ESTES PARK — If Carrie Rossman’s boss were in the room, she’d tell everyone there that Rossman is an optimist in fundraising.
Rossman is the vice president of advancement, a role she’s held since late 2021, and she’s been a member of the YMCA of the Rockies staff for the past five years.
“A healthy dose of fundraising is what this role needs,” said Rossman of Loveland. “If you’re an optimist working hard, engaging supporters in a genuine way, you can find a way to reach your fundraising goals even if it takes a little longer than you anticipate.”
Rossman started out at YMCA as the mission advancement director, then she became director of philanthropy, followed by vice president of philanthropy.
“I have loved every role that I had,” said Rossman, who’s worked in philanthropy and fundraising for more than 15 years, including diversifying funding sources for the BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming. “After I departed from the BBB, I wanted to focus on something where there’s an emphasis on social and environmental responsibility, and being in the mountains gave me that opportunity where I impact the lives of families and kids who come to camp here.”
Rossman develops and leads a comprehensive financial development program to generate funds for YMCA of the Rockies, a mission-based resort and campground offering programs, youth camps and retreats and a venue for conferences, weddings, and youth, church and business groups. Most of her work involves overseeing philanthropy, as well as environmental sustainability.
Environmental sustainability is one of five strategic priorities identified by YMCA’s board of directors that also includes technology; diversity, equity and inclusion; attracting engaging and retaining staff; and mission growth and experience. Environmental sustainability is also one of nine relationship goals for youth and families that are part of YMCA’s mission and values.
“It’s being proper stewards and conserving the environment around us,” Rossman said.
To do this, Rossman helps identify ways of improving efficiencies and renewable investments at the 300 buildings on both of YMCA’s properties, the Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch, with the help of the Colorado Energy Office, plus she comes up with ways for staff and guests to conserve energy use. She then tracks and reports to the public on YMCA’s environmental, social and economic outcomes and how the work of the nonprofit benefits the communities of Colorado and beyond.
“It always has been a focus because of the mountain setting where we operate,” Rossman said. “The past two to three years we’ve had more intentionality and more focus around that, and leaning into that further, we’re hiring the first environmental sustainability director.”
Rossman works with corporate sponsors, family and private foundations, and donors to generate funding for YMCA that helps support the organization beyond the regular membership dues.
“Fundraising is to strengthen the mission and to enhance YMCA’s ability to deliver on the mission,” Rossman said.
Donors provide funding for capital projects, donate cabins for other families to use and give to the nonprofit’s annual fund. Funding also comes from foundations for the camps, like the Listen Foundation Cochlear Implant Family Camp, and designated endowments for Camper Inclusion that carry individual family names.
“I like to call it fundraising magic when you find the connection between the heart of the supporter where they are drawn to give and the organization’s need,” Rossman said.
Rossman typically develops a plan identifying what’s to be funded and the key sources providing the funding. A feasibility study is conducted through conversations with potential supporters to determine their level of interest, their vision for funding and if they want to make the investment. The conversations often are one-on-one meetings and may include site tours and discussions on how the donations will be put to use. From there, a final plan is created to secure financial support.
“YMCA is heavily focused on relationship building, making sure we match the passion with the project, and then making sure we’re asking for the right amount for the given support,” Rossman said.
Rossman has seen a few fundraising successes during her time at YMCA, including helping raise $7.5 million to build Camp Chief Ouray at Snow Mountain Ranch to expand youth camping opportunities.
Construction began on the camp in 2019 and is about two-thirds complete with enough of the project finished for the beds to be used this summer. The final piece of construction, the dining hall, will be completed by next summer.
Camp Chief Ouray will serve an additional 660 children attending camp each summer, or 66 kids a week during the 10 weeks the one-week camps are offered. Before the expansion, the camp at Estes Park served 275 children per week with a waitlist of 400 children.
Another of Rossman’s successes is helping expand the number of donor designated funds from two to six to support programs and projects into perpetuity. She reviewed the projects needing funding and potential sources, coming up with a way to diversify the funds, she said.
“Endowments are the key for many nonprofits. They’re a future funding source that can be (there) when other types of funding aren’t there in the future,” Rossman said. “It boils down to not being afraid to be open to different funding sources and asking. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.”
The asking has to be done in a genuine and authentic fashion, Rossman said.
“Being genuine and authentic in fundraising is really important, and I also think really listening for that connection of what is someone’s interest, what is their philanthropic passion, and is there a connection to the work you’re doing,” Rossman said. “It’s often not a quick process.”
Relationships need to be cultivated over time, and appreciation should be shown, such as through thank-you calls and a demonstration of how the funds have been put to use, steps that are just as important as the gift, Rossman said.
Rossman cultivates relationships with her staff, too, since she sees her fundraising work as a team effort and not as a solitary sport, where she works with, relies on and honors her colleagues. Her team currently has five staff members, but it is growing, she said.
“In her thoughtfulness as a leader, she takes into consideration the future outlook and planning of the organization, not just the day-to-day operation,” said Jeff Mabry, philanthropy director of the Estes Park Center. “She has begun to create a more robust culture of philanthropy. … We don’t always have to focus on raising funds. She emphasizes the relationship aspect of fundraising.”
Rossman learned about fundraising through trial and error, plus she’s had several mentors along the way. Before joining the YMCA, she served for three years as the director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust for the BBB. She led the organization in expanding programs, developing staff and diversifying funding sources, including securing the organization’s first six-figure grant for the In Pursuit of Ethics program.
“Carrie was hired many years ago when our BBB Foundation was just a fledgling organization. Her charge was to take it to the next level. She not only accomplished that evolution but led the Foundation to a highly successful provider of ethics based assessment, training and recognition programs for businesses, consumers, nonprofits and students in Northern Colorado and Wyoming,” said Pam King, former president and chief executive officer of the BBB. “Her personal approach and knowledge of ethics resulted in many sponsorships, grants and an increased awareness of BBB and significant growth of the organization. … Carrie is a popular leader and has great recognition in the region. Her skills of visioning for an organization, translated into a strategic plan with goals, tactics and timelines would be a tremendous asset for any organization.”
Rossman also served as the assistant operations manager of volunteers for the Habitat for Humanity of Indian River County in Vero Beach, Florida, for four years. She coordinated the efforts of 1,000 volunteers annually to construct 30 homes, work at the ReStore and do other related activities.
“Carrie was super personable, very energetic. She was well loved by our volunteers and our house sponsor representatives,” said Kelly Brown, Rossman’s former colleague at Habitat for Humanity who served as the development and grants manager from 2004 to 2012. “She was really good about keeping in tune with their needs and making sure our communications with them were really strong.”
Rossman has a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Regis University, which she earned in 2015.
“My hope is I’ve continued to deepen relationships that are so important and impactful to carry forward YMCA’s mission,” Rossman said. “Through that work we give them respite in the mountains where they can connect with themselves, their families and their faith.”