Conference honors FSPA development director’s 21 years of service

Sister Ladonna Kassmeyer traveled with new director of development Madalene Buelow to the 40th annual National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC) and Exposition from Sept. 28 through Oct. 1. The annual meeting was held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and included much celebration of the organization’s 40th year as well as an evening reception to honor Sister Ladonna and past board members for their service in Catholic development.

S Ladonna Kassmeyer and S Georgette LehmuthSister Ladonna began FSPA’s fundraising program in 1987. Since then, she has attended 20 conferences and served two terms on the group’s board of directors, including four years as NCDC’s treasurer.

“It was exciting to celebrate the 40th anniversary and to have been part of some of the conference’s transition years,” said Sister Ladonna. “We did strategic planning during that time and were instrumental in developing NCDC’s investment policy. I was chair of a committee on accountability standards as well. We were also involved in bringing a new president/CEO on board.”

Sister Ladonna feels the hard work and great rewards of the job made for an unforgettable experience, “. . .
expanding my view of the world and the breadth of development activities.”

Of course, that view of the fundraising world is changing, and the NCDC’s educational and exhibition offerings are designed to keep development professionals on the mark. “A new trend discussed at the conference entails looking at how social networking and online communication can change fundraising” said Madalene, citing environmental concerns as a reason for growing interest in electronic interaction. “I think it’s going to mean different things to different organizations. We know that our direct mail program is not going to go away; we have an audience that likes to receive letters. Yet different donors bite on different things. You just have to be savvy in all of it,” she said.

The opportunity to share program outcomes at the conference is valuable for FSPA. “It was very interesting to see the scope of the communities,” said Madalene of her first NCDC experience. “There are two affiliates about our size in Dubuque, Iowa, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM) and the Sisters of St. Francis, with whom we touch base at least once a year. There are also groups that mail millions of pieces of direct mail each year. But we still have the commonality of Catholic fundraising.”

Such communications, with both those inside the development society and those who support it, are crucial. “Relationship building is still the key in seeking funding,” said Sister Ladonna, adding that the importance of aligning values with culture is always at the forefront of responsible fundraising. “Are we transparent and accountable to our donors? We must make sure that we’re accepting gifts that support our mission.”

Madalene gave an example of how good development practices yield reciprocal benefits. “We all can’t go to Africa to be missioners, yet I [donors] can feel good about the new school in Cameroon, a direct result of me and my relationship with FSPA.” Sister Ladonna concurred: “To match a donor’s passion and interest with our passion and interest is really a wonderful thing.”

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