By Gwen Rollings

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Fred Rogers

Mary Lee Walker, president of Nonprofit Gladiator, a consultant in nonprofit leadership, quoted Mr. Rogers on her home page because she has devoted her life from an early age to helping others.

Walker explained, “I worked on my first capital campaign in the third grade while helping my mother raise funds to buy a permanent home for a local children’s theater troupe.”

Walker said she volunteered for her children’s activities and networked in the community, but it was in graduate school while studying communication theory that she made the connection between the nonprofit world and her calling in fundraising and donor relations.

She said, “Fundraising is all about building relationships. I fell in love with the concept of using my gifts and talents to make a difference in this crazy world.”

After 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience, mainly with smaller-sized grassroots nonprofits, Walker is now using her education—Bachelor of Science in business administration and Master of Science in communication—and experiences working with nonprofits to help them achieve their mission and long-term growth in the Central Florida area.

Walker believes that nonprofits are vital to our community and bridge the gap between what the government will not provide and what the private business sector will not produce. For example, in 2019 in Hillsborough County, there were 6,333 registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, employing 50,764 people, which collectively generated $10,578,020,429 in revenue.

Walker is passionate about teaching nonprofit organizations the best practices that will help them to be more efficient and effective in achieving their missions.

Her consultation services include strategic planning, development audits, board training, annual fund campaign planning, executive coaching and skills as an interim executive director. Her proficiency at this is validated after raising millions of dollars through years of working with limited resources, constricted budgets and a variety of board personalities.

Nonprofit Gladiator seems to fit Walker’s purpose, as she explained, “I go to battle for the organization. I train on techniques to fight and defend them. I am a nonprofit gladiator fiercely advocating to make the world a better place. My true purpose is to teach others the joy that comes from giving.”

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