Remembering Jennifer Bielat and Her Nonprofit Legacy
Jennifer Bielat was a unique and powerful player in the nonprofit sector.
“I knew Jennifer well professionally; I recruited her to Pursuant,” Kelley Hecht, who previously worked at the fundraising agency exclusively serving nonprofits, said. “We were at a moment of inflection as a company and we were looking for someone who could lead through a time of incredible change, both externally in the industry and internally within the company. What we were looking for was a unicorn, and we found it in her.”
Bielat passed away from complications from a routine procedure on Aug. 2. She was 57 years old.
Bielat, whom many called JB, was a leader in the nonprofit sector, most recently serving as Pursuant’s executive vice president of client strategy, a role she held since 2017.
“JB's unexpected passing has left us all with an immeasurable void,” reads a statement provided by Pursuant. “Throughout her time with us, Jennifer was more than a colleague; she was a trusted counselor, a source of strength, and a friend to us all. Her dedication to our company and our clients’ missions was unwavering, her leadership inspired us, and her kindness was a constant reminder of the power of compassion in the workplace.”
Prior to joining the team at Pursuant, Bielat was the senior vice president of integrated marketing at Easterseals, a nonprofit advocating for and providing services to children and adults with disabilities and their families. In this role, she was able to raise more than $32 million annually through the nonprofit’s digital and mail direct response channels and bolstered the development of planned and major gifts.
Bielat joined the board at The Nonprofit Alliance in 2021, lending her insight to the organization’s mission to promote, protect and strengthen the sector. She also shared her 20-plus years of industry insight through her contributed articles for NonProfit PRO.
“You often hear people that work in the nonprofit sector say that they were called to a life of service,” Hecht, team lead for industry advisers at Amazon Web Services for Nonprofits, said. “I feel like Jennifer just existed in a world of service. Every element of her life was grounded in service.”
Hecht remembers Bielat as having a calming presence; a sharp but kind humor; and a large network of new and old colleagues, friends, and customers built on trust. She also recalls how deeply Bielat cared about her family — her husband, Paul, and her two daughters, Alex and Lauren.
“You just could tell that as much as she loved what she did professionally, and dedicated years to Easterseals and then to hundreds of clients for Pursuant, there was nothing in the world that she cared about more or that could light up her face in the most authentic and passionate of ways than when you asked about her kids and her family.”
Many of her colleagues and industry peers, including Hecht, were at the Bridge Conference when they first heard the news.
“The word spread quickly and the devastation was palpable,” Hecht said. “You couldn't turn without seeing someone who was processing the news with shock, with devastation, with gratitude for having known her. It was a profound moment and, in some ways, it was remarkable to be surrounded by people who knew and loved and respected, and now were mourning her. I have to imagine Jennifer was there in some way, it didn't feel by accident that 2,500 people who had been touched by her were together for the moment of learning of her passing.”
It was hard for people in the nonprofit sector to not have their hearts touched by Bielat, between her work on committees, her presentations and the many customers she served.
“I just hope we can honor and capture the fact that this woman, in her very short 57 years, left a truly indelible mark on the industry,” Hecht said. “Gosh, what an honor to be able to say that about a life well lived and a life of purpose.”
Hecht celebrated Bielat’s life alongside those closest to her at services held Aug. 7 and 8 in Chicago. Bielat is survived by her husband and her two daughters. Donations in her memory can be made to the American Heart Association, according to her obituary.
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