A family health emergency prompted her to reevaluate her goals — and inspired her to take the leap
In 2021 I’m featuring people on a Creative Journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is №3 in the series, featuring Amanda Garry Aliperta, Founder & Principal of Momentum Nonprofit Strategies.
What is your creative venture?
I launched Momentum Nonprofit Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm focused on helping nonprofit organizations maximize impact by reaching their financial goals. I focus on assisting nonprofits and their stakeholders with development strategy, board development, grant writing, corporate and foundation relations, donor relations and event planning.
Why did you start when you did?
Launching a nonprofit consulting business had been a long term professional goal, and personal and professional circumstances aligned to make the summer of 2020 the right time to take the leap. I had been working in nonprofit development for nearly 15 years, most recently with a wonderful organization called Safe & Sound where I had honed my grant writing, corporate and foundation relations and development strategy skills.
We had done well with fundraising, significantly diversifying our revenue portfolio, successfully completing a geographical expansion campaign, securing some substantial grants, and expanding our development department.
That experience working in a small development shop combined with experience I’d gained earlier in my career in University Advancement at Marquette University in a very large development shop planning events for major and principal gift donors made me feel like I could offer useful assistance to nonprofits looking to ramp up their fundraising efforts. I also really value variety in my work and hoped for the chance to work with a wide range of nonprofits doing great work in our community.
Personally, my husband and I have two small children, and our youngest was born in 2019 with critical congenital heart defects that required open heart surgery at just seven days old. The experience was scary and harrowing and led me to reevaluate my career path. My employer at the time was incredible in allowing me the flexibility I needed for doctor’s appointments and maternity and medical leave, but I realized I wanted more control over my schedule in the long term. Thankfully, our son is thriving.
What background and skills helped you get going?
While I didn’t necessarily expect to land in nonprofit development work while in college, my training in communications and theatre have been incredibly helpful throughout my career in the nonprofit sector.
Regarding my theatre/communication studies background… So much of nonprofit fundraising is about effectively telling a story. We work to understand our audience (donors and prospects) and then align the story we tell about a nonprofit’s impact in content and tone in a way that will resonate to inspire action. That is absolutely a skill I learned studying theatre and communications. Whether I was performing in a musical or writing a paper, I learned to do my research and spend time analyzing the situation from a variety of angles, and then figure out the most effective way to convey that story to the intended audience to achieve my goal.
I think the ability to cultivate authentic, honest relationships with people is valuable no matter your profession, and that has certainly been the case for me. I also think the experience I gained working for a variety of nonprofits over several years with a broad range of missions and seeing how both large and small nonprofits work was very valuable. I was able to learn in environments that had 150 people raising funds and environments that had two people raising funds, and I learned important lessons from both.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my own fear of taking the leap. I am certainly my own worst critic, and I could come up with a million reasons why I wasn’t ready or why I should wait to get started. Fortunately, I have some wonderful people in my corner who encouraged me. I was also keenly aware that starting a business during a pandemic could go very poorly. I recognize how fortunate I am that things are going well.
I am certainly my own worst critic, and I could come up with a million reasons why I wasn’t ready or why I should wait to get started. Fortunately, I have some wonderful people in my corner who encouraged me.
What mentors, allies or friends helped along the way?
So many people have helped me get to this point in my career. Joseph Brooks took a chance and hired me for my first job in the nonprofit sector many years ago. Katie Sanders is an incredible leader and a masterful fundraiser and I was lucky to learn from her for years. Mark Sabljak and Marybeth Budisch have provided invaluable mentorship and support. Shawna Muren has provided very helpful insight. Bree Spencer has been a wonderful sounding board. My sister Jacqueline Garry Lampert who runs her own health policy consulting firm has always been my biggest cheerleader and has provided unbelievable advice as I worked to get up and running.
Did you have to pivot or change direction at any point?
So far, no! I had worked over time to gain a clear understanding of what the most pressing needs were in the nonprofit community with regards to fund development and I had worked to hone skills that aligned. My areas of focus seem to be meeting the needs of my clients and I am incredibly grateful for the referrals I have received from those who would recommend my work.
What are you focusing on now?
I am largely focused on supporting my clients’ needs, especially as it relates to development strategy and grant writing. I am also learning a great deal on the nuts and bolts of running a business and am continuously working to prioritize business development.
What are you most proud of for this creative venture?
I’m incredibly proud of the nonprofits I am supporting. I believe very firmly in the nonprofit sector’s potential to solve complex systemic problems, and the organizations I am supporting are doing remarkable work in this arena. I love helping them build support and secure the resources they need to maximize impact.
I believe very firmly in the nonprofit sector’s potential to solve complex systemic problems, and the organizations I am supporting are doing remarkable work in this arena.
I am also proud that I invested in myself and took the leap. Working for myself and building a business had been in the back of my mind for years, but it would have been easier to push it off. I’m so glad I made this choice. I have certainly made mistakes on this journey but I am growing, and I’m working to give myself grace as I learn.
After starting on this journey, what advice would you give others?
Do your research and prepare as well as you can, and then take the leap! You’ll never know unless you try.
Tim Cigelske is the author of The Creative Journey: A Timeless Approach to Discovery, which tells the stories of creative paths from all walks of life, including farmer, children’s author, comic book artist, Pixar animator and many more.