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Joanne Oppelt, NANOE Member, Raises $1m Gift

Joanne Oppelt, NANOE Member, Raises $1m Major Gift is a celebration of my colleague and friend Joanne Oppelt. I’m Jimmy LaRose, and as the architect of the Major Gifts Ramp-Up Model and co-founder of the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives I’m pleased to share that this MGRU & NANOE collaboration has resulted in saved and transformed lives. Joanne’s commitment to NANOE’s principals and her deployment of the MGRU Model generates the monies charities need to achieve significant impact. How? Major Gifts Ramp-Up is NOT based on a nonprofit’s need to RECEIVE. Instead, Joanne was committed to meet the donor’s need to GIVE! Joanne is a Certified Development Executive who spends her vocational time ensuring families experience a life worth living. I was privileged to interview her this week. Here’s what I learned:

Joanne worked with a fellow NANOE Member, Aaron Sheets, to raise a $1 million gift for HopeLink of Southern Nevada (a homeless prevention agency in Las Vegas). This investment is the largest single gift HopeLink has ever received. Each year, this impact organization assists over 10,000 men, women and children find shelter, afford rent and utilities, eat a meal, or send their children to school with needed supplies, often the first steps to self-sufficiency. This generous investment will help 5,000 additional individuals and families in Clark County stay in their homes. This gift will save $8.8 million in tax-payer funded assistance. “I love helping organizations obtain the finances they need to scale their missions!” Oppelt stated. “This gift is a testimony to HopeLink’s effectiveness, reputation in the community, and their proven history of serving families in the Las Vegas Valley.”


Oppelt attributes much of her success to the Major Gifts Ramp-Up fundraising training she received from National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE). Oppelt joined NANOE in May 2022. NANOE is a nationwide network of leaders whose relentless commitment to significant and sustainable impact transforms communities. It is the fastest-growing nonprofit membership network in the United States.


NANOE members are innovators who solve community problems by deploying heroic missions of scale that confront social and environmental dilemmas so completely that money chases after them. It is a fellowship of individuals who believe that innovation never fears a challenge and that the greatest contribution donors, volunteers, and practitioners can make to charity is to become the creative, thinking enterprise leaders the nonprofit sector so desperately needs.

NANOE had what Oppelt was looking for—an alliance of nonprofit experts who want to change how charity does business. Oppelt was inspired to learn as much as possible, so she looked into their credentialing process.

NANOE’s three credentials— Certified Nonprofit Executive (CNE), Certified Development Executive (CDE), and Certified Nonprofit Consultant (CNC)—are highly regarded. NANOE certifications show you how to develop a organizational system that scales your nonprofit’s mission in ways you only dreamed of before.

Oppelt received her credentials in June 2022.  Achieving all three gave her insight into nonprofit capacity building and the organizational infrastructure she sought.

“Getting my credentials got me into the research.” Oppelt mused. “The credentialing process showed me how data-based NANOE teachings are. Major Gifts Ramp-Up (MGRU) is the fundraising extension of their third-party research. I love that the model is based on objective evidence.”

Joanne Oppelt, NANOE Member, Raises $1,000,000 Major Gift

Oppelt learned about Major Gifts Ramp-Up through her interest in NANOE and its focus on building nonprofit capacity. She embraced the model as soon as she found it.

“The first MGRU conference I attended changed my life,” Oppelt said. “In MGRU, I found shared values and entrepreneurial thinking. Soon, I signed on to become an MGRU counselor. I’ve been helping nonprofits raise five-, six–, and seven-figure gifts through MGRU since I joined.”

MGRU is a thirteen-step model consisting of three phases: the planning phase, the building phase, and the invitation phase. It works for any size nonprofit—small, midsized, or large. Thousands of organizations have successfully implemented MGRU, multiplying their financial returns and increasing their impact on the community.


