In 2014, Development Guild partnered with the American Red Cross on their executive search for a Chief Development Officer, Connecticut and Rhode Island Region. We placed Krista Coletti in the role, and since then she has taken on the role of Chief Development Officer of the Greater New York Region. We recently caught up with Krista to discuss her career journey and her passion for her work.
What initially attracted you to the Chief Development Officer position at the American Red Cross?
Part of the appeal was timing; I was ready for the next step in my career. I had been in my previous role for a decade as the Director of Advancement at Chase Collegiate School in CT, and we had just finished a second capital campaign.
When Development Guild reached out about the position at the American Red Cross for the Connecticut and Rhode Island Region, I was immediately attracted to the breadth and scope of their mission. To this day, the mission of the American Red Cross is what drives my work. What is so unique is that despite its recognizability—being ranked as a top recognized and iconic brand in the world—many people are not aware of the extent of our work. Our work includes home fire and natural disaster relief, CPR and babysitting training, and blood collection – we provide 40% of the nation’s blood supply and collect 13,000 units of blood a day; we are also congressionally chartered to provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military, and we work globally through the 192 Red Cross sister societies delivering international aid in times of war, supporting refugees, and delivering measles vaccinations.
The emphasis on volunteerism at the American Red Cross also appealed to me. Volunteers are the life blood of the nonprofit sector and for the American Red Cross – 90% of the Red Cross workforce is volunteer.
What do you enjoy most about the American Red Cross now?
The people—the volunteers, my team of fundraisers, the Board members—are what I love most. Volunteers are integral to the success of the work we carry out every day, they are fully ingrained in and leading the work of the organization. In the Greater New York Region there are nearly 2,500 volunteers, and I am constantly in awe of their devotion and commitment to the mission. How they get up in the middle of the night when a family loses everything after a home fire and then go to their “real” job the next morning? These volunteers always inspires me.
In the Greater New York Region, we have about 100 volunteer Board members on three chapter boards—New York City, Long Island, and Metro New York North, which includes Westchester and Rockland counties, the US Military Academy at West Point, and Greenwich, CT—and they give an extraordinary level of time, talent, and treasure. They challenge us to think about how we do the best possible work during these difficult times we live in.
Our regional leadership team in Greater New York and our team of philanthropy officers are an amazing group of creative, compassionate, collaborative, and committed professionals. I love, too, that the American Red Cross was founded by a woman, Clara Barton. If you have happened to watch the early Red Crossers partake in the lively TV drama “The Gilded Age,” you will have seen Clara cut through the nonsense to share the Red Cross goal of alleviating human suffering. That’s exactly what we are all continuing to do today and I could not be more proud.
How has your role changed since you began?
Over the past 7 ½ years at the American Red Cross I have held three different positions. I started as the Chief Development Officer for the Connecticut and Rhode Island Region. Three years later, I became the Northeast Division Philanthropy Officer, a role that manages a small portfolio of the organization’s largest and most complex philanthropic partnerships. For example, one of these relationships is with the NFL. During that time we created a campaign with our biomedical services team in which every blood donor, across the nation, donating blood during the month of January was entered into a drawing to win a Super Bowl experience. This inaugural sweepstakes helped make that January the highest blood collecting month in our history, Our partnership with the NFL continues to sustain the nation’s blood supply.
I spent about 18 months in that position and then accepted the role of Chief Development Officer for the Greater New York Region, which serves the over 12 million people living in NYC, on Long Island, and in our Metro NY North chapter area. I have loved my journey at the American Red Cross. I love the services the Red Cross provides to the American public, I love the way our fundraising operations are structured to meet the growing demand for services, and I love the opportunities for growth in the organization.
What have been your and the American Red Cross’s greatest achievements over the past five years?
I would have to say people, again. It has been wonderful to have such career growth over the past 7 ½ years, and of course the American Red Cross has been very successful. Thanks to the generosity of donors, we are meeting our fundraising and financial goals, and we must continue to challenge ourselves to best communicate the impact these donations. Aside from taking great pride in being able to contribute to the financial success of the organization, I have enjoyed the opportunity to help nurture the careers of other fundraisers and witness their own journeys. It is very rewarding.
What do you hope to achieve at the American Red Cross in the future? What is on the horizon?
The American Red Cross is growing significantly to meet the rising demand of our services. We are guided by our fundamental principles, which include humanity, impartiality, and neutrality. We are here to serve anyone in need of help. Our work makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions.
Our fundraising team is focused on addressing the growing demand for our services due to climate related disasters, sustaining the nation’s blood supply with a special initiative around improving the lives of people with sickle cell disease (which requires growing our base of African American blood donors), and making sure our local communities are prepared for emergencies, including home fires, which are frequent. These are our commitments to the 12 million people who live in the Greater New York Region as well as the millions more across the nation.