Decent Humans

Decent Humans: Ellen McElligott at the Pat Tillman Foundation

on April 19, 2018

Decent Humans is what we call the incredible community we witness on CrowdRise each and every day doing amazing things for good. And each month, we’re going to highlight a Decent Human in the nonprofit world that’s devoting their time and passion to giving back and making a difference. We hope that by sharing their stories of aid, altruism, and passion, others will be inspired to make an even greater impact on the world we live in

This month we got the chance to talk to Ellen McElligott at the Pat Tillman Foundation. We picked her brain about her trick for engaging $0 donors, how she loves a good frittata, and where she spent the most amazing 10 days of her life.


After serving six years as a Surface War Officer in the Navy, Ellen moved back to her hometown of Chicago to get her masters in public administration with a focus on nonprofit management. Then, in 2016, there was an opening at the Pat Tillman Foundation and Ellen scored the Director of Development role.decenthumanPerson-1On her role and responsibilities at the Pat Tillman Foundation

I'm the Director of Development, so I'm essentially responsible for all of the fundraising pieces of the foundation. Everything from Pat's Run sponsorships, individual and corporate giving, foundation giving, and overseeing two staff members, Ethan and Christopher.

On why people are her #1 and #2 reason for going to work each day

The people are what get me out of bed everyday and in more ways than one. My co-workers are probably the most fantastic people I've ever worked with. I'm fortunate that everyone is incredibly dedicated to the mission. Each one is a team player.

And when I say the second is people as well, I'm talking about the Tillman Scholars. I think sometimes, lately, people are kind of getting down or disenfranchised with everything that's going on in the world. And you see kind of the worst of society, it seems. Whereas our Tillman Scholars are probably some of the most inspirational and incredible individuals you will ever come across. I mean, we have Tillman Scholars who are literally solving the world’s problems, from being doctors in rural areas in Texas to studying a vaccine for ovarian cancer. They kind of run the gamut, effecting change in both the micro and macro level. And it's just so special and I'm really fortunate to be a part of it.

On today’s lunch. Because who doesn’t love a good lunch question?

Leftovers. So I went to the grocery store and I was looking at what was on sale. And I had some vegetables, so I did an egg bake with five different types of fresh vegetables and feta cheese, and I just baked it in a Pyrex dish and that is my lunch today.

On activating zero dollar fundraisers

Yeah, that’s a constant challenge.

We actually do personal outreach to every single one of them. We send out individual emails from Ethan and Christopher, our development managers to ask them, "You know, I see you set up a fundraising page. Is there a reason you haven't fundraised? Do you want to hop on the phone?”

Then, we’ve already broken down what the common concerns are about fundraising and had responses for them to kind of get ahead of it. For example, "I don't like asking my friends and family for money." And working with them on kind of how to alleviate some of those concerns. That's been helpful.

On other ways to engage these zero dollar fundraisers

Also, just having really good fundraising incentives seems to work pretty well. People like stuff. And, in regards to incentives, we typically don't spend much money on our incentives. We make them either things we have on hand, like headphones that are donated, or experience based incentives, so they're very low risk to us.

We find those two things really, really help engage the zero dollar folks. But at the end of the day, it's really a challenge because you can't force someone to fundraise for you. I think all you can do is really try to get them to buy into what you're doing.

On what her favorite part of her job is

I think what I like the most is being able to showcase to donors or funders just how important their investment is. That if you trust us with this donation, I promise you that it's going to allow us to do X, Y, or Z. A great example of that: we have funders that are very interested in funding scholarships. And to be able to come back at the end of the semester and share with a donor, "Your money allowed us to fund this scholar and this summer, the scholar is going to present her research at an Ovarian Cancer conference." That to me is my favorite part of my job.

On her least favorite part of her job

My least favorite part of my job... reconciling my Visa receipts. Without a doubt.headphones_decentHumans_v1On what makes her day easier

Obviously Crowdrise. It's actually true though. You guys do make my life easier. I would also say a good set of headphones. We work in a shared space, so I'm able to put my headphones on and just kind of blast music and focus on what I need to focus on, 'cause if not, I get distracted way too easily by people. So a good set of headphones. And then we also have this really cool machine at work, it's like a sparkling water machine where you can either do still water or sparkling water and then touch an add-in flavor.

On her love of travel

I did Croatia two summers ago and Ireland last year. So I think this years a warm weather vacation. And Croatia was the most amazing 10 days of my life. It was absolutely spectacular.


Thanks so much Ellen. Your passion, creativity, and drive are all apparent from talking to you. We can tell that you’re so proud of the work the Foundation does that you can’t help but spread the word to your donors and fundraisers in order to nurture them to be long-time supporters. Amazing work. Oh, and now we’re hungry for a frittata and are currently researching Croatia trips for fun. So there’s that too. Thanks again.

To learn more about the Pat Tillman Foundation, please Click Here.

Allison Capaldi

Allison Capaldi is the Brand Manager at CrowdRise. She lives and breathes branding and marketing and in her past life was the brand manager for Moosejaw Mountaineering. Her goal is to never write a blog post without including at least one food analogy.