For this month’s Consultant Spotlight, we are delighted to profile one half of our leadership team, Lisa Pelofsky. Lisa’s varied and impressive background includes stints on Capitol Hill, groundbreaking community work and millions of dollars raised as Development Director for several major nonprofit organizations. She was also appointed by Governor Jay Nixon to serve on the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners before becoming President of the Board.
We’re so fortunate to get Lisa’s perspective on all things fundraising – her philosophy, approach, thoughts on the industry and advice to aspiring fundraisers. Lisa is full of surprises and nuggets of wisdom. Read on for more!
How did you originally get into fundraising and nonprofit work?
I began my fundraising career with my family, sitting around a table, cutting and pasting grants together for my mom. I have two brothers, and we each had sections to read and review. Once your review was complete, you placed your narrative section into the middle of the table. One person retyped all of the various pieces into one document. This was pre-computers so it took much longer to finish an application. That was probably my earliest experience as a grantwriter/editor.
What is your favorite part of being a fundraising consultant and why?
My favorite part is learning about each agency and seeing all of the great work that is happening around us every day. It is incredibly gratifying to witness the healing that takes place when people in need obtain the help they are seeking.
What’s the most challenging part?
I would say there are many challenges that we encounter as consultants. The timing is a challenge because, as you begin each contract, it feels as if you are behind from the onset. There is tremendous pressure to keep pace with the needs of the nonprofit community. Managing expectations is very important and definitely one of the most difficult things we do.
What was the most rewarding experience you’ve had in your career?
That is a hard one. I have had so many rewarding experiences it is tough to pick just one. It’s exciting each time you meet a fundraising goal. Watching a construction project go up and being on site the day the building is open to the public is definitely rewarding. Now that Jeffrey and I have merged our companies, seeing the team we put together working on a project is also high on my list of satisfaction.
Tell us about your biggest success as a fundraiser.
Defining success in this business is fairly straight forward…..did you raise enough money? One particularly challenging project was the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center Campaign, which began about ten years ago. The agency had been struggling and faced numerous obstacles including an aging facility that could not accommodate the demand from the community. We reached the $26 million goal in spite of a downturn in the economy.
How do you prepare to work with new clients?
I make sure I fully understand what the client does and what they are trying to achieve. In some instances, it is not always clear. Also knowing what other agencies are doing similar work is helpful as you can compare the models and review donors to identify new prospects.
What’s the secret to a successful fundraising strategy?
An effective strategy is one that takes several factors into account: the capacity of the organization both internally and externally and making sure best practices are followed.
What is it about Byrne Pelofsky that distinguishes it from other firms in the industry?
I am really proud of our team! I think that is one of the distinguishing factors of our company – our talent pool. Some of our folks don’t come from traditional fundraising backgrounds, but have the skill set and talent to do the work and others have come up the ranks through more traditional channels. Earlier in my career one of my employers said to me, “there is no job too small for you,” as he had seen me picking up trash after an event. I think our whole team operates that way. We are there for each other and we all want the same thing for our clients – to reach the goal!!
Any advice to aspiring fundraisers?
My best advice to aspiring fundraisers is to always listen more than you talk. Donors want to be heard and understood. Listen first before you do anything else.
What’s a day in the life of Lisa Pelofsky like?
No two days in my life are the same! I never know what will happen next and that is by preference. Maybe I like to be surprised. A friend of mine from college says that ever since she has known me I start off all stories with…..”you won’t believe what happened today…”
How do you like to unwind?
I love to be outdoors except when it is hot and humid (yes, that does impair my plans most days). I like to tinker with my cars. I collect American vintage cars from the 50’s and 60’s so I do like to take the cars out and meander around.
If you would like to discuss how Byrne Pelofsky can help take your organization’s fundraising activities to the next level, Lisa would love to hear from you.