Resume | Susan Putnam

Susan Putnam


Award-winning Community Relations Professional and Non-profit Leader

Grand Rapids, MI


Organization Leadership Insights

"There is nothing more important to an organization than the passion that resides in the hearts and souls of the staff, the Board, donors and the community."

– Susan Putnam

Negotiated for the Acquisition of New Office Space while Simultaneously Building Outstanding Community Relations

It was the middle of winter, but there was one particular building that had been on the market for nearly a year.   It was known as the “Bolger and Battle” building and it was on the market for $320,000, way out of our price range.   It was the perfect home for us!   The square footage was 4,400 on two floors with windows galore.  It was modern and painted in bright colors – kid friendly colors.



Neighboring Big Brothers Big Sisters Agency Was Failing

In late 2011, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization serving two neighboring counties was about to go out of business.  I was approached by a member of the Board of Directors indicating the agency was struggling.  

United Way Launches First Online Donation Platform

While I was the Community Relations and Public Affairs manager at IBM in Minneapolis, I was responsible for running IBM’s United Way campaign in 12 states, encompassing nearly 20,000 employees.   I understood how valuable online giving could be in terms of increasing revenues and I also knew how to promote it to employees. 

Leadership Profile

An award-winning, innovative community relations professional with an MBA and a versatile background in both the nonprofit and corporate worlds.   Extensive fund development and community investment skills that generate revenues and enable the leveraging of resources that change lives for individuals, organizations and communities.  A relationship builder with a big picture view, able to add value by collaborating with others to solve community problems.    Accomplished in volunteer and employee engagement, program operations, board development, public speaking, marketing and much more. 

  • Strategic Growth — Grew Big Brothers Big Sisters revenues by 160% between 2006 and 2016, allowing the agency to triple the number of children served. National Board of the Year recognition.
  • Leadership — Won United Way of Midland County’s Strosacker Award for agency and community leadership while at Big Brothers Big Sisters.
  • Fund Development — Led United Way of Midland County’s annual campaign during first year to a record-breaking year and launched the first online corporate giving tool to 10,000 employees.
  • Advocacy — Represented IBM to the Minneapolis/St. Paul community and forged partnerships with nonprofits to enhance the company’s corporate image through philanthropic donations of technology. Led IBM to winning the Quality of Life Award from the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.


Nonprofit Leadership, Financial Management, Cultural Transformation, Strategic Planning, Operational Improvements, Public Speaking, Community Relations, Communications, Fundraising, Event Planning, Government Relations,  Public Relations, Board Relations, Team Leadership, Grant Management, Community Outreach, Program Management, Marketing, Corporate Relations, Issue Management, Corporate Philanthropy,  Volunteer Management

Professional Experience

Mind Meets Music (June 2017 – January 2018)

Director of Development

Hired to bring new energy and dynamics to the fund development operations of this five-year-old nonprofit which is serving more than 5,000 children this school year, focusing on early childhood education.

  • Established new relationships throughout the Grand Rapids community with foundations, corporations and associations to advance the image and visibility of Mind Meets Music and to encourage support for early childhood education initiatives.
  • Developed a new Fund Development plan to diversify funding resources with increased foundation, corporate and individual support.
  • Structured agency’s key messages and outcomes into one professional package for marketing purposes.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region (2006 – 2016)

President and CEO

Hired to reinvigorate agency programs, eliminate budget deficit, and increase visibility in order to broaden agency impact.  Established aggressive grant writing initiative and community outreach campaign.

  • Eliminated budget deficit within six months through successful grant applications and expanded donor relationships. Nurtured a culture of philanthropy among staff and Board.
  • Increased volunteer inquiries by 20% through an extensive community outreach speaking schedule.
  • Created the 3rd largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in the state of Michigan by spearheading 2 mergers over 10 years allowing the agency to triple the number of children served.
  • During tenure received national recognition for Gold Standard performance putting agency in the top 10 in the nation; Board of Directors recognized as “Board of the Year” by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.


United Way of Midland County, Midland, MI (20022006)

Campaign Director

Recruited to become first Campaign Director of United Way of Midland County and launch new corporate online donation program.

  • Lead the strategy and implementation of United Way’s annual $4+ million campaign and led campaign to a record level in first year on the job through development of strong relationships with top executives at large corporations as well as small businesses.
  • Recruited, trained and managed more than 100 campaign volunteers per year.
  • Led the project team which successfully implemented first online giving technology tool, eWay, at the community’s largest employer with more than 10,000 employees.


IBM Corporation, MN (1994 – 2002)

Regional Manager, Community Relations and Public Affairs

Promoted to become IBM’s representative to the Minneapolis/St. Paul community including management of local government relations efforts, corporate philanthropy programs, volunteerism and community involvement in order to enhance external relationships and IBM’s image in the community.

  • Forged community partnerships with nonprofits to enhance job training opportunities and workforce development in the Twin Cities with focus on technology and youth development.
  • Developed IBM’s first e-mentoring program through partnership with an elementary school in a disadvantaged neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis.
  • Increased employee community involvement and volunteerism by 40% in three years and invested IBM contributions in multiple Midwestern cities, advising local IBM executives concerning community priorities and managing a $500,000 contributions budget
  • Led IBM’s annual Employee Charitable Contribution Campaign for the Midwest region’s 20,000 employees.




MBA, Business Economics and Public Policy, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

BBA, International Affairs, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

Associates Degree, Delta College, University Center, MI

Harvard University, IBM President’s Class (3-week intensive executive course taught in Armonk, NY)

IBM Middle Management School, Armonk, New York

Executive Television Workshop, Washington, DC

United Way of America, Management Training Program, Fairfax, VA

Awards and Affiliations

Strosacker Award from United Way of Midland County for BBBS and community leadership, 2013

Gold Standard Award, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, 2007 and 2008

Agency Board of the Year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, 2008

Great Lakes Bay Regional Leadership Institute, class of 35 leaders from 4-county region, 2013

Zonta Club of Midland, member and former officer, 2003 – 2016

West Michigan Association of Fundraising Executives, 2017 – present

West Michigan Inforum, 2017 – present