UNC Children’s announces new development leader

UNC Children’s names Leslie H. Nelson as its newly appointed senior executive director of development and communications. Nelson will assume leadership of institution’s fundraising programs beginning Jan. 5, 2014.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

UNC Children’s and the Medical Foundation of North Carolina today announced the appointment of Leslie H. Nelson as the senior executive director of the N.C. Children’s Promise, the development and communications arm of N.C. Children’s Hospital and the UNC Department of Pediatrics. Nelson’s appointment is effective Jan. 5.

“UNC Children’s is truly a special place with world-class clinicians, researchers and practitioners who are completely dedicated to having a meaningful impact on the lives of those they serve,” said Nelson. “It is an honor to be chosen to lead the N.C. Children’s Promise, whose primary goal it is to support these efforts. There is a very talented team in place, and I look forward to working with them to create a plan to take our development and communications to the next level.”

After a decade in corporate sales and event management in the hotel industry, Nelson transitioned to non-profit management, beginning her fundraising career as associate director of development for the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. In 2005, she relocated to Chapel Hill, N.C., where she joined the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center as annual fund director. She raised nearly $1 million in unrestricted support for the Cancer Center during her first year and was promoted to major gifts director in 2006. In the four years that followed, Nelson raised almost $2 million for the N.C. Cancer Hospital Endowment, research and treatment initiatives, and patient and family support programs.

Since 2011, Nelson has led major gift fundraising for the UNC Departments of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and the UNC Neuroscience Center through the Medical Foundation of North Carolina, raising more than $5 million over the past three years.

“Leslie’s drive is fueled by a deep sense of mission that blends her personal values with her commitment to making a significant contribution to others,” said Ann Braun, president of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina. “I'm thrilled that she'll be leading the Children's development team to a new level of professionalism. She brings the energy, talent and intellect needed to gather people around the table to work together for the benefit of our youngest and most vulnerable patients.”

Leslie’s professional expertise in the development arena is complemented by a personal passion for UNC Children’s. In August 2006, Nelson and her husband, Mark’s, eldest son, Carter, was born three months premature and spent six weeks in N.C. Children’s Hospital’s Newborn Critical Care Center. Nelson later served on UNC’s NICU Family Advisory Board from 2006 to 2011, including stints as chair in 2009 and 2010. She and Mark also organized several fundraising events to benefit the NICU, which included Bluegrass for Babies in 2006, 2007, and 2008 and the Teddy Bear Tea in 2007.

“Carter came into this world weighing just 3 lbs., and today he’s 8 years old, a happy, healthy second grader,” said Nelson. “My dedication to UNC Children’s was cemented in the exemplary care we received as a family, and it is truly a privilege to come full circle—to get the opportunity to leverage my fundraising experience to support and improve programs that save so many children’s lives each year.”

“Leslie’s genuine enthusiasm for UNC Children’s is obvious to anyone who meets her,” said Wesley Burks, MD, chief physician of N.C. Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “Her successful track record in major gift fundraising, coupled with her heartfelt commitment to our mission, make Leslie uniquely qualified to lead the Children’s development team to new heights. We are excited to welcome her to the role.”

Nelson was chosen by a selection committee formed by the Medical Foundation and Department of Pediatrics. Committee members reviewed applications and conducted preliminary interviews, advancing finalists to interviews with senior leadership and members of the Children’s Hospital’s Board of Visitors.

“Leslie brings an uncommon mix of fundraising know-how and personal passion for the Children's Hospital,” said board chair, Karen Albritton, who was involved in the recruitment effort. “Her experience and enthusiasm will enable her to make an immediate impact.” 

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