Member Spotlight: Shaké Sulikyan, Executive Director, ValleyCare Charitable Foundation

For more than two decades, Shaké Sulikyan has worked in nonprofits.  She started in the finance office of an organization that was just beginning its fundraising efforts and because Shaké was interested in development, she decided to take this role on top of her regular responsibilities.  “The organization was unable to create a full-time position for development/fundraising,” she explains, “So they paved the way for me to take a role with another nonprofit, and the rest is history.”

Her career has included development work for social service, education, and healthcare organizations in New England and California, as well as providing consulting services to nonprofits throughout the United States.

Shaké has seen many changes in the field of development over the years.  She’s witnessed a change in volunteerism, as well the recognition that staff members need to be paid a living wage.  As a result, she feels nonprofits have become more “professionalized.”  She has also seen an increase in professional associations/organizations and in the number of consultants.  “As the profession grows and the sector begins to operate more like a business, so do the opportunities to learn from each other through professional associations and to engage consultants in our effort to become more efficient and effective.”

As Executive Director, Shaké is responsible for all aspects of the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation (VCCF), which is the fundraising arm of Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare hospital in the Tri-Valley. “I provide long-term vision and strategic leadership for the organization while also overseeing the day-to-day operations, programs, and activities of the Charitable Foundation to raise funds in support of our local hospital and its innovative medical programs and services,” she explains. “It is an interesting position that combines many of my previous experiences and positions, both in the nonprofit and the corporate sectors.”

In December, VCCF completed the Campaign for Stroke Care, raising an unprecedented amount for the Hospital in the shortest amount of time, a fact of which Shaké is especially proud. She shares, “The Campaign provided funds to launch a stroke program and receive certification as a Primary Stroke Center, which allows us to accept ambulances carrying stroke patients. With stroke, every second counts, so being able to treat patients close to home or work and having helicopter access to Stanford Palo Alto is an incredible addition to the healthcare offerings in our community. I am proud to have played the role of funding this project and making a difference in the lives of people I’ve come to know and care about in my community.”

Outside of work, Shaké enjoys spending time with her husband and 8-year old son.  She’s a big reader and recently started a Kids and Parents Book Club with her son and his friends.  When not reading, she likes to work out at the gym, to go on runs with her son, hike with her family, and to take classes. “I am a natural leader, so I enjoy taking on leadership roles as a way to fulfill my mission in life, to make the world a better place.”

About DER, Shaké says, “Attending DER presentations is a great reminder that I’m on the right track. In addition, as a transplant to the Bay Area, DER has helped me meet other professionals in the area.”

Member Spotlight: Lisa Hoffman – Coach, Consultant, Zen Priest

Lisa Hoffman is a solo-practitioner coach, consultant, facilitator, and trainer to nonprofit boards and staff (  She is also an ordained Zen priest.  This may be a unique combination, but she has found that the practices of mindfulness, compassion, and inter-connectedness help enormously when working with people and groups to navigate situations that are often complicated and emotionally charged. She adds, “These skills are also wonderful assets to my facilitation, which I think is one of the best mindfulness practices ever.”

Her specialty as a consultant is in major gifts, board, professional, and volunteer development. “Many leaders also turn to me as a thought partner–to think through with them how to meet challenges, grow their organizations, and support their staff, board members and volunteers,” she says, “I facilitate staff and Board retreats, special meetings, as well as facilitating conflict resolution.”

As with many, Lisa got into the development field by accident.  Originally, she planned to become an attorney, “To do some good in the world,” she explains.  Although she decided that the law was not her path, an attorney she worked with recommended her to a legal services nonprofit that supported artists, to work on their annual art auction fundraiser.  “That was my start,” she says, “I did well, enjoyed it and especially appreciated how much I learned and how satisfying the whole experience was. It has led me to a career that remains rewarding and interesting beyond what I could have imagined!”

In more than 30 years of working in development, she has seen both positive changes and new challenges.  “I have seen greater professionalism on the part of staff and board members, and I’m always inspired by how committed our community is to social justice and offering a helping hand to those who need it,” she explains, “The challenges that have grown include how undercapitalized many nonprofits are, combined with the cost-of-living in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly office and housing costs. The latter are a double challenge – paying staff adequately who need to cope with housing costs, and skyrocketing office rentals.”

Lisa has been a member of DER since it was a small and informal group, led by her, Julie Ver Steeg, Dan DeVries, Greg Lassonde, and Jack Soares. “It has been amazing to watch the organization grow after I stepped out of leadership about 10 years ago.  DER has had a wonderful impact on my life – giving me a network, helping me hone my skills, providing an opportunity to give and receive mentorship. I think DER is a gift to our profession!”

Outside of work, Lisa enjoys spending time with her spouse and friends, cooking, reading, walking, lap time with her cat, and making sure she notices those little moments of joy.  A go-to book on her shelf is Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, by Jill Geisler.  “This is one of the best books about leadership I’ve ever read.  It’s accessible, practical, human, and applicable well beyond bosses,” she shares, “I’ve used the ideas, techniques and tools with every type of volunteer and professional I work with. There is also a chapter on up managing your boss, which I share quite frequently.”

In closing, she says, “A shout out to DER’s founder, Hank Rosso, and his emphasis that all we do is about fostering the joy of giving and supporting our community and world.”