Fundraiser raises hearts, not money to build housing for homeless


Highlights

To raise funds to expand the Community First Village, much of the work falls to Donna Emery.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes president says Emery’s success comes from “cultivating people’s hearts into our vision.”

In February, the Association of Fundraising Professionals will honor Emery as the fundraiser of the year.

Last week, Mobile Loaves & Fishes announced a bold plan: to house all of Austin’s chronically homeless population — about 1,200 people a year — within the next 10 years. The nonprofit operates the Community First Village, a planned community that houses more than 200 former homeless adults.

The new plan will roll out in phases, with the first to include construction on the new 24-acre site, a $10 million project.

To raise that amount of money, much the work falls to the development director, Donna Emery. Her plan is to raise it in bundles, with 10 groups of 10 people committing to contributing $100,000 each year for 10 years. But don’t call what she does “asking for money.”

“That’s not what I do at all,” said Emery. “I don’t even like to call it a job, to be honest. What I get to do is thank people.”

RELATED: Mobile Loaves & Fishes to expand homeless housing, reduce panhandling

Emery began her career as a teacher but soon found her nonprofit calling with Bookspring, a children’s literacy nonprofit, where for five years she raised money and ran events. She joined Mobile Loaves & Fishes in 2012 and helped build the Community First Village, which opened in 2015. In February, the Association of Fundraising Professionals will honor her as fundraiser of the year.

Alan Graham, president of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, said Emery’s success comes from “cultivating people’s hearts into our vision.”

“She has been a great brainstorming partner. Under her leadership we developed our current fundraising strategy built on the three R’s: relationship, relationship and relationship.”

“I think what we’ve done so far has been pretty phenomenal, mostly because of the breadth and the depth of the people who’ve helped us,” said Emery. Among the 14,000 who contributed to the current $17.5 million Community First Village are corporations, churches, organizations, families and individuals.

PHOTOS: Community First Village

“I would almost be disappointed if someone came along and gave me a check for the whole $10 million,” said Emery, though she quickly added that she would overcome her disappointment and accept it. “Because in a way, it’s not about the money. We would have lost that opportunity for another 14,000 people to be involved in this community. We want to empower people into the life of serving the homeless. That’s what we do.”

Deanna Serra, president of the ABE Charitable Foundation, has been an early supporter of the Community First Village, leading fundraising campaigns as a volunteer working alongside Emery. She says she learned a lot about fundraising from Emery and Graham, though not because they set out to teach it. “They’re just steadfast, humble warriors who walk the walk. And people follow. They’re amazing examples for what true love and giving back and fundraising are about.”

MORE GIVING CITY: Man finds unique way to donate a house to charity

While Emery is a professional fundraiser, she says she disagrees with the common mentality that there’s a limited amount of donations to go around. “That’s disrespectful to donors, to feel like we’re competing for their dollars,” she said. “I think it’s more about honoring and respecting our donors and engaging their hearts. That’s my work.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Georgetown police: Man has harassed Sun City residents since 2016
Georgetown police: Man has harassed Sun City residents since 2016

Georgetown police are searching for a man who has been harassing Sun City residents for more than two years, even walking into their homes at night and standing at the foot of their beds until they wake up, a police spokesman said. Sun City is a retirement community with several thousand homes in Georgetown. The man has been involved in at least 50...
Former MLB athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber arrested in Austin on DWI charge
Former MLB athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber arrested in Austin on DWI charge

Former Major League Baseball athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber was arrested in Austin on a DWI charge Saturday, records show. Gruber, 56, was a two-time All-Star while playing baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1984 to 1992. As a teenager, Gruber played baseball for Westlake High School.  An Austin officer pulled Gruber over after noticing...
Police: Man attacked, cut person he thought was behind home invasion
Police: Man attacked, cut person he thought was behind home invasion

An Austin man is accused of cutting an apartment resident with a machete because he thought the victim was involved in a home invasion, according to an arrest affidavit released this week. Samuel Diaz-Parra, 58, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail. The attack happened...
Temple physician arrested for child porn, Texas Medical Board says

TEMPLE Texas Medical Board: Physician arrested for child porn The Texas Medical Board on Monday suspended the license of Temple physician John Middlemiss Palmer after he was arrested on child porn charges. “The Board panel found that on or about April 18, 2018, Dr. Palmer was charged with possession of child pornography by the Texas Attorney...
Jury weighs murder charge in Austin stabbing death of Daniel Spencer
Jury weighs murder charge in Austin stabbing death of Daniel Spencer

A Travis County jury began deliberating Monday evening in the murder trial of 67-year-old James Robert Miller Jr., who is accused of fatally stabbing 32-year-old Daniel Spencer in September 2015. Miller’s attorney says it was self-defense. Spencer was killed at his home early on the morning of Sept. 21, after inviting Miller to his house to play...
More Stories