Carla Willis joined Washburn & McGoldrick in 2019, following a 25-year campus-based fundraising and consulting in higher education advancement and thought leadership. 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 at the University of Missouri-Columbia. 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.
Prior to joining the firm, she served in chief advancement roles at UNC Asheville, Kean University and Florida A&M University (FAMU) (she also served in a long term interim CAO role at Saint Leo University). In each of these leadership roles Carla also led each university’s foundation operations. 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 offices in each of her chief advancement posts. 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 one of the very first higher education text to give campaigns while serving at FAMU.
Carla has been part of comprehensive and capital campaigns ranging in size from $40 million to two campaigns exceeding $2.5 billion. Carla served as a major gift officer for the University of Toledo during its UT40 Campaign and as a regional director of development in the east coast for the University of Michigan Law School during its Michigan Difference Campaign, securing many principal and major gifts for these universities. 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 close many major and principal gifts including a cross disciplinary $13.5 million dollar gift which benefited several units of the university.
Carla has served a diverse range of clients including DePauw University, Duke University, Guilford College, Haverford College, Lincoln University (PA), the UNC System, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Toledo and Virginia State University. Her projects have included pre-campaign readiness assessments, feasibility studies, executive and staff coaching, staff and volunteer training. Additionally, in the late 90s 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. Carla had a successful career at the IBM Corporation prior to beginning her career in advancement.
Carla is active in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), currently serves on the CASE Industry Advisory Council and has served on the CASE Commission on Philanthropy, the District V Board of Directors and chaired the District V Committee on Equity (COE.) She is a frequent presenter at conferences on advancement related topics, leadership and more recently on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) as related to the advancement profession. In the fall of 2020 Carla earned a certification in DEI from Cornell University. Carla is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the Links, Incorporated and serves on the board of the Kendal Charitable Funds, a Quaker non-profit organization headquartered in Newark, Delaware supporting communities, programs and services for older adults.