Richard L. Tollefson, Jr.
Founder & President
The values and identity of The Phoenix Philanthropy Group are a reflection of its founder and president. “I believe in the greater good and our role in it,” Richard says. “It’s what drives me, and us, to empower our clients to optimize their impact and generate lasting change in the world.”
Richard’s passion for development and the nonprofit sector was inspired by his parents. “They were ‘can do, must do’ people – hard-working volunteers, effective and transformative community leaders, and engaged philanthropists.”
As an adult, Richard has aspired to achieve similar leadership and impact. As the vice president for institutional advancement at his alma mater, Thunderbird School of Global Management, he managed two comprehensive fundraising campaigns, raising $120 million in 26 countries, including a $60 million commitment – at the time the largest-ever naming gift to a business school – and transformed Thunderbird’s alumni association into a global professional association. Over his 30-year career, Richard has successfully guided many other acclaimed arts, culture, and educational institutions, including Master Chorale of Orange County, The Joffrey Ballet, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University, where he was part of a $600 million campaign leadership team.
Richard was the 2015 recipient of Social Venture Partners’ highest honor, the Paul Shoemaker Leadership Award; and is a past recipient of the Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year award from the Arizona chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Richard has also been a highly active volunteer, serving on the Boards of Directors of Social Venture Partners International, Social Venture Partners Arizona, Giving Institute, and Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII; on the Advisory Council for Arizona Community Foundation’s Kellenberger + Tollefson Center for LGBTQ Philanthropy and Tollefson + Kellenberger Forum for Social Justice; and is active in the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Richard sums up his career thus: “I do well by doing good, living my personal and professional dreams at the same time.”
Dr. Peter Smits
Dr. Peter Smits is Vice President Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, where he was responsible for Fresno State’s programs in development and fundraising, university communications, endowment management, and alumni relations. Under Peter’s leadership, Fresno State surpassed the $200 million campaign goal of its first comprehensive campaign, reaching $214.2 million. Prior to Fresno State, Peter served as Vice President for Advancement at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Executive Assistant to the Chancellor at Louisiana State University in Shreveport; Vice President for College Relations and Development at the State University of New York at Brockport, and Dean of Students at The College of White Plains in New York. Peter is currently a Senior Fellow of CASE International, where his research interests include the ways in which campuses identify, measure, and grow their culture of philanthropy.
Cheryl House, CFRE
Cheryl House finds the most rewarding aspect of her job as a consultant at The Phoenix Philanthropy Group is working with development officers, CEOs, and board members and “seeing their confidence in their fundraising abilities grow.”
Philanthropy “brings out the best in people,” says Cheryl, a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in journalism and past recipient of the Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year award from the Southern Arizona chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “It teaches us to work together to solve problems. It’s extremely gratifying to know that my efforts are making a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Cheryl served as Senior Director of Development and then Interim Associate Vice President and Chief Development Officer at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. She also served as Assistant Vice Chancellor and Executive Director for the Pima Community College Foundation. Prior to joining the Pima Community College Foundation, Cheryl was Director of Development for the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and the University of Arizona Foundation. She began her work in the nonprofit sector as Vice President for Development and then President of Junior Achievement of Southern Arizona.
She didn’t anticipate that her career would take her in this direction. “I accepted my first fundraising position for the networking opportunities,” she says. “This work is meaningful in many ways, but never so much as when a student who was ready to drop out of community college due to lack of funds earns a scholarship and crosses the graduation stage. It’s those personal connections with donors and program recipients that are especially motivating.”
On a volunteer basis, Cheryl has served in various capacities for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), including as Chair of the District VII Board of Directors and a member of the CASE Commission on Philanthropy. She recently was named a CASE Laureate. As a long-time member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Planned Giving Round Table of Southern Arizona, Cheryl has held various leadership positions.
In a divided world, she says, “philanthropy is one thing that brings people together in a positive way. Giving to help others makes you an active participant in making the world a better place.”
