Sometimes the person who sits next to you at a breakfast table can change your life. That’s what happened when Mark Ballard was seated next to a child with type one diabetes (T1D) at a JDRF corporate engagement breakfast over 16 years ago. It was a profound moment for Mark to watch the little girl inject herself with insulin. He says, “When she was done I asked her how often she had to do that and she replied, ‘Sometimes 6-7 times.’ I said, ‘A week?’ She said, ‘No, a day’ and then she just looked away and started playing. I was not only shocked but amazed at her courage, tenacity and strength. My first thought right there was that this is not right; no child should have to go through this.”
That experience alone inspired Mark to get involved with JDRF. That chance meeting has resulted in Mark serving in a variety of leadership roles for the JDRF New Mexico Branch, including Walk to Cure Diabetes Corporate Chair, President of the Board of Directors, and Golf Committee Chair. Libby Madden, New Mexico Branch Manager, says, “Mark is a great fundraiser. He knows how to bring new people to the table while strengthening the support of existing donors. He stewards these relationships year round and always recognizes their loyalty to JDRF and celebrates the number of years they have been supporting us. Mark embraces the fundraising programs equally. One of his golf sponsors just signed on as Corporate Walk Chair. He understands and promotes the big picture.” It’s no surprise that he has endeared himself to the staff, constituents, donors and fellow volunteers.
Mark is very clear about what he wants to accomplish for JDRF. He says, “First educate people about JDRF, then get them to ‘experience’ the power of this organization and ‘feel’ the pain and joy of the families and ambassadors in this organization, then raise lots of money to find the cure so we can shut our doors for good.” Over the past nine years Mark has led the Tee Up to Cure Diabetes golf tournament and in that time he has worked to get major stakeholders truly vested in our mission, raising over $930,000 to date and expecting to surpass $1,000,000 this year. How does he do it? Mark explains, “I am a very persistent individual who has a hard time accepting no. I have been known to tell potential donors who are on the fence: I understand your ambivalence and know you are asked so many times from so many organizations but if you can tell one of my ambassadors ‘No’ I will leave…the next response is ‘How much?’”
There are other keys to Mark’s success. He has a terrific ability to gain mutual trust and respect from potential donors and sponsors. He always takes the time to ask the staff how their day is going. He makes it a top priority to be supportive in any way he can, often wearing many hats in one day.