Michelle Beisker Senior Vice President of Development Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Being nominated as a 2021 Woman of Influence caused Michelle Beisker to pause and recount her journey — both successes and failures. She’s grateful and humbled to have had an opportunity throughout her career to influence others, particularly women. “I think there’s an […]
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Senior Vice President of Development
Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation
Being nominated as a 2021 Woman of Influence caused Michelle Beisker to pause and recount her journey — both successes and failures. She’s grateful and humbled to have had an opportunity throughout her career to influence others, particularly women.
“I think there’s an opportunity to learn and grow from each other. I have a curiosity to learn about others and a genuine interest to help them expand opportunities and deepen their skills,” Ms. Beisker said. “There’s a high level of trust that I have their best interest in mind.”
Her curiosity and ability to see potential have come into play as she’s navigated the nonprofit world and built expertise in development. She is senior vice president of development at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, where she built an asset development strategic plan from scratch that has resulted in $71 million in contributions over five years.
“In her role at the Community Foundation, Michelle is passionate about strengthening our local nonprofit organizations by connecting donors to causes that are meaningful to them. She enjoys celebrating the impact of donor gifts and helping donors realize the legacy they want to leave behind,” said Les Garner, the foundation’s president and CEO.
Ms. Beisker works with individuals, couples and multi-generational families, companies and nonprofits to help grow philanthropy in the community. Building relationships one at a time, she creates trust by having conversations about their life experiences, families, where they grew up and their heritage, but also their frustration with issues and causes. Then she puts together a roadmap that allows donors to see how their life experiences and relationships inform their philanthropic intent. Then, focusing on local needs and opportunities, she assures them that a gift of any size can make a difference.
“A lot of times that first gift helps them recognize that philanthropy is approachable for anyone,” Ms. Beisker said.
When it comes to challenges, Ms. Beisker said she finds that relationships matter.
“She thrives when there are multiple challenges facing her, and she has the unique ability to grasp long-term goals while managing day-to-day activities. Her strong interpersonal skills enable her to work within a team and achieve new goals, as well as communicate in a concise and effective manner with her colleagues, stakeholders and boards of directors,” said Joe Lock, president and CEO of the Eastern Iowa Health Center and member of the board of directors of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.
“One of my strengths is the ability to identify what are the priorities and what are the barriers; what’s our capacity and how do we manage our timeliness. Capacity is always limited, but time can be the variable,” Ms. Beisker said.
Building relationships has been key in both nonprofit and for-profit positions. She is or has been involved with Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary, 100+ Who Care, the Eastern Iowa Health Center and Theatre Cedar Rapids.
Ms. Beisker began her career in retail and specialty advertising. Then she began working in male-dominated manufacturing. She became inside sales manager, then global sales manager, at PMX Industries, Inc. As a woman, she had to learn to be confident in her strengths, which allowed her to do “unexpected things,” she said.
One of the unexpected things was being part of a contract negotiation team with the U.S. Mint during her tenure at PMX Industries, which produces copper alloys used by governments around the world to produce coinage. The company grew its market share and secured a $500 million contract.
“I would have never expected myself to be part of that. But I had to learn to trust my skills, trust my talent and trust who I am as a woman and as a professional, that I could be at the table. And not to diminish who I was at the time, to feel confident when I’m the only woman in the room,” Ms. Beisker said.
She looked outside of manufacturing to find women role models, including directors at the U.S. Mint, Royal Canadian Mint and Mexican Mint. She asked them about their successes, and how she could learn from them.
“As I started to explore my impact and my opportunity to give back, I wanted to focus on our local community,” Ms. Beisker said.
When her two children were young, Ms. Beisker realized she couldn’t continue down that career path while dedicating herself to family. As a family, they decided for her to leave the profit sector, taking a 50% pay cut, to work for a nonprofit.
She has been chief operations officer at Waypoint, assistant vice president of development at Mount Mercy University, and program director of PUSH-CR with Four Oaks.
“Throughout her career in nonprofit development, Michelle has achieved great success in developing not only financial assets (over $100 million at three local organizations) but also people. Michelle takes seriously her position as a woman of influence — she has broken down barriers for young women,” said Mr. Garner.
“Being a leader isn’t a title; it’s a process. It’s an experience. It’s sharing one story with others that allows for inspiration,” Ms. Beisker said.