Elizabeth O’Hara Receives 2019 Young Nonprofit Professional Emerging Leader Award

Head shot of Elizabeth O'HaraAFPSEWI member, Elizabeth O’Hara, honored as 2019 Awardee

2019 is proving to be an exciting year for Elizabeth O'Hara of Alverno College.  Elizabeth was recently nominated by her colleagues for the 2019 Young Nonprofit Professional Emerging Leader Award! 

The award is given annually to outstanding young professional fundraisers who have shown exemplary work in raising funds, inspiring donors, and making a meaningful impact on the fundraising profession.  Elizabeth O'Hara fits that bill -- Just ask those who have worked with her and seen her in action.

At a very young age, Elizabeth was already dipping her toes into the fabulous world of fundraising. Elizabeth was first exposed to fundraising during her sophomore and junior years of high school when she secured a $3,000 grant for a youth project that she was involved with.  

It’s safe to say that life in fundraising for Elizabeth took off from there.  Elizabeth found that she loved this new world of fundraising and as a student at Alverno College she was involved in a $32 million campaign to renovate space on the campus and to build a new nursing simulation lab.  As a student representative, Elizabeth went on donor visits with major gift officers, and as Elizabeth says, “When I helped with the campaign it really opened my eyes to the fundraising world. It was a great learning experience.” Elizabeth soon realized that fundraising was the career path for her.

In 2015 Elizabeth graduated from Alverno in non-profit management and after spotting a job posting for a major gifts officer, she found herself back at her alma mater. Elizabeth felt that she was still pretty new to the fundraising world but Alverno knew her, and she knew that she loved Alverno and her experience as a student fundraiser.

Elizabeth is now in year three as a major gifts officer with Alverno College. When asked what she enjoys the most about her work, there is no hesitation. “My favorite part of my job is hearing people’s stories and helping them see the transformational power of their philanthropy. This year I have seen a lot of the fruits of my labor. I help donors invest in something incredible and it is a win-win for everyone.”

Elizabeth has been a member of AFP since 2016 when she joined Alverno.  Attending AFP luncheons and meeting others in the profession is how her relationship with AFP began.  Elizabeth soon asked how she could get more involved. She quickly found herself involved in the developing professionals group, planning events, taking part in the mentorship program, and assisting with National Philanthropy Day.

Elizabeth joined the AFP board 2 years ago and continues to grow and flourish in the field of fundraising.  Elizabeth sums up one of the positive impacts of AFP on her professional life in a single word. “Network.”  “Involvement with AFP offers you a network of people that you can reach out to and to gather new ideas from those outside of your own organization.  The monthly luncheons are great to connect with others and Fundraising Day WI was wonderful.”

When Elizabeth was selected for the 2019 Young NonProfit Professional Emerging Leader Award what did it mean to her?  “This is the first award that I have received since college. The award recognizes what I have hoped to accomplish. Yes, I am on the right track & I am being recognized for what I am doing. It means a lot. I’m doing it and I can get there, and other people see this in me.”    

Elizabeth looks forward with excitement to see where her career in fundraising will take her. Her love for major gifts work, fundraising strategies, and inspiring her donors are just a few things that she loves about the profession. “Major gifts work is important in so many areas. It’s exciting to see what the future holds.”

As Elizabeth moves forward to the next task in her day, she pauses to say, “Fundraising is such a great profession. I am lucky to be able to work in the Milwaukee area in the fundraising field. It’s very special indeed.”