Achieva executive honored for innovation in fundraising technology

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Throughout his two-decade career in fundraising, David Tinker has tried to incorporate cutting-edge technology into his job.

He has developed databases, written computer codes, created websites and launched social media campaigns -- all as a means to track donors, promote the activities of nonprofits, and encourage online giving.

Still, Mr. Tinker -- who holds a master's degree in information strategy, systems and technology -- believes even the most savvy technology won't replace the art of asking for donations in person.

"People still want to meet face-to-face. It's still the most effective way to raise funds: meeting in person and engaging," said Mr. Tinker, vice president of advancement at Achieva, a South Side-based nonprofit that provides educational, career and other support services for people with disabilities.

Mr. Tinker, 42, was one of 12 local individuals and organizations honored Thursday with National Philanthropy Day Awards from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Western Pennsylvania Chapter.

"They are people who very quietly go about their jobs or everyday lives, raising funds and garnering support for programs and services that could not exist or thrive without their often unheralded efforts," Allison Sanders, president of the association's local chapter, said of the awardees.

National Philanthropy Day was created in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan said each Nov. 15 would be a day to recognize those whose efforts on behalf of charities significantly benefit lives and communities.

Mr. Tinker, who received the award for outstanding fundraising executive, entered Muskingum College as a chemistry and pre-med major but changed career paths after spending a summer as an intern at Ketchum Inc., a Pittsburgh fundraising firm later acquired by Dallas-based Pursuant.

"I felt fundraising was my calling and wanted to continue studying it," said Mr. Tinker, who earned his first master's degree in nonprofit management from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

After finishing that degree in 1995, he landed a job in annual giving at an Indianapolis hospital and in 1997, moved back to his hometown of Pittsburgh.

As a development associate at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services, Homestead, and then as director of development and online communications for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, he immersed himself in combining technology and fundraising to attract donors.

"I'm an accidental techie myself," he said.

After joining Achieva in 2005, he traveled two hours each way to Muskingum in New Concord, Ohio, two weekends a month to complete his second master's degree. Now he teaches in the same program as an adjunct professor but doesn't have to commute because students from all over the country access the classes online.

Achieva has an annual budget of $46.5 million and has generated $3 million in donations in the past year, including special gifts made for a capital campaign, Mr. Tinker said.

While he acknowledged social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter help drive donations, especially during international disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake or last week's devastating typhoon in the Philippines, online giving "is not replacing traditional face-to-face fundraising," Mr. Tinker said. "It's enhancing it."

Other awardees at the ceremonies held at the Sen. John Heinz Regional History center were: Karen Winner Sed, outstanding philanthropist, for her efforts to revitalize Sharon, Pa.; William Dietrich II, special lifetime achievement awarded posthumously in recognition of the Dietrich Foundation, which has made major gifts to local universities and other nonprofits; J-Serve, outstanding youth, to recognize the volunteer efforts of Jewish teens during the J-Serve national day of service; Will and Pat May, outstanding youth, for volunteer and fundraising activities for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia; Dollar Bank and EQT Corp., outstanding philanthropic organizations; McAuley Ministries, outstanding foundation; Rachel Lorey Allen and Mary Fricker, outstanding volunteer fundraisers; Weavertown Environmental Group, special innovation award for underwriting a workforce development program for Auberle's Employment Institute; and Audrey Brourman, special posthumous award for her contributions as a fundraising consultant who led the effort to raise money to develop the Heinz history center.

Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580.

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