TEA BREAK WITHJOHN ANTHONY FARKAS
What kicks you off on Monday morning?
A fresh cup of coffee, the local newspaper, and NPR’s Morning Edition. Understanding what is trending and how it will impact my organization in the coming week. One of the many reasons I love working in this field, is that every day provides a new opportunity. After I have had some time to catch up, I review my calendar for the week and start working before I ever step foot in the office.
What inspires you in the NGO and fundraising sector?
I am fortunate to work for an organization that’s mission and goals align with my own. I think that such alignment is a necessity in fundraising. In order to be a successful fundraiser, you must truly believe in what you are raising money for.
In order to be a successful fundraiser, you must truly believe in what you are raising money for.
I suppose this goes without saying, but I believe you also need to give back yourself. Donating out of interest and passion for a cause, without expecting anything tangible in return, is an amazing thing. It is even more incredible when you are personally a part of that process.
What helps you do your job well?
My drive and my family. I grew up in quite a unique situation, in a family of non-profit fundraisers. My father has served as head of development for several colleges throughout his career and my mother was the executive director for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. I have been a part of the nonprofit world for as long as I have been alive, even before I was born!
I also know what WVIA Public Media means to our donors and how important our work is throughout the region. For many of our listeners and viewers, we are part of the family. I am driven to make sure we have the resources necessary to continue furthering our mission, developing local content and airing national content that our public enjoys.
What trends do you foresee for the future of fundraising?
The responsible use of Artificial Intelligence. The organization I work for invested in a tool called Gravyty. The results I have personally seen are astronomical. By using AI to help reach a broader network of donors and prospects, I’ve been successful in securing new meetings and raising additional funds at a much faster pace. Mixing personal expertise and modern technology has been a game changer. I believe that over the next few years, Artificial Intelligence, used responsibly, will revolutionize fundraising.
Mixing personal expertise and modern technology has been a game changer. I believe that over the next few years, Artificial Intelligence, used responsibly, will revolutionize fundraising.
Which organizations inspire you?
One organization that really inspires me is the Scranton Area Community Foundation. It is an organization in the city where I currently live, that provides free resources to nonprofits and allows individuals, families, and foundations, the opportunity to establish and manage endowment funds. When my grandparents passed away, my family established a scholarship fund in their name, to support students studying the performing arts at a local prep school. The Scranton Area Foundation has provided millions in grants to support various causes throughout their history, not to mention the guidance they provide smaller nonprofits in our region.
I also live in an area that has been overwhelmed by the opioid epidemic. It is not uncommon to discover that someone who you have known for years, has fallen victim to addiction. There is a program in the county I reside called Treatment Court, that gives individuals who suffer from addiction an opportunity to turn their lives around. I firmly believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and this program makes that a reality.
What do you find important when starting a relationship with a potential partner?
Preparation, respect, and keeping an open mind. There are new opportunities every day in fundraising. It is essential to expect that anything could happen and be ready if it does. Fundraising is all about relationship building. Doing your homework and having a solid understanding of why someone may want to provide support, finding ways that the two of you can connect, not just about your organization, but as individuals, is imperative. Anything can enrich the relationship and make you stand out, even if it is as simple as remembering your potential donor’s favorite food!
Fundraising is all about relationship building. Having a solid understanding of why someone may want to provide support, and finding ways that the two of you can connect, not just about your organization, but as individuals, is imperative.
I have great respect for potential donors who will take a call or a meeting with someone who, other than their relationship to the organization they work for, is a stranger.
What do you consider the most important quality of a fundraiser?
Honesty, and understating the importance of this, while also having the ability, to build relationships. Never make a promise that you cannot keep. When you are raising money for an organization, and doing so successfully, you are being welcomed into someone else’s life.
It is about the donor and why they want to give back. A good fundraiser is merely a catalyst.
Philanthropy is about giving back, and donors should feel confident that the individual they are working with is dedicated to the cause and reliable. Connecting with individuals and making them feel at ease throughout the giving process, is imperative. It is about the donor and why they want to give back. A good fundraiser is merely a catalyst.
A final word?
For me, philanthropy is about giving back and supporting a cause you believe in. If you are going to work in this field as a fundraiser, you need to be passionate about what you are raising money for and understand that, at the end of the day, the individual (though approached as a donor) is more important than the gift. If you walk away with the feeling that you helped this person or shared a passion, but without receiving a donation, it is still a great success.
John Anthony Farkas
Major & Planned Giving Officer at WVIA Public Media
1985 — 2020
Eternal optimist whose enthusiasm was extremely contagious, John was a passionate individual we truly enjoyed working with. His fundraising insights and life views helped lighten the days of many of our peers during the pandemic. While his voice is gone, his legacy remains.
About the series
Have you ever wondered whether you had more in common with your peers than just your passion for making a difference? Through informal interviews, we explore the ultimate drives of fundraising professionals, donors and association’s leaders, as well as their secrets for successful Mondays and their insights about the NGO and fundraising sector. Grab a cup and read on!
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