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  • Casey Cowell - Philanthropist and Co-Founder of US Robotics
    Casey Cowell - Philanthropist and Co-Founder of US Robotics As a longtime resident of Traverse City, I understand how important it is to support the community. My family has had ties to northern Michigan for many years. We came here when I was growing up. It’s a fantastic area, and I’m committed to keeping this place great. Starting in 2008, I began talking with Chuck Havill, a Munson Medical Center Foundation board member. He was working closely with Des Worthington to plan a fundraising campaign so the hospital could build a new cancer center. Discussions with Des, Chuck and others culminated in a $5 million lead gift from me and my family in 2011. Before making the gift, I spent a lot of time talking with various leaders at the hospital and reviewing the campaign structure. When it was clear that they had a solid plan, and I felt confident that they would be successful, I made the commitment. It was a great way to jump start the $17 million campaign and The Cowell Family Cancer Center opened in 2015. Working with Des instills confidence. She has a track record of successes. She leads with conviction. During the campaign she helped me, and others, think about how our lives and our community could improve with the new cancer center. Her approach is solid – no guilt, no begging – giving donors a chance to put their hard-earned resources to work doing really good things. She will bring great value to non-profit organizations focused on success.
  • Kathy Dixon - Wealth Advisory and Bank Trust Officer
    Kathy Dixon - Wealth Advisory and Bank Trust Officer Board Chair, Munson Healthcare Foundations I have been involved on the Munson Healthcare Foundations Board for the last ten years. Des recruited me to serve after we met at the Traverse City Economic Club. We were both experienced professional women and realized quickly that we shared common values and both understood the importance of exceptional customer service. When I joined the Foundation board, I agreed to chair one of the fundraising committees. It was my first experience helping lead a major capital campaign. Our challenge was to raise $17 million to build a comprehensive cancer center to serve all of northern Michigan. I was confident that my skills as a bank trust officer would translate well. I worked with people of wealth and helped them think through the financial aspects of charitable giving. I was correct in that assumption. My experiences were very useful. That said, I soon learned that there was a whole other side to raising major gifts. Des really helped me to understand that there is a very important emotional side to making transformational gifts. I watched her as she built a case based on the overall vision of the impact the cancer center would have on patients and community members. Des could see and connect the dots between the need to purchase new equipment and HOW IT WOULD TRANSFORM CARE. She is very good at sharing the story in a way that it resonates specifically with the audience – whether it is in the boardroom or in someone’s living room. Des has a proven track record. She has built and executed organized, successful campaigns. I was proud to be part of two of them. Our board went onto our second and largest comprehensive campaign and raised more than $50 million to support the largest expansion in Munson Medical Center’s history. Over the years, I’ve watched Des handle so many different situations. She always remained calm and composed; she’s a true professional. She knows how to take fabulous care of her donors and her board members. I’m confident that she will continue to provide excellent value for the non-profit organizations who work with her.
  • Dan Edson - Philanthropist and Co-Founder of American Proficiency Institute
    Dan Edson - Philanthropist and Co-Founder of American Proficiency Institute Even though my business has taken me across the globe, I still feel it is really important to give back to my local community. Back in 2006, I was serving on the board of the free clinic in Traverse City (Traverse Health Clinic). I was also a donor to Munson Medical Center when Des was hired as the President of Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation. She contacted me to thank me for my gifts to the hospital. I got to know Des, and we began to discuss the challenges facing the clinic. At my invitation, she graciously became a resource to the free clinic board on fundraising matters. The clinic was interested in building private support beyond what they received in governmental funding. Des was generous with her time and helped us develop our first fundraising plan. She really educated us on the best practices for fundraising and helped us to invest in the program by setting tangible, reasonable, and quantifiable goals to further our mission. She helped us hire our first fundraising professional, and it has made a remarkable difference. I am grateful for her support. Over the years, I have served on several boards. My relationship with Des has helped me grow in my effectiveness as a board member and board chair. I came to really understand the importance of board members demonstrating their commitment through giving. Not everyone who serves has the same capacity, but they all should show their passion for the organization by making charitable gifts at levels that make sense for them. I have become more comfortable asking my peers to give and now enjoy partnering with fundraising staff to open doors. Des has been integral to my fundraising evolution. I also have had great giving experiences at Munson Healthcare. Des took the time to establish a personal connection with my family in a sincere and thoughtful way. She also challenged me to consider larger gifts and gave me flexible options so I could make my first $1 million gift commitment. It was both exciting and very personally rewarding to establish the Daniel and Debra Edson Cardiac Diagnostic Suite. Des is authentic in her appreciation and has built a great relationship with me and many others. I sincerely believe that any organization would benefit from Des’ fundraising guidance.
