Inside IPM: Meet Elizabeth Silverstein
“Inside IPM” is an ongoing series featuring the talented players who comprise the IPM Advancement team! Here you’ll learn all about the people who work behind the scenes at IPM to help nonprofits raise more money to make the world a better place. Today, we’re talking to…
Elizabeth Silverstein, Consultant
How long have you been working in the field of nonprofit consulting or fundraising?
I’ve been doing this for 38 years
What are some of your favorite things about where you grew up?
I grew up in Tampa, Florida, and the beach is my happy place. I love everything about the ocean.
Why did you choose to work with IPM?
We are all better together. We can’t all be experts in everything. Coming together as a team of subject experts allows all of us to better serve the diverse needs of our clients. This is an exceptional team and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the IPM Consulting Network.
What were the most meaningful lessons you learned early on in your career that helped prepare you for the work you do today?
I’ve learned so much! First, always aim for the biggest most audacious vision possible because funders and philanthropists want to change the world with their donor investment. Also, never, ever under-ask. And remember, donors want a return on their investment so as a non-profit, you don’t want to underperform.
How did your time in school influence your choice to get involved in nonprofit fundraising?
When I was a Senior in college, I joined The Carter Presidential Library and Carter Center of Emory University as a student intern. The Carter Center had launched a Capital Campaign to build the Library/Carter Center and I interned in the Development Office. There I saw, first-hand, the power of philanthropy and I knew this was the career path for me.
What are some changes or opportunities you see on the horizon for nonprofits as they enter this new decade?
COVID-19 has exposed the flaw in nonprofit dependence on event fundraising. Individual giving — the deepening of the donor relationship and engagement — is the key to long term COVID-proof fundraising success. As organizations, we need our people. Nonprofits, moving forward, will need to invest deeply into building their individual giving programs.
What do you love most about working with nonprofits?
These organizations have such passion and creativity, and they’re so mission-focused — That’s what compels me.
What’s something about your job that makes you excited to come to work every day?
I want to help my clients dream bigger and work smarter. I want to be their biggest cheerleader and keep them focused on the big vision rather than the burden of scarcity.
What’s one of your favorite hobbies?
I love travel and scuba diving. I recently completed a week-long dive trip on a live-aboard catamaran in the British Virgin Islands. Prior to that, one of my favorite dives was with the giant manta rays in Hawaii.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance to ensure you can give your best in both areas?
It has taken me a lifetime to figure this out — and it’s still a work in progress. I had to give myself permission to work within acceptable business hours. I still find myself answering emails and texts at any hour on any day, but am working harder at prioritizing and balancing my time. It’s tough as a consultant, because you want to be there for your client. I’m learning how to work with my clients in a way that honors and respects both of our schedules, and is transparent, balanced, and thoughtful.
What do you think is the most important thing for nonprofits to focus on to best prepare them to be financially stable for the next decade?
Nonprofits are famous for burnout. Most are too lean and expect their staffs to work long hours at less than market salaries. Nonprofits must, first and foremost, operate as a sound business with a sustainable budget, a robust bottom line, and the right complement of talent at competitive salaries. They need to look carefully at their mission and whether there is duplication in the marketplace. Those who succeed will be willing to collaborate closely with other organizations who share their mission or have complementary missions. When nonprofits work smarter and join together, they can share overhead, jointly apply for grants, and strengthen their connection with shared donors who will applaud the elimination of duplication.
If you could give a nonprofit one and only one piece of advice that would increase their impact on their cause, what would it be?
Dream the biggest dream possible. What does it really take to make the biggest impact on the cause you are championing? THAT is what your donors want to fund.