Written by The Business Journal Staff
Jane Fortune, Chief Development Officer
Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross
What we do: The American Red Cross Central Valley Region Chapter seeks to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to natural and human-caused disasters through the immediate mobilization of people and resources and the establishment of community, workplace and school-based training. The Chapter covers Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Kern counties.
Education: University of Southern California, B.A.
Age: Second half of the century
Family: Larry Fortune, husband and best friend for almost 33 years. Katherine Fortune, 30 years-old, a manager for Deloitte & Touche in Los Angeles and Patrick Fortune, 26 years-old, a second year law student at George Washington University in Washington DC. Golden Retriever, Ginger, and Tonkinese cat named Cookie
How did you arrive at your position as chief development officer of the Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, Jane?
I came to the American Red Cross after serving nearly six years as the executive director of Tree Fresno. Having managed a non-profit gave me a unique advantage as the chief development officer because I understood all aspects of the business. I have been involved with community based organizations since moving to Fresno in 1979, starting with the Junior League of Fresno and the La Feliz Guild of Children’s Hospital Central California, to which I still belong. I followed my parents lead in dedicating my time to making my community a better place to live. There is no better calling.
What does the Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross do, Jane?
The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
What are some of the challenges your organization faces each year, Jane?
I think the biggest challenge for any person associated with the Red Cross is the massive, national disaster. Hurricane Sandy was a tremendous effort for every chapter in this country as staff and volunteers were called upon to help on the East Coast. At one time our chapter had 18 staff and volunteers serving in New Jersey and New York. This was a huge drain on the regional office. Fundraising involved keeping our donors aware of what was happening on the East Coast. The generosity of the Central Valley Region was incredible.
Has the American Red Cross changed during the time that you have been involved with the organization, Jane?
The American Red Cross has changed tremendously since I have been on board the past two and half years. I am proud to be a part of the transformation. Hiring of new CEO Gail McGovern in 2009 started the modernization of the Red Cross. Though we are a 501(c)3 non-profit, we have been charged with operating on the same principals as a for- profit company. Consolidations of services, systems analysis and other efficiencies are now in place. This has resulted in better use of donor dollars and much more efficient delivery of our programs. The Red Cross spends an amazing 91 to 92 cents of every dollar on program services. New in the just the last 6 months is one web address: www.redcross.org and one email address for the entire organization. Volunteers may now enlist online and pursue their own volunteer interests in the direction that best suits them. We now focus on “preparedness” for that eventual disaster that we know will come one day. A prepared community is a much more resilient community.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most difficult, Jane?
The most rewarding part of my job is when I sit in a potential donor’s office for the first time. Everyone knows that the Red Cross is the first responder to a disaster. When I start talking about all of the other services we provide, especially our Service to the Armed Forces, I feel like I have just made a new friend. Remember, the Red Cross was founded on the battlefields of the Civil War by Clara Barton!
The most difficult part of my job is answering a local disaster call as a trained Disaster Action Team member and seeing the devastation and despair in the eyes of someone who has just lost everything in a house fire. Many people are almost catatonic with fear and despair.
What is the best business advice that you have ever received, Jane?
“The customer is always right—even when they’re wrong!”
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Jane?
My first job was as a lifeguard at the public swimming pool in Porterville. I was hired because of my Red Cross Water Safety Instructor training, of course. Great job for a seventeen year old but I knew that I needed something more to stimulate my mind.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Jane?
I love to be outdoors. Working in my garden is very therapeutic for me. Love to knit and needlepoint. Always have projects to do!