News & Views
Photo of Sandwich Village by Joe Janis
What is your name and the name of your business?
I am Cathy Crooker and my business is Crooker Consulting.
How did you get to Sandwich, NH?
Mine is one of the typical Sandwich stories – I spent my summers here as a kid. As a family we hiked, played tennis, went canoeing, and performed together in the 70’s versions of the Sandwich Players Gilbert & Sullivan productions under the legendary Bob Bates!
When my parents, Charlie and Lib Crooker, retired here in 1980, this became “home base,” the place I came back to for family visits. I lived in Oregon all those years, primarily working for nonprofits doing fundraising, but treasured my visits to see family and get back into the mountains I love.
When my husband, Griff O’Brien, retired a few years ago, I had the flexibility through my business to live anywhere, so we chose to return to Sandwich full-time. And we are so thrilled that we did! We love this community and are honored to be a part of it.
What got you started in this profession?
After graduating from Oberlin College with a Soviet Studies degree I migrated to Oregon. Like many fundraisers of my time, I happened upon an opportunity in development with no notion that this would be my career. When an entry-level job at the Easter Seals Society showed me how donors could help improve the lives of children with disabilities, I was hooked!
From there I went on to run all the special fundraising events for The American Heart Association in Oregon, and my path in fundraising was set! I went on to work in healthcare and higher education fundraising in and around Portland, Oregon, with a detour during the 1990’s running a business exporting food to Russia (another topic for another day!)
Tell us about your business. What do you make, do, or offer as a service?
Crooker Consulting helps dedicated nonprofit leaders achieve bold visions. I help volunteers, boards and staff learn how to raise more money, I help them develop strategies & visions that will resonate with donors, and I help boards grow and evolve.
I have a passion for improving our community. It is a gift to be in a profession where I help connect committed donors with organizations that are creating positive change, whether that is curing cancer, housing the homeless or enhancing the cultural fabric of the community. And I know that anything is possible when we align our energies in common purpose!
How did this business get started?
In 2015 the wonderful woman I was working for at Community Action in Oregon was set to retire. I decided at that time I was also ready for a transition to the next phase of my life and was ready to launch out on my own to offer what I could to a range of clients.
My experience in both very large and very small organizations lends me a unique set of skills. I am trained in the best practices of major fund raising inside large capital campaigns and I use my creative abilities to bring those vital tools to organizations with small staffs and limited budgets. I have learned that budget and size are not a hindrance to creating breakthrough fundraising strategies.
What is the most fun/satisfying aspect of your work?
When I see a board and an organization pull off a big dream that they weren’t sure was possible, I get a lot of satisfaction. The size of the budget doesn’t matter that much – for example, it was just as exciting for me to help the small arts cooperative raise the $100K they needed to repair their gallery as it has been to help the $55M arts center raise the money they needed. The joy comes from helping these incredibly dedicated volunteers achieve what they set out to do for their community.
What is the hardest?
I wouldn’t say it is hard, but it makes me a bit sad when an organization turns out to be “un-coachable.” It doesn’t happen often, but I have had a few instances when organizations paid me to give them advice, to help guide them, and then they decided not to listen and learn. I have come to understand over the years that when this happens, I need to sever the relationship as early as possible, and not take any more of their precious money, most of which was usually given to them by donors. I have to recognize when they are just not ready for the next step.
What has happened to your business in this last Covid year?
At the start of the pandemic my business did drop – several capital campaigns that were underway or about to start stalled or didn’t launch. But after a few short weeks of mild panic and some readjustment, I found new projects with some long-term clients who needed extra support during the crisis.
For example, one of my very first clients, a food bank in Portland, Oregon, was raising MORE money than they ever had and needed a lot of help navigating through their busiest fundraising year ever! I was inspired to see how the community stepped up in unprecedented ways to give to this organization that was right on the front lines of the crisis, and it was also amazing to realize that with all our modern technology (bad internet in Sandwich aside…) I could be just as helpful to them from our little village as I could have been had I still been in Portland.
Griff & were also able to adjust our lives so that during COVID – and now moving forward – I don’t have to work a hard as I did! So, I am taking more time for tennis, hiking, fiber arts, and spending time with friends.
What are your goals and hopes for the future?
My goal is to continue to be of service to the clients I have the privilege of supporting, and to balance that with plenty of time for all the richness that life in Sandwich has to offer – and to add more travel back into the mix!
What else can you tell us about yourself?
I am an avid hiker and active with the Over the Hill Hikers. I am also an addicted fiber artist - my new home studio holds my nine spinning wheels and multiple looms! Since moving to Sandwich, I have also enjoyed getting more involved in a formal way with some volunteer work, including serving on the Broadband Advisory Committee.
Griff & I just recently moved into our new, permanent retirement home, a project that has been in the works for a few years (and a challenge during COVID). We are now enjoying settling into our completely off-grid home on Elm Hill Road.
8/8/2021 11:07:05 am
I first met Cathy back in the early 1970s when she came to see what was going on in my pottery workshop on Upper Rd.. Cathy was a delightful and curios pre-teen. Her parents, Charlie and Lib lived just down the road from me when they retired. Charlie and I performed in several of the Bob Bates Gilbert & Sullivan musicals which also included Cathy and her sister Carol. Those were halcyon days, pre Covid, and no one cared about your political inclinations..
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