2023 Fundraiser of the Year: Kristi Nelson
Fundraiser of the Year
Chief Philanthropy Officer
It takes a lot of time, effort and dedication to lead an organization through difficult times and toward a greater future.
That’s what Kristi Nelson — chief philanthropy officer at Childhaven, a nonprofit focused on addressing childhood trauma, and winner of NonProfit PRO’s 2023 Fundraiser of the Year Award — has embodied since she joined the organization six years ago.
The nonprofit was working to address major obstacles that posed a threat to its success — such as high turnover rates, a CEO transition and the realization that its revenue model was unsustainable — when Nelson joined the team in 2017, according to Nelson’s nominator. Promoted to chief philanthropy officer within a year of starting at Childhaven, her efforts to regroup the external relations team and rethink the processes they use have paid off.
Most recently, Nelson has been spearheading a $20 million, multi-year philanthropy campaign that is bringing in donations at a level not seen before in the organization’s existence since 1909, her nominator told NonProfit PRO.
Nelson has also been central to supporting Childhaven’s fundraising efforts following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kristi’s greatest accomplishment is bringing sustainability to Childhaven’s philanthropic revenue during numerous significant organizational changes, a shifting funding environment and a global pandemic,” her nominator told NonProfit PRO, explaining that the organization is set to have a record year in 2023-2024, with a goal of raising nearly $5.4 million.
She also motivated the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association to double its largest gift to Childhaven to date after being invited to speak at the association’s annual event in 2021.
Aside from this, Nelson’s interpersonal skills are top notch, according to her nominator. Not only is she able to seamlessly connect with and understand the nonprofit’s donors and community stakeholders, but she is a huge team player as well.
“Kristi champions our team members’ career development by supporting their growth as fundraisers and helping them set professional goals and acquire new skills, competencies and processes based on industry best practices,” her nominator told NonProfit PRO. “She encourages her staff to develop a high degree of ownership in their work and progress toward their individual goals while keeping children’s mental health at the heart of everything we do.”
Her efforts have resulted in the external relations team having one of the highest retention rates within the organization.
To complement this, Nelson has put donor relations best practices, such as the four disciplines of execution, into effect that are propelling Childhaven forward in its mission to address children’s mental health.
Above all, Nelson gives her all to the work being done by Childhaven, donating almost $60,000 of her own money to the organization.
Her passion for children’s mental health, in addition to her personal characteristics — abundance mentality, humility, selflessness, approachability, compassion and authenticity — make Nelson an invaluable part of Childhaven’s team, her nominator said.
“When Kristi interviewed at Childhaven in late 2016, our consensus was: ‘How do we not hire this person?’” her nominator told NonProfit PRO. “Since then, she has been an extraordinary asset to Childhaven and her leadership has become indispensable to Childhaven’s fundraising efforts.”