For over three decades, Drew McCartt has given his time and talent to work on behalf of nonprofit organizations, both as a development professional and a dedicated leadership volunteer. Prior to joining Benefactor Group, Drew spent more than 13 years leading corporate giving and sponsorship, as well as individual giving at one of the most respected science centers in North America, COSI Columbus.
Drew’s talents lie in developing and maintaining strong and consistent client-focused communication, running nonprofits as businesses, with realistic but boundary-pushing systems, strategies and tactics, and unrelenting stewardship.
Read on to learn more about Drew McCartt and what drives him to serve…
How did you get involved in serving nonprofit organizations?
One word – parents. They were constantly volunteering for a wide variety of organizations while I was growing up that volunteerism was just naturally instilled within me. One of the best things that I learned from my parents, I never thought of volunteering as an obligation, rather an opportunity to do something useful with my time since I had lots of energy. I remember being a pre-teen and doing crafts with residents at a nearby senior living center, and each Summer helping to keep the parks clean and painted in my local community.
Ever since, I have consistently volunteered for organizations and causes that matter to me, and more importantly, communities where I have lived. Much of my volunteer efforts over the past 30 years have been with the American Heart Association, 28 of which I have served on the board. Following heart surgery, I became passionate about this cause and organization and devoted much of my time to it. During my tenure on the board, I helped the AHA raise $1.35 million. I am most passionate about raising funds and awareness for research, and currently I serve on a multi-state regional committee that advocates for PR for the research that is being done. I also spent 11 years working heavily with the Heart Ball, which is an annual event that raises about $600K per year.
For the past three years, I have served on the board of the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and I am involved with the grants committee and the development committee.
What inspires you to serve the common good?
The knowledge that I can make a difference with my natural talents and learned skills, especially as part of such a talented team like Benefactor Group, is very empowering for me. Seeing results from projects that I have worked on, and hearing positive comments from our clients never ceases to inspire me to continue serving the common good.
I am particularly proud of the work that we have done with public spaces, parks, and conservancies. While I was in college, I worked full-time as a state park naturalist during the summer, so parks have always been in my blood. When I was not working full-time for the parks, I was still volunteering for them. I understand the value of public spaces, and the good that public parks and conservancies are doing for the good of all of us. More than ever, people need to be able to get away to a place where they can hike, fish, sightsee, birdwatch, and kayak, and just get away from every day stressors.
We have worked with Franklin Park Conservatory in the past, and presently are working on behalf of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and just began a project for Balboa Parks Conservancy in San Diego.
One word that best describes how you work?
My communication skills – I consider it the best and most important tool in my toolbox. It may sound obvious, but effective communication is the driving force behind all I do.
Where can someone find you when not at work?
Yardening, right now. My wife and I both have serious green thumbs, and we love spending time working in our garden and yard. But for true leisure time? Standing in a stream fly fishing. That is my utopia.
My favorite local fly fishing spot is in Bellefontaine, about 45 minutes from my house. It’s the highest point in Ohio, is always a little cooler, and a place where you can find natural-fed springs. While Northwestern Michigan is also a favorite spot, I like that I can go to Bellefontaine on a whim and in a short period of time be knee-deep in crystal clear waters, fishing for Brown, Brook, and Rainbow Trout.
I always enjoyed fishing, but a neighbor from about 25 years ago was an avid fly angler and got me involved. Fly fishing takes a lot of patience, and any fly angler will tell you that it takes about 20 years to master the craft. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, the mystery, and the level of difficulty—placing an artificial fly small enough to fit on a pinky nail in just the right spot, at just the right time without spooking the fish.
What everyday task are you good at that might surprise people?
Ironing clothes, almost to the point of being obsessive about it.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Right now, I am reading Hindsight & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me, by Justin Timberlake. Yes, JT. While I am still in the process of reading this, I really am impressed by his diligence in becoming a performer at such a young age. He has seized every opportunity placed in front of him through hard work, and he is very proud of his modest, lower-middle class roots in Memphis.
I am nuts about autobiographies – especially those written by comedians and music performers. I enjoy reading about their oftentimes humble beginnings and how those who have been touched by struggles have ultimately persevered. I highly recommend I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, by Martin Short. It’s a unique combination of funny, revealing, touching, and inspiring. Steve Martin and Billy Idol autobiographies are also among my favorites.
What’s some good advice you’ve received recently?
Every morning, think about three things for which you are grateful. We all need to do this I think. While I have typically been a pretty positive person throughout my life, I felt like was becoming a negative, glass half-empty kind of person. I am working hard on this and the advice to think about that for which I am grateful really struck me and is helping me in this process.
What gives you hope for the future of philanthropy over the next 5 years?
Philanthropic parents serving as role models for their millennial and 30-something kids. These younger generations have their hearts in the right place, but oftentimes they need an inspiration for becoming involved in charitable work. An invitation to a charitable event or to become involved in a cause or organization can go a long way towards inspiring our future philanthropists.