Today, we are proud as punch to be able to feature yet another entrepreneurial young woman who not only runs her own successful business in a very competitive and thriving industry, the charity fundraising world (hence the title we gave her “rainmaker”), she is a wife, a mom, and one very fun cool lady.Â We met Allison “Allie” Signorelli during the Punch’s early involvement with the L’Enfant Society and the Trust for the National Mall and witnessed her professionalism, creativity, steadfastness, and calm demeanor, even in the most interesting of times.
Find out what Allie thinks on the ever evolving charity scene, harnessing the power of the “young professionals” in the city, use of social media in her industry and more:
Pamela’s Punch:Â As an extremely busy wife, mom, head of the house, now head of your business, how do you hold it all together? And you always have such a smile on your face!
Allie Signorelli: It is a huge juggling act and it truly takes a village. I couldn’t do it without my amazing husband who is always there to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart â€“ which is about once a week.
PP:Â Tell us about your background; are you originally from the Washington DC area?
AS:Â My Dad was a very successful CEO and we moved quite a bit for his career. I was born in Toronto (and am a proud Canadian as well as American), grew up mostly in New Jersey, lived in Manhattan, went to school in Evanston, IL, got married and lived in Chicago, then moved to DC when my husband came here for law school 11 years ago. We love it here and can’t imagine ever leaving â€“ but you never know!
PP:Â You built a strong foundation and excellent contacts during your time with the Trust for the National Mall. You were instrumental in creating something that’s now a nationally recognized movement; what did you learn, good, bad, ugly in the “building” stages of such an important cause?
AS:Â Being part of the Trust from the beginning was an honor. I learned so much and met so many great people and feel extremely proud of the part I played in helping shape the organization and make a name for it, both in DC and elsewhere. I think there are always growing pains when you are part of a start-up and there are lessons that have to be learned, sometimes the hard way, but that is part of the evolution of any non-profit or company and you really can’t avoid them. The National Mall means so much to so many people that it was very moving to play a part in making sure it is one of the world’s best parks.
PP:Â Washington DC is a haven for thousands of good causes and you’ve been deeply involved with several. How have you seen the landscape change over your tenure? And is there much difference among charities based in DC/VA/MD?
AS:Â I have had the privilege of working with some of the best non-profits in DC and I feel very lucky to have worked with some of the most interesting and powerful people in Washington. The landscape is constantly evolving and the most successful charities know they have to be flexible â€“ whether it is embracing social media or re-thinking traditional fundraising models or events. I think the differences are vast when it comes to the size, scale and mission of non-profits but for the most part, they are all there for the common good which is admirable.
PP:Â You left to go on your own and start a consulting business. Many people feel intimidated by the risk of being an entrepreneur, but you realized there is a need for your talents. What can you share with us about the need nonprofits have for your type of consulting?
AS:Â Non-profits all need one basic thing to survive: funding. Whether that comes from events, traditional fundraising, Boards or other means, there is no way to get around it. What I can offer to my clients is help with the process needed to make the income more reliable and consistent and give them the tools to systemize their fundraising approaches. I also see myself as a match-maker of sorts. I have met so many fantastic philanthropists and corporate supporters over the years that I now am able to introduce them to non-profits that I think they will want to support. I only represent clients that I believe in and would personally support, so it is easy for me to help them find support. And of course, I LOVE events. I have been lucky to create some of the best events in town â€“ The Phillips Collection Gala, the Trust for the National Mall Benefit Luncheon, the Ball on the Mall. They are powerful ways to raise awareness and generate revenue.
PP:Â The “Young Professional” demographic has really reached a tipping point over the past few years. What do you see in the future for it/them? Any thoughts on what will help this energy continue?
AS:Â The power of young professionals in Washington is undeniable. Around the time of the 2008 Presidential election, I began to notice a groundswell amongst emerging leaders. At the Trust, we quickly harnessed that power to create the L’Enfant Society in January 2009 and it was enormously successful. I think the biggest challenge with this demographic is keeping their attention and interest so that they transition from early supporters to loyal long-term donors. One challenge in managing a group of young professionals is making sure everyone is truly dedicated to supporting the the cause and as opposed to merely the events or the social aspect of the organization and to keep the group focused. It is a challenge to do this but I strongly believe it is worth the effort as many of the young professionals involved in the DC charity scene are also the people who will be DC leaders soon.
PP:Â As creatures who are thirsty for good advice, what can you offer us in terms of how to best navigate the charity scene in DC?
AS:Â I think you have to pay careful attention to the organization’s mission and whether or not the efforts of that non-profit support their mission. That is to say, are using their events to be true fundraising tools? And if so, how much of the event’s profits go back to the organization? It’s an important question to ask. Also, it is very important to know who the staff and leadership are of an organization before committing to being involved. Are they experienced non-profit managers? Do they take the time to know and support their volunteers? Time is valuable and you want to make sure you have done your research before aligning yourself with any organization.
PP:Â Are you big on social media? It’s certainly changed how events and charities gain exposure, sell tickets, and get noticed. What are your thoughts on Twitter/Facebook/Instragram/Blogs/etc?
AS:Â I think they are powerful tools and have completely changed the way non-profits market themselves and their events in a good way. It has allowed non-profits to carry a message to a much wider audience and to engage people in a much more effective and cost efficient way. There is no downside to my opinion.
PP:Â Tell us about some of your clients and why you chose to work with them:
AS:Â I have several fantastic clients right now that I have taken on because I believe strongly in their mission and I admire the people behind the efforts. Each of them, while vastly different, are deeply committed to the causes they are working to support. It is inspiring and the reason I do what I do.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.