  • Rev. Don Geyman - Pastor, St. Francis Parish Traverse City
    Rev. Don Geyman - Pastor, St. Francis Parish Traverse City I met Des almost three years ago when I was assigned to be the new Pastor for St. Francis Church in Traverse City. The parish was attempting to raise $7 million to expand the Church facility. Building costs increased significantly, leading to changes to the scope of the project. When I came onboard, we still had close to $1 million left to raise. Many parish families were becoming disillusioned with the project and were less inclined to make contributions. Des had been serving on the campaign committee and was instrumental in defining and clarifying families’ concerns. Her efforts were critical to finding creative solutions. I found Des’ ability to endure the ups and downs of the campaign to be remarkable. Not only did she listen patiently to parish families and staff, but she also fostered a spirit of reconciliation that led to achievable action plans. Des also knew how to effectively message our project. She helped us make sure we are consistent, clear, and in context with our overarching mission of building God’s Church. The good news is that we successfully met the goals of the campaign and will be celebrating the opening of our new facility this spring. I have been a priest for several years and have participated in numerous fundraising efforts and other capital building campaigns. Working with Des has expanded my understanding of philanthropy and has improved the ways that I approach and interact with donors. Des talks about “earning the right to ask.” I have a greater understanding of the importance of continuously reporting back and appreciating the generosity of those who give. By implementing her methods, I enjoy fundraising more because I can take time to steward and build trusting relationships.
  • Kelly M. Hagan - Attorney - Mt. Holiday - Save the Hill Campaign
    Kelly M. Hagan - Bankruptcy Trustee & Attorney I’ve known Des Worthington more than 20 years. We met when a group of concerned citizens rallied together to save a local ski hill known as Mt. Holiday. Our board focused on corporate structure, finance, business operations and legal matters. People loved Mt. Holiday and I naively thought that once we announced our efforts were underway to “Save the Hill” in the local newspaper, people would overwhelm us with donations. I expected that we would host a few fundraising events and we would raise the $1.5 million needed. That didn’t work. When Des joined the board, I learned that there are proven methods to raising dollars and to running a campaign. I also learned what it really means to have an effective board. We successfully saved the hill and by the time our board service was completed, we had built a sound organization. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to serve on other local and national boards and Des has always provided sound counsel to me. Specifically, one of her top strengths is her demeanor when working with boards; she is respectful, yet honest. She taps into her many years of experience and provides easy-to-follow guidance to address complex fundraising and board situations. I can honestly say that the non-profit organizations in which I have served have raised significantly more dollars and are better governed because we have followed her advice.
  • Jamie Marsh – Bill Marsh Automotive Group
    Jamie Marsh Partner – Bill Marsh Automotive Group Board Member – Munson Medical Center Foundation Board My relationship with Des Worthington began early in 2014 when I accepted an invitation to join the Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation Board. Although I had previous non-profit board experience, learning the healthcare business and its philanthropic needs was a challenge. During this time Munson Healthcare grew substantially becoming a sizeable regional system. This growth necessitated a change in the Foundation structure from a collection of local Foundations to an integrated system that serves both community hospitals and an entire system. Des demonstrated her leadership skills during this time with a blend of fearless determination and sensitivity to the many people impacted by this change. This was a major undertaking that required recruiting new leaders with the capability to work alongside her creating a new culture and developing new ways of connecting with donors. Her skill sets include an ability to think strategically in one moment and tactically the next. Des has a heart for the work she does and is able to convey this to donors leading to lifelong relationships. Her commitment and dedication are reflected in the continuing strength and sustainability of Munson Foundations and the loyal donors who support it. She serves our community by lending her skills and experience to non-profits in need of guidance and leadership. Personally I greatly admire Des as someone with a strong moral compass and a well ordered set of personal priorities. I’ve seen her make difficult decisions based on doing the right thing, not the easy thing. I’ve learned a lot from Des and have become a more capable person as a result of knowing her.
