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This week we’re concluding our two-part March of Dimes Nonprofit Leader Spotlight by sitting down with Kimberly Haywood, Vice President, Direct Response Fundraising & CRM Insight. If you missed our chat with March of Dimes’ Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer Sterrin Bird last week you can check it out here.

Enjoy this conversation with Kim where we talk the changing landscape of direct mail, her best career advice, and why she’s spent her entire career with March of Dimes.

Nonprofit Leader Spotlight: Kimberly Haywood of March of Dimes

HS: You have been with March of Dimes for pretty much your entire career. That is somewhat unheard of these days! Why have you stayed? What is special about March of Dimes?

KH: It is unusual for someone to stay at one organization for a very long time, so I like to say I started when I was 10 years old (laughs). It’s been almost 24 years. I’ve made my career here only because I’ve had many interesting opportunities to excel along with the opportunity to work with great mentors who believed in me. The mission is very important to me and I’ve seen firsthand how the work we do every day makes a lifesaving difference. I consider myself lucky to have two babies born with no health issues. In a very real way I know how our mission touches so many people, babies, families, moms and dads. We’ve made huge progress on the mission side and are so close to finding the answers to mysteries of premature birth so that’s what keeps me going every day.

HS: Can you tell me about your role at March of Dimes?

KH: When I started in the beginning it was a “single marketing channel” kind of world. You stayed in your silos – from a channel perspective and from an organization perspective. I started as a direct response analyst and data was in a much different place back then with multiple databases that didn’t talk to each other. As an analyst, I was looking for insights for our campaign managers to inform performance lifts. I’ve always been intrigued by the art and science of fundraising. I know the value of data-driven decisions to inform strategy in direct response. Someone once gave me a quote that said “In God we trust; all others must bring data” and it’s true! That’s what is so exciting about direct response. I walked in as an analyst but grew to really love the program and strategy side. I moved into overseeing a large program, our historic Mother’s March campaign, and managing the volunteer recruitment through multi-channel mail and telemarketing. Over time, I took responsibility of the entire direct mail program and completely integrated mail, telemarketing, volunteer recruitment and digital. Later, I was given responsibility for digital fundraising and email deployment for the entire foundation. Early last year, I assumed responsibility for CRM (constituent relationship management) and now that CRM is fully functional, we’ve turned our focus to the analytics side and our 360-degree view of the thirty million records on our database to provide actionable intelligence to every business unit.

I truly love what I do. I also get the chance to partner with the other senior leads across the revenue portfolio, whether I’m helping on strategy for March for Babies, partnerships, innovation or major gifts. Every day is different and I am grateful that under Sterrin Bird we now have a dynamic unifying leader of the overall revenue portfolio. The revenue portfolio is completely integrated now so we’re making decisions based on what’s best for the foundation and the constituent, not what’s best for individual programs. When you start to do that, you begin to turn that big ship around, in terms of making sure that the constituent is getting exposed to a variety of March of Dimes programs and campaigns. Just like your own investment portfolio, it’s vital to have a mix of both short and long term revenue strategies.

HS: You have expertise in direct mail. Can you tell me about how direct mail has evolved and how it is evolving? How has it changed over your almost 25 year career?

KH: A lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same. What hasn’t changed is that it’s still the constituent at the center of all fundraising. Donors are people who give for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons have nothing to do with us an organization, as much as we like to believe so. Understanding and remembering that the donor has the control about how and when they give (if they even choose to give). What’s changed is more about competition for time and attention through media and how we get that attention. Privacy and expectation for transparency has changed and is changing every day.

Success of any direct response program has to do with data and analytics. It’s also about bringing greater efficiencies to the program. If I can do it cheaper and reinvest back in the program, it’s a win for me. The process of testing and optimization of campaigns is now even more vital than it was before. I’m constantly learning. There’s not a year that goes by that I say “Wow, I’ve got all the answers.” I’m constantly learning from the great partners we have like Pursuant. The formula for success is not me sitting at the head of the table; it’s assembling great partners alongside our passionate smart staff to get the results. It’s more important than ever to have great customer intelligence insights and use that to drive personalization of offer. The Amazons of the world have given way to a consumer expectation that we know our donors and we talk to them in a very personal, relevant way. That’s something we have to do and are getting better at. And from that comes good data: a robust CRM system where all our data and intelligence is fed into one place and a 360-degree view of the constituent is more important than ever.

HS: What do you find unique about Pursuant? How has Pursuant challenged your thinking around fundraising?

KH: I’ve been impressed with Pursuant’s data-driven approach to campaigns. Everything begins and ends with data and that’s the way it should be. It’s one thing for partners to come in with assumptions but nothing replaces thorough analytics showing ways that we might not have looked at things before or pointing out high level observations for us to think about in a different way. For me, Pursuant has been that reality check.

HS: What is one piece of advice you’d give to a fundraiser just beginning his or her career?

KH: I guess you can say I “leaned in.” I said “Yes, I can. Yes, I want more. Yes, I can take on that challenge.” Saying yes gives you exposure to things that you may not have had if you sat back and played safe. Also, seek different perspectives as you move through your career. There are a lot of people around you that will inspire you and will show a sincere interest in your development. It’s important to find those mentors early on, wherever they may be. You can find them internally and within or even outside your industry. I can point to several women in my professional career that have given me great advice along the way. Find those mentors early on that show an interest in you. They will be some of your best advocates and can really change the trajectory of your career.

Thanks so much Kim for sharing your insight with us. For even more expertise and inspiration check out the interview with Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco’s Kristine Leja and University of Miami’s Jesse Marks.