Fundraising Five with Carolyn Smallwood
The Chief Executive Officer of Way to Grow
Interviewed by Emily Cole-Jones
Describe your role with Way to Grow. Why are you passionate about Way to Grow's work?
I am the CEO, and I have been with Way to Grow for 16 years. I am passionate about Way to Grow’s work because our children, every child, should have equal opportunity to great education no matter their economic status. They are the next generation.
How long have you worked with Fox Advancement and what do you appreciate about the partnership?
Way to Grow has partnered with Fox Advancement for 6-7 years for grants support services, including grant writing and calendar management. I truly appreciate Fox Advancement’s excellent and compassionate writers, including Ellen Davis, Julia Miglets-Nelson, and Emily Cole-Jones. They have been Way To Grow’s champions.
What do you enjoy most about fundraising? What is an example of a fundraising challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?
I enjoy the challenge as well as the diverse people and corporations. We face challenges on a daily basis, and nonprofits experience cuts in funding at least 2-3 times a year. We overcome funding cuts by believing that we will be able to replace that funding while still providing support and services to families and children. We must also show impact; Way to Grow is very metric driven. We continue to work hard and not let the challenges overtake us. A recent fundraising challenge we faced was moving our big gala to a virtual event. We had to put in a lot of work, including a video showcasing the passionate families we served over the last year. Our team worked together to garner support, plan out the evening, and create the video. The gala was a huge success.
What is a particularly memorable interaction you've had with a donor, board member, or volunteer?
I’ve been here (WTG) for 16 years. One of my most memorable interactions was with a client, a participant. One day at our old office on University Ave, I saw a lady and her two kids waiting for the bus. It was very cold outside. I walked up to her, gave her my business card and asked her to come into the office to get warm and possibly get a cab because it was so cold. As a result she became a client, staying in the program for 6 years. About 2 years ago I was at the Southdale shopping mall and heard someone say “Ms. Smallwood!” I turned around and it was the mother from the bus stop coming over to say thank you. She had become the regional manager of one of the stores at Southdale! She went back to college, graduated with a degree, and now she was regional manager taking care of her pre-teen kids. When you can touch someone and see them succeeding later on, that’s what it’s all about.
On a personal note: Describe your perfect day from beginning to end!
The perfect day to me is walking in the door to Way to Grow, thanking God for giving me another opportunity to be a blessing to someone else.