Earlier this year, Melissa Berliner and Kelly Short were promoted to the position of Vice President. Each is known for her tremendous experience in helping nonprofits achieve their goals and for her integral role in furthering Campbell & Company’s success.“Melissa and Kelly possess a wealth of knowledge and a wide array of experience that has provided our clients with the highest quality of service. Their analytical and strategic perspectives have contributed to the growth of our firm, and we know that they will continue to further our footprint while providing our clients with extraordinary work,” said President and CEO, Peter Fissinger. To learn more about their new roles, we recently sat down with Melissa and Kelly, who told us more about their positions, their careers, and their future goals.
Q. What led you to a career in philanthropy?
Melissa Berliner: I studied English in college and when I graduated, I found myself naturally gravitating towards a career in the arts. So, when I saw an open position in development at the Cleveland Ballet I was interested in applying. Professionally, it was challenging, interesting, and inspiring. It was essentially a “crash course in fundraising.” I worked with such a lean team. I had to roll up my sleeves and learn at all levels. I learned more than I think I would have at a bigger shop. Personally, it was great, too, because I met my husband. He was dancing for the Cleveland Ballet at the time.
Kelly Short: Upon graduation, I was recruited by the development office at my university during one of its most significant campaigns. While I didn’t know much about fundraising at the time, I felt it was a great way to stay involved and give back, after having such a great experience at school. Being involved with the campaign and working with the many passionate donors really helped me better understand fundraising and its impact. The individuals I worked with felt it was their privilege to contribute to the institution’s development and promote its deeper mission. It was an inspiring experience for me.
Q. Where do you see the area of philanthropy in the future?
KS: Thriving, and changing. There’s so much opportunity to get involved and there is more awareness, particularly among young philanthropists. The next generation of philanthropists wants to get involved, to give, and to give in different ways – they are so aware of the importance and impact of philanthropy. The challenge for nonprofits will be getting their attention and keeping them engaged.
MB: When I started my career in this field I didn’t even know what development was at the time. I don’t think that’s the case with the generations behind me. The notion of giving is becoming a more pronounced building block in society, and it is changing the way we work as nonprofits. We are laser focused on demonstrating clear impact because so many people are watching and being more discerning with their engagement choices. This phenomenon will only continue to grow. People will become even more entrepreneurial with how they engage to make the experience as personal as possible, which also changes the way fundraisers engage with them.
Q. When working with organizations, what is your philosophy?
MB: Listen, listen, and listen. Listening is everything. One of the best compliments I’ve received was, “It feels like you really heard me.” Also, keep it moving forward. Often times, fundraising – and campaign fundraising in particular – can feel like an uphill climb. I work to be ready with the idea, the approach, and the strategy that supports positive momentum. It’s important to not get stuck in the day-to-day. I work to be the person in the room who can say, “Try this; try that.”
KS: Get to know your clients – and what drives them and their donors – as well as you possibly can. You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes to ultimately make the best recommendations possible. If you don’t understand what makes people tick, it’s hard to help them think outside of the box – which is so important to fundraising success, particularly for campaigns.
Q. What new responsibilities do you have with your new role?
KS: While I’ve had the fortune of working with clients in just about every sector during my eight years here, I will likely become even more focused on specific industries like independent schools. I’ve also had the privilege of expanding my networks with organizations in Chicago and even near my home in Evanston, and I hope to continue to do so. Ultimately, my goal is to leverage my expertise in these areas to bring more experience and perspective to clients.
MB: Part of my new role is carving out a more specific niche for my practice. To this point, I’ve been a utility player. Over the next five years, I want to build our Chicago market and our Arts & Culture practice. I also want to advance our work in governance. The larger our practice becomes the more we’ll be able to effectively serve clients in these areas. So, I’ll be identifying a strategic plan for the areas that I want to lead in the firm while still being flexible and able to serve the breadth and depth of current clients.
Q. What do you enjoy most about working for Campbell & Company?
KS: Definitely the many different people and organizations that we work with and being able to help these organizations make a difference. I enjoy helping them identify their core key issues, and not only counseling them but also partnering with them to find new solutions and new ways of thinking about success. In terms of Campbell & Company specifically, I enjoy working for a company that allows you to define and drive your own path for success. I also have the privilege of managing our Associate Consultant practice. Our Associates are an integral part of Campbell & Company and play an important role in our team approach with clients. They contribute a great deal of forward thinking to our work, both with clients and internally. I really enjoy collaborating with this group of intelligent, ambitious, and creative thinkers!
MB: I like that this is a firm that supports out-of-the-box thinking; I can think about a new strategy or service that will better the way we work with our clients and I’m given the space to really build that out. We are not static. I also love, love, love my clients. I get so excited by their wins and devastated by their losses. I wear my heart on my sleeve and really get in it with them. They’re changing the world – any part that I can play in that journey is gratifying.
Q. When you’re not working, how are you most likely spending your time? (e.g., spending time with family, relaxing)
MB: I have a 2 ½-year -old. Her name is Amelia. She’s a 2-year-old going on 16. So when I’m not working, I’m chasing my toddler around or being fascinated by her or whatever amazing milestone she’s approaching. The playground is her spot. So, I’m usually at the “weee” (as she calls it) with Amelia.
KS: You’ll most likely find me spending time with my family. I have a 7 and 4-year-old, and we like to spend our time together playing outside, exploring Chicago, baking cookies, and making ice cream. The kids like experimenting and throwing all kinds of goodies in the ice cream. I also like to run and read as much as possible. And every once in a while I try to also get some sleep.