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Since the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools was formed in 2010, it has been one of the county’s best-kept secrets, according to Jerry Gordon, the foundation’s chairman.

When your goal is fundraising, though, being a secret is not exactly ideal. So Gordon is thrilled to welcome the first full-time executive director, Mike Infurnari, who he thinks will bring the nonprofit organization to a whole new level.

“From 2010 to this point, the foundation has focused on baby steps,” Gordon said. “That got us to the launch pad. Now, with Mike in place, we’re ready for takeoff.”

The Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools, formed in 2010 as a partnership between the county’s school system and Chamber of Commerce, serves as a portal for donations to the school system.

In the past three years, its board of directors has laid the groundwork for the foundation. While it already has attracted several business partners, with 30-year fundraising veteran Infurnari at the helm the school system hopes to see its corporate and community connections skyrocket.

Before getting into fundraising, Infurnari worked as a retail manager of a hardware store in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. With the help of a friend, he said he “lucked into” his first job in fundraising, but his career has taken off from there.

He has worked for the past three decades in fundraising and nonprofit management, most recently serving as the director of development for the WateReuse Research Foundation. At the locally based nonprofit, he helped raise $4.8 million in 15 months.

Infurnari also brings experience in education, having worked as the director of development for Catholic schools in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., before moving to Fairfax County 20 years ago.

“This is my home county,” Infurnari said. “I see so many opportunities for the business community that’s so vibrant in Fairfax County to support our public schools. I’m excited to get started.”

One of the greatest strengths Infurnari brings to the Foundation for FCPS is his strategic approach to fundraising, according to Gordon. When Infurnari interviewed for the executive director position, he came armed with carefully researched ideas and insights.

Gordon, not only the chairman of the foundation but also the president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said he knew that Infurnari’s approach would resonate with corporate leaders.

While the Foundation for FCPS allows donations to either a general fund or a specific school or program, business owners and executives are more likely to give to a project or cause targeted to appeal to them.

“Mike will not walk into a CEO’s office with a general request,” Gordon said. “He will have figured out exactly how that company could best support the school system.”

For example, a health care company might be asked to sponsor a career education program in that industry.

“My job is producing that idea that connects the business to the school system,” Infurnari said. “Once that clicks into place, that makes them want to invest in the foundation.”

Creating these connections builds momentum and paves the way for more in the future, according to Infurnari. All they need to do is get the ball rolling.

“We’re rallying the business leaders of Northern Virginia to support schools, in any way they can,” Infurnari said. “I see tremendous potential for this foundation. I think we’re going to do great things over the next few years.”

kyanchulis@fairfaxtimes.com