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News & Press: AFP-GHC

Board Member Spotlight: Brena Baumann-Gonzalez

Tuesday, August 27, 2019  
Posted by: Jackie Wickliffe
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"I'm proud to be an AFP Board member."

-Brena Baumann-Gonzalez
A Board member spotlight by Jackie Wickliffe.


Brena first joined AFP in the early to mid-nineties when AFP was the National Society of Fundraising Executives (NSFRE). This is her first time serving on the board.


“I nominated myself. I did want to be more involved. I worked in planned giving my whole career. Two years ago, my senior vice-president asked me to lead the pipeline and donor strategies team. It was a brand new team. It’s not on the major gifts team. So, I had a career change. I had always been involved with planned giving and the Charitable Gift Planners of Houston, but now I needed tools about annual giving and mid-level stewardship. I needed AFP. So, I came running back, started to attend meetings and said, this is really helpful! I’m enjoying this, I think I would like to do even more for the chapter. One of the best ways I know to do that would be to nominated myself for the board."


Brena joined the AFP Houston Board of Directors in January 2019.


Personal Goal for the Chapter

Brena wants to make sure members see the value in their membership. She wants people to walk away with something meaningful.


"I’m in charge of planning the education programs for 2020 – the monthly luncheons or breakfasts. We’re going to have six of those. I have a great committee that is already working on this. We very much want to have a fantastic lineup in 2020 so members will want to come to meetings. The goal is to have a well planned educational calendar for 2020."


Brena sees how the chapter has been consistently educating members for decades in the Houston community.



“When I go to a luncheon, I try to look for people who are standing by themselves and sit with them. Board members are supposed to spread out and host tables. I think that’s a great idea. I try to do that.”


Local Legends in the Field

"I worked for John Scales, CFRE (recipient of the Byron Welch Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising in 2008 and Outstanding Fundraising Professional award in 1992). I have been mentored by John Scales, as have many people. He was the senior vice president of marketing and development here at Texas Children’s Hospital and retired three years ago. That’s when we reorganized, and I got this new role. What I remember most about working with John is that he was never critical. Certainly, I was never perfect. He coached you in a way that you always felt encouraged. I try to do that the same way – correct people without criticizing them and guide them in the right way without them even knowing it."


First Job in Fundraising

"My first job was at a small shop at Houston Baptist University. It’s much bigger now than it was 25 years ago. I think it’s great if everyone could start out at a small shop where they’ve got to do a little bit of everything. If you start out in a small shop, you are your own researcher. You maintain your own database. You did all those things."


Entry into Planned Giving

"I got into it because I was a disgruntled lawyer. I will always do planned giving. Even thought I don’t have it in my title anymore, I will always see donors through planned giving eyes. The greatest advantage of that is, we need to be asking our donors for more than just cash gifts. We need to ask them for stock gifts, mineral interests, real estate, and things like that. So, my advice to any fundraiser is, find out what assets they have besides cash and ask for those."


Current Role

Brena is the Senior Director of Philanthropy at Texas Children’s Hospital. She leads four teams, including 11 members. The team approach is for everyone to feel involved and heard.


"Then, I don’t have the full burden of making all the decisions. I’m so happy to have four great team leaders who work with me. The team is responsible for annual giving, direct mail, donor relations, and patient navigation. We think about building the pipeline for major gifts. We want our donors to have a good experience, and we want to move them up the pipeline – if appropriate. The mission of Texas Children’s to treat all women and children who come to us for care. The faculty and staff who treat the children are just spectacular in their expertise. It’s an honor to work at such an esteemed organization.There is a significant number of people here who I have known and worked with for 15-23 years."


Donor Relations

"There’s no substitute for either a face-to-face meeting or a phone call. E-mail’s great, but you will just never get the depth of a relationship that you can when you pick up the phone and call someone or you find a reason to go see them. My portfolio was always skewed with very much older (donors). My people are not impressed with social functions and glitzy things. They would rather have a box lunch than a full catered lunch when they come on campus. So, you’ve got to know your audience."



"In planned giving, you always lead with your mission. Don’t get bogged down in the technical aspects. Talk about what it is your charity does, and the rest will come. I am a huge proponent of documenting all your interactions with donors in a timely manner. It’s the institutional knowledge. It’s not the major gift officer’s donor. It’s the institution’s. Get that institutional knowledge in the database."


To Be a Leader

"You need to know a little bit about everything. You need to know a little bit about planned giving, major gift work, annual funds, events and touch on it all. Be well rounded."


The Profession

"I think we have honed our skills. We use technology. We use information that we didn’t have before. It’s still all about relationships. I think we can do a better job trying to recruit the next generation. That’s an area of growth that we all need to be concerned with – helping the next generation know about philanthropy and know about our charities."


Balancing Work & Personal Life

“I have family help. My mother is a huge help to me, still. I have a supportive husband. I have two girls. The mothering trick is trying to stay calm. Figure it out one day at a time. I don’t know where people are next week. Our whole family is very active in our church, which is Second Baptist. So, if I’m not here at home, I’m probably doing something related to the kids’ church activities."


Leisure Time

"I like to read nonfiction books. I don’t watch much TV. I listen to talk radio (NPR) in the car. Someone said, ‘You know when you’re old when you listen to talk radio in the car instead of music.’"


Reading Now

"I think the US Trust Study was fascinating."




Special Thanks!


Special thanks to Jackie Wickliffe for writing this great spotlight. Jackie Wickliffe currently serves on AFP Houston's Communications Committee.

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