FEW Spotlight

FEW Spotlight

Lauren Nelson

FEW Member since January 2018


I was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. I was a Type A child (now Type A adult, haha), straight A student, and I was super involved in sports growing up. I played competitive softball from elementary through high school, and in middle school and high school I also played basketball and soccer in addition to softball. I played the cello and competed in competitions around the state as well. When I was in 8th grade, my brother Jacob was born. I got my first car the day my sister was born when I was a sophomore in high school, and three weeks after that turned 16. Fun facts about having siblings that are 14 and 16 years younger than me: When I went to freshman year of college, my brother was going into kindergarten and my sister was 2.5. When my husband Matt and I got married in December 2002, my brother was the ring bearer and my sister was our flower girl! My parents have since divorced and my mom raised my brother and sister from their pre-teen years on – my brother graduated from Appalachian State in 2017 and my sister graduates from UNC-Wilmington this December. (Prayers for her and her friends, and the Wilmington community – Hurricane Florence really caused serious damage!)

Position, company and career path

I’m honored and privileged to work as a Philanthropy Associate for Nemours Children’s Hospital. As a member of the philanthropy team, my role is to help connect people to passion so they may make an impact in children’s healthcare. Essentially, I’m a major gift officer working with donors and prospective donors who’d like to contribute major gifts of $10k+, transformational gifts of $100k+, mega gifts of $1 million+, and estate/legacy gifts.

Most people think professional fundraisers just “ask for money” but in truth the “asking” portion is a very small portion of our work. We don’t “ask” and we don’t “beg” – professional fundraisers are the conduit to help others in our community make in impact in areas that they feel passionate about and want to support. This means that I spend a significant amount of time building relationships with individuals, couples, families, companies, foundations, etc., to learn what motivates them, what interests them, etc. These relationships are authentic and extremely valuable to me. If someone doesn’t see a fit with the hospital, I want to connect them to another organization that could benefit from their generosity. But if they do find a connection with the hospital, our programs/services, and/or the children we care for every day – I’m there to help them accomplish their goals and desires to give.

I do a lot of other work in my role too – from helping with grant writing, annual fund, events, and programs. I truly love working at Nemours and for a variety of reasons. For one, our sole focus is on treating children and giving them the best healthcare possible. Although the Nemours Children’s Health System has been around since 1940, Nemours Children’s Hospital is only 6 years old! This means we’ve still got tremendous growth and opportunity to expand specialty care services for children now and well into the future. It’s incredibly exciting to be involved now as this nonprofit hospital continues its massive growth trajectory.

There’s so much about Nemours that I feel our community doesn’t know and I feel a huge part of my job is education. For example, more than 65% of the children we serve are on Medicaid or uninsured. More than 70% of our patients have chronic and complex medical needs, which means they will never “get better” and/or often spend a large part of their lives in active treatment, seeing multiple specialists.

As I stated earlier, I truly LOVE working at Nemours because our mission is amazing and the children and families we serve even more so. Ironically, it wasn’t until I started working at Nemours almost 3.5 years ago that I realized that my professional career has always centered around children’s causes and/or working with children/youth in the nonprofit setting. When I first moved to Orlando almost 16 years ago (by way of North Carolina), I started my nonprofit career working for Best Buddies International and the special needs population. Since that first nonprofit role, I took progressively more challenging roles with more leadership responsibility. I was honored to work for the American Cancer Society, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Best Buddies (again!), and the Orlando Science Center. All of these nonprofits are AMAZING and do such good work to benefit our community. Now, I’m just so blessed to be working at Nemours where our focus is providing the best care for children – always and first and foremost.

Description of yourself

I would describe myself as very dedicated to my work and to my family. I love working in the nonprofit sector because working for a purpose, a distinct mission, that I know will impact the lives of others truly fulfills me. The bonus is helping others make a significant impact too!

My birthday is January 16 and I’m a true Capricorn. Anything you may read about Capricorns is likely me – the only exception is patience. My husband will tell you, I’m not a patient person. Fun story, short version: My husband and I went to Chicago to visit his friends and family 10 months after we started dating. During that trip he had planned to propose. I got impatient and towards the end of our vacation, I actually asked him to marry me! It was a total surprise to him that I did this but he quickly recovered and pulled out a ring of his own and said, “Only if you marry me.” We ended up in a double proposal!!! Since then, we routinely find ourselves on the same page, and now are about to celebrate 19 years being together; September 30 is our “together” anniversary. We’ll celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary on December 21 this year.  I’ve now been with him for half of my life! He’s fantastic and truly the yin to my yang. We share so many similar interests and yet our personalities complement each other nicely.

