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BH blogger buzz: Meet Terry Axelrod

December 23, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Terry Axelrod

Among the researched and reported articles and news items throughout the pages of Behavioral Healthcare magazine and, behavioral health professionals have an opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions and expert advice through blogs. Each of our bloggers has a niche of the field that they tend to center their topics around – fundraising, facility design, leadership, technology, etc.

One of Behavioral Healthcare’s bloggers is Terry Axelrod, founder and CEO of Benevon. Terry's expertise is in fundraising and she commonly writes about how organizations can better work with donors.

To get to know each of our bloggers a little better, we asked them to reflect on the following question:

“What was the most important/toughest personal or professional lesson you ever learned? When and how, or from whom, did you learn it? And, how did that lesson change you or the way that you work or lead life?”  


Terry: It took me way too many years to realize that I am not at all unique. The first part of the lesson was to trust my own experience enough to know that if there is something I have been looking for to fill a need, others are probably looking for it also. So many times in my career, after I was out of college, when I found myself in a challenging professional situation, I presumed there was a class I could take that would teach me how to remedy the situation. I always assumed many people had been where I was, had already figured out the solution, and that I could go and take their class or read their book and just follow their instructions. 

The second part of the lesson was to know when to stop looking and just dig in and figure it out myself—and then turn it into the class or program that so many others were seeking—just as I had been.

I started Benevon after being a founder, executive director and development director at several small to mid-sized nonprofits. I was desperately looking for a class about fundraising that would teach me how to jumpstart the kind of quality major gifts program that big universities have. However, the nonprofit organizations I worked for did not have a steady stream of happy alumni graduating every year! I was certain someone else had figured it out and could teach me the shortcuts. Unfortunately, after doing extensive research, I realized that no such “silver bullet” class existed to teach me how to truly engage new individual donors in the mission of my organization, let alone how to have them stay with us and increase their giving over time—leading to what we now call sustainable fundraising or, as some would say, a culture of philanthropy.

Fortunately, my 20-something kids have learned this lesson way faster than I did. They would never think of taking a class on the new technology at an old established university, realizing that the professors---even those professors I would call “young”—are way too old to be remotely current on the pace of technology. It’s just faster to teach it to themselves or learn it from their “friends.”


Terry has more than thirty years of experience in the nonprofit field, including founding three nonprofit organizations in healthcare and affordable housing.

Stay tuned for more “BH Blogger Buzz” pieces, and be sure to check out Terry Axelrod's blog posts.