Michelle McDaniel receiving her award

Alumna recognized with CityU Innovation in Philanthropy Award

City University of Seattle recognized Michelle McDaniel, a 2002 MBA graduate and the chief development officer at FareStart, with the university’s Innovation in Philanthropy Award on November 14 at a reception hosted by the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at CityU.

Michelle was chosen as the recipient because of her dedication to ensuring the well-being of our community’s most vulnerable members.

“It was a tremendous honor,” Michelle said. “People who do development are not usually the folks that get a lot of awards. I feel strongly that although the award has my name on it, I received it because of the amazing work I’ve been associated with through the nonprofits that I work with. It’s the success of the nonprofits that has given me the opportunities to stretch and grow.”

As the chief development officer at FareStart, she oversees fundraising, marketing, communications, community engagement and volunteer services for the organization’s local and national programs. Through her leadership, she helped FareStart grow from a $12.5 million budget in 2016 to a $21 million budget in 2018.

“Our growth is because we needed to do more to serve more people,” Michelle said. “The issues of poverty and hunger are growing, so we’re growing to help meet those needs.”

Michelle sees opportunities for nonprofits to come together and collaborate to help effect change.

“One thing that is important is to be clear about what problems we’re trying to solve,” Michelle said. “We need to look critically to see how nonprofits and for-profits can work together and collaborate toward solving these complex problems, rather than operate in silos. If not, nonprofits are engaged in mission-driven work, but in a fragmented environment, so we’re not ‘moving the needle’ on these complex issues.”

She also sees the government and private citizens as important to the success of meeting community needs.

“If we’re going to have a community where there is opportunity and engagement for everyone, then everyone needs to have the opportunity to give of their time or their talent,” Michelle said. “It makes the community so much richer and more interesting when people have a place in it. That’s how you have a civilized society, when everybody has a role they can play.”

To that end, she has focused her career on improving opportunities for others.

“I have a personal mission statement,” Michelle said. “I focus my career on the safety and well-being of others. For me, to be able to do work that is challenging is great, but it also needs to be meaningful.”

Choosing a career path

Prior to working in development, Michelle spent the first part of her career as a mental health professional working with adults and youth.

“In my late 20s, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue doing clinical work,” Michelle said. “I had a little exposure to leadership in my job and was attracted to explore business and management. I was at a fork in the road. I realized that if I wanted to continue to move forward I needed to further my education. The fork was, do I pursue a master’s degree in psychology to expand my career in mental healthcare, or take a different path toward leadership and business?”

Ultimately, Michelle decided to pursue her interests in business and management and enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program at City University of Seattle.

“I’d seen ads for CityU, and I reached out and learned that they offered classes on weekends and evenings, and that classes were taught by people working in the field that they were teaching in, so they had real-life, current knowledge,” Michelle said. “Without a business background, I needed that. I was also attracted to CityU being a nonprofit.”

It was the university’s practitioner faculty that helped her grow her skill set and knowledge base.

“In my education at CityU, there were people doing the work that they were teaching,” Michelle said. “They were able to give me concrete examples and make it accessible. I wasn’t a project manager, or working in economics, but was able to learn from other people who were. They were truly experienced people providing that insight.”

Among her leadership positions after finishing her degree, Michelle worked as the regional chief development officer at the American Red Cross, Western Washington Chapters.

It is because of her dedication to her community and her excellent work through the nonprofits she’s worked at that City University of Seattle was pleased to recognize her with the Innovation in Philanthropy Award.

“It was a great surprise, and particularly coming from a school that was instrumental in helping me grow as a professional,” Michelle said. “That made it extra special.”

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Learn more

Learn more about the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at City University of Seattle, or about FareStart.