Interview on Giving with CEC President Angie Jasper and Immediate Past President Danielle Kovach
The CEC Board of Directors initiated the CEC Fundraising and Development program and appointed the Fundraising and Development Committee in 2021. The Committee is comprised of six CEC members, two CEC Board Ad Hoc members (Board President, as available and Board Liaison), CEC Executive Director Chad Rummel and CEC staff liaison Jake Minor.
Bill Bogdan: As you reflect on the CEC Board deliberations, what were the hopes, aspirations, and goals of the Board in initiating CEC first comprehensive fundraising and development plan?
Danielle Kovach: One of the first things I was involved in when I began at CEC was the Honors Committee. When I took over leadership of that Committee, one of my charges was to consider how can we give more to our award recipients, and of course that could only be done through funding.
The more I became involved in CEC and aware of all of the work that we do, the more I become aware of how much I wanted to do, but a lack of funding holds you back from doing everything.
When the Board meets, there are so many people from different backgrounds and there are so many ideas flowing around of how we can promote the profession and support our members. The ideas are there, but there is that next step of how we fund it and how do we get it done. For many years, the Board thought about fundraising, and eventually an avenue was created for this in order for members to have a new way to support the efforts of CEC. Fundraising is a great way for people to donate to CEC and to something near and dear to our hearts. Just to see it all taking off has really been heartwarming and it’s wonderful to see all we are getting done because of it.
Angie Jasper: I think fundraising is a great avenue to support the work of CEC. When I think of all our members, they all contribute in different ways. Some give their time, some their energy, and some choose or prefer to support through their finances. So, it’s good to give people the option.
BB: Since the inception of the CEC giving program, donations have reached the $77,000 mark. Many of those donations have been made in support of one of five CEC Endowment Funds: Advocacy, Diversity, Fund for the Future, Rising Stars, and Yes I Can. By offering a selection of an endowment fund, donors have the option to select where their donations may best be used based on their own focus and interest areas in our profession and our vision for CEC.
As you reflect on the five Endowment Funds, how do these funds align with CEC’s mission, strategic goals and objectives?
DK: Our endowments link perfectly to our strategic plan. Our Strategic plan is what guides us and gives us a vision for the next five years. Everything under plan is completely in line with our endowments. Our strategic plan guides us, and our endowments support us.
For example, DEIA is embedded in all aspects of our strategic plan. This connects to our Diversity Fund where we can now have travel stipends, grants and awards that support DEIA efforts. Of course, Advocacy is always in the forefront in our strategic plan, and the Advocacy Fund connects to that. We have a footprint on Capitol Hill where legislators come to us for our input on policies that impact our members. One of our big goals is to really promote and retain the work of our teachers in the field of special education, this connects to our fund for the future and the rising stars where we can help attract people into the field. And of course, guiding all of this is our efforts to do everything we can for individuals with disabilities and our Yes I Can Fund supports individuals with disabilities, and shows the wonderful work they are doing with the support of our members. In my mind, the endowments and strategic plan are perfectly in line.
BB: The CEC Tribute Wall offers the opportunity to donate a gift in honor of a friend, colleague or mentor, or Legacy Proclamation recipient… a wonderful way to pay tribute to a person. Why do you believe it is important for the CEC to recognize our legacy leaders?
AJ: In thinking about this question, I really focused on legacy and leadership and how important and critical it is to document that history. Specifically, it’s important to look at the history of our organization and those who made such a tremendous impact. For me, it’s important that we document this because it could easily be lost. It’s important to recognize and honor those who have made an impact on the field of special education and shaped CEC to best serve its members over the years.
DK: This is a hard one for me, because as educators we do not do what we do for praise. It’s hard for me to see my name as someone who has donated because I do not do it for that recognition. But as an educator it’s important to hear a thank you. In education that is not something we hear often. And it is important to hear that others believe in us and the work we are doing.
BB: One of the CEC Legacy Giving programs is the Elizabeth E. Farrell Society. CEC celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2022. In honor of CEC’s founder, Elizabeth E. Farrell, the Farrell Society was christened. The Elizabeth Farrell Society membership is extended to supporters who make or pledge a lifetime donation or legacy donation of $10,000 or more. The pledge can be honored through cumulative annual donations, one-time donations, or through a legacy gift/bequest. Why do you feel it is important to recognize CEC’s founder, Elizabeth E. Farrell and how did her life’s work set the vision for the Council for Exceptional Children?
DK: It’s amazing to think that a teacher in the 1920s was that much of an out of the box thinker. At the time, people with disabilities were institutionalized, and we didn’t think about their education. She was a teacher who said “no, this is how we are going to do it, we are going to instruct them in ways that they learn. To hear that it came from a teacher is so inspirational. So many times, teachers say, “Oh I could not do that, I am just a teacher.” But it’s important to look at the work of Elizabeth Farrell and what a revolutionary thinker she was at that time. She also formed CEC as an organization to support other teachers. Ultimately, I feel like I have a close connection with her though I never met her. Quite honestly being a teacher and leading CEC in that 100th year was a tremendous honor, and my reasons for giving to CEC as an organization was because it is an organization I want to see around in 100 years.
AJ: Dani mentioned that Elizabeth Farrell was revolutionary and out of the box as a thinker. But she was also inclusive and equitable in her work while demonstrating the value of people with disabilities. That is inspirational to me. There would be no CEC without her and the other founders who came together to create the association. Bill Bogdan wrote a great blog about her and CEC which I would recommend we all read.
BB: If you were speaking directly to a potential Elizabeth Farrell Society member, what message would you share with them that might strongly encourage them to consider membership in the E. Farrell Society?
AJ: I would encourage them to consider this as an opportunity to honor a legacy. One that has been built upon innovation, equity, inclusion, demonstrating value for individuals that have not always been seen as valuable, coupled with CEC’s mission to promote high quality education for individuals with disabilities, gifts, and talents. This would be a great opportunity to demonstrate their support for CEC and give back.
DK: When I decided to join the Elizabeth Farrell Society, I had a conversation with my family to determine if we could do it. This was a tough conversation. I am a teacher and not a millionaire. The other question we considered was that if the money goes to CEC, who is it not going to, and as a mom of three boys, that was something to be considered. It was a long conversation over a long period of time. But we worked out the details, and I am blessed to have a husband who believes in CEC as much as I do. In the end it didn’t come from what was in my wallet, but internally. I trust in CEC, and I know that my giving one day when I pass is in phenomenal hands and it will be put to good use.
BB: What are your thoughts on CEC’s fundraising efforts so are, including your reflections on our 2022 Giving Tuesday campaign
DK: The fact that we are able to do this is amazing. Fundraising is not something that we have had before. I loved just looking at all of the individuals that joined us in this venture. The more it gains momentum, the more people will get on board. I am competitive, so making it a competition to fundraise against others is something that I found encouraging. We are thankful for anything anyone could give, because it comes from their heart towards something that they believe in. I know this will keep on going, and our Giving Tuesday this year will be bigger and better.
AJ: In this initial phase to our fundraising process, we have had tremendous success. I am mindful that this is a new process for CEC, so that it will take some time to help members understand the importance of giving to CEC. The board will continue to develop this process as well. It will take time to build up relationships necessary to increase giving. But it all goes to support the work of CEC, and we are moving in the right direction.
BB: Is there anything else you would like to offer in support of the CEC Giving Programs?
AJ: Angie: if people are considering giving, please do it! No contribution is too small or too large.