Prior to devoting her life to nonprofit work, Jeri found success in the business world. She served as president of one of Arizona’s largest award-winning design firms, was an adjunct professor at ASU’s School of Design, and a for-profit management consultant. After witnessing one of her closest friends raise a child with autism, however, she realized her true calling was in the human service sector. “I witnessed how profoundly autism impacted their family and I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
Jeri began volunteering her time and expertise to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). Jeri would eventually spend 5 years as SARRC’s president and initiated many sustainable SARRC-owned businesses and programs that improved the bottom line while increasing awareness for SARRC and autism. Jeri was instrumental in developing the SARRC teen program, CommunityWorks, which was ultimately licensed in five major cities across Canada. In addition, she launched SARRC’s Beneficial Beans coffee and cafés along with a sustainable garden program.
After leaving SARRC in 2016, Jeri realized that she wanted to utilize her diverse expertise and experience to help organizations optimize their social impact. “I love working with nonprofits that are doing important work but need assistance to strengthen their operations, become more sustainable, and enable them to deliver their services more effectively, to more people.” As a consultant with The Phoenix Philanthropy Group, Jeri now works to help nonprofits be clear in their mission, determine what’s holding them back from being more successful, and advance their donor appreciation and retention programs.
Jeri’s other volunteer affiliations have included the board of directors for Phoenix Theatre, SARRC, and Arizona’s Children Association. She received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Northern Arizona University.
Whitney originally wanted to pursue a career in criminal forensics, but by chance, she took a job in a completely different field. The job was at Thunderbird School of Global Management, and she accepted it because of its proximity to ASU West, where she was completing her bachelor’s degree. “I found fundraising operations, especially technology and research, to be a natural fit for me,” she says. She had the opportunity there to grow her understanding and practice of prospect research and management, a then-emerging field that focuses on developing and nurturing a pipeline of donors.
Whitney established the prospect management and research function within the Institutional Advancement department, later becoming Vice President of Institutional Advancement, where she oversaw fundraising, donor relations, advancement services and alumni relations. When Thunderbird announced its partnership with Arizona State University, Whitney served as a key member of the transition committee, working with Thunderbird’s Board of Trustees on a daily basis to ensure a seamless move.
Whitney brings to The Phoenix Philanthropy Group more than 19 years of experience in fundraising, with expertise in fundraising campaign management, strategic planning, client relationship management, fundraising database systems and fundraising analytics.
As a consultant, she says when a client tells her that something she implemented has helped improve overall operations or employee morale, “it’s the best feeling ever. I like to know that I’ve made an impact and changed an environment for the better. I try to immerse myself into a client’s culture so that I have a true sense of their everyday concerns or struggles.”
On a volunteer basis, Whitney was one of the first members of the Association of Prospect Researchers for Advancement – Arizona (APRA-Arizona) and continues to stay involved in the prospect research industry. Whitney has her Master of Science degree in Information Management from Arizona State University, W.P. Carey School of Business.
Whitney says for her, a quote from social psychologist Erich Fromm has always captured the essence of the value of philanthropy: “In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power…in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.”
Linda Fine was motivated to build a career in the nonprofit development field by her first job, where she served as a donor records assistant at the New York Philharmonic. She returned to fundraising after graduate school and found her way to higher education fundraising. “That was incredibly gratifying,” she says, “and I loved working on a university campus with all the intellectual and cultural opportunities that came along.”
Linda’s career has taken her from Northwestern University, where she served as Associate Director of Development for the College of Arts and Sciences, to Director of Development and Alumni Relations at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Linda later joined Thunderbird School of Global Management as the School’s first Director of Leadership Gifts. With a career focused mainly on individual giving, Linda gained exposure to corporate and foundation relations as a senior development professional at The Brookings Institution.
In her current position, as a nonprofit consultant specializing in fundraising, Linda helps organizations understand and optimize their fundraising potential through planning, external market research studies, campaign design and operational support.
“It’s rewarding to look back at organizations I’ve served over the years to see that projects I initiated – some more than 20 years ago – continue to thrive and benefit the institutions,” she says. Linda holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, a Master of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University and earned a Certificate in Nonprofit Management at The George Washington University in 2015.
Linda has an extensive résumé of volunteer activities. She currently serves on the board of the Corcoran Trust, the legacy entity of the Corcoran Gallery of Art + College of Art, in her former hometown of Washington, D.C. She is also co-president of the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, California, where she is past chair of the Civic Engagement Committee, serves on the Collections Committee and chaired the 2019 di Rosa Gala. In addition, she was selected to join Leadership Napa Valley’s 31st class, which she successfully completed in 2018.
