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Linda Lysakowski is America’s Fundraiser

Linda Lysakowski & Jimmy LaRose

Linda Lysakowski is America’s Fundraiser is an understatement. This fundraising veteran has dedicated her life to saving and transforming lives because of the way she has lived her life. “Love for what?” you may ask.

First, her love for the Lord. Second, her love of nonprofit leaders.

It was the early 1990s when I launched my journey with a goal of becoming our nation’s most successful fundraiser. I was 23 years old and made a significant commitment to continuing education. The first training I attended was in Washington, D.C. hosted by Linda Lysaksowski, ACFRE.

The first time I ever heard the words “CASE FOR SUPPORT” was during that Linda’s session. Her stories were endless and depth of experience an inspiration. Simply put, I was in awe and count her as one of my greatest influences. The hundreds of times she’s invited a donor to make a big gift informs her craft and method.

According to Linda, I was a handful, immature and evidently asked too many questions. (VISIT HERE FOR LINDA’S SIDE OF THE STORY!) Regardless, she was patient, kind and managed me in a way that supercharged my fundraising career. Linda Lysakowski is truly America’s Fundraiser

I’ve invited Linda to share with our readers her nonprofit journey. I present to you, the life and legend of Linda Lysakowski!

Linda Lysakowski is America’s Fundraiser

So, what is my story? I was born in 1942 in Reading, PA to a stay-at-home mom and a taxi driver dad, from whom I inherited some great attributes but also a not-so-nice road rage mouth when I drive in traffic.

When I was about ten years old, I started writing short stories and dreamed of someday being a writer. Today I am proud to say I have about twenty-three books published for the nonprofit sector, about a dozen more that are currently out of publication, one that will be published soon, and one in the process of being written. Also, I have published one novel, one travel book, and three Christian books which also have study guides and I am the process of writing one more spiritual book, Franciscan Spirituality in World Religions.

When I am not writing, I am active in consulting for nonprofits. I am happy to have reconnected with a long-time associate, Jimmy Larose to work with him on his Major Gift Ramp Up program as an Of Counsel Senior Vice President.

I got into the nonprofit world in a way that many people do, I started out as a volunteer. My career has had some strange twists and turns over the years. My first career was raising a family, and I first went to work outside the home, when I entered the banking industry at about the age of thirty-five.  I worked my way from being a part-time teller to branch manager, and my favorite job of all in the banking field was as a private banker. I later found this experience helped me connect with major donors. One of the perks of working for a bank was that it gave me a chance to further my education. I had dropped out of school at the age of sixteen and after getting my GED, I found that the bank encouraged me to go to college, so I entered school at the age of thirty-nine. I attended a Franciscan University and started out majoring in Banking and Finance. But since the school required every student to take two theology curses and two philosophy courses, I quickly realized that studying theology was much more interesting to me than banking, so I added a major in Theology/Philosophy. Later my position at the bank changed and I found myself in the marketing department, so I added a third major–Communications, prompting the registrar to ask me what I intended to do with those three majors. She said the only thing it seemed to quality me for was to become a televangelist. About two weeks after graduation, I stopped in to see her to tell her that I was going to be doing the next best thing—raising money for the University!

I spent two years working for the University and then accepted a position to start a development office for a museum, where I spent another two and a half years. After a rather interesting ethical dilemma, I found myself testifying in court against the institution and needless to say, found myself out of a job. After looking around at several museums, I realized I was being called to open my own business to help mostly smaller nonprofits start a development program. This career of course led to bigger and better things and the field of philanthropy, and I derived so much satisfaction from helping nonprofits advance their missions, I knew this was forever career and my purpose in life.

I have spent more than thirty years running my own business. During that time, I have worked with hundred of clients, helping them raise a total of about $100,000,000, and trained about 100,000 people worldwide through seminars, speaking engagements, webinars, and online courses. My sincere desire is that through my books, classes and courses, and consulting, I will leave a legacy for the nonprofit world.  I was so moved by seeing my clients grow in building their capacity to serve even more deserving people than ever before, that was the impetus for the first book I had published in 1994. I realized that I could serve hundreds of clients but through writing and teaching I could serve tens of thousands. After the books came many teaching opportunities and an opportunity to serve even more nonprofit leaders.

Linda Lysakowski

As I mentioned before, lifelong learning is my passion and I want to share that passion with others. But as my father taught me don’t ever practice the idiom, “Do as I say, not as I do.” So I had to prove to myself that as I was approaching the ripe young age of 80, I could still get my master’s degree. So, in 2022 I enrolled in the Masters of Theological Studies at the Franciscan School of Theology at San Diego University. I am happy to report that at the age of 81 and after a long two years in which I faced the death of my oldest son, and had two bad falls, one causing a broken shoulder which caused me to rely on good friends to type from my dictation three papers to complete my capstone project, I received my MTS-FT at graduation on May 25, 2024. But I am not ready to say that was the capstone of my career. I am still actively producing courses and consulting. And in addition to the nonprofit books, I still have in the works, I am adding to my spiritual writing. I am launching a new website www.spirtualwritingswithLinda.com. And I am expanding and turning my capstone project into a book, Franciscan Spirituality in World Religions, which I hope will let readers know that although there are many religions and belief systems in this world, including non-religious people, we all have much in common, perhaps more than our differences.  My sincere desire is that this book will help readers of all religious and spiritual persuasions understand each other better.

What is my advice to young people starting out in their career, or those mid-career people who feel they are being called to something new? You are never too old, and it is never too late to follow your dream. Lifelong learning is a must! Being open to new ideas is critical. As Nike says, “Just Do It.” Or as my friend of fifty-plus years used to say, “Do it, damn it!”

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, CNE, CDE, CNC

 

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