  • Chris Morse – Principal, Director of Advisory and Tax Services Rehmann
    Chris Morse – Principal, Director of Advisory and Tax Services Rehmann More than 20 years ago, a young attorney named Kelly Hagan asked me to get involved to save our local ski hill known as Mt. Holiday. My job was to review the financial statements and develop a business plan in which we could successfully raise $1.5 million to save the hill and operate in a sustainable manner. There was recognition early on that fundraising would need to play an important role. At first, I thought we would place a couple of articles in the newspapers, have a couple of parties, and the money would start pouring in. When that didn’t happen, it was clear we needed professional help. I remember feeling relieved when Des joined our group. At every turn, I was surprised to learn what it took to achieve fundraising success. It was all counter-intuitive to me. The processes and methods that Des shared with us were 180 degrees different than what many of us expected! She was kind and patient with us during those early days. She spent the time to explain and help us understand why it was important to approach donors using the methods she described. We followed her lead and it all worked out just the way she said it would. We saved Mt. Holiday, and it became one of the first non-profit ski hills in the country. Each year, I find time to visit on a snowy Saturday afternoon to watch families enjoying our beautiful northern Michigan outdoors. I feel some pride to have been part of making it happen. Here is my advice as a finance and business consultant to others who are part of a non-profit organization with a big vision. Passion for a project is important, but you won’t accomplish the vision without the funds to make it happen. In the for-profit world that means making a profit. In the non-profit world that means successful fundraising, which is the life blood that drives the mission. It is important to spend the time and resources to be successful in your approach to donors. Working with Des was instrumental in our success; she can be instrumental in your success.
  • Dennis Schmude - Campaign Chair, St. Francis Church
    Dennis Schmude Campaign Chair, St. Francis Church President, Schmude Oil I have owned my own oil and gas exploration business for over 40 years. I have also served on several associations and boards. I have worked with various groups of people. I have led the St Patrick’s and St Francis fundraising campaigns. I know how to raise money – both for business investing as well as for nonprofit fundraising. It was when I was first asked to lead the St Francis Church building expansion campaign that I met Des. Des was part of the first meeting when our pastor gathered some parishioners together to ask us to organize a campaign to raise $7 million to renovate and expand the church facility. I was pleased that she agreed to serve. Des was the foundation president at Munson Healthcare at that time, so she was prevented from directly soliciting gifts. At first, I was disappointed about that aspect but that didn’t take long to realize that her knowledge and skills were invaluable in many ways. I really learned a lot from her. First, she really knows how to bring out the best in each person and kept us focused and organized. Des is an excellent listener and makes sure that everyone participates in the meetings. She guided and coached us in our approach with donors. She has a gift of remaining calm during turbulent times. Overall, she has been my “right hand” during these past five years. She was always there for me through the high points and the disappointments in the process of reaching our goal of a successful campaign. As I think of some of Des’ strengths, these come to mind: organized, a good listener, able to motivate, quick to understand, and hard-working. It is an honor to know her and work with her.
  • Rebecca Teahen - Former Executive Director NMC Foundation
    Rebecca Teahen, CFRE - Former Executive Director NMC Foundation I have Des Worthington to thank for my nearly 20 year career in fundraising! With Des’s support and mentorship, I was able to establish a first-ever fundraising program for a small northern Michigan non-profit organization focused on natural resource conservation. She helped me understand the art and science of fundraising, and gain an understanding and deep appreciation for philanthropy. From there, I have gone on to serve Northwestern Michigan College and the NMC Foundation, one of the top 20 community college foundations in the country. Des has been a constant source of support and someone I can always rely on for sound, rational advice. She is an expert in fundraising & donor engagement strategy, organizational development and performance measurement. It is an honor and privilege to recommend Des as a consultant where more non-profits, communities, philanthropists, and beneficiaries will benefit from her expertise and counsel.
  • Most Reverend Jeffrey J. Walsh - Bishop of Gaylord
    I became the bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord in March of 2022. When I stepped into the new role, Des had already been working with staff to strengthen the giving program. My view is to approach philanthropy as a servant leader. We are called to love and do acts of kindness for all. The grace we receive from Jesus is meant to be shared with others. We gratefully receive each act of love, great and small. After I came to know Des, it was clear that she is a person of faith. She demonstrated that she approaches her work through the perspective of faith, and I was able to rely on her judgment in fundraising matters. Des provided expertise during an important time. She helped develop new ways for us to show gratitude to the generous parishioners throughout the diocese. She mentored the new development director and provided practical ways for us to effectively manage the development department. I was very pleased with her work and believe she would be of great help to others.
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