CHARLOTTE – Stamie Despo has the professional experience in philanthropy and personal connection to cancer that makes her a good fit as executive director for Susan G. Komen Charlotte.
The organization not only supports breast cancer research, but also helps people through diagnosis and treatment.
Before taking on the role, she led alumni engagement and fundraising for the engineering college at UNC Charlotte, as well as founded the Children’s Art for Children’s Cancer Foundation.
She joined Komen Charlotte earlier this year as senior director of fund development and became interim executive director in October.
South Charlotte Weekly recently caught up with Despo to ask her about the organization’s direction in 2018:
Q: What was it about Susan G. Komen Charlotte that made it such an appealing opportunity for you?
A: Cancer really speaks to me. It’s personal. My mother had ovarian cancer. I was also in charge of a foundation where we were providing art therapy for children with cancer. So the mission of Susan G. Komen Charlotte speaks to me. It’s to save lives and end breast cancer. It speaks to me.
Q: How are you able to use your past experiences in fundraising and engagement in your new role?
A: Everything about fundraising is about philanthropy. And philanthropy is about meaningful engagement and relationship-building. That’s what I do everyday, whether I’m with my staff, volunteers, donors or the board. It’s all about a meaningful exchange. One of my goals for the affiliate is to continue to build a culture of philanthropy, which means that everyone is on the same team, that we are partners in fundraising, that everyone is an ambassador in sharing the good work that Komen Charlotte does in the community. I use my skills every day to speak to people and share our mission and vision.
Q: How active were you in this year’s Giving Tuesday campaign?
A: Giving Tuesday is a wonderful platform for all the nonprofits in Charlotte. We have been doing Giving Tuesday – I think this is our third year – and we grew it this year to about 5 percent.
What made this year special is that we had more donors than in the past give. We were on social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We also were able to partner with Mecklenburg Radiology Associates. They gave us a $3,000 matching gift. So that was the first time that we had done that.
So really coming together and spreading the word. That goes back to this culture of philanthropy, where we were asking staff, board members and volunteers to post a tweet and share our social media to get the word out that we were trying to raise money to provide 150 mammograms for women who are underinsured or uninsured in the Charlotte area.
Q: I’ve seen companies fundraise on your behalf, where they’ll donate a percentage of sales to you guys. Is that one of your most vital fundraising streams?
A: Our funding comes from all different sources. We have corporate supporters, which we are so grateful for in the Charlotte area. We also have individual donors and we have third-party events, where people host some kind of event and give a percentage back to Komen Charlotte.
We also have groups like the Ballantyne Country Club Rally group, which is an organization that fundraises all year long and donates the money to Susan G. Komen Charlotte.
I have to tell you, it’s so inspiring, because a lot of these donors come to the Komen house to present their checks. It’s their effort of fundraising and being ambassadors and getting the word out that makes it so that we can fulfill our mission.
Another group that came was Serve for the Cure, which is a group of high school students from different schools in the area coming together every fall to have this volleyball tournament, raise significant funds and turn around and donate to Komen Charlotte.
That’s just some of the examples that we have. We can not do it without the community, individuals and groups.
Q: You have undergraduate degree in economics. At what point did you realize you were going to veer into the nonprofit sector?
A: I veered into the nonprofit sector pretty early.
I think service to others has been in my bloodline. My father was in the military – career military. My mother was a teacher. I saw them every day by example serve others.
I was on Wall Street for a while and decided to get my master’s in teaching. And I never looked back. I have been in nonprofits for about 20 years in different aspects. It’s where my heart is. It just feels right.
Q: Have you set goals for 2018? Any you can reveal?
A: The goals for 2018 are that we are going to increase our philanthropic engagement with more corporate sponsorships.
We are also going to look for individuals who have participated in our events and get them more involved.
The other thing is we want to do an outreach to young, professional survivors. We are looking to put together a program that addresses their needs and concerns.
Of course, we will continue to build this culture of philanthropy and get the word out about what we are doing.
Q: When’s the next big event we can plug?
A: The next big event is the 17th annual Laugh for the Cure on March 29 at the McGlohon Theater in Spirit Square. It’s been going on for 17 years. We have a professional comedian come. We talk about the Komen mission. We laugh and we cry and we raise money for the cure.