Founder Spotlight: Get to Know Sally Heaven
Welcome to Founder Spotlight, where the founders of Raise HECK answer five questions.
This week, get to know Sally Heaven.
1. Where do you call home?
Takoma Park, Maryland has been my home since 1999. It’s a 2.4 square mile town that borders Washington, DC. I love living here; it’s small enough that my family can walk to most places and a lot of the people who live here are civic-minded and community-oriented.
I grew up in Oxford, Ohio, a college town in Butler County (where the game of cornhole was invented!) and then lived in Indiana and Michigan for college and graduate school.
2. Tell us about your family
My amazing wife Laura and I have three kids: Lily and Henry are twins (age 12) and our youngest Bryn is 10. They are each smart, compassionate and get a lot of joy from life. They serve as an example to me of how to approach the day.
Laura and I have been married since 2004 and just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. She and I are both middle children of three girls and we both share interests and have our own things. Laura plays soccer and when we met, I didn’t know the game at all. Now I’m a huge fan!
I grew up in Ohio and have an older and a younger sister who live in Iowa and Michigan, respectively, with their families. My mom is originally from Canada and moved to Ohio with her family when she was 18. A few years ago I claimed dual citizenship with Canada and the U.S. My dad grew up all over the Midwest and spent some time in Maryland as a boy, so I’m not the first in my family to live here. He lives in Florida now and enjoys the warm weather.
3. How did you get involved in nonprofit technology?
During college at Indiana University (go Hoosiers!) and graduate school at the University of Michigan (go BLUE!) I became active in campus groups for LGBTQ+ rights. That took up a lot of my time, as did my major and graduate studies in biology. I still love science of all kinds, but at that time in my life, working in the lab wasn’t a great fit for me. (Sometimes I still wonder what if!)
In 1999 I moved to Takoma Park to seek a job at a national LGBTQ+ rights organization. I spent 7 years working at the Human Rights Campaign doing field organizing in support of legislation and pro-LGBTQ+ candidates. It was right around 2000 that we started using one of the very early software products for online advocacy and also began accepting donations through our website!
I liked using the software so much that when it was time for the next step in my career, I went to work at GetActive Software, a much-beloved online advocacy and fundraising eCRM. As happens in this industry, GetActive was acquired by Convio, and then Convio was acquired by Blackbaud.
All told, I spent 13 years at the combined company. My primary area of interest was online advocacy tools, and I learned so much about fundraising on the job. I also witnessed how many different communication channels and software products were created in the last two decades and learned a lot about how nonprofit organizations adapted to use them.
4. What’s your favorite kind of project?
At Raise HECK we focus on helping our clients with assessments of their technology, staffing, and operations so we can help them “do good, better!” But I will also confess that I came to this industry because I loved using software.
I appreciate using technology that is well-designed, effective and fun to use. So I like to poke around in the various nonprofit software systems and work with data from time to time to keep my skills sharp. I’m not a programmer, instead I specialize in knowing how to use software as designed.
Of course, I really, really like people and don’t want to bury myself 24/7 in technology. These days I like to combine my love of good tech and people by doing training to help people learn.
5. What do you do when you’re not raising heck?
Well, if you ask our clients, they might say that I spend my time sitting around thinking of puns and jokes that I can use during meetings. I made ten puns in a meeting last week. I asked our client if any of the jokes made them laugh, but no pun in ten did.
Other things I like to do:
- I’ve been running for 12 years. I can barely remember a time before I was a runner unless someone jogs my memory
- I play tennis! If you tell me that I’m good at it, I’ll wonder if it’s a backhanded compliment
- During the winter I like to ski. A word to the wise: once you start, it’s all downhill from there
- I love to watch my kids play their sports (soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, and whatever else captures their interest)
- I like cooking, learning to bake when inspired by The Great British Baking Show, reading books (LOVE to read)
Most of all, I love spending time with Laura and my kids doing anything and everything. The time period I spent growing up and learning about the world, it didn’t seem likely or possible to me that LGBTQ+ people could grow up to have families. It just wasn’t something I saw around me or in popular culture. Any examples in real life or media always had a whiff of scandal and usually didn’t end well.
There’s been a huge shift since I was a kid that was created by countless people who insisted on being themselves and refused to stay silent. It’s still challenging for many people in the United States or worldwide, but there are so many more LGBTQ+ people and families out there living their lives. Including me!
So one of the things that I most enjoy is being part of my family. Being a working parent is an experience that many people the world over share and comes with ups and downs. But every now and then I pause to consider how incredible it is that I am able to just live my life as part of my family and I realize how lucky I am.