Linda is now based in Tampa, Florida and London, UK.
Nancy Treser Osgood
For Nancy Treser Osgood, a nationally recognized advancement expert, higher education is a calling – “Both of my parents were college professors, so working in higher education is in my DNA.” A graduate of both Pomona College and the Claremont School of Theology, Nancy began her journey within the prestigious Claremont Colleges, where she forged strategic partnerships with faculty, staff, and students to develop alumni volunteer programs that support admissions, career development, academics, athletics, annual giving, and reunions.
Returning to her alma mater, Pomona College, Nancy led a transformational restructuring of the 60-member alumni council into a 20-member alumni board, which included representatives from the offices of admissions, career development, and annual giving. The nimble but highly diverse new body is reflective of her advancement philosophy, that “today’s most successful programs take a holistic approach, celebrating the full range of support that volunteers can offer.”
Nancy’s transformational impact also extends to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), where she was recently named a CASE Laureate for providing invaluable service to its mission of advancing education to transform lives and society. As a result of this service, Nancy was awarded the 2019 CASE District VII Tribute Award for the highest standards of professional achievement and outstanding mentorship. This award has since been renamed “The Nancy Treser Osgood CASE District VII Tribute Award.”
She has held numerous other elected and/or volunteer positions throughout her career, most notably in the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education, on the board of directors for the Claremont Educational Foundation, and in the Claremont After School Program. “My mentor told me that you needed to be a volunteer yourself before you could effectively manage volunteers, and I took that advice. It feeds my heart and soul to offer my time, talents, and treasures to nonprofit organizations.”
As a student, Mark frequently volunteered with development office projects at his alma mater, Saint Anselm College. “I really admired how these professionals seemed critical to shaping an organization’s future – physically and programmatically.” This formative engagement with the power of philanthropy produced a life-long commitment to “helping realize solutions to address today’s education and health challenges, especially where they intersect with assisting marginalized communities.”
As a development professional, Mark’s endeavors positively impact organizations’ capacity to create and improve systems for leveraging their talent and to optimize mission-driven growth. As the associate vice president in charge of development for San Francisco State University, he helped design and manage a successful $150 million campaign, as well as leading the expansion of a comprehensive development operations unit. Prior to his time at SF State, Mark also served with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) for nearly a decade as a major gifts fundraiser and a corporate and foundation relations director where he contributed to the success of UCSF’s $1.6 billion campaign.
As a consultant, Mark believes in not reinventing the wheel. “I love sharing and adapting proven best practices with client colleagues to strengthen their organizations.” In this way, he pragmatically and effectively collaborates with universities, medical centers, and other nonprofit organizations. He specializes in fundraising on all levels; campaign strategy and management; corporate and foundation relations, including industry partnerships and grant writing; interim management; and launching and expanding new organizations and new programs within organizations. He also offers extensive experience in advancement services, including data and operations management; and prospect identification, qualification, and management.
Throughout his career, Mark has known the profound satisfaction of volunteering his time to assist many health and wellness, prevention, clinical, and youth-focused organizations with increasing support and related policy development, including: San Francisco Human Rights Commission (mayoral appointment), Academy of Friends, Strut, Plan C San Francisco, UCSF Tobacco Research and Education Center, and WiRED International.
Cassandra Larsen has more than 30 years of experience in the areas of public policy, staff and board development and organizational structure both in the private and public sector. But her commitment is to public service and particularly, helping nonprofit organizations.
Her role with The Phoenix Philanthropy Group entails working with nonprofit organizations to enhance their organizational structure and create an environment to meet their organizational goals, which usually focus on helping those in need.
She says the most rewarding aspect of her work is helping organizations reach their “aha” moment. Working with nonprofits underscores for her “the importance of helping others and feeling good about what you can or have accomplished. Most of my career endeavors has been to solve problems and get things done in the most effective and efficient manner.”
She has had the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations statewide in the development of programs related to drug prevention, military affairs, domestic violence prevention, juvenile justice and volunteerism. She began her public sector career serving as the Executive Director of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and subsequently was named Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Most recently she served as Director of the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families and Policy Advisor for Human Services. She also has served as the Vice President for Organizational Development with the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and adapted those skills to serve as the FOX 10 Community and Public Affairs Manager.
