Melissa Kaufenberg recently joined the LAMF team as Development Director, thanks to a grant from the Mardag Foundation. As LAMF enters its 10th season, Melissa will help ensure a sustainable future for the festival for years to come. Get to know more about Melissa’s previous work with nonprofits, as well as her talents as a cellist.
Tell me a little about your background. Where did you grow up? What brought you to the Brainerd lakes area?
I grew up in New Richmond, Wisconsin. After I graduated I moved to the Twin Cities and worked in investments until I became a stay-at- home mom when my first son was born in 1997. Together, my husband and I have 5 children; two 21-year- olds, two 18-year- olds, and a 10-year- old. My husband and I always wanted to live away from the Twin Cities so when the Director of Pharmacy position became available at St. Joseph’s Hospital, we took a leap of faith and moved the family here. It turned out to be the best decision we have ever made.
What did you do before you took this position with LAMF?
Shortly after we moved here, I joined the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity team as the Director of Development. It was a very rewarding experience. Like so many others, I didn’t have a clue about the poverty situation in the Lakes Area. It really changed the way I see things now. Lakes Area Habitat for
Humanity is a great organization that helps so many people.
How did you first hear of LAMF? What made you want to take this role with LAMF?
I heard about LAMF when a friend sent me an email about their need for a Development Director. At first, I replied to her, thanking her for thinking about me, but decided that I didn’t want to work. Last year was tough on my family and I as I underwent treatment for cancer (I’m happy to say I am now cancer-free). I didn’t think I was ready to work again. But something just kept pulling me towards LAMF. Two months later, I finally submitted my resume, thinking they must have already filled the position. I decided if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. The end. A week later I interviewed for the position. Everything about this organization spoke to me — from the people I met that day, to what they do for the Lakes Area communities. It just felt right.
What appeals to you about working with nonprofit organizations?
Working for nonprofits is so rewarding. It isn’t about the money. It’s about making a difference in the
community you live in.
Do you play an instrument?
I started playing the cello when I was 5. I was fortunate enough that the small town I grew up in had a good music program. I played all the way through high school and played in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony Orchestra. I also sing at my church. I have always been involved in music and theater, which is another reason LAMF is a perfect fit for me. One of our sons is a music education/music performance major at St. Mary’s University in Winona and our 10-year- old daughter plays the cello, clarinet, sings at church, and performs in theater.
What are you most looking forward to in this role with LAMF?
I am very excited to be a part of all the LAMF performances and events, creating more awareness in the community about what LAMF does. I look forward to meeting the wonderful volunteers and donors that make this organization possible, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to help this organization grow.
What value does LAMF bring to the Lakes Area?
Not only does LAMF bring classical music to our community, we also make it accessible to everyone, no matter what their demographic or economic status is. This is a top-notch, world-class organization, bringing the best classical music performers from around the world together to create something magical. To get a similar classical music experience at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis would cost a minimum of $60 a person, in the last row, in the balcony. LAMF brings classical music to us up front and personal. Did I mention we also do opera, ballet, and cabaret? LAMF does so much more than put on musical performances. We reach out into the community to make a difference such as bringing professional musicians into the classrooms of schools in our community to expose and teach them the beauty of classical music.
What does “development” mean in the context of a nonprofit?
Development in the context of a nonprofit has two tiers. The first, and most important tier, is creating and sustaining relationships in and outside of the organization. The purpose of developing these relationships is to bring more awareness of the organization and what we do to the people of the community. Once more people know about the organization, they become a part of the LAMF family. And there is room for everyone in our family. That’s when the second tier comes in, fundraising. For LAMF to keep providing world-class performances and grow our commitment towards community outreach we need to raise money. A big part of my role as Development Director will be to increase donations through individual gifts, business/corporate sponsorships, and special events. Which brings us back to the first tier, the relationships we form. That’s the beauty of this position, you never know who you will meet at any given time. If you want to meet me or make a gift — especially a year-end gift — please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.