New Fundraising and Development Specialist Having an Impact
By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
This fall, the Massachusetts Conference has seen an uptick in the success of its fundraising appeals. It’s no coincidence that there has been a new face working behind the scenes on those efforts: Lee Gagen, the Conference's new Fundraising and Development Specialist.
Gagen came on the job early this fall and immediately began working on the Conference’s Annual Appeal, which asks individuals to contribute to the Conference’s ministries and programs. Gagen has also added her expertise to the Friends of the Conference Appeal, which is launching now, and the #GivingTuesday drive on Nov. 28 which raised $4500 to fund racial justice ministries in the Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island Conferences.
Although her initial focus has been on individual giving, Gagen will expand her work in the new year to include other fundraising efforts such as grant funding, as yet unidentified new fundraising initiatives, and local church giving.
"Lee is a terrific addition to our Conference staff. I’m really appreciating her sharp intellect, development expertise, let’s-make-it-happen attitude, and out-the-box thinking," said Jonathan New, Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development. "The positive impact she’s already had on our fundraising efforts is impressive."
"She’s constantly challenging us to broaden our thinking about what development is essentially: connecting people in the most thorough-going way to what we’re all about and inviting them into deeper engagement in our common mission," he said. "And her presence has had another blessing. She’s reminding us every day just why this mission of making God’s love and justice real is so important in today’s world.”
Gagen came to the Conference from a local community foundation where she worked on fundraising through donor development and special events. She is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, NY with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology. Upon graduating from Hamilton, Gagen earned her Master’s degree in education from Northeastern University. Her degree brought her to Edinburgh, Scotland where she taught at George Watson’s College. It was here, in her spare time working in the Development Office, that Lee found a love of fundraising.
"Building meaningful relationships with donors – that is my favorite part of this job," she said. "I am excited about working with members of the Massachusetts Conference to discover how they can respond to the ever-changing context of ministry and make a deep impact in our community and beyond."
New said Gagen brings experience and a proven track record with non-profit fundraising and development.
"She’s well-suited to this people-oriented work as an outgoing and vibrant person herself," he said. "Moreover, throughout the search process it was abundantly clear that Lee had a keen awareness of and heart for the project to which the Mass. Conference and its other Conference partners is committed – Living the Love and Justice of Jesus."
New explained that adding a development specialist to the staff is in keeping with the Conference's commitment to innovation.
"This new position will help the Massachusetts Conference better respond to the changing landscape of charitable giving generally and church giving specifically," he said. " The number and variety of not-for-profits has been increasing at a terrific rate. In this new context, people have a wider variety of options for their charitable giving."
New said the need to communicate clearly about the purpose of the Conference, and about how the Conference is living into its mission, has never been more essential.
"This position is intended to help the Massachusetts Conference increase income to help us continue and perhaps expand our nurture of the vitality of local churches and the connections between them," he said. "Yet we also recognize the broader value of the very best of good development efforts – offering Conference members, whether they be individuals and churches, the fullest range of ways to be engaged in the life of the Conference. Through this new position, we’re demonstrating our commitment to engaging people in this way by purposefully tending the relationships we have with the people who are making life-changing, world-transforming mission and ministry possible. We also believe it’s possible that what we learn through this new position will, in time, better equip us to support local churches in their own fundraising efforts."
The full-time specialist position is being tried as an 18-month experiment initially, with assessment along the way.
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