Cassandra’s past and present volunteer highlights include the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, Arizona Commission on the Arts, Family Service Agency, Amber Alert Committee, Governor’s Child Safety Task Force, Gompers, Phoenix Symphony Marketing Committee, Phoenix Arts Commission and Phoenix Theatre.
David is and always will be a communicator at heart. His extensive experience in the field of communications has shown him the importance of connecting with people. “From my earliest years in my newspaper career in St. Louis and Phoenix,” he says, “I was fortunate to have community engagement as a part of my responsibility. I have been touched by the hearts and hard work of staff and volunteers who spend every day making a difference.”
His role with The Phoenix Philanthropy Group is to support clients with help presenting an organization’s story in a compelling and concise way to potential donors.
David’s diverse background includes his own management consulting firm, Hume and Company, that served local and national clients in media, mining, home building, food and beverage and high tech. David led or supported projects that included creation of high-performance work teams, leadership development and executive coaching and organizational change and process improvement.
He also has served as Administrator for Communications for the Pendergast Elementary School District, responsible for internal and external communications and designing and delivering professional development and coaching for new school administrators.
Before establishing his own firm, David spent 10 years as the Marketing Services Director for Phoenix Newspapers, where he was responsible for developing strategy and providing direction for marketing, media advertising, public relations and corporate communications. He also has served as an adjunct professor at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunications.
David is a past member of the Board of Directors of Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, Phoenix Theater, KAET Channel 8, Fiesta Bowl, Phoenix Advertising Club and Phoenix Pride Commission. He currently serves as a volunteer outreach specialist for HandsOn Greater Phoenix. He says the best part of working with nonprofits—both professionally and on a volunteer basis—is the opportunity for service and to support “the dedicated people and organizations that directly impact the quality of life and community.”
Wayne D. Parker, Ph.D.
Wayne has had a lifelong passion for international education, beginning with being an exchange student in France while in high school. This experience produced an appreciation for cultural differences, love of the French language and later, a determination to discover how teaching, counseling, research and philanthropy can intersect in an individual’s career.
Helping people has always been a priority for Wayne. He earned a BA in psychology and French from Michigan State, an MA from Michigan State in mental health of school children, and a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama in educational psychology with emphases in tests and measurement and program evaluation. He has taught at the college level in Austria, Mexico and Venezuela. He also has worked as a mental health clinician with a focus on families and adolescents.
Wayne has been a Senior Researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he conducted external evaluations of educational programs for the gifted and conducted research on the personality and adjustment of gifted youth. His research at Hopkins was awarded three times with the Mensa International Award for Research Excellence.
From there, he relocated to the Phoenix area to become part of the founding staff of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the largest philanthropy in Arizona. For 15 years, he was the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Trust, where he assessed scores of nonprofits in early childhood, adolescence, education, health care, geriatrics and arts and culture.
Wayne’s volunteer involvement in civil rights and voter registration organizing, labor organizing, the anti-war movement and being a political operative has underscored for him “the need for setting goals, defining success and assessing impact, which has permeated most of my professional life.” Wayne has served on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing, Michigan, Arizona Grantmakers Forum, International Rescue Committee and Ending Homelessness Advisory Committee. He also is the co-founder of Arizona Feral Cats.
Wayne currently resides in France.
Shirley Melikian Armbruster
Shirley thought she’d always be a news reporter. With a degree in journalism, she loved being the eyes and ears of newspaper readers – gathering information about people, institutions and events and creating compelling news and feature stories. She started her career at a small community newspaper and then moved to a major metropolitan paper, The Fresno Bee. She won numerous regional and state news writing awards and the National Epilepsy Society Feature Story of the Year award.
After more than 20 years as a reporter and editor, as Shirley saw changes in the news industry and decided it was time to look for new challenges, her alma mater came calling. She joined the University Communications staff at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) as the News Director and within a few years was named Associate Vice President, serving a total of 16 years at the school.
As a member of the President’s Cabinet, she provided media and public relations counsel to the president and senior administrators. She was the university’s chief spokesperson and led a 15-member, award-winning communications team that brought together communications, media relations, social media, web, graphic design, photography, video and brand. She won a CASE District VII Award of Excellence for Integrated Marketing Program.