During the planning phase, you align your organization with the management philosophy that money is king, without which your nonprofit will die on the vine. You learn about major gift fundraising and what it means for your agency to do it. You go through an organizational development process that prepares you for major gift management. You craft a knockout case for support that excites people of means. You coordinate an 18-month calendar with all the campaign tasks necessary for success.

In the building phase, you identify people with the means to give game-changing gifts to your cause.

You invite them to an hour-long non-fundraising awareness event. You develop a detailed plan of care for each event attendee who has agreed to be contacted. After cultivating them, you hold another event—a signature ask event. You raise more money in a single night than you ever had before, and because you’ve executed a to-the-mountaintop experience, your donors are on cloud nine.

During the inviting phase, you establish your campaign cabinet, train them, and work with them to revisit guests to ask for a bigger gift. You and your peer volunteers listen your way to the donor’s best gift at a place chosen by them. You ask for a gift to help you meet your nonprofit’s operating, capital, and endowment goals, which leads to campaign success.

MGRU conferences are held two to three times a month all year long. The schedule can be found at https://NonprofitConferences.org


During her two-day experience, Oppelt saw her mindset espoused. The presenters reinforced her belief in major gift fundraising. They facilitated an organization-wide planning and intervention process similar to hers. They taught her how to develop a compelling case for support in a way she had never considered before.

They gave her tools to identify the thousands of millionaires in her community. They also introduced her to the MGRU Cloud, a repository of thousands of resources to implement the model. They discussed donor cultivation, cultivation, and fundraising events. Finally, a fundraising model that detailed the ideas she presented in her books The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System and The ROI Mindset.

MGRU went further than she had, though. It outlined how to conduct a comprehensive, multi-million-dollar campaign. Unlike a capital campaign, a comprehensive campaign raises money for an organization’s total financial need: current operations, new programming, facilities, equipment, and endowment.


The MGRU campaign budget includes total agency costs, not just direct costs, a principle Oppelt has taught for years. Total agency costs include everything the nonprofit the nonprofit does, including staff, administration, leadership, facilities, equipment, technology, marketing, evaluation, and endowment.


Joanne Oppelt NANOE MemberOppelt has been working with HopeLink to deploy MGRU Model for several months. Aaron Sheets, CEO, recruited a team of industry professionals to interact with donors, volunteers, and advocates and increase financial capacity. The team, called the Community Engagement Team, was in place by January 1, 2024.

HopeLink’s Community Engagement Team includes Sheets, CEO; Ryan Henson, Director of Administration and Employer Services; Dawnette Fike, Community Engagement Specialist; Don Miller, Grant Writer/Volunteer Coordinator; Anna Turner, Program Support Coordinator; and Jessica Acevedo, Marketing and Digital Communications Coordinator. In April, Sheets brought his COO, Kristin Aviles, and Director of Housing Services, Dani Sparks, to the team to ensure MGRU’s complete assimilation into his organization.

Oppelt has been working with the team since its inception. HopeLink’s $1 million gift was derived from a strict adherence to the MGRU model.

“Positively changing the human condition is my life’s work,” Oppelt explained. “The fact that I can be a vessel facilitating seven-figure gifts is important to me. I am grateful to have found MGRU and am honored to coach others through it.”


HopeLink of Southern Nevada has been preventing homelessness for more than 30 years. They have housed more families, children, and seniors than any other agency in southern Nevada. The mostJoanne Oppelt NANOE Member HopeLink effective and least expensive interventions are those that prevent people from ever entering the experience of homelessness. Prevention services include rental, utility, mortgage assistance, and services designed to keep people safely housed where they are. Once homeless, the costs of re-housing skyrocket tenfold.


The agency provides single-unit emergency shelter services through partnerships with hotels, weeklies, and apartment property managers. Non-group shelter at scattered sites across the community keeps households intact and allows families to be housed together. This type of shelter also provides a safe place for people fleeing violence and abuse, including LBGTQ individuals who are often unsafe in communal settings.

