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Senior Vice President of Advancement
Executive Assistant: Donna Johnson 216.615.7168
As Senior Vice President of Advancement, Kaye Ridolfi has direct responsibility for all of the foundation’s fundraising activities. As such, she leads the 18-member Advancement staff, with backgrounds in estate law, banking, wealth management, accounting, and nonprofit leadership. This team of seasoned professionals works in charitable gift planning, donor relations, and donor communications, to bring new donors into the foundation and then steward these donors on an ongoing basis as they strive to achieve their philanthropic goals. Kaye is a member of the Cleveland Foundation’s Executive Committee and oversees the Advancement Committee of the foundation’s board of directors.
An experienced development professional, Kaye joined the Cleveland Foundation in 2011. Prior to that, she spent two decades in the field, primarily in the academic sector. Her previous positions include five years at Case Western Reserve University, where she served as associate vice president of institutional development and director of the $1 billion capital campaign. She joined CWRU after six years at The Ohio State University, initially as director of the campaign to renovate the main library and then as assistant vice president for major gifts, which included eight regional major gift offices on the east coast, west coast, and southeastern U.S. Previous positions were with Ohio Wesleyan University, initially as director of its annual fund and ultimately as director of alumni development, and the American Lung Association of Ohio in 1990, initially as the organization’s first director of planned giving and later as vice president.
After moving to Cleveland in 2005, Kaye planted deep roots in her new hometown. She has served on the boards of several area organizations, including the City Club of Cleveland, the Cleveland Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and on the Union Club of Cleveland’s Membership Committee and Engaging Women Committee. She is a graduate of the FBI’s Citizens Academy and is a member of the Citizens Academy Foundation. Kaye is a frequent speaker on capital campaigns, board development, and nonprofit leadership.
Kaye graduated magna cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She later earned a master’s degree in public policy and management from The Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Policy.
Ginger F. MlakarAdvancement
General Counsel & Senior Director, Philanthropic Services
Philanthropic Coordinator: Brittany Schultz 216.685.2004
As General Counsel, Ginger Mlakar serves as in-house legal counsel. As Senior Director, Philanthropic Services, she oversees the Cleveland Foundation’s donor stewardship program. In this role, she connects donors to their charitable interests. Additionally, she serves as in-house legal counsel on charitable gifting and estate administration issues, and facilitates the acceptance of complex charitable gifts. She came to the Cleveland Foundation in July 2009 after 16 years practicing law in the area of estate and charitable gift planning and administration. Her previous positions include partner in the personal succession and planning practice group at Thompson Hine LLP and of counsel in the estate planning and probate practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP. She is also a certified public accountant.
Ginger has served on the boards of several area organizations, including the Girl Scouts of Lake Erie Council, the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland, the Bay Village Education Foundation, the Bay Village Foundation, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Leadership Center, and as treasurer for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation, and Bay Soccer Club. She was the president for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation. She is currently on the board for the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils and is an AEP® Accredited Estate Planner. She has been a member of advisory groups for University Hospitals, the Cleveland Orchestra, and Case Western Reserve University. Additionally, she is an active fellow of the American College of Estate and Trust Council, and an Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Council member for the Ohio State Bar Association. Ginger is a frequent speaker on legal and tax issues surrounding charitable giving.
Ginger has been named among the Best Lawyers in America and the Top 50 Female Ohio Super Lawyers List by Law and Politics magazine. She was a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2014. Ginger has received the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association's Women in Law Making a Difference and President's Awards, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation's Outstanding Leadership Award, and the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland’s 2019 Distinguished Estate Planner Award. She graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and earned her juris doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
As a Philanthropic Advisor, Michelle Blackford focuses primarily on fostering and strengthening relationships with individuals, families, organizations and corporations who seek to fulfill their charitable giving goals.
