarities between the two.
A Columbia resident, she attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and later took business training in Washington. She lives with two cats, whom she considers "dependent children" and is a die-hard Elvis Presley fan, involving herself in all sorts of Elvis trivia. Kary also loves the Washington Redskins and dreams of the day Joe Theismann will call her with a donation.
"I hope that when I'm 90 I'm still doing this. And I hope that until the day I die I'm still learning something new about fundraising," she said.