Through rapid rehousing, clients find housing quickly, maintain their housing and are connected to jobs, putting them on the path to becoming self-sufficient once again. Rapid rehousing is a proven solution designed to help people quickly exit homelessness and return to permanent housing. Offered without preconditions such as employment, income, absence of a criminal record, or sobriety, resources are tailored to the unique needs of each household.

Meeting the overwhelming challenge of homelessness in Southern Nevada exceeds HopeLink’s current capacity. In order to tackle this opportunity, Aaron Sheets and his board of directors entered the first phase of a ten-year fundraising campaign. Their first $16.5 million, three-year phase will provide the funding necessary to increase and expand the core services of their mission, provide for a larger centralized facility, and ensure the continuation of critical services long into the future.

Joanne Oppelt
Development Systems International
[email protected]
(732) 261-3432

Joanne Oppelt, NANOE Member, Raises 7 Figure Major Gift was first posted at NANOE

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About the Author:

Oppelt has extensive experience in nonprofit program and fund development. She worked in fundraising and management for 30 years before becoming a full-time consultant in 2019. She has held positions from volunteer to executive director in small, midsized, and large organizations. She builds organizational revenue streams by integrating fundraising with planning, marketing, operations, and finance. Her exceptional interpersonal, communication, planning, and organizational skills help improve organizational stability and sustainability.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Bethany University, where she graduated cum laude. Her master’s degree is in health administration from Wilkes University, where she graduated with distinction.

Oppelt’s first job out of graduate school was at Maternal and Family Health Services, where she raised $200,000 in six months. She moved on to the March of Dimes Central Jersey Chapter, where she oversaw the grants review process and ensuing funding allocations. Her next position was at Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, overseeing a $1.2 million federal grant. Later, she worked at Community Access Unlimited, first as a development director and then as an assistant executive director for business development. During her twelve years at Community Access, she raised $14.8 million, 42 percent representing new funding. The pinnacle of her nonprofit management career was as executive director of Caring Contact, a suicide prevention hotline. While there, she doubled contributed revenue and increased assets tenfold.

With a collaborative approach, Oppelt specializes in helping nonprofits improve the return on their fundraising investment, usually more than quadrupling performance. Past clients include the Rhode Island Parent Information Network, New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra, Family to Family Network of New Jersey, Christian Health Care Ministry Renewal Center, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, 200 Club of Union County, Westfield United Fund, Friends of Gold Butte, Braver Angels, Set Point Tennis Organization, No Means No Worldwide, Next Door Solutions, Sound Start Foundation, Blue Sage Center for the Arts, Calvin Crest, and Saving our Sons and Sisters International.

Oppelt is the creator of The High ROI Fundraising series and co-creator of the Nonprofit Quick Guide series. She has authored, co-authored, contributed to, or edited twenty-five books. She has been a grants reviewer for the United States Department of Education and the Union County Department of Human Services. She was a founding member of the Union County Nonprofit Consortium. By gubernatorial appointment, she served on the New Jersey Behavioral Health Planning Council for four years. By Freeholder appointment, she served as part of the Union County Alliance Steering Subcommittee, of which she was president for two years.

She has also been a volunteer trainer for the Center for Nonprofit Success, Charity Channel University, Grants Professional Association-New Jersey Chapter, North Jersey Health Collaborative, and Union County Nonprofit Consortium.

Oppelt values authenticity above all else. She is known for her forthright honesty and adherence to high moral standards. She and her husband live in Florida on the space coast. They see rocket launches from their back lanai, enjoy traveling, and like visiting their three children and five (soon to be six!) grandchildren whenever possible. They are also avid national park fans, with close access to the Indian River Lagoon, Jetty Park, Merrit Island Wildlife Refuge, and the Cape Canaveral National Seashore, where you can often find them observing the native environment.

“My partnership with NANOE and MGRU perfects my professional life,” Oppelt proclaimed. “I love what I do. Life is good—for both me and the clients I serve.”

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Joanne Oppelt
Joanne Oppelt
Joanne Oppelt is a veteran fundraiser and author of The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System.

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