For Lilly Family School of Philanthropy B.A. junior Erica Gould, working at the YMCA is in her blood.
A fifth-generation YMCA employee, Gould has worked at the Y since she was 17 and through hard work and dedication, has advanced to become the assistant site director for the New Britton Elementary before- and after-school program.
Gould has embraced the challenges and rewards of fundraising and has expanded the capacity of her site to fundraise. Since she has given much of her time, talent, and treasure to the Y, she was chosen as a First Quarter Y Champion.
She did not begin with an interest in fundraising, though.
“I work with children. I run math, science, arts and crafts, fitness programs, and things like that,” Gould said. “I began a philanthropy club this year, where I engage them with philanthropy and how they can give back in as many ways as possible.”
As part of that club, Gould has instituted various programs, including recycling cans (“we turn them in for money and then donate that money to the Y”), creating thank you cards for firefighters and police officers (“some of the kids really poured their hearts into these cards”), and a bake sale, which included gluten and dairy-free options (“many had never thought of those dietary restrictions and what they mean before”).
While the children are young (ages 6-10), Gould knows it’s important to teach them about philanthropy early.
“Even though Fishers is typically thought of as a higher-income area, there’s still a need for kindness no matter what part of the city one is in,” she said. “That’s what I want these kids to understand. As soon as they’re able to think, they should be learning about philanthropy and giving back.”
Passion for fundraising
In addition to her programmatic work related to philanthropy, Gould has found a passion for fundraising. Her branch has to raise $150,000 a year, which is split up into different campaigns.
“My supervisors reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to run the staff campaign. I accepted, and was in charge of asking all of the staff in my district to donate money,” she said. “It wasn’t easy; people hesitate to donate money out of their hard-earned paychecks. I asked them though to imagine that all they’re doing is donating $1 out of their paychecks. That’s five minutes a week they’re sitting down, helping a child build a puzzle or complete another activity. When you put it into that perspective, it made it easier for them to be a part of it.”
After a successful staff campaign, Gould was asked to be the district campaign manager for the community campaign phase. She was in charge of helping all of the schools come up with their respective fundraising plans and find and make goals. She also gave them ideas and tools to be successful in their campaigns.
“For that campaign, I created a book of 25 fundraising ideas that ranged from easy to medium to hard,” Gould said. “For example, I explained in detail how to participate in dine-to-donate with local restaurants.
“Nobody trains us how to fundraise. People know the YMCA is a great place and does great stuff for kids, but they don’t teach us how to fundraise.”
And that’s where the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy plays a strong part in Gould’s continuing impactful efforts at the Y.
Putting learning into practice
“I’ve been taught at the school how to help people in this manner,” she said. “In addition, with my education from the school, I’ve been able to plan ahead exactly what I need to do to achieve my end goal.
“For example, our biggest fundraiser was this Olympic-themed event. Earlier in the year, I had connected with (director of master’s degree programs) Dr. Kathi Badertscher. She’s very friendly and when we met, I told her about my event. She gave me several ideas on how to structure the event so it would be successful, including giving out small donor appreciation gifts.
“With her advice, we were able to come up with an awesome plan to help prepare all of the sites for the fundraising season. Through her help and with the staff, kids, and community on board, we were able to nearly double the amount we raised at the Olympic event from $830 to $1,600. By working together, we were able to find success.”
As a result of giving her time, talent, and treasure, Gould was named a First Quarter Y Champion. A Y Champion is an award that’s given to one member from each branch who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
“Erica provides resources and leadership to our entire team of site staff. In addition, she leads the fundraising efforts for her site goal,” said a colleague of Gould’s at the Y. “She met the goal of $1,600 with one event this year, and her site was the first to goal for our entire center!”
Added Dr. Badertscher: “Erica truly cares about her Y kids. She is also a dedicated, hard-working, and thoughtful student, and I can always count on her to ask perceptive questions inside and outside the classroom.”
Making a difference
Gould humbly accepts her Y champion award and the recognition that comes with it.
“I felt really excited when I learned I received the award. I have a lot of help from my team and site, and I try to do as much as I can anonymously,” she said. “However, the award made me realize that what I’m doing has made a difference. People are watching and now I feel even more motivated to keep going.”
As for her future goals, Gould says she would like to be a professional, multilingual fundraiser (she also has a Spanish major and speaks six languages fluently).
“The YMCA is ingrained in me and I’d like to be a professional fundraiser for them, but we’ll see what happens after I graduate. I’m open to other fundraising possibilities as well.”
For now though, she’s focused on her schoolwork and impact at the Y.
“I’ve learned so much information from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that I’ve been able to apply firsthand in my job,” she said. “It’s helped me grow and helped me create awareness for myself and others. At the beginning of the school year, my supervisors would point someone in my direction if they needed help with fundraising. Now, they’re saying ‘go to Erica to be the leader of the campaign.’
“That wouldn’t have happened a year ago but now that I have these skills from the school, they’re aware that I’m someone that they can and should rely on to help with these fundraising activities. It’s a really great place for a philanthropy student to have a job.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.