Clark’s Career & Recent Work Revolve Around Children
By Katie McDowell
On February 25th, PMA senior consultant Cindy Clark was able to see her first project with PMA culminate with a huge success.
The event, “A Night for Children’s Rights,” was sponsored by the Council for Children’s Rights and had over 500 people in attendance despite wintry weather conditions. Clark has been serving as interim development director for the Council through PMA.
“The night went well in spite of the state of emergency two hours before the event from the impending snowstorm,” Clark said. “We were thrilled to meet our goal and raise over $300,000.”
Clark joined the PMA team with decades of development experience, including fourteen years in public relations and development at Belmont Abbey College and fourteen years at Gaston Day School.
“Most of my career has revolved around children,” Clark said. “Starting at PMA, the Council was a natural fit for me.”
Clark received a bachelor’s degree in English Education from Appalachian State University. Although her teaching plans changed once she entered the work force, she never lost sight of her interest in that field.
“I thought when I was going to college I would be a teacher,” Clark said. “That never happened, but I’ve been involved in education from an administrative standpoint, and it’s always been a big part of my career.”
Prior to joining PMA, Clark served as Vice President for Development with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, where she focused on capital campaigns that built new facilities for the organization.
“Raising money and managing those campaigns allowed us to build the first free standing hospice house in Mecklenburg County,” Clark said. Previously, Charlotte had been the largest city that did not have one.
Her development experience in the nonprofit sector, both in education and with Hospice, translated seamlessly into her work at PMA.
“I love being able to go in as someone who can look at the organization objectively, bringing my experience and expertise to that organization and help them maximize their resources to achieve their goals,” Clark said. “Each one has the ability to do incredible things and so it’s a matter of looking at new and different ways to reach the goals they want to reach.”
“A Night for Children’s Rights” featured a keynote address by James Ford, the 2013 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Teacher of the Year and 2014 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. Ford taught at Garinger High School before beginning his yearlong role as traveling ambassador as a result of this honor.
“He was definitely one of the highlights of the night,” Clark said. “He talked about the needs of children in Charlotte and how he as a teacher has an impact on the kids beyond what he teaches in his classroom. He connected this back to the important work that the Council does and appealed to the audience that way.”
Ford’s speech exemplified a key aim of fundraising: connecting to the audience so they can understand the tangible payoff when a nonprofit has the financial means to carry out its intended purpose.
“When volunteers have a commitment to the cause and they truly want to invest in it, it’s the logical next step for them to want to invest,” she said. “The challenge is to be able to sit down with those people to help them understand what the needs of the organization are.”
Every year, the Council for Children’s Rights serves nearly 2,500 children in various educational and legal capacities.
“They advocate for children who have been thrown out of school from untreated mental health issues, have been in the middle of some horrifying custody dispute, or are involved in trafficking cases,” Clark said. “In many instances, these kids have no place to turn, and that’s where the Council steps in.”
In custody battles, for example, the Council assigns three-member teams to each child’s case: an attorney on staff at the Council, a volunteer community advocate, and an additional volunteer attorney working pro bono.
“The Council represents the children – they don’t represent either of the parents,” Clark said. “Hopefully the issue can get resolved outside of court, but when they do have to go to court they say to the judge, ‘This is what we think is the best recommendation.’”
The community advocate interviews parents, neighbors, relatives, teachers, children’s records and then the Council’s legal team makes a recommendation based on the information they find.
“In almost 100% of the cases the judge sides with their recommendations,” Clark said. “That speaks volumes about how the legal community values the work they do.”
Clark finds meaning in the work she has done for the Council because of the important role it plays in bettering the lives of children in difficult circumstances.
“They’re helpless in standing up for themselves, so it’s our responsibility and privilege to be able to try to make a difference in their lives,” Clark said. “They’re certainly the difference in our future community.”
Clark holds organizations like the Council in high regard, as they are bettering the community’s future generation.
“That’s what these organizations are doing, whether education, finding a home where they can be healthy, or providing an education for a child who wouldn’t be able to attend without a scholarship,” Clark said. “Those people are making a difference everyday.”