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Meet Amy Funk & Theresa Lipo

We are proud to introduce the latest additions to the TW&B team, Amy Funk and Theresa Lipo.

Amy Funk joins us as Vice President of Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt. She has a strong background in cultural institutions and human services. Amy has extensive experience with board development, recruitment, capital campaigns, and annual funds.

Theresa Lipo is a new member of our adjunct team, joining us as Adjunct Counsel for Government and Foundation Relations. Theresa has served human service and educational institutions in Chicago for over 25 years. She’s helped nonprofits secure funds from many levels of government, including the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and federal agencies.

We wanted to learn a little bit more about their backgrounds, their approach to raising money, and what drew them to this work. We asked them a few questions to get started. Read their answers below!

Getting to Know Amy & Theresa

1. What drew you to work in the nonprofit sector?

Amy Funk

Amy Funk: I had worked in Fortune 500 firms for almost a decade when I made the change to the nonprofit sector.  While I’d been successful in corporate America, I was looking for a deeper connection to the work I was doing, and was lucky enough to find an Executive Director who would take a chance on someone without any nonprofit experience.  A lot of professionals in the for-profit sector assume that it’s easier working for nonprofits.  I’ve actually found the opposite to be true, since you’re often tasked with achieving similar goals with fewer resources.  That being said, once I made the switch, I never looked back.

Theresa Lipo

Theresa Lipo: I think I quickly discovered that the nonprofit sector is where some of our most creative thinking and problem-solving takes place.  I’ve had the good fortune to work with and for some incredibly inspiring people who are helping develop and implement innovative solutions to some of our community’s greatest challenges.

2. Which accomplishments are you most proud of in your career?

AF: There is nothing quite as satisfying as a successful capital campaign.  I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in several, and it’s always incredible to see something big go from dream to reality.  Getting to be a part of the team that makes it happen is always such a rewarding experience.

TL: The most satisfying accomplishments are usually related to successfully securing funding that realizes a long-term goal of an organization, no matter what its size – whether it is starting a program that fills a critical community need, hiring a much-needed staff member, or purchasing equipment that can enhance or expand an initiative.  These types of projects directly advance the work of an organization, boosting morale among clients and staff, increasing their outcomes, and providing long-term impact well beyond the actual grant-funded purpose.

3. What was the most useful piece of advice you’ve received about fundraising?

AF: “You don’t raise money at your desk.”  I was fortunate enough to have great managers early in my nonprofit career who pushed me to leverage volunteers and other resources so that I could spend most of my time in front of donors.  Spending one-on-one time with donors is so critical to building long term relationships, and something I am really passionate about.

TL: I could try and come up with something profound, but I think the most important advice for fundraisers and their clients continues to be the importance of remaining true to an organization’s mission.  Don’t “chase the money” or realign what you are doing to meet the vision of a particular funder.  It’s often tempting, but strong organizations know that strengthening and enhancing your core work will lead to positive outcomes that will ultimately be most attractive to funders.

4. What excites you most about being a consultant?

AF: To me, it’s the opportunity to help development, board and leadership staff work together to get processes aligned and donors engaged that most excites me.  I’ve had the opportunity to work for organizations with a wide range of missions and sizes – but the core of fundraising is the same across every environment. Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt really brings a personal, connected approach to consulting – they are truly focused on partnering with organizations to help them improve their core fundraising ability.

TL: A consulting practice allows me the opportunity to learn from clients across a wide variety of disciplines and fields – from the cultural arts to public policy.  My clients provide me with ongoing continuing education and skills development that always keeps work fresh and interesting.

5. How is the perspective you bring to organizations unique?

AF: During my tenure at GE Capital, I was certified in Six Sigma, and I bring a very analytical and data-driven approach to my work.  Staff and boards are stretched so thin at many organizations, and one of the things I look at first is return on investment.  Does this activity or event bring maximum value to the organization?  Is there a better way for us to be achieving the same goal?

TL: I have worked professionally as both as a grantmaker and a grantseeker.  The ability to view the development process from both perspectives adds an extra dimension to my work that has been very valuable for my clients and me.

6. What are some of the biggest concerns you see nonprofits dealing with today, and what emerging trends could become increasingly important in philanthropy?

AF: Donors are increasingly demanding detailed outcomes for the money they give – it is a much more investment oriented environment than it was when I started fundraising almost 20 years ago. Nonprofits will have to carefully define how they are making a difference and differentiating themselves from an increasingly crowded field of similar organizations.  You can see this trend popping up in alternative funding strategies like social impact bonds and “hybrid” organizations that blend for-profit and nonprofit models.

TL: I also see one of the biggest trends as the blurring of lines between the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.  The nonprofit sector is increasingly being encouraged to diversify their revenue streams through earned income and social impact enterprises, which can add great value to an organization with the infrastructure in place to support it.   The concern is that this trend will not always be a viable option for many nonprofits that continue to be essential, particularly in the human services sector.  It will always be critical for governments and private sector funders to support the organizations that are serving the most vulnerable members of our communities.