"Make the most of today’s greatest opportunities and tackle its many challenges"
Exclusive Q & A with Midwest Conference Keynote Speaker, Joshua Hale

AFP Chicago is thrilled to welcome Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Joshua Hale as the closing keynote speaker at the 2014 Midwest Conference on Philanthropy. Under his leadership, Big Shoulders has become a model for supporting 90 Catholic schools in the neediest areas of inner-city Chicago, which runs contrary to national trends. 

Recently, AFP Chicago spoke with Hale to gain a sneak peek into what he has planned for the conference. Read on and discover how the Big Shoulders Fund is breaking fundraising records and engaging a new generation of philanthropic leaders.

AFP Chicago: Over the past ten years, Big Shoulders Fund has more than tripled its donor and volunteer base. The recent award dinner in May also broke fundraising records, bringing in more than $10 million in one night. To what do you attribute this overwhelming show of support for the Fund?

Hale: In short, we have a great mission, the honoree, Monsignor Velo, has given so much to the city of Chicago and many people were inspired to do the same in honor of him, and. . . .we got lucky!  More than anything, we have a great mission and leadership.  Our co-chairmen, James J. O’Connor, John A. Canning, Jr., and Monsignor Kenneth J. Velo, are tireless in their support of Big Shoulders and lead an exceptional Board of Directors.  The 90 schools we serve, and the principals, teachers, students, and parents that make up the school communities, consistently show they are providing a quality education to children in need. 

AFP Chicago: Big Shoulders Fund has also successfully engaged more next-generation leadership than any other organization. What lessons have you learned when it comes to involving this particular audience in the Fund’s philanthropic efforts?  

Hale: Finding the right balance between on-the-ground volunteerism, participation in organizational strategy-making, and networking opportunities has been key.  There are individuals who in order to feel connected to the mission choose to volunteer as mentors, tutors, coaches, or school board members while there are others who prefer to serve on planning committees to further the organization’s strategic goals. Getting to know each person, and having the right people on staff to shepherd them through the many ways to get involved, is critical. But, like anything, we have great leaders on our next-generation boards and we just try to keep up with them!    

AFP Chicago: How has your role as a fundraiser changed since taking the helm of Big Shoulders Fund?

Hale: When I first joined Big Shoulders Fund nine years ago, the majority of our funding went to scholarships for students.  While scholarships are still a critical need and our largest area of investment, there are many other areas that we discovered are important to fund such as academic curriculum, school-based advancement programs, enrollment marketing, enrichment programs for students and much more.  This has meant an outward bound approach to serving schools and building more partnerships with universities, individual donors, educators, and corporations that bring great knowledge and resources in this additional areas.

AFP Chicago: In your view, what can fundraisers do today to make their organizations more successful in this ever-changing non-profit landscape?

Hale: I think transparency in outcomes and evaluation, and whenever possible encouraging investors to have a voice in programs and evaluation, are both important.  They help first and foremost with the design and implementation of programs that further our respective missions and then by extension attract more investors.

AFP Chicago: On November 5, you will close the Midwest Conference on Philanthropy with your talk, “When the Apple is Ripe, it Will Fall: Getting to the Core of the Matter.” What are three takeaways you hope to leave with attendees after your talk on November 5?

Hale: I am looking forward to the conference!  I would like to revisit with individuals how we got to where we are and why we continue doing it.  I for one did not expect to go on to a career where fundraising was such a central piece, and I suspect many others feel the same.  We’ll also talk about how the link between data and outcomes has helped create conditions ripe for new donors and new programs at Big Shoulders and develop strategies for our own networks.  More than anything, I hope people leave inspired to use our roles in philanthropy to make the most of today’s greatest opportunities and tackle its many challenges. 

The conference doesn’t end after the closing session! Connect with colleagues and expand your professional network during the Rush Hour Retreat immediately following Hale’s session. 

Register Today


© 2013 Association of Fundraising Professionals Chicago Chapter
1717 North Naper Boulevard Suite 102 Naperville, IL 60563 | Phone: 630-416-1166  | Fax: 630-596-1042