TAMPA — Marion Yongue assumed he would work as an accountant. Until he found the only numbers he wanted to crunch were for charities.
The Florida native's epiphany made him aware he had a gift for creating advocates and turning them into long-term donors, the job of a professional fundraiser, also called development or advancement staffer.
"The most exciting thing is to see somebody's face light up — whether they've given 10 dollars or 10 million — when they connect with an organization," Yongue said.
"It's almost infectious. Whether it's getting food to the homeless or a quality TV program to people who may not be able to get out of the house."
In September 2011, Yongue, 43, was named director of development at the University of South Florida Foundation. "It's nice to come back to my alma mater and make a difference," said the class of 1991 accounting major.
Yongue previously spent six years with the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation, followed by almost six years at the WEDU public broadcast station, rising to vice president of major gifts and planned giving.
Yongue, who is from Fairfield in Marion County, serves as president of the Suncoast chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Members adhere to a code of ethics as they promote the missions of arts, education, health, environmental, civic and social agencies.
"There are plenty of millionaires out there," he said. "You have to inform and engage them if you want people to make an investment."
To that end, numerous charity benefits fill the society datebook (which appears on pages 14-15), promoting dozens of nonprofits in the year to come. These special events, says Yongue, are doorways to the development cycle that includes annual donations, grants, major gifts and legacy giving.
Yongue would prefer a more personal approach than arranging a dinner gala for 600 people. Still, he can't dismiss the demographics of affluent attendees, captive for an entire evening, eating, drinking and dancing.
"These events can be a wonderful tool to tell the story. But generally, when you look at staff and volunteer time, they are labor intensive and not very cost effective."
There's no simple formula for evaluating overhead vs. outcome, considering the work involved in choosing locale, theme and menu, then soliciting sponsors and goods for auctions, raffles and in-kind services. Even with an enthusiastic, well-connected committee, months of staff time and planning are required.
"Events are for relationship building, aside from raising money, for people to get to know the cause and the cause to get to know who you are," said Grace Armstrong, CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay.
Eighty-three percent of all giving comes from individuals, while 4 percent comes from corporations, she added.
"People give to people. The more they know, the more they're touched, the more they give," Armstrong said.
The challenge, for Yongue and colleagues, is to constantly reinvent events.
"You have to innovate to raise the bar," he said. "How do you make this exciting and connected to the organization in a meaningful way?"
Clearwater philanthropists Dr. Zena Lansky and Warren Rodgers expect 850 participants representing 425 non-profit organizations at a free, day-long, development workshop they will sponsor at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 19.
Discussion topics include corporate giving, board development, marketing and branding, social media and mobile technology. Auto magnate Frank Morsani and Baycare Health System CEO Steve Mason are among the guest speakers expected.
"The agenda is outstanding, and the response is beyond our most optimistic projections," said Rodgers, noting attendance more than doubled from the first workshop the couple sponsored in September 2011.
Registration is closed. For information, visit notforprofitworkshop.com
Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.