Carla Willis joins Washburn & McGoldrick, bringing 25 years of higher education advancement, thought leadership, and experience to the firm. Carla has worked in just about every area of frontline advancement, including major and principal gifts, planned gifts, corporate and foundations, campaign planning and execution, and began her career in annual giving. She has worked at two Big Ten institutions, other large public universities, both public and private liberal arts colleges, law schools, an HBCU and an academic medical center. Carla began her career at the University of Missouri Columbia (MIZZOU), managing the MIZZOU Annual Fund, gaining valuable experience in annual giving programs.
Immediately prior to joining the firm, she served as vice chancellor for advancement at UNC Asheville, a public liberal arts university. During her time at UNC Asheville, Carla led all areas of advancement and served as the executive director for the university’s foundation. Carla was instrumental in setting a new pace for major gift fundraising and led a fundraising feasibility study, which launched the planning and silent phase of UNC Asheville’s first sizable comprehensive campaign of $100M. Additionally, it was her innovative approach to fundraising and resource investment that enabled many new platforms and social media fundraising optimization tools for the advancement office. In her leadership role as the executive director of the UNC Asheville Foundation, Carla worked to increase the professional capacity and profile of the board and to prepare them for their volunteer roles in a comprehensive campaign. Carla has also held Vice President for Advancement positions at Kean University and Florida A&M University (FAMU.) While serving FAMU, Carla honed her corporate engagement skillsets, securing gifts from the likes of Disney, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Northern Trust, 3M, Walmart, the Orlando Magic and Tyson Foods, to name a few. Additionally, she created and executed a CEO to CEO Forum, engaging several Fortune 500 CEOs and other executives, along with their corporations in philanthropy at FAMU. Carla is also credited with launching at FAMU, one of the very first higher education text to give campaigns.
Carla has been part of comprehensive and capital campaigns ranging in size from $40 million to exceeding $2.5billion. Carla served as a regional director of development for the University of Michigan Law School during its Michigan Difference Campaign, securing many principal and major gifts that were instrumental in the law schools component of the campaign. She also served as an Assistant Vice President for Development for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center during its But for Ohio State Campaign and worked to test campaign priorities with medical center donors, and was a leading collaborator on a $13.5 million dollar gift in that campaign, which benefited the medical center and the university.
Additionally, Carla served as founder and principal of her own small, boutique development consulting firm, Willis Development and Communications Associates and also as a senior consultant for John Brown Limited, a boutique development consulting firm specializing in comprehensive campaigns and planned giving. In her consulting experiences, Carla provided services in the areas of campaign planning and counsel, major and annual giving, and gift officer coaching. Carla had a successful career at the IBM Corporation prior to beginning her career in advancement.
Active in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Carla has served on the CASE Commission on Philanthropy, the District V Board of Directors and chaired the District V Committee on Equity (COE.) Carla is a frequent CASE conference faculty member and presenter on topics related to major gifts strategies and leadership, and in January of 2019 she was a faculty member of the inaugural CASE VP Boot Camp for New Vice Presidents. Carla is also a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and served as president and treasurer of the NW Ohio Chapter.