When the Covid-19 pandemic gripped Southwest Michigan, many non-profit entities for forced to change the manner in which they conducted operations and provided services to their clients. The result saw many of those organizations experiencing deep declines in their self-sustaining revenue, with many in serious jeopardy of shuttering their doors. That’s when Lisa Cripps-Downey, in collaboration with the United Way of Southwest Michigan, spearheaded an effort by her Berrien Community Foundation to infuse new funding and introduce sustainability grants for the sole purpose of providing those resources to help ensure such organizations stayed afloat, capitalizing on those resources in the best way each organization saw fit. Not only did that sustain socially critical functions ranging from homelessness and domestic violence to mental health and beyond, the effort assured that those societal pillars including arts and environmental causes were eligible to be funded as well. Lisa has over 20-years of experience in various leadership positions at both non-profit and for-profit organizations. She serves not only as President of the Berrien Community Foundation — which also provides grant administration services to the Upton Foundation — she is the current President of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club and more. Her nominator notes, “In the years that Lisa has been at the helm of BCF, she has really made it a place where the entire community feels welcome and a part of.” That’s just part of the magic that goes into the makeup of this Bold Woman of Business for 2022. Read on for more of Lisa’s story.
Where do you live?
Company or Organization
Berrien Community Foundation
What is your job or role there?
How do you think that Bold Women of Business demonstrate being bold?
To me, being bold means doing the right thing, and then the next right thing, regardless of whether it is the popular thing. It is standing up when it may be in your best interest to sit down. It is making sure everyone has a voice, or being the voice for those who aren’t at the table.
Bold women are often defined by a number of descriptors. Please choose from the following descriptors to produce the top three that you would say most exemplify your personality?
Please provide an example of when you feel you were at your very best in taking action on the job or in your role.
So often I am at my best when I am actively listening. My job isn’t to know all of the answers, but to encourage a team of creative, talented and compassionate individuals to help us all get to the best answers. When we as a group, move the needle on an issue, come up with a creative solution or shine a light on a community need, I feel I am at my best.
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened on your road to success?
I was supposed to meet with Steve Upton – STEVE UPTON – when I first started working with the Frederick S. Upton Foundation. I was still at home and it had been a particularly difficult day with mayhem caused by toddlers at my house. The dryer broke, so there were unmentionables drying all over the house, one child was naked and scooting around on a play fire truck and sounding the siren. Steve was out and about and thought he would save me a trip and stop by my house for our meeting. He walked in and the naked toddler ran up and gave him a hug and then peed by his feet. Steve started laughing and was just so kind. It was humbling and ridiculous, but I think it was the day Steve and I became friends. It also taught me to find the humor in even the most difficult of circumstances.
Who most inspires your personal drive for success every day?
My kids are so brave. I have a son who is teaching high school in a tiny village on the Bering Sea in Alaska. I have a daughter who takes on every challenge with gusto and stands up for what she believes in. They inspire me to be my best.
What is your best advice to women in Southwest Michigan looking to succeed, as you have, in business?
Everyone is just as important as you are. Treat them that way. They have families and outside lives. They have challenges and strengths and can teach you something. Take time to learn from everyone you meet.
What does your selection to the ranks of the Bold Women of Business from Moody on the Market mean to you?
As a nonprofit executive, being seen as a Bold Woman of Business is a great reminder for everyone that nonprofit organizations are indeed nonprofit businesses. We have strategic plans, goals and actions. Nonprofits are working very hard in the community, taking bold moves and risks in an effort to make this a better place for everyone to work, play and succeed.