2015 CPGR Volunteer of the year – Being named the 2015 CPGR Volunteer of the Year is an honor that Leslie feels very humble and grateful to receive, especially knowing the recognition comes from colleagues in the gift planning field she so admires and respects.
Leslie Karotkin remembers her first-ever job as being “mainly entertaining,” wrapping Christmas gifts at a department store when she was 16. Like many jobs to follow, she seized the opportunity to get her foot in the door, in this case, for non-seasonal work in the lingerie department, which she admits was “not exactly every sixteen year old girl’s dream job to fit bras for older women.” Who knew that an early job in “foundations” would lead to a career in Foundations?
These days, Leslie is the Executive Director of the InnovAge Foundation, raising funds to support services and programs for seniors in the Denver area. She has held the position since 2011, and is excited to interact every day with the fantastic team of staff and board members.
Leslie hails from Texas, but moved to Atlanta in her early twenties and started out as a corporate event manager for a developer, which she enjoyed enough to take the plunge into non-profit events at the local Children’s Hospital. Being in Atlanta gave her the opportunity to work with major corporate partners like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and FedEx, but the call of the Rockies lured her from Atlanta in 1999 when she became the National Director of Special Events and Field Operations at National Jewish Health. She managed the local events team and five other offices around the country. This job gave her exposure and opportunity to manage staff conducting other types of fundraising beyond events, and she found that gift planning really resonated. From National Jewish Health she went to The Denver Foundation as a Senior Philanthropic Planner, working directly with professional advisors and estate planning professionals, which led to her introduction to CPGR. She initially got involved with CPGR because she “loves the idea of collaboration in the gift planning industry,” and has been part of CPGR since 2006, including stints as Symposium Chair and Board member, culminating with service on the executive committee and President of the board. Symposium is what really hooked her on CPGR involvement—she has always been “impressed with the level of speakers, and the variety of people you get to network with, especially advisors, and that everyone involved with CPGR has the commitment and shared interest in keeping it going.” Being named the 2015 CPGR Volunteer of the Year is an honor that Leslie feels very humble and grateful to receive, especially knowing the recognition comes from colleagues in the gift planning field she so admires and respects.
Leslie’s biggest passion is working with donors, families, and advisors. One donor experience led to a real affirmation of her career: while at The Denver Foundation, she was working with an estate attorney who had clients that were interested in getting involved, but they weren’t sure what was the right fit for the donor; as she talked to the donor about ideas for their gift, she realized what she enjoyed most was not the actual accomplishment of getting the gift, but that her real satisfaction came from giving them options to pursue their personal dreams.
Leslie resides in Denver. In her personal time, she likes to regroup from the rigors of extroverted fundraising and spend down time with her fur baby, a Boston Terrier named Scarlet. A true Colorado transplant, she likes to hike and snowshoe, and is particularly excited for the onset of Fall, her favorite season to be outdoors. She currently serves on the board of the Anti-Defamation League, working to secure justice and fair treatment for all and participates on the education and law enforcement committees. Leslie especially enjoys volunteering in non-development capacities, so she can learn new skills and step away from her traditional role as a fundraiser.
Written by Cari Karns, Senior Director of Development at Memorial Hospital Foundation