Everyday Justice Blog

Meet our new Development Director, Michelle Patterson!

April 27, 2022

Michelle Patterson has worked in nonprofit development and communications for more than 15 years. Starting at the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago in 2006, Michelle has grown her skills at many organizations, including Casa Central, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and Heartland Alliance Health. Most recently, Michelle served as the Development Director at Deborah’s Place, a position she held for 6 1/2 years. As the new Director of Development at CARPLS, she brings more than 10 years’ experience in building strong development teams, growing individual giving, working with Board members and volunteers, event planning and producing effective fundraising communications. Michelle has a Bachelor’s in Communications from Cardinal Stritch University and a Master’s in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from Roosevelt University.

Why did you choose to work at CARPLS?

I got to a point in my career where I was looking to grow with an organization that needed my skills and experience in building a successful development program. I also wanted to stay in nonprofit work with an organization that does anti-poverty work. CARPLS was the perfect fit for everything I was looking for.

What do you love about Development work?

Development uses all my strongest skills – relationship building, written and verbal communications, public speaking, strategic leadership and inspiring people to support a worthy mission. It continues to be an exciting profession where I can continually learn and grow.

How does your communications background inform your work?

Communications is at the heart of everything I do. From working with board members to writing appeals to speaking at events, I am constantly using my communications skills in my work. I don’t think I could be successful without excellent communications skills.

What interests you about legal aid?

I actually have a background in legal services going back to my dad. He was an attorney, and he loved practicing law. He had his own practice and chose the kinds of cases and projects he wanted to work on. Late in his career, he focused on elder law because he saw how many elderly people were taken advantage of by their families. He wanted to protect them. Even though I didn’t go into law myself, I worked with him even as a kid, helping him prepare for seminars, drafting documents and generating his billing. This work prepared me for many years spent as a legal secretary. While that wasn’t my calling, I still have a great respect for the law and believe everyone is entitled to competent legal representation.

What are your major first year goals for your work at CARPLS?

I want to spend my first year building the foundations of a strong development department. This includes expanding our use of Salesforce for fundraising and communications, bringing on staff to support all aspects of development work and conducting a successful in-person event in the fall. I also want to immerse myself in the mission so I can be the best advocate for CARPLS possible and begin to build a culture of philanthropy. Hopefully, the end result will be an increase in donations from existing donors and the acquisition of new donors to support the growth the organization is experiencing.

What do you do in your free time?

The pandemic has curtailed a lot of my social activities, but pre-pandemic, I enjoyed karaoke and seeing live music. When I’m at home, I watch a lot of TV and movies and love to cross stitch. I’m very close with my family, and we spend a lot of time together. I have one niece and six nephews, so there are a lot of activities to attend.

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter? Choose one and tell us why!

I really like fall and winter about equally. I’m a cold weather person. I love fall and winter clothes, the changing colors and how beautiful a new snow is, and all the holidays. This winter dragged on a bit too long, but I would always prefer a little cold and gloom to extremely hot and humid.

Do you have a favorite book or movie?

I love fantasy and sci-fi the best. My favorite book is the Lord of the Rings. As for movies, my list of favorites is very long, and it’s hard for me to pick just one. I’m the kind of person who will watch a movie or TV show over and over, and there are a lot of movies I practically know by heart.

Game time: give us a new legal aid name that is still the CARPLS acronym.

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