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Meet Julie Ordoñez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Ordoñez.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Eleven years ago, I visited LA from Texas (H-Town, whatup!) for the first time and told my boyfriend who lived here that I hated it and I would never live here. We broke up—for a whole week. We decided we would figure it out. After graduating from undergrad, I knew I wanted to relocate, but my guy and I agreed that if I came to LA it would be start my own life, my own career and not just for the sake of our relationship. We are two very independent people! And that’s what I did. I knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector right away. I grew up volunteering with my family at church and in the community multiple times a week. I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center throughout college teaching parenting classes to young, soon-to-be moms in Spanish, of all things. My mother was an ESL teacher for over 30 years and (my) high school Spanish teacher. I studied Spanish and Latin American Studies in college and got my degree in that.

Growing up in Houston, I was in a diverse, multi-lingual, multicultural environment throughout my childhood and adolescence. I think this is actually part of what made me eventually fall in love with Los Angeles. LA and Houston have that in common—along with all the traffic and spending hours each week in your car. I got my first fundraising gig in South Los Angeles at a community center and didn’t know anything about fundraising. I was in charge of planning and executing the annual fundraising gala (as one does) and almost doubled what the organization raised the year before. And I had fun doing it. I realized I had a knack for this and it suited my strengths of relationship building, leadership, communication and story-telling as well as inspiring others to take action. I not only fell in love with LA, the people, the weather, the diversity, the opportunities and influence but I fell in love with fundraising. Oh, and I was already in love with my boyfriend who became my fiancé and is now my husband of 8 years! My big dream was to work at United Way which came to fruition shortly after.

Determined to get my foot in the door, I started as a temporary campaign associate. I ended up working there for 3.5 years in the major gifts department. I had an incredible boss and mentor who I learned so much from. I got to be creative, meet all kinds of interesting professionals all over LA, and learn how to raise millions from the best. I then got an opportunity to serve as a director of development at a smaller, dynamic and innovative organization called LIFT-Los Angeles under an inspiring leader and visionary who is now the CEO of LIFT, Inc. I met incredible philanthropists and leaders in the social impact space who were committed to creating change for families struggling to make ends meet in Los Angeles.

After my time at LIFT, I was asked to do some fundraising consulting for an organization I love and it clicked. I should start my own consulting business. This is what I do full-time now and I love the clients I work with. I am so energized every day. My clients are moving the needle on important social issues and challenge the status quo. They do what’s needed most in a different way. Just like me. My fundraising philosophy is: if you hate it, you are doing it wrong. Transactional interactions suck. For everyone. The best fundraisers are great friends and relational savants. They are excellent listeners. They care more about others than themselves. Humility, kindness and perseverance matter the most in fundraising, far above any skill or talent or experience.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Does anyone have a smooth road? I will say that I think I have had it smoother than most. I had incredible parents who believed in me and told me so. I think this is why disappointment in my 30’s has been crushing to me in certain seasons of life because honestly, for most of my life, when I wanted something, a job, and opportunity, any sort of result, I have gotten it within a timeframe that I preferred. Since starting my business within the last year, that has changed completely. Earlier this summer, I was slowly crawling my way out of deep depression and experiencing some health challenges that I had never faced before and didn’t have answers for. I called my friend and told her that I think I’m going to give up on my business for now and just apply to full-time jobs. I felt defeated and alone. I think we all feel this way at least once. I will say that the past 1.5 years have expanded my compassion and gratitude.

Before this past year, I’m ashamed to say, but I would have rolled my eyes (at least an internal eye roll) to anyone who struggled with depression or anxiety. Now, I know what that deep pit is like. I’ve been in it. I think this past February was the darkest time. I am a pretty tough person with what I like to call ‘selective empathy’ and I think this past year has softened my heart towards others who are struggling. My faith has deepened and I realize how important community is. Reaching out for help and asking for others who I trust and admire to help me by listening, giving advice or honestly helping me do my laundry has damn near saved my life. I have had so many people tell me straight up – do not give up. Do not give up on your business, the first year is the hardest. Do not quit serving your husband and your friends. Do not quit chasing down people in your life who haven’t called in a while. Do not stop pursuing your dreams and help others achieve theirs. Do not relent. Do not surrender to mediocrity. Fight. Fight for what you want. Fight for your health. Fight for others. You get your strength when you give it away to those around you. When your life is all about you–that’s when you are truly stuck and headed down a destructive path. And I don’t just *know* these things–I have experienced these truths in my own life and have been blessed to be surrounded by people who believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I am the Founder and Principal of Julie O. Consulting, a nonprofit fundraising consulting and training company working with leaders and organizations challenging the status quo in education, faith, health and human services. I specialize in major gifts and individual giving, board engagement, and training development officers, ED’s, founders and development directors and their teams to maximize their strengths and focus on relational fundraising. I’m convinced most organizations do not need more donors. They do not take adequate care of, appreciate, express gratitude and report back on impact to the donors they already have. Therefore, getting more donors would be more of a burden than a gift for them. It would simply lengthen the list of individuals and foundations who are unsatisfied with the experience of being a donor or investor at your organization. This is contrary to what most nonprofits leaders, executives and board members have an itch to do. I am all about maximizing and optimizing what you already have before we work on growth and scale. I’m not against getting more donors. I’m against taking donors for granted and prioritizing quantity over quality. What sets me apart is that I am willing to say what others think, I teach, train and role-play donor scenarios and share everything I know–mistakes and wins. I will walk with you every step of the way. I do not just give you a tool with fancy jargon on it that sounds impressive and walk away. I am committed to building an army of powerful leaders who enjoy and are good at fundraising. I am on a mission to convert the begrudging fundraiser into the leader who wears the title fundraiser proudly. I like working with people who start out by saying they do not enjoy fundraising. I enjoy the challenge and I have great respect for those who have become effective leaders in their respective fields or created potent and innovative social impact programs that are now taking on the challenge of fundraising. I want to empower these individuals to go from good to great and elevate their organizations to exponential growth. I am fed up with fundraising anemic organizations with tremendous potential. Let’s move beyond the status quo of seeing fundraising as a necessary evil and instead see it as critical to the mission.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I started my own business because while I wasn’t working and trying to figure out what was next, past colleagues and friends were hiring me to consult or train and referring me to people they knew needed fundraising help. I am grateful for the relationships I have built over the years and the loyalty I feel returning to me from friendships and coworkers I have invested in over the years. I will always choose generosity. People in my life and in Los Angeles have been so generous in giving to the organizations I work with and with me personally. I’m proud of myself that I have persisted in constantly building into people and my community here in LA even when it’s been tough, I’ve felt hurt or disappointed or betrayed. I am proud of family and friends around me who have done the same and been an example of what it means to be faithful. I love that.

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