Fundraising with Joy Interview – Lisa Howley

Lisa Howley, Director of Relationship Management at Johns Hopkins Institutions

Lisa headshotLisa is a passionate fundraiser and leading expert on relationship management and its impact on organizational development and growth. I first met her in 2005, when we were fresh new members of the APRA Board of Directors. I instantly felt connected to Lisa – she is an authentic person with a wonderful sense of curiosity and warmth. Our volunteer roles often overlapped as we worked on the conference planning committee and the association’s professional journal. Lisa is always willing to share her passion through volunteer leadership roles and speaking engagements for APRA, MARC, CASE, and AFP. What I most admire is how Lisa brings her full self to these roles and how she creates a sense of enthusiasm and engagement that is contagious.

Janice: What made you choose a career in the social profit sector?

Like many others, the social profit sector chose me. I started in my career as a family counselor, which I did for several years. After burning out, I turned to my passion for writing, and was a writer and editor for a Baltimore publishing company focused on business creation and marketing.

I was looking to continue my career as a writer when I responded to an ad in the local paper for Johns Hopkins which said, ‘Are you a writer? Then we want you!’ or something along those lines. The ad was for a Development Research position – and that is how I began my career in fundraising. It was a love affair from the start.

Janice: What does philanthropy mean to you? Has your definition changed over time?

When I was beginning in high school, I vividly remember talking to the father of a close family friend about what I wanted to do after I graduated. I told him that my dream was to build public libraries and help ensure that anyone who wanted to read had free access to books. I didn’t know that what I was describing was philanthropy; all I knew was the tremendous impact public libraries had had on me growing up and wanting to give that positive experience to someone else in return. I also knew I did not (and suspected I never would) have the money to make this dream a reality.

At that time, I only knew of philanthropy from the giving side. It was a profound discovery to learn about the fundraising profession years later. Working in fundraising has changed my view of philanthropy, in the sense I now have a richer and much more complete understanding of how philanthropy operates and the impact philanthropy has in the world.

Janice: How does your organization’s mission connect to your personal values? What brings you the most joy in your work?

I am a life-long learner, and so Johns Hopkins’ mission connects to my very core. I have witnessed many advances in education, knowledge and research as a result of philanthropy. These advances continually move and inspire me, both in my work and personal life.

And for me it is also about possibility for the betterment of mankind. I will never forget sitting in a movie theater in 1986 as a young girl watching Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home, where the crew has traveled back in time to a 1986 earth. Towards the end of the movie, Kirk and Bones have gone to a hospital to retrieve Chekov, and Bones encounters a sick women lying on a gurney in the hallway. He mutters something about barbarian treatment she is receiving and pulls out a flat item to scan her body, and then proceeds to cure her with this item! I sat in my seat in a state of wonderment thinking – this is the future of medicine, this will happen, and I want to be part of it.

So it is a joy to work at an organization where I feel that I am part of the future, where the betterment of mankind is happening all around me, and that my efforts help in some small way to support this.

Janice: Your job focuses on cultivating relationships and supporting others, what do you do to recharge your batteries?

I strive to make the most of my time with family and friends, and weekends are always for them. I am an avid reader, and still writing. I have been thinking lately of taking a shot at a screenplay or comic book, some kind of new medium I haven’t tackled before. I also love to travel and explore. I have a goal of visiting every country in my lifetime – four down, only 192 left to go!

Janice: Research shows that philanthropy and volunteerism are proven ways to increase happiness. How have you experienced this in your work and life?

Yes. I have regularly volunteered with APRA over the past 10 years, and have found these experiences incredibly enriching and rewarding. But more often I see it from the donors who have given to the various organizations I have worked out. When I first started in fundraising it amazed me to hear donors who had made significant gifts thank us for the opportunity to give and to make an impact! Our job is to provide meaningful and fulfilling experiences for volunteers and donors, and if we do our job right, I truly believe that gratitude is felt by all.

Janice: Our work in the social profit sector allows us to make a contribution. What is the lasting impact you want to make during your career?

To make the possibilities of tomorrow happen now. While I can’t cure cancer or pioneer a new mode of learning, I am always looking for new ways to advance our relationship management efforts at Hopkins. I would like to think that my work has had an impact on the growth and development of the relationship management profession, and will continue to in the future.

© 2013, Janice Cunning. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this posting if you include my contact information. Please contact me if you wish to reprint any portion of it in any periodical or on a website

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About Janice Cunning

As a certified coach and fundraiser, I am passionate about partnering with people and teams to increase their personal and professional Joy Quota.

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