Michelle joined the Advancement Team in September 2009, bringing with her more than 10 years of development experience. Prior to joining the foundation, Michelle served as the assistant director for the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, where she played a significant role in advancing the fundraising efforts of the college. Serving in this role, Michelle was responsible for overseeing homecoming and alumni reunion activities, senior class giving initiatives and the alumni student council.
Michelle has served in many volunteer leadership roles, including: co-chair for the PA 50 Best Women in Leadership Award, committee member of the capital campaign for Harrisburg Church and Centennial Planning Committee for Messiah College. She has also served as a committee member for the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio Dessert First Event and as a volunteer for the North Chagrin Reservation for Cleveland Metroparks. Michelle is currently on the Executive Board of Directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Michelle is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and a certified trainer in Family Philanthropy through 21/64. She earned her Graduate Certificate in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania. Michelle enjoys living in the Edgecliff Neighborhood in Euclid, Ohio with her husband Randy.
Brenda Cummins joined the foundation in 2015 and works with donors and organizations to help them plan and achieve their philanthropic objectives.
Brenda brings senior level development experience from her previous role as director of Foundation Administration and Community Engagement at Summa Health System. In her role, she advanced Summa’s priorities through philanthropy and connected the greater community to the work of the organization. Prior work includes her position as a development officer at the Akron Civic Theatre, where she was responsible for all aspects of fundraising for the 1920’s atmospheric theatre.
Through her first career path as an Audiologist and her community volunteer work in social services, healthcare and the arts, her strength is connecting people to organizations that make an impact in the lives of our greater community.
Brenda serves on the boards of several non-profits, including Greenleaf Family Center, 91.3 The Summit - WAPS, and Summit ArtSpace. She is a graduate of Leadership Akron, Class 2007. She serves on the American Heart Association Go Red for Women committee, and has volunteered with the Summa Medical Team for the Akron Marathon. She holds a master’s degree in Audiology from Kent State University and a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing from Bowling Green State University.
Senior Director, Gift Planning
Terri Bradford Eason manages the foundation’s Gift Planning Program as a member of the Advancement team. Her primary focus is cultivating relationships that help individuals establish current and deferred philanthropic funds, legacy gifts and charitable giving strategic plans. As such, Terri works closely with professional advisors and their clients to identify, create and provide charitable planning options tailored to achieve specific philanthropic goals.
Terri joined the Foundation in October 2008 after gaining two decades of experience in the financial services industry. She had several positions with National City (now PNC) and supported several functions including wealth management, relationship management, new business development, and both private and corporate banking. As director of nonprofit business services, she was responsible for new business development and relationship management of nonprofit and higher education organizations. Throughout her tenure, Terri was dedicated to quality service for which she received the company’s NCC Excel Award for extraordinary client and community service. She also was the recipient of the YWCA Women of Professional Excellence Award, TLOD Status of Women Award, the NCNW Phenomenal Women of Extraordinary Leadership and Service Award and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.’s Woman of Vision award.
Terri has served the nonprofit community as a director on several area nonprofit boards, including Recovery Resources, Junior Achievement, the Women’s City Club Foundation and the Legacy Village Lyndhurst Community Fund Committee. In addition, she is the Former President of the Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and Former Chairman of the Alpha Omega Foundation, Incorporated. Currently, she serves on the Board of Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center (Past-Board President), Northern Ohio Charitable Gift Planners Council, Milestone Autism Resources, Inc., AKA Educational Advancement Foundation, Inc. (At-Large Director) and member of the Board of Trustees for Ohio North First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Former Board Chairman).
Terri is a member of the National Black MBA Association, Inc., NAACP, Beta Gamma Sigma National Honor Society, Cleveland Chapter of Links, Inc., Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. and Jack & Jill of America, Inc. She earned her Master of Business Administration degree from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State University.
Terri resides in South Euclid, Ohio with her husband Clayton Eason, Sr. and their two sons Clayton II, age 20 (Senior at Notre Dame College) and Bradford, age 18 (Sophomore at John Carroll University).
