Get to know Miss Porter’s Cherie Gayle | Major Gifts Officer
As a staff member at an independent school and Major Gifts Officer, Cherie plays a crucial role in fundraising for the organization.
Here are 3 questions to get to know her better:
What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of work, and how do you like to spend your free time?
Some of my hobbies outside of work include baking, exercising, propagating plants, reading the NYTimes, and volunteering for organizations in the community. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my family, friends and dog. Recently, I got engaged, so wedding planning is my newest hobby.
What inspired you to become a major gifts officer?
I did not know fundraising was a profession until I interned for the New York Capoeira organization during grad school. During my high school years, I was involved in charitable causes and considered stewardship essential to being a positive, productive, and socially responsible person. I would visit nursing homes, participate in mission trips to assist elderly homeowners, volunteer at soup kitchens, and after college, my sister and I started a college readiness program to assist youths in the community with college preparation, including completing applications and touring colleges. This college readiness program was self-funded, along with the assistance of a few scholarship donors. However, the idea of raising money for stewardship occurred during my summer internship. I got to experience another dimension of stewardship where I could raise funds to have a much wider impact on the lives of many more persons.
Over the last eight years, I have worked in many fundraising capacities, but ultimately, I switched to major gifts in 2021 because I wanted to connect with donors on a 1:1 level. My current role allows me to raise money through philanthropic donations to meet our annual operating budget, provide scholarship opportunities for girls, and support MPS funding priorities.
This role allows me to combine my leadership skills and curiosity to serve as a matchmaker with individuals who care about giving back to a cause they love. Growing up, my teachers would tell my mom how much of a better student I could become if I could stop talking so much. In my country, they call someone who talks too much a chatterbox, but now I speak for a living and get paid for it, so it is truly a full-circle moment to be in this role, as this gift keeps giving.
What advice do you have for nonprofits looking to grow their major gifts program?
Many nonprofits focus their energies on corporate and special events dollars, so I advise an organization to shift its gears to a major gifts program. The largest source of charitable giving comes from individuals. Hiring staff that can focus on bringing your top donors through the four fundraising phases of identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship is essential to the program’s success. Additionally, having the right people to manage these potential donors will increase revenue. A major gifts program can provide long-term stability to organizations for years to come. It is effective and has a significant return on investment (ROI). Recently, Spelman College received a $100 million gift from a couple. Mackenzie Scott donated $560 million to several universities a few years back. With a major gift program, it only takes one person to be inspired by your mission. My point is that individuals who control their wealth have the power to make a significant impact. Instead of planning a gala, plan a reception and a lunch and find out your donors why.