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Diane Buzzell, Julie Paolillo and Kate Konzen have several new letters after their names, after each of them achieved Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation this fall. CFRE International is the certifying board that develops and administers rigorous exams that set the benchmark for fundraising excellence around the world. There are just over 7,000 fund raising executives with CFRE designation globally, making this an elite group of knowledgeable and capable philanthropic leaders.
More importantly, however, CFRE designation is indicative of professionals who hold ethics, accountability and donor relationships in the highest regard. For donors, grateful patients, team members and IU Health leadership, that matters… a lot.
Konzen, leadership annual giving officer in the Indianapolis Metro Region, says CFRE designation isn’t really about adding letters to her title; it’s about the impact it will have across the IU Health system. “It’s about philanthropy moving the needle from great to excellent care,” she says. “It’s what allows for new equipment, perhaps more precise, than we had previously budgeted. It’s new programs and initiatives. It’s our Community Impact Investment Fund, which is a commitment by IU Health and the power of philanthropy to make Indiana a healthier state.”
Konzen, for her part, knew she wanted to attain CFRE status while still attending university, and has been working toward that goal ever since. Buzzell and Paolillo, who serve as directors of the South Central and West Central regions, respectively, both decided that even in the midst of COVID-19, the time was right for them to take their careers to the next level. Working remotely gave them opportunities to attend virtual study groups, take practice exams and prepare in a quiet and focused environment.
And it’s no easy feat. CFRE International requires candidates to apply for approval to even sit for the certification, and once granted, they must prepare for a grueling, four-hour exam that is known in the fund-raising world for its complexity and difficulty. With the addition of Konzen, Buzzell and Paolillo, IU Health Foundation now employs six CFRE credential-holders, a distinction that sets them apart in the world of health care philanthropy.
This is significant, Buzzell says, because it supports key IU Health initiatives in recruiting, retaining and growing top leaders in the industry. But more than that, it impacts the way relationships with donors are nurtured. “I think what trickles down to the donor,” she says, “is the knowledge that they’re being treated ethically, that we’re following the rules of accountability and we understand the donor’s bill of rights. They have confidence that we’re going to conduct ourselves in an ethical manner.”
Paolillo agrees, saying that even though she doesn’t contribute directly to patient care, she feels she plays a role in supporting the larger goals of the IU Health system. “I feel very connected to our work at IU Health, and it’s really an honor to be a part of the care team,” she says. “That’s how we view every department in IU Health, whether you’re giving direct patient care or not. And that’s really meaningful for those of us who don’t often interact with patients but know that we impact their care. For us, that translates into being able to support programs, equipment, innovative projects and other initiatives that may not otherwise be funded. We can help deliver on our promise this way, which is the best care, designed for you.”
To design the best care, IU Health holds firm in the belief that people are their most valuable asset. That was certainly true for Buzzell, Paolillo and Konzen, who all said that the support they received from colleagues and leadership was overwhelming. “They were definitely cheerleaders for us,” says Buzzell, “and then when we received the certification, they were ecstatic.” Paolillo echoes that sentiment, saying, “As far as emotional support and really being cheerleaders, that was huge.”
She also says that, during this unprecedented time, during a global pandemic, the CFRE designation has taken on a whole new meaning for her. “The burden on our team members, the risk of burnout and the stress on those who are able to work is very real, and that’s motivating to me, to be able to help support them during this time, more than ever.”
Ultimately, though the letters have a nice ring, what really matters to these women and leaders in health care philanthropy is that CFRE designation will empower them to better serve the needs of donors, the needs of the organization, and through that, the needs of all IU Health patients.
The four other IU Health team members who have achieved CFRE status are Brad Edmondson, Crystal Hinson Miller, Jessica Journey and Michelle Leonard.
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