Shirley has conducted numerous workshops, seminars and media training for senior university officials, faculty, staff, and industry colleagues.
Giving back to her profession, she has volunteered in leadership roles with the Public Relations Society of America – Counselors to Higher Education, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and CASE Commission on Communications and Marketing.
Director of Client Services
Kellie Teskey provides high-level administrative support to the consultants and has back-office responsibilities such as support and quality control for internal and external documentation such as proposals, contracts, presentations and marketing materials like e-newsletters.
She is a former Executive Administrative Assistant in the City Manager’s Office for the City of Glendale, Arizona, during a time of great activity, including the construction of the (now) State Farm Stadium, Westgate, and Camelback Ranch, among other large projects. Prior to the City, Kellie was part of the Institutional Advancement team at Thunderbird School of Global Management, first as an Executive Administrative Assistant in the Institutional Advancement department, and then as a Prospect Management and Research Assistant.
Kellie says the most rewarding aspect of her work is “knowing that our actions ultimately help nonprofits assist more people in need, help schools educate more students, or make progress toward saving the environment.”
Amy is a native of Arizona and received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Cincinnati and her M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Grand Canyon University. After graduate school, Amy worked for Mountainside Fitness as a Human Resource Coordinator and Executive Assistant for the President of the company. She is also a frequent volunteer for Hospice of the Valley’s New Song program.
Amy’s passion for our work come from her belief that “in times when it seems that the bad outweighs the good, it is our role as humans to purposefully seek out and support the good.”
Client Services Associate
An experienced bi-lingual administrative professional, Ibone Moreno provides Phoenix Philanthropy with financial and administrative support, including accounting, budgeting, and reporting. She brings a wealth of knowledge from her role as owner of MiCasa Consulting, where she served a wide range of small businesses in a variety of industries by providing the administrative and clerical services they need to grow and thrive. Prior to MiCasa, Ibone served as the Assistant to Regional Sales Manager – Western Region for Meeting Professionals International and was the Desegregation Programs Assistant at Agua Fria High School District.
Emeritus Founding Principal
Marc Kellenberger is a true believer in the power of nonprofits to transform communities and build a more just and equitable society. His work to make the world a better place started early, when he was 16 and chaired the Walk to End World Hunger in Elgin, Illinois, and as a teenager served as a Board member of the YMCA, the Elgin Committee on Recycling, and Elgin Community College. He has devoted his professional life to helping organizations in Arizona and California realize this potential, and in the process, has developed a well-earned reputation as one of the most respected names in fundraising. His career, which spans more than 35 years as a development professional, has seen him serve numerous educational institutions, art organizations, and human service agencies- leading capital campaigns, marketing and public relations functions, and transformational re-organizations. Most notably, Marc was the long-time senior vice president and chief development officer for Arizona’s Children Association and helped guide the organization to an unparalleled level of fundraising and programmatic success.
In 2004, in need of a new challenge, Marc, along with Richard Tollefson, founded The Phoenix Philanthropy Group. In the firm’s early days, Marc quickly established himself as a go-to expert on nonprofit mergers and acquisitions, recognizing that “leaders may be passionate about their mission and form an organization, however, the reality of day-to-day operations and fundraising may cause them to decide to connect with another like organization to be successful.”
Marc’s volunteer work has been equally as active. He helped to lead the first $1,000,000 AIDS Walk Arizona, and has supported a diverse set of organizations such as the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library, Arizona AIDS Project, the Arizona Community Foundation’s Kellenberger + Tollefson Center for LGBTQ Philanthropy and Tollefson + Kellenberger Forum for Social Justice, Central Arizona Shelter Services, the City of Phoenix Human Rights Commission, and the City of Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission. He is also the recipient of the Arizona Human Rights Fund statewide Human Rights Award.
In the years since the firm’s founding, Marc is gratified to see the tremendous growth Phoenix Philanthropy has experienced, and to see how many organizations have succeeded because of the advice and counsel he was able to provide them. “The most rewarding aspect of my career is knowing how many organizations have benefited from the expertise we have offered to them on their path to financial and organizational success.”