Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Dec. 23 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Allison McElroy, founder of fundraising consulting company The McElroy Group, has helped nonprofits raise money for nearly 25 years.
McElroy, 49, worked more than 20 years to raise money for the nonprofit Adult Development Center in Rogers. The center, which was renamed to Open Avenues after a rebranding in 2010, provides jobs for those with special needs.
She was the center’s first development coordinator and was the director of the Adult Development Center Legacy Foundation when she was named to the Forty Under 40 class in 2003. At the time, she had a goal to raise $5 million, and the money would be used for a new building. The organization went on to raise $6.5 million and moved into the new building in 2010.
In November 2015, she left Open Avenues to help take care of her father who had moved to Rogers from St. Louis. In March 2016, she started The McElroy Group after several of her fundraising colleagues suggested that she start the business. It gave her the availability to take care of her father and mother and the opportunity to continue to pursue her passion in the nonprofit sector.
“Just the idea of not only getting to help Open Avenues, but I would be able to help all the nonprofits and all the different services that are offered here. And just be able to connect with more people,” McElroy said. “I just felt like I had been through everything, and if I could help people learn from what I learned as I was teaching myself … if people wanted my advice and hired me to work with them, then I thought it would be a dream come true.”
Nonprofits hire McElroy to coach them on fundraising, capital campaigns, board or staff training, donor stewardship and anything within the scope of nonprofit development. She said she tries to keep her rates reasonable because a lot of nonprofits don’t have the budget for training.
She has helped her clients raise more than $2 million since she started her business. She worked with 12 clients in 2019, and some of her clients include Arkansas Athletes Outreach, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, Fayetteville Public Library Foundation, Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center and The Jones Trust. When asked about her revenue, she said she makes enough to pay the bills.
McElroy explained her company is unique because of her experience working in fundraising. She understands being the one without a budget and how to develop special events, and she can relate to other nonprofits going through ups and downs, she said. She can give advice on fundraising strategies that fit in with a nonprofit’s mission and provide ideas that would benefit the organization based on her experience in fundraising.
She’s a certified fundraising executive and is one of the founders of the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She remains involved in the organization and promotes it to other nonprofits to help them connect with other fundraisers. The organization also provides continuing education to its members.
“Most of the nonprofits in Northwest Arkansas are doing really good work that’s vital for our community,” she said. “And it’s all about helping others. And I think that’s probably why I stayed so long at Open Avenues. There’s something that really fills your soul up about helping others. When you boil it all down to the bottom line, I just love that maybe what I’m doing will help make a difference and generate more revenue that will end up helping more people.”
Some of her long-term goals include hiring an assistant and doing more public speaking.
She serves on a committee for the Miller McNeil Woodruff Foundation, helps to raise awareness for Micah’s House in Rogers and is a board member for the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas.
She has sung the national anthem at more than 30 Razorback sporting events over the past three years, sings in the choir at First Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Rogers and is a Rotary club member. The Jonesboro native resides in Rogers with her husband, Duane, and two sons, Cooper, 15, and Barret, 11.