Current family and free time

We are so lucky to have two incredible boys. Lucas is 11 and in 6th grade, and Jack is 4 and in VPK. The boys are simply the best and we love watching them grow up! Rounding out our family is our dog Pippi, who will be 14 in January. She’s an Italian Greyhound and the last dog of the three. Her brothers Boomer and Bam Bam passed away 4 years ago.

I don’t get much free time because of my work at the hospital, and because I also teach as an adjunct at UCF. But I enjoy spending time with friends, of course spending time with my boys doing whatever they want to do, and in the past few years I’ve taken up run/walking and this year started doing sprint triathlons! I’m not very consistent with any of it but I love to do races on the weekends. If you follow me on social media you’ll see me running a race several times a month. Running is VERY tough and doesn’t come easy for me, and I’m SLOW, yet I love the sense of accomplishment I have when finishing a race. I’ve recently signed up to compete for my first marathon on January 13 2019. If anyone wants to come to Disney and see me race, I’d love the support! J

Proudest moments and greatest accomplishments

Honestly, as cliché as it may sound, my proudest moments are the big milestones in my life: graduating college, getting married, getting a master’s degree, having my two boys … those are my proudest moments. As far as greatest accomplishments … I have to say recently it’s been completing the races and sprint triathlons over the last few years. These races are not easy for me and I’m not the most consistent with training. I also was never the person who liked to run growing up, even though I played an insane amount of sports. But running has given me so many fun times, adventures, and BLING – I love finishing a race and getting a race medal. Associated to running – I’m probably MOST proud that so many of my friends have told me that I inspire THEM with all the running and races I’m doing. I would never have considered myself an inspiration/role model for others when it comes to health and wellness and running. It’s a foreign concept to me but whenever someone says I inspired them to lose weight, sign up for a race, or just be more active, I’m always amazed and somewhat in disbelief. But it makes me happy!!!

Most important career support given you

I’m still relatively young in my career – I’ve been doing this work professionally for almost 16 years, but more than 20 if you count volunteer work in the nonprofit field. Nonprofit work – in particular fundraising – is not always easy. It’s not always glamourous. But the best support has been given by my colleagues in the fundraising profession.  They are always willing to share best practices, provide honest yet constructive criticism, offer guidance, share in frustrations, celebrate big wins, and lift you up in stressful times.

To flip this question around, there are two ways that I strive to give back and BE a mentor. The first is through my work as an adjunct faculty member at UCF. I teach a course about fundraising and nonprofits. I really enjoy teaching this class because I can use my practical knowledge to help students gain insight into both areas. Seeing the students look through a different lens and expand their knowledge of the sector is rewarding beyond measure. The other way I give back is through being a volunteer and mentor for Valencia College’s Take Stock in Children mentoring program. I’ve been matched with my mentee since 8th grade and she’s now a senior in high school. I had two previous mentees before that so it’s been about 7 years since I first signed up to mentor. In November 2017, I was invited to join the Advisory Board and am delighted to take a more active role in this organization.

Causes and nonprofits that especially stir your passion

As stated earlier, my passion is helping children and children’s causes, but I’m really all over the place in areas I like to support. I of course am extremely passionate and invested in children’s healthcare through my role and knowledge gained at Nemours Children’s Hospital. I’m an avid supporter of the arts – in particular theater: the Orlando Rep and Orlando Shakes are two of my favorites in town. I’m a big proponent for all things STEM and feel that we have to improve opportunities in STEM related careers for women and minorities. The Orlando Science Center is a great place for children to learn about STEM. But I’m also supportive and feel passionate about the work being done at Coalition for the Homeless, IDignity, Give Kids the World, Special Olympics, Harbor House, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, and MicheLee Puppets.

If anyone is looking for an organization to support, come see me! I know most of the nonprofits in town and love helping get people connected to a cause.

Two things about you that might surprise people

I wish that I had more “handywoman” skills – I would LOVE to do home repairs and renovations but don’t know where to begin.

