Photos by Hillary Ehlen and J. Alan Paul Photography
We like to think of the Fargo business community as a giant puzzle and the people who comprise it as the different but equally essential pieces. Take one person, one company, or one industry away, and the picture becomes incomplete. Faces of Fargo Business is our chance to piece that puzzle together each month and celebrate the countless people who make this such a great place to work.
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Matt Bitzegaio: Where He’s Been
- Donor Dock
- BNG Holdings
- Peak Engagement
- Summit Group Software
- BBI International
- Ecliptic Technologies
Help Matt Out
If anyone in the local business community knows of a nonprofit that’s looking for a better solution for managing donor relationships, tell them to take a look at DonorDock.
“It’s really very different from other donor-focused CRM tools,” Bitzegaio says, “and can really change the game for small nonprofits.”
What Is DonorDock?
Born from Matt Bitzegaio’s twin passions of software product development and working with nonprofits, DonorDock is an intuitive CRM tool that helps small charities raise more money in less time. Officially launching last month, Bitzegaio says he and his team are excited by the positive reception the platform has received thus far.
A Leader I’m Studying
“After many years in the Microsoft partner ecosystem, I’ve been really interested in watching the changes that Satya Nadella has been leading at Microsoft. It really is remarkable to drive such a strong cultural change at an organization of that size. Microsoft has reinvented itself over the past few years since Nadella took over, and it shows in the innovation that is being turned out by the organization and in their earnings and financial results.”
The Role of Tech
“I strongly believe that technology has a role to play in helping lift up small nonprofit organizations and helping them achieve more within their mission. I’m driven to come up with ways in which technology is accessible to those organizations and moves from being a burden to being an accelerator.”
My Favorite Tools
- Slack for collaborating with team members
- Jira for application-lifecycle management
“Both tools are an important part of how we build our own software and enable us to get more done.”
On My Nightstand
- “I’m finding ’10x Marketing Formula’ by Garrett Moon to be very informative, as it relates to marketing a startup company.”
- “I recently re-read ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried of Basecamp. I love the philosophy of Basecamp and enjoyed reading the book again. I would highly recommend it to any entrepreneur who hasn’t read it yet.”
How I Stay Productive
“I do my best to try and get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights. I find that I’m at my best and really able to focus and operate better when I’m getting a good amount of sleep. I know some people who are able to operate at a really high level on less sleep than that, and I envy them.”
Founder, African Soul, American Heart
After working in sales and insurance for more than a decade, Deb Dawson took a trip to Africa in 2007 with a “Lost Boy of Sudan” from Fargo named Joseph Akol Makeer, who wanted to help orphans in the village he escaped as a 10-year-old boy. The trip eventually led to her founding African Soul, American Heart, a Fargo-based nonprofit that aims to protect, educate and empower orphaned girls from South Sudan. Dawson now serves as board chair of ASAH, which currently serves 50 students from six villages in Duk County, South Sudan.
“It’s my great privilege to have a hand in changing the lives of orphaned girls who would otherwise face a life of forced marriage at puberty, early and dangerous childbirth, illiteracy and poverty, and in the last few years, ongoing civil war,” Dawson says. “We educate (these girls) in school subjects and practical life skills, and we empower them to be leaders and give back to their communities.”
How You Can Help: Sponsor an ASAH Student
Basic Sponsorships (cost can be shared among multiple people)
$1,500/year or $125/month
A Fargo lifer
Deb Dawson is a third-generation Fargoan who attended Clara Barton, Agassiz and Fargo South.
An artist, too
She’s written a novel and a memoir and has also exhibited her soft-sculpture art and photography at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center and Rourke art gallery, as well as at Concordia College’s Cyrus M. Running Gallery.
Something that’s stuck
“My dad gave me a lot of advice, much of which I thought didn’t apply to me. Looking back, I was mistaken.”
“The 8-9-hour time difference (with east Africa) sometimes starts my work day early or ends it late. Today, I was awoken by a 5:30 a.m. phone call from staff in Uganda.”
Thank you …
“I respect and regularly thank my executive assistant, JoRelle, for the outstanding work she does and recognize the many times she goes above and beyond expectations. She’s got my back, and I’ve got hers.”
“I continually thank Kevin Brooks, who traveled with Joseph Akol Makeer and me on our first trip to South Sudan in December 2007. Kevin was one of our founders and has been vice president of our board since inception.”
Resource Development Director, United Way of Cass-Clay
A Twin Cities native, Travis Christopher’s first career was spent in criminal justice working in crime prevention, educating residents and businesses about community policing and crime-deterrence techniques. The current resource development director at the United Way of Cass-Clay then spent more than 15 years with the Boy Scouts of America in various roles, including as executive director in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Fargo. He’s also been active with Rotary International for nearly 20 years, serving as Fargo club president in 2016-2017, and is currently the president-elect of the Northern Plains Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Did you know?
The United Way of Cass-Clay team works with more than 650 local businesses each year, many of which cite their workplace giving campaigns as key in developing their company culture and employee-engagement efforts.
3 Things On My Mind
1. We need to be cautious optimists.
“After living in five different states in my career and seeing how each place proclaims to be ‘No. 1 in (name your economic metric here),’ I can tell you the best-laid plans sometimes don’t come to life. I often wonder about what I can do to help when future visioning hits a barrier and we still need to succeed as a community. Trust me when I tell you: I’m an optimist, a glass-half-full guy, but you need to prepare for challenges ahead of time.”
2. The future of philanthropy is family-based.
“We’re entering a very important era in local nonprofit governance and community support. Giving involves more than money. Money is needed to fund operations and ‘keep the lights on,’ but we need to encourage an attitude of giving at a younger age by making it more family-based. It begins with the gift of time, which is equally important. Philanthropy will be sustained through meaningful relationships, even during stagnant economic times.
3. Our work is not all roses.
“Our team is available around the clock to present at local companies and support their workplace giving efforts, and it’s not uncommon for us to visit with teams of employees on the second and third shifts at area workplaces. There are great stories of people surpassing barriers and individuals doing great things to improve their lives, but it’s not all ‘happy talk.’ We have serious, sometimes sobering, discussions about how to solve our community’s most pressing challenges.”