Member spotlight: Lisa Handley, Development Director for St. Vincent de Paul of San Francisco

Lisa Handley is the Development Director for St. Vincent de Paul of San Francisco, overseeing development, communications and marketing operations.  SVDP runs homeless shelters and domestic violence housing in the City, including contracting with the City of San Francisco to operate some of its largest 24-hr shelters, Navigation Centers and wrap-around services.

About her work during COVID-19 she says, “It’s been a crazy few months since we had clients and staff alike contract the virus. Thank goodness, we moved past that hurdle and now are working closely in tandem with the Department of Public Health on shelter operations.”

Lisa first became interested in development during her Master’s Museum Studies program at SF State.  “I had a great professor who taught a nonprofit development course and I loved it,” she explains, “I sought out an internship at SFMOMA and was determined to outlast all the other development interns until I could get a paid job. Amazingly, it worked!”

She has worked in development since 2003, but took 7 years off to work as a funder for a corporate foundation.  When asked about the changes she’s seen over the years she answers, “We have more technology tools imbedded in our process which ultimately helps us improve our relationship management.  I also think we use less words, but more data, which has been a necessary evolution!  I recall early on working on such lengthy proposals that were so dense. But I’ve learned that most people don’t read that much, or have the time.  Concise, data-driven and compelling is a much better formula to get your message across in print. But you can never mess with solid donor stewardship. It never goes out of style.”

During the last few months, Lisa has worked harder at staying in touch with donors and sharing what’s happening on the ground.  “I’m doing much more communications than fundraising at the moment,” she says, “It’s strange but I’m finding myself writing more handwritten thank you notes. And I have more time to make phone calls.  I think without office distractions, it’s opened up a lot of time, oddly.  More broadly, I’m trying to think about what it means big-picture to do development if I can’t be with donors and they can’t volunteer in our shelters or come to an event.”

A skill that Lisa feels is essential to her job is listening, “I try to listen to hear what people say, how they say it, and understand why they are saying it. I think it helps immensely with donors, staff, clients and it also really informs my decision-making.”

Lisa has been a member of DER for three years, “I think the programming is terrific, timely and super value-for-money. At the lunch programs, I’ve learned about cryptocurrency, DAFs, and recently, how to get political within my nonprofit. I’ve enjoying meeting others in my tribe. I’ve also taken in the view from the gorgeous Lighthouse for the Blind offices!”


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