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Levin College Profiles: Meet Danielle Locke

Danielle LockeDegrees:

  • Master of Public Administration, Levin College of Urban Affairs - Cleveland State University
  • Certificate in Nonprofit Management, Levin College of Urban Affairs - Cleveland State University
  • B.A., Psychology - Cleveland State University

When did you graduate?

Where are you currently residing?
Lakewood, OH

Where are you from?
North Ridgeville, OH

Current Employment:

Position: Founder and Principal, Locke Step Partners LLC

Job Duties: After working on both the grantor and grantee side of the table it was clear to me that many nonprofits need help making their sustainable futures a reality. I founded my firm not only to advise but to work side by side with organizations, in order to maximize their fundraising and marketing potential. I help nonprofits draft and/or implement a fund development strategy, build more meaningful relationships with donors and engage new donors, mine their donor list for the best prospects, solicit major gifts, estate gifts and endowed gifts, manage capital or other campaigns, maximize the revenue potential of fundraising events, or tell their story. 

Prior to this, I proudly worked as the Gift Planning Officer for the Community Foundation of Lorain County. In this role I led all aspects of strategic asset growth, marketing, and community outreach. My primary role was Philanthropic Advisor for individuals, nonprofits, financial, and legal professionals – and I loved every minute of it. Some highlights from my five-year tenure include launching a unique grants program with a nearly $1M gift from Lakeland Community Foundation, curating a partnership with Leadership Lorain County and the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) at Lorain County Community College to advance the quality of nonprofit leadership, and orchestrating the 2017 Emerging Opportunities campaign which raised $600K in just six months.

Volunteer Experience:

  • Advisory Board, Center for Public & Nonprofit Management, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University
  • Dean’s Stakeholder and Alumni Advisory Committee, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University
  • National Board of Directors, Advancement Network (AdNet)
  • Chair, AdNet National Conference
  • Board of Directors, Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA)
  • Development Chair, Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) 
  • Fee Arbitration Panel, Lorain County Bar Association  
  • Administrator, Nonprofit Communicators of Lorain County
  • Development Committee, LakewoodAlive

Why did you decide to attend Levin?
I liked that the programs at Levin teach you to manage an organization not in a vacuum, but at the intersection of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. From my experience I know that your ability to serve your community will be impacted by changes in the financial market or political shifts. The Levin programs teach you to think. I feel prepared to recognize the situation, assess, and adjust.

How did your experience at Levin influence your career path?
I fell in love with the nonprofit sector. I was inspired by the history of philanthropy in Cleveland which continues to shape our world today. We learned that the first community foundation in world, the Cleveland Foundation, was founded right here in 1914. That stuck with me when I had the opportunity to grow another community foundation in the county I grew up in.

What is your favorite Levin memory?
Listening to Steve Minter (retired CEO of the Cleveland Foundation) tell his stories of being at the table with Cleveland's most influential leaders.  I was impressed that he chose to teach at the Levin College and I was honored to absorb his wisdom.

What piece of advice do you have for current Levin graduate students?
Opportunity comes from taking risks, even small ones. I have found the greatest rewards when I rallied the courage to apply for a leadership program or invite a professor or classmate for coffee. When my term with the Community Foundation ended, I took a leap of faith and launched my own firm.  I knew there was a need in the nonprofit sector that I could help fill. It is terrifying, exciting, and deeply gratifying. I couldn’t be happier. I have more time with my family and I help many missions to succeed. 

What inspires you about Northeast Ohio? Why?
I am continually inspired by our people: good, kind, hard-working people. I have the privilege of working with generous donors from all walks of life, and all levels of income.

In your opinion, what is Northeast Ohio’s best kept secret?
Oh so much! We have amazing, diverse communities with rich histories, cultures, and food. We have the second largest theater district in the U.S., second only to New York City. We have a world-renowned orchestra and art museum.  People nationwide envy our metro parks, the Emerald Necklace, and our access to the lake. We are an old sports town that loves our teams no matter the heartache.

What is one thing someone would be surprised to learn about you?
I have been in 48 states, five countries, and three continents. My love of travel was established early when my father would take our family cross-country in an RV each summer.  I plan to see as many locations as possible in one lifetime!

Who is your hero and why?
My three-year old son. He is fearless, curious, sweet, and kind.  He is joyful every day. He loves unconditionally. He inspires me to be the best version of myself. His view of the world motivates me to make communities a better place to live, work, learn, and play. And he's pretty darn cute too!