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Devin D. Thorpe
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Facing Huge Demand, This Charity Needed A Miracle Worker To Raise Money

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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In 2010, between 500 and 700 families were being turned away from the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City every year because the home lacked the rooms to care for all of the families with sick children being treated at area hospitals. To fix that problem, a major expansion requiring a significant capital campaign would be required. That, in turn, would require new leadership.

Enter Carrie Romano, who was recruited to serve as the CEO of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Intermountain Area largely because she had recently led a $20 million capital campaign for the .

If you are fortunate, you’ve never had occasion to stay at a Ronald McDonald House. Romano explains, “We provide a home-away-from-home to ease daily burdens and empower families of hospitalized children with meaningful experiences and quality time together.”

Watch the full interview with Romano at the top of this article.

Sandra Howell recently spent time at the Salt Lake City Ronald McDonald House. She learned about it from her social worker when she delivered premature twins. She says, “I was so concerned what I would do when I was discharged.”

She says the House was the “best miracle that ever happened to me.” She describes it as a House that was a home during the 78 days her babies were in the hospital. Today, she reports the babies are doing well.

To provide that sort of service to the hundreds of families being turned away each year, Romano needed to raise about $12 million for the expansion and to subsequently increase annual fundraising enough to cover an operating budget that would more than double.

McDonald’s, its franchisees and customers provide about 15 percent of the annual operating budget. The rest comes mostly from private philanthropy. About 10% of the annual budget comes from earned revenue, mostly in the form of the modest fees guests pay to stay–which are waived for those without the means to pay–and from Medicaid payments.

Many social entrepreneurs will one day face the difficult decision to bring on a CEO who can grow the enterprise and create more impact.

Romano, who says courage is her superpower, says, “I dare take on big things and see them through.”

She organized a campaign catalyst team to help with the fundraising. She also made sure that every employee felt empowered to help. She notes, “You never know where your biggest supporter may come from.”

Carrie Romano, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area

Romano understands that most people are uncomfortable asking people for money. She doesn’t suffer from that condition, however. She says, “I love giving people the opportunity to give away their treasure” for a great cause.

She adds, “I am grounded by the mission of the charity.”

Lisa Teske Hudson, a principal at Aspen Consulting Group, Inc., served as president of the Board of the YWCA in Salt Lake during the capital campaign Romano led. When Romano took on the challenge at the Ronald McDonald House she not only solicited contributions from Hudson, she asked her to serve on the board.

Hudson says there are three things she considers before giving her time or her money to a cause: mission, management and gratitude.

She says that last year, the Ronald McDonald House served 3,827 guest families and its family room at Primary Children’s Hospital served 7,400 families “during a very critical time of their lives.” That mission meets the Hudson test.

Of the management, Hudson says, “With my experience on this board and other boards, I feel that the leadership of this charity is among the best in Utah and among the best I’ve seen.” She notes that the nonprofit is received a four-star rating (the highest) from Charity Navigator.

Her thinking about gratitude reflects the thinking of many donors, “My husband and I have not made financial donations significant enough to have a building named after us. But the contributions we make are hard-earned and meaningful to us. We are what the charity refers to as Grand Givers – individuals who give a personal gift of $1,000 or more. The management and staff do an exceptional job of showing gratitude for the support they receive from donors.”

Using her superpower, Romano successfully led the capital campaign and oversaw the construction of an expansion of the House that more than doubled its size, nearly eliminating the need to turn families away. In 2016, only 167 families were turned away.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

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