A Season of Possibility with Marti Sullivan by: S. Benjamins & Company, Inc.

Over the past year I have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know and support Reimagine OC and their visionary CEO, Glenn Motola. They recently hosted an evening to highlight the new 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art-facility and fitness center in Santa Ana. There I met Marti Sullivan who leads their Fund Development efforts and inspires us to give to participants in our community with developmental disabilities.
I asked Marti to share more about her work in philanthropy, what led her to Reimagine and how we can support this incredible mission.

Sherry: Tell me about what drew you into the nonprofit world early in your career?

Marti: I actually started off in sales as an account executive for a cosmetic company, Estee Lauder and represented them in eight states. I moved to California for another company and learned that I was good at selling products and services. I started volunteering for the San Francisco Symphony and the first funding effort was to help sell advertising for a children’s holiday event program book. I then wrote grants for my kids’ school, which moved me further into selling the intangible. It was wonderfully challenging and I discovered what a giving philanthropic community we had in the Bay Area.

I was learning about what it meant to be “donor centered” and learned the importance of communicating what funds were to be used for and how in the longer term they contributed to progress and those we served. What kept me engaged was that our funds were for a very important need and not for ourselves. The idea of meeting a need and offering benefits to good causes captured my heart.

Sherry: Has philanthropy changed over the years? What is the future challenge?

Marti: Yes, it has changed, in so many ways for the better, thanks to technology! When I first started in 1987, it was with my symphony event and then my kid’s school, which was the one of the only ones in the Bay Area without a gym. I learned that large capital projects captured the interest and generosity of our parents at the school. We had an enormous response from the families and giving was at all different levels. From that experience, many increased their giving and volunteering; we built a relationship over time and remained connected.

Today, engagement is across a diverse mix of individuals thanks to the internet, and that is good. The pandemic highlighted that remote engagement is not only possible, it is effective! The challenge, however is that our operating costs, salaries and administrative costs keep going up. Just keeping the lights on is more of a challenge today and raising funds for operations is less enticing to some.

Peer to peer crowd funding is also a new and expanding trend. It is less relationship building and more transactional in responsive to an immediate need. The good news is that this opens the door to more donors and gives everyone a chance to give. Converting initial transactions to long-term relationships requires significantly new and different cultivation strategies. Our overall goal at Reimagine is to find ways to engage our donors so that they get to know us well and we get to understand what matters most to them. We see this as a two way street. We get to know them and they get to know us too.

Sherry: Why is mentoring new talent into the nonprofit world important to you?

Marti: I care about developing others in philanthropy. Over the many years I have been in this work I can reflect on 8 or 10 people that I have mentored over the years who are now heads of Development. It feels great to know I have had that kind of impact.

There are many stories of individuals who have started with and remain in this work. A young colleague, who is now the CEO of a similar agency to Reimagine in the Bay Area, started with my development team over fifteen years ago and over time got a degree in Public Health. She has dedicated herself to human services leadership. She, like many, have developed their career in non-profit administration, and is a stronger CEO with her experience in fundraising and communications. It has been so rewarding to watch her and others grow.

Sherry: How would those that you mentored describe you?

Marti: I think they would say I am flexible and fluid. The work is all encompassing at times and I want them to enjoy the work and value their family time too. I believe in professional development and career growth. I know they would say I value that for them.

I also believe in giving talented people performance reviews and honest feedback. In one situation, I gave my direct report eleven things I felt she could work on and we created a plan to do so over time. Surprisingly this was appreciated and became part of our plan to continuously improve. She is now a consultant working with non-profits on data management.

Sherry: As you look ahead at Reimagine, what is your goal for 2022?

Marti: I am excited about establishing a program that can be adjusted over time once we see results and eventually expand. I can see a broad suite of programs for our participants, family members and volunteers. We want a series of seasonal campaigns that offer regular ebb and flow so that we can pace our work and track our results. I also want to meet people where they are and get to know them. Personal relationships matter in this New Year and in our approach to our community. Once we have a program that we can review and reflect upon we can more effectively look at year two and plan for exciting enhancements.

Our holiday campaign is called the Season of Possibility and it is starting now through the end of the year. We will be reaching out in various ways for others to get to know us and our work and learn ways that they can support us. The first year is our baseline and we will build from that.

Sherry: Tell us about Reimagine OC?

Marti: Reimagine is an extraordinary community, a wonderful history of seventy plus years. We are continuing our innovative programming at our new state-of-the-art campus in Santa Ana. Our participants have the runway and support to achieve what we all want in life – friends, community, love relationships, a home and for some, a job that leads to a career. We deliver the support to them that allows them to achieve those things.

We partnered with and are grateful to Goodwill Industries who previously owned the space in Santa Ana, with the Rogers A. Severson Fitness Center that is now a fully adaptive center.

Sherry: How can the OC community get involved in supporting Reimagine?

Marti: Anyone in our community can use our fitness center and visit our facility. We want our neighbors to come and get to know us. In the New Year we will be establishing a volunteer program for individuals and groups. We will have workout buddies and host participant after-hours recreational events. Some of our participants will be part of a workforce development program and volunteers will help us execute on this too.

You ask, “How can you help during Reimagine’s Season of Possibility?” Make Reimagine one of your charities of choice this year!

Tell your networks about our innovative programs for people with developmental disabilities

Schedule a visit at our new state of the art Santa Ana campus, complete with an adaptive fitness center.

Follow us on Social Media on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Volunteer your time with us as a workout buddy, a dinner club sous-chef, or a dance club DJ!

Donate to the Season of Possibility, which makes a huge difference for our participants all year long.

For more information about programming or to donate, visit https://reimagineoc.org

To schedule a tour or learn more about volunteering, contact Marti Sullivan, marti@reimagineoc.org