Shelese J. Lane
Director of Foundation Relations
Georgia Institute of Technology
Shelese J. Lane is the Director of Foundation Relations at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). In this capacity, she strengthens relationships with private foundations and develops successful proposals that provide vital resources for Georgia Tech’s strategic initiatives – making it possible for the Institute to advance knowledge across all disciplines.
As a fundraising professional for nearly 20 years, Shelese has assisted various nonprofit organizations in the metropolitan Atlanta area achieve ambitious philanthropic goals. Prior to joining Georgia Tech (in 2018), Shelese was a member of the advancement management group at Spelman College that led efforts to successfully complete the College’s largest comprehensive campaign ($157.8M), to date. Further nonprofit experiences include fundraising responsibilities at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta. In addition to her efforts in the nonprofit community, she worked in community relations at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Shelese holds a master’s degree in public administration from Kennesaw State University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Clark Atlanta University.
How did you get interested in the fundraising profession?
Luckily, the fundraising profession found me! When I completed my undergraduate degree in the early 90s, I didn’t have employment so I began volunteering as an office assistant with the Atlanta Business League (ABL) until I could figure out my next steps. While at ABL, I had an opportunity to meet and engage with several local business and nonprofit leaders who introduced me to various roles in this field. But most importantly, I quickly became keenly aware that the success of nonprofits is based on having strong and healthy fundraising programs -- which peaked my career interests and started my professional journey.
What is something you wish you knew early on in your fundraising career?
If I had an opportunity to speak to my younger self, I would tell her the following:
Get Mentors – you will meet exceptional people in the profession, so take time to build a diverse community of talented mentors.
Be Fearless – you will have the skills needed to be successful (before you actual realize it), so don’t get complacent and allow fear to stifle your professional growth.
Act Now – you will be exposed to an array of opportunities and possibilities – remember to trust your gut and just do it!
What is the one quality every fundraiser should have?
Given that fundraising is both an art and a science and that people give to people, the one quality I believe every fundraiser should possess is the ability to build strong relationships. In addition to being beneficial to one’s career growth, it is an invaluable skill to strengthen engagement and philanthropic connections for the organization.
What inspires you about the fundraising profession?
There are several things that inspire me about the fundraising profession. First, I’m encouraged that the number of diverse peers in this area is on the rise. It’s great knowing that there are diverse professionals at all levels -- from early career to seasoned professionals – and in all sectors – from grant-seekers to grant-makers to fundraising consulting. Secondly, it is also exciting that the field of fundraising is recognized -- from educational degrees to professional certifications – as well as respected as a highly skilled and notable profession.
How do you want to be remembered as a professional?
I would like to be remembered as a fundraising professional who made an impact to the philanthropic goals of nonprofit organizations; as well as a professional who mentored many who were in the early stages of their career journey.