Meet Kristi Howard-Shultz: A Fundraiser Who Gets It
Since her teenage years, Kristi Howard-Shultz has dedicated her efforts to serving the nonprofit community in nearly every role imaginable. Today, she leads KHS Consulting, a nonprofit partner focused on deploying innovative fundraising strategies, while serving as an ally for the future.
“I’m a social worker turned fundraiser,” says Kristi. “My vision is to empower leaders to carry out their mission and serve others more effectively. I work with clients to foster long-term bonds between board members, donors, program, and development staff, where their relationship as partners in resource development can grow and deepen, creating long term sustainability.”
In both her personal and professional lives, Kristi is passionate about fostering wholehearted relationships. She is married to her childhood sweetheart, Elliott, her best friend since the sixth grade. Despite military tours abroad, graduate school in New York City, and spending several years living apart, their bond remained. Now, Kristi and Elliott are parents to their two young boys, George and Henry, who have opposite, yet complementary personalities.
“Henry is ‘of the brain’ and George is ‘of the body,’” shares Kristi. “Henry is very sensitive and intellectual, whereas George is as wild as the day is long. They are both extremely bright--in every sense of the word--so, that has been a challenging experience for us!”
Together, Kristi and Elliott have been a military family for over 21 years completing multiple deployments, which was in part, the inspiration for Kristi to start her own business. Three years ago, with a newborn baby, a son preparing to start kindergarten, and a husband on his way to serve in the Middle East, Kristi's family was experiencing a time of major change. She, too, was ready to start a new journey.
“I didn’t know what the demands of single parenting during the deployment would require but I did know my work ethic, value, and niche.” says Kristi. “So, I launched my business by working with trusted colleagues in both interim and capacity building roles. If someone had a gap to fill, I would fill it. If a colleague was getting ready to grow and start a new campaign or initiative, I would lead those efforts.”
Three years ago, the seed was planted. Now, Kristi’s business has grown from a helping hand to a full services nonprofit partner. She developed her passion for social justice in high school while participating in the Lugar Academy. There, she had the formative experience of learning from local business and political leaders about important national and international issues. This led to an opportunity to put that passion to work at Youth Leadership United where she worked extensively with local nonprofits, ultimately joining The American Red Cross Teen Council.
“At The American Red Cross, I began writing grant proposals at the age of 16,” says Kristi. “It was an invaluable experience in learning to work with others, across disciplines, to make your case and professionally present to funders. As my career progressed when major donors or foundation officers came to visit, I was invited to offer tours, showcase programs, and assist with presentations.”
Throughout high school, college, and even graduate school, Kristi continued working with nonprofits, all the while, never considering that she would one day become a fundraiser. It was not until Kristi began working with the Boy Scouts of America that it clicked.
“The Scouts trained us in what they call ‘Money, Membership, and Manpower,’ their three tracks for success,” says Kristi. “Throughout your professional Scouting career, you participate in training and evaluation, take assessments and aptitude tests. All of my results pointed to fundraising”
At first, Kristi was skeptical of the results, but her mentors showed her the way. Once she understood the alignment of her results with her personal values– practicing gratitude, building relationships and growing connections– she was quickly convinced.
“These are values I want to bring to my clients,” shares Kristi. “In the end, it is all about connection. In our personal lives, in our work lives, between our customers and our donors, every interaction that we have is a chance to build a relationship.”
Not only is Kristi’s practice centered upon fostering community, but it is also guided by the values of learning, teaching, and visibility. When it comes to learning, Kristi strives to embrace change and embody a willingness to try new things.
“Life is disruptive. The only constant is change,” says Kristi. “We can be so afraid to fail that we won’t try new things. However, if we won’t try new things, and if we don’t fail, then we can’t learn. So, let’s make things better through iteration and constant learning.”
As someone who has always appreciated her mentors, Kristi understands the importance of teaching for nonprofits. There can be a lack of investment in formal professional development due to tight budgets, small staff, and every member wearing multiple hats. “It’s really important to me to be a permanent resource beyond our initial engagement,” says Kristi. “As a teacher and a guide, I want to give you the tools needed to succeed– discipline, consensus building, project management, you name it. Let’s put all of the foundational pieces in place.”
Through her work, Kristi aims to help nonprofits "see and be seen” by giving them visibility in a way that comes from both the head and the heart. Part of spreading awareness is by breaking down silos within the industry and learning from other organizations.
“I’ve had the benefit of working for private schools, national nonprofits, and grassroots initiatives,” says Kristi. “While fundraising is different at all of these places, there is at least one thing that each concentration can learn from the other. So, when we don’t collaborate with people across the industry, then we also limit our learning and our potential for visibility.”
Year after year, Kristi utilizes her personal and professional values to inform her business practices and client interactions. She partners with clients new and old, continuing to work with each in a new and deeper way.
“What I love most about my job is the people,” says Kristi. “I enjoy meeting people who are so dedicated to what they do. I’ve worked with and learned from some of the brightest, most caring people around. I’ve gained life long colleagues, friends, and advocates. I’ve experienced a lifetime of learning from my clients and I still have a lifetime more to go.”