I am an ambivert. Short explanation is that ambiverts have both introverted and extroverted tendencies. The direction ambiverts lean toward varies greatly, depending on the situation. Forbes has a great article about what that means: https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/04/26/9-signs-that-youre-an-ambivert/#4b94272c3145

How you would like to be known

At the end of the day and/or life: I want to be known for personally being a great friend, and a great mother and wife to my family. Professionally, I want to be known for having a positive impact on my community (changing it in some way) either through direct action and/or helping others make the impact.

Favorite quotes

My favorite quote is actually a very common saying from Gandhi summarized as “Be the Change you Wish to See in the World.” I do feel that I have a servant heart and do wish to impart change and make an impact wherever I live, work, play, and raise my family.

The other words that are currently resonating with me, are the lyrics to the song “Reckless God.” I have just recently found a new church home in Orlando, after not being a church-goer for a number of years. I stumbled across this song a few weeks ago through social media and just instantly feel in love with the music and lyrics. The first time I went to this new church it was the main song during the worship/praise time. To me it was a sign that I was where I needed to be in that moment – at the church. I find myself singing this song (in my head that is) at least once a day!

If not in your current profession, you might want to do…

This is actually a tough question and one that I do think about with more regularity than I’d like to admit. It’s also a frustrating one because I’m not really sure what I’d do if not in the fundraising profession. To be clear – I love my role at Nemours Children’s Hospital and am not looking to leave anytime soon. But given the chance to do something that wasn’t fundraising, I’m just not sure what it would be – any life coaches out there want to get coffee sometime?! J

I do know that I love interacting with people and my next role in life cannot be me sitting behind a desk all day/every day. I love to problem solve and often say that I’m better at telling others what to do/how to do than I am at telling myself to do the same things. So perhaps I’d look for a role that involved training, coaching, counseling, etc. I’d certainly love to be in business for myself one day too!

Favorite travel destinations

I am not extremely well traveled but wish that was not the case. I LOVE to travel and experience new cities, new adventures, new cultures, new food, etc. I have two travel experiences that have always stuck with me from my youth. When I was in high school the summer before my senior year, I spent three weeks in France. I spent the first two weeks in Nice, France living with a host family and truly immersing myself in the French culture. It was the most rewarding opportunity because I got to experience life (albeit briefly) as if I was a citizen in another country. Then the final week in France we travelled through the country making stops in several French towns before ending in Paris. I adored Paris and even got lost wondering the city, which was its own little adventure as cell phones and Google Maps were not really a thing yet!

The second travel adventure was my junior year in college when I got to take a “study abroad” winter class to the Hawaiian Islands for three weeks! The course was to study Hawaiian heritage and culture, and it truly opened my eyes to the impacts of history and colonization. The Native Hawaiians are a beautiful people with such rich history, and the Islands are so much more than just a popular tourist destination spot. I loved this trip because I was able to experience and witness pieces of Hawaii that most tourists don’t often get to see. We had to write in our journals every day as part of our assignments/class work and I still have two full notebooks from that trip. Occasionally I’ll read them and look at my photo books from the trip and am reminded of the rich Hawaiian history and culture. I truly feel in love with the Islands. So much so that my husband and I took a very belated honeymoon there one year after we were married, and then I went back to the Islands to visit my oldest friend while her husband was deployed to Afghanistan (her family was stationed at the army base on Oahu). Yes, there’s so much to see and do as a tourist but learning about the Hawaiian history, culture, and impact was so fascinating. My husband can’t wait to go back and my kids can’t wait to go for the first time!

BUT – on the bucket list for future travels: Japan, New Zealand/Australia, Sweden/Denmark/Norway, and an Alaskan cruise!

What you like about FEW

I was first introduced to FEW several years ago and was immediately struck by the fact that this group of women are driven, entrepreneurs and business women, moms/wives, friends, and invested in their communities. I love that FEW provides scholarship opportunities for other women, and that FEW members are committed to helping one another grow personally and professionally. I wanted to join FEW to expand my network beyond my industry and meet new personal friends. I realized that my closest friends and mentors were (are) all in nonprofit and fundraising, and while I adore them, I wanted to meet other women outside my profession and further connect to the community. I’m already incredibly inspired by the women I’ve met and there’s so many more I can’t wait to connect with and learn from.