Maureen Forrest joined the Cleveland Foundation in March 2007 as a donor relations and scholarship assistant. Prior to that, she was an administrative assistant in the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office for 15 years. Maureen provides administrative support to the Development team to ensure that those supported have the tools and information necessary to successfully carry out their objectives.
Kristen joined the foundation’s Advancement team in 2019. She provides strategic advisement and support to a portfolio of donors to ensure their philanthropic activities are aligned with their long-term goals.
Kristen brings more than fifteen years’ experience in corporate citizenship, client service and fund development to the foundation. Most recently, she was Community Relations Manager at Forest City Realty Trust, where she served as a vital liaison between the company and the community, overseeing grantmaking, employee volunteering and community engagement initiatives. She played a key role in re-envisioning the company’s community investment strategy and created programs and policies to support employee community involvement.
Kristen graduated magna cum laude from Miami University with a B.S. in business. She holds an M.A. in arts administration from New York University and an M.S. in accounting from the University of Virginia. Kristen is a 21/64 Certified Advisor for multigenerational family philanthropy. She is an alumnus of the Cleveland Bridge Builders and has served on the board of Dobama Theatre, as a College Now mentor and as co-chair of a corporate chapter of the United Way Young Leaders.
Executive Assistant to SVP, Advancement
Donna Johnson, who joined the foundation in 2006, is executive assistant and operations administrator for the Advancement team. She provides administrative support for the senior vice president for Advancement, oversees department operations, and handles special projects.
Donna has more than 25 years of administrative experience in the nonprofit and community development sectors. Prior to joining the foundation, Donna served as an executive director for a nonprofit community arts organization. She has worked as a consultant for nonprofit arts organizations providing grant writing and project management services. Donna also worked at ShoreBank, Cleveland, and in the development department of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Donna is a graduate of John Hay High School and attended Bowling Green State University.
Katherine M. LeParAdvancement
Manager, Legal Affairs
Kathy LePar is part of the Advancement team of the Cleveland Foundation and is responsible for processing new gifts, supporting the setup of new funds, preparing fund agreements and charitable gift documents, and serving as a liaison with the Finance team and other cross-disciplinary teams.
Kathy has more than 30 years of experience in the legal profession with specific expertise in the areas of estate planning, probate administrations, and asset liquidation. Before joining the foundation in September 2012, Kathy spent 13 years as a paralegal with the firm of Behm & Henry, LLC. Prior to that, Kathy spent nine years as a legal assistant/paralegal with Bowlus & Bowlus, Ltd. During her employment with Bowlus & Bowlus, Kathy also provided paralegal support for a number of years to Sara J. Sherick, Esq., and Roger W. Hafford, Esq., in the area of probate administrations.
Kathy is currently working toward obtaining her certified paralegal designation from the National Association of Legal Assistants.
Gift Planning Advisor
Sandy Lucas joined the Cleveland Foundation in March 2020. She collaborates with individuals, families and their professional advisors to develop charitable giving strategies that meet donors’ philanthropic goals. She also helps the Cleveland Foundation’s organizational partners identify both current and deferred giving opportunities.
Sandy previously worked at the Catholic Community Foundation, most recently serving as Director of Planned Giving. In that role, she led the Catholic Community Foundation’s planned giving marketing efforts to generate support for diocesan initiatives, including Catholic Charities. She also grew relationships with major and planned gift donors, acted as a liaison between that foundation and the professional advisor community, and helped parishes develop planned giving strategies.
Earlier in her career, Sandy was a partner at Schneider, Smeltz, Ranney & LaFond, P.L.L., in Cleveland, focusing her practice in the areas of estate planning, charitable giving, probate and trust administration.
Sandy received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English from John Carroll University and her law degree from Case Western Reserve University. She is a member of the Northern Ohio Charitable Gift Planners, the Estate Planning Section of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland and the Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
Michelle M. NajdaAdvancement
Senior Director, Development & Philanthropic Initiatives
Administrative Assistant: Maureen Forrest 216.685.2002
Michelle M. Najda consults with individuals, families, and organizations to help donors identify and achieve their charitable giving interests and goals. She also works collaboratively with the Marketing & Communications team to develop donor communication strategies.
