Lessons from New York’s Philanthropic Leaders | Impact Monthly

Contributed by Susie Schainost, M.Ed, M.D.S

Being part of a nonprofit organization is serious business that can be time-intensive and require year-round attention.  III’s Annual Retreat agenda included time for us to step back and listen to wisdom from people who have successfully taken our steps.

Lessons learned included:

1) Develop a multi–faceted approach to deepen relationships, adapt and evolve as new needs and opportunities become evident. (Maria Collins)

2) Use imagery to tell a / the story. You will be judged in 5 seconds on a website. You are dead in the water without an engagement that makes a connection. (Dana Ostomel)

3) Values are tied to the culture, which are tied to CEO. Employees are true to the values. (Richard Brown)

4) Before you Fundraise, you Friendraise. By partnering with us, we know you have a goal. If our people cannot be involved, it is not worth our dollars. Time, talent, and treasure = connection (Bernie Milano)

Time between fundraising is the most important for networking. (Dana Ostomel)


  • Find friends and build relationships.

  • Invest in your brand.

  • Find ways to be engaged.

  • Tell what you do and who you benefit.

  • Research the organization before asking.

  • Transfer the credibility to the organization, say how they will be better because of you.

  • Pay it forward.


  • Give up.

Presenting at III’s retreat were:

Richard Brown, VP of Philanthropy at American Express where he oversees the company’s global giving programs under the Historic Preservation and Leadership giving themes, which includes the National Treasurers program with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monument Fund’s Watch List, as well as the American Express Leadership Academy.

Maria Collins, President of the New York Life Foundation, VP of Corporate Responsibility. Maria is proud that bereavement support, an issue that truly connects to New York Life’s values and mission, is part of their culture and a subject that employees and agents embrace as their own.

Bernard Milano, President and Board Member of the KPMG Foundation. (Bernie’s middle name is collaboration.) Bernie is president and a board member of The PhD Project, a national program to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace.

Dana Ostomel, VP of Nonprofit Industry Developing at Firespring, a company that provides essential software and beautiful websites for nonprofits. Dana is excited to partner with a company that puts customers and culture first in the unique way that Firespring does.