New development officer: Nonprofits in ‘world of unknown’ with COVID

Originally published on September 18, 2020 in the Dallas Business Journal

Dallas nonprofit WiNGS, a provider of gender and financial equity resources, has named Tameka Y. Cass as its new chief development officer. Cass joined WiNGS on September 15, replacing interim chief development officer Melissa Cameron.

Cass previously worked as director of philanthropy at Metrocare Services, senior director of corporate and foundation giving at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and major gifts officer at Parkland Foundation. At WiNGS, she will be responsible for establishing and implementing the infrastructure needed to grow a $3.5 million budget through solicitation of major gifts, special events, corporate and foundation support.

Founded in 1908, WiNGS offers solutions to women in the Dallas community. Formerly the Dallas YWCA, WiNGS’ mission is to empower women to lift themselves out of poverty and adversity while imagining a new chapter for themselves and their children.

The organization provides a tailored suite of services and resources – including financial coaching, the Women’s Enterprise Center and the Nurse-Family Partnership – to help women gain confidence and skills needed to start a new chapter, a new business or a new family.

In the interview that follows, Cass discusses fund development, goals and challenges at WiNGS and how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing fund-raising and philanthropy in general:

What are your fund development goals with WiNGS for this year and for the longer term?

For us right now, as with all nonprofits, we are in a world of unknown. Our primary goal that we’re going to focus on is introducing more people in the community to WiNGS and helping people understand our mission, which is to empower women to attack poverty and impact generations. There is so much uncertainty with giving even though we do live in a very generous community. There definitely has been a shift in funding from the funding community.

I think that shift is in response to the global pandemic and the economic devastation that has been caused by that, especially for nonprofits.

Do you think WiNGS has an awareness problem?

I wouldn’t say we have an awareness problem, but the organization has certainly seen an increase in requests for services. In our efforts to respond to COVID-19, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in requests for resource assistance. So for our organization, we know that it’s important to continue to create awareness about who we are and who we serve and what we do because we know that the needs of the community continue to grow because of COVID.

Do you have a dollar figure for your fund development goal?

Not at this time. I’m still acclimating myself and need to meet with our CEO to look at that. We know that the needs are great and so we will be looking at those things in the next couple of weeks and make sure we are where we need to be financially to sustain the work that we’re currently doing and the work that needs to be done based on the issues that continue to arise in our community, especially for women and women of color.

In addition to increasing awareness, what is your strategy to increase fund development?

I’m just four days into the job, but I think for WiNGS it’s really to make sure that our mission remains at the forefront of the work we do. Our strategy is that we’re going to have to challenge ourselves as an organization to imagine new ways of thinking and functioning. We’ve had to quickly pivot to serve more new clients — members that we served like our virtual workshops, our one-on-one outreach, and adapt our resources to meet new needs. I think that’s going to be an ongoing strategy because of so much of the unknown.

is that changing fund-raising more broadly?

I think the donor community has had to shift their priorities. While some people may have supported lots of causes, funders are also pulling their monies together to support programs that  are having a direct response to COVID or nonprofits that have been severely impacted by COVID.

What do you see as the biggest challenge in your new role?

Getting up to speed and learning the ins and outs of the organization and getting acclimated to all the work that we do and the impact we’re having.

What is your biggest opportunity right now?

In my new role my biggest opportunity is to evaluate the partnerships that WiNGS has and look for new partnerships that I may be able to help WiNGS with. Also, to be very strategic about increasing awareness about WiNGS in the community.

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