Michelle joined the team in 2012 with more than 15 years of development experience. In her previous role as executive director of donor relations and events for Case Western Reserve University, she played an instrumental role on the leadership team that successfully launched the university’s $1 billion capital campaign in the fall of 2011. In addition, Michelle created comprehensive stewardship and donor recognition programs for schools and departments across the university.
Prior to working at Case Western Reserve, Michelle worked in various development roles for the American Cancer Society, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, and Bowling Green State University.
Michelle holds an MBA from Case Western Reserve University and earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Bowling Green State University. She has been an active volunteer for several nonprofit organizations and is a member of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Paul G. PutmanAdvancement
Director, Philanthropic Services
Dr. Paul Putman is responsible for fostering and strengthening relationships with individuals, families and nonprofit organizations that seek to turn their passion into purpose through philanthropy. He has a special focus on improving the foundation’s online interface with donors and improving processes using technology. Before transitioning to his current role on the Advancement team, Paul was a member of the foundation's Program team.
Paul joined the foundation in October 2008 as a Program Officer on the Community Responsive Grantmaking team where he facilitated grantmaking across multiple sectors by focusing on efforts to strengthen nonprofit organizations and improve access to services for underserved populations. In this capacity, he also coordinated the Fenn Educational Fund and oversaw special projects. Most recently he provided leadership in the review of arts education in the Cleveland schools and supported the Cleveland Foundation summer internship program. Prior to joining the foundation, Paul was the manager of the Center for Leadership and Service at Cleveland State University, where he coordinated leadership development and service-learning experiences.
Paul holds a doctorate in urban education from CSU with a focus on leadership and lifelong learning. He earned his master's in psychology, with a specialization in diversity management from CSU and his master's in education, guidance, and counseling from Eastern Illinois University. Paul earned his bachelor's in English from Kent State University. Paul has published in multiple scholarly journals and authored several book chapters. His most recent work explores the development of strategic leadership competencies.
Paul remains active in the community. He has continued teaching since earning his doctorate – five years teaching in the Diversity Management master’s program at CSU and more recently, several years teaching undergraduate classes at Baldwin Wallace University in leadership in philanthropy and grant proposal writing. He is a mentor with College Now Greater Cleveland and currently serves on the board of the Cleveland Public Library Foundation.
As Philanthropic Coordinator, Brittany Schultz provides support to the Philanthropic Services Team through donor stewardship and responsive services. Prior to joining the Cleveland Foundation, Brittany worked at JumpStart Inc. as a Traffic and Events Specialist where she managed marketing projects as well as event planning initiatives including their annual meeting, Startup Scaleup.
Brittany was the Assistant Director, Cleveland Project with Horizon Education Centers where she developed and managed five after-school programs and site coordinators of programs. She directly oversaw the Scranton School after school program and worked on grant proposals for the organization. Brittany has been actively involved with the Cleveland International Film Festival since 2012 and works as an Operations Assistant Manager during the festival. She was on the Shorts Selections Committee from 2013-2016.
Brittany holds a Master of Arts from Carnegie Mellon University in Literary and Cultural Studies and received her Bachelor of Arts from The Ohio State University in English with a concentration on Film Studies and Professional Writing. In addition to her work in the nonprofit sector, Brittany is actively involved in the community, volunteering her time and talent to support initiatives around Cleveland.
Gift Planning Coordinator
Halle Shanker joined the Cleveland Foundation in January 2021 as a Gift Planning Coordinator. In this role, Halle provides administrative support to the Director of Gift Planning and Gift Planning Advisors; provides support to Events Manager and files all paper work for Continuing Education events; updates and maintains marketing materials for the team; and is responsible for drafting and processing gift acknowledgment letters. Prior to joining the foundation, Halle was the Advancement Coordinator at Hawken School and has served as an intern for United States Senator Sherrod Brown and The Vice President of Government and Community Relations for John Carroll University. Halle holds a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Administration from John Carroll University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from John Carroll University.
Gift Planning Advisor
Dave joined the Cleveland Foundation’s Advancement Team in July 2019. He focuses on providing individuals, families and organizations with information regarding current and deferred charitable giving options. In addition, Dave works closely with professional advisors and their clients to identify those options that will achieve specific philanthropic planning goals.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Dave lead The Cleveland Orchestra’s planned giving program, offering guidance on charitable giving, tax and estate planning to individuals and families with an interest in supporting the Orchestra. Dave previously held positions the Cleveland Museum of Art, PNC Bank, and Stark & Knoll, LPA.
Dave serves as the President of Northern Ohio Charitable Gift Planners, an organization dedicated to improving the quality and quantity of philanthropic planning in Northeast Ohio. He also serves on the board of the Cleveland Baseball Federation and is a member of the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland.
Dave earned his Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Wittenberg University and his law degree from The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.
Melissa Waddell joined the Cleveland Foundation in May 2019 as a Philanthropic Coordinator. In this role, she provides administrative support to several Philanthropic Advisors, helping donors meet their philanthropic goals. A Pittsburgh native, Melissa moved to the Cleveland area to attend Baldwin Wallace University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship with minors in theatre and accounting.
Melissa has extensive experience working and interning with nonprofit organizations in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland, including Little Lake Theatre and Tickets for Kids Charities in Pittsburgh and Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. Prior to joining the Cleveland Foundation, Melissa worked under the Director of Academic Grants at Baldwin Wallace University, where she engaged with a variety of public and private foundations, conducted prospect research, and crafted compelling proposals in support of various academic programs.
Jason Weiner joined the foundation’s Advancement Team in October 2017 where he works to foster and strengthen relationships with individuals, families and organizations seeking to impact the causes and issues they care most about through philanthropy. Jason was introduced to a career in the nonprofit sector as one of the first Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns in 2001.
Jason brings more than eleven years of senior level fundraising experience in arts and human services organizations to the foundation. In his most recent position as Director of Development for Beck Center for the Arts, he was responsible for developing and implementing the fundraising strategy for the organization as well as building and maintaining individual and institutional relationships.
He currently serves as a board member with Ohio Citizens for the Arts and a member of the Cleveland Foundation’s Summer Internship Program Advisory Council. He earned a bachelor of arts in sociology and a master of arts in sociology both from Cleveland State University.
Alicia Wray joined the Cleveland Foundation’s Advancement Team in November 2016. She oversees and implements Advancement related events focused on cultivation and engagement of donors, advisors, and prospects.
Alicia brings more than ten years of event planning experience to the foundation that includes work in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Most recently, she served as Conference and Event Management Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, where she was responsible for planning programs for groups of internal and external stakeholders. Prior to her role at the Federal Reserve, Alicia was the Event and Donor Relations Coordinator at YWCA Greater Cleveland. In addition to these key positions, she has worked in event planning at National Concession Company, United Way of Lake County, and the Cleveland National Air Show.
Alicia earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from Baldwin Wallace University. She has completed additional training through the Disney Institute as well as Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management and is a member of the Professional Convention Management Organization (PCMA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Association.
Frank Yang joined the Advancement Team in July 2018. He works under the direction of Michelle M. Najda to research, analyze, organize, and present information on potential donors to ensure that Advancement Team members are provided with the information and resources necessary to solicit gifts and cultivate and steward donor relations.
Prior to joining the foundation, Frank was an intern for Asian Services in Action, KPMG, and Société Générale. He has had the opportunity to intern and volunteer in different countries and served in multiple capacities across industries.
Frank holds a Master degree in statistics from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor degree in Public Administration from University of International Relations. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.