AJ Casey and Utica Gray Join Creative Fundraising Advisors

Creative Fundraising Advisors (CFA) welcomed two experienced fundraising consultants to its team in January 2021: AJ Casey, a nonprofit leader, trainer, and consultant for more than 25 years who will serve as Of Counsel for work with The Actors Fund, and Dr. Utica J. Gray, an experienced leader with expertise in human services, education, and health care who will serve as Of Counsel for work with Walker|West Music Academy.

“AJ and Utica bring unique perspectives and experiences to our growing team,” said CFA President Paul Johnson. “We are so pleased to have people of their caliber on board to serve The Actors Fund and Walker West right now and new clients on the horizon.”

About AJ Casey 

AJ specializes in capital campaigns, fundraising assessments and strategies, board training and advancement, as well as executive coaching and professional development. She also has deep experience with start-up organizations and organizations focusing on people of color. She has led complex fundraising projects of local, regional, and national scope and has worked with a full array of nonprofit organizations and foundations.

Before launching her own practice in 2006, AJ served for eight years as a senior consultant and vice president in a national philanthropic consulting firm, as chief development officer and executive director within several nonprofit organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Seattle, and as a special advisor to the Stonewall LBGTQ center in Columbus, Ohio. She recently served as the board chair for Mental Health America of Franklin County. She is a former vice president of National Speakers Association, Ohio chapter, and a former executive board member for the Columbus Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

“I’m eager to bring my passions and skills to Creative Fundraising Advisors’ work with The Actors Fund,” AJ said. “My family placed high value on the arts, and I was a member of the inaugural class of Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts. My brother is an award-winning lighting designer, so I have a deep history and interest in the arts.”

AJ grew up in Cincinnati and Youngstown, Ohio, where her father helped found the area’s first Black-owned law firm. She attended Georgetown University, studying foreign languages and international economics. She also earned certifications as a Certified Fund Raising Executive and a Certified LifeSuccess Coach. AJ has two sons, Aaron and Royce, and is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

About Utica Gray, PhD

In addition to her consulting work, Utica serves as national director for Fresh Start Caring for Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide no-cost reconstructive surgeries to disadvantaged children who have deformities as a result of birth defects, accidents, injuries, abuse, or disease. She has 20 years of nonprofit development experience and 15 years of consulting experience in the areas of developmental disabilities, adoption, homelessness, education, senior services, and healthcare. She is well versed in nonprofit mergers, leadership, and management.

“I have a passion for nonprofits that have a rich and long history in their community, like Walker|West,” Utica says. “There is community trust that speaks to the integrity of the organization. I’m also impressed with Creative Fundraising Advisors’ commitment to building the capacity to best serve its clients and with the leadership’s desire to model equity.”

Utica is a graduate of Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Master of Science in Human Services Administration from Spertus College, and a PhD in Business Administration with a Public Administration concentration from Northcentral University. She lives with her husband, 15-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old son in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, where she is a Girl Scout Troop leader focusing her group on projects ranging from cyber bullying to the dangers of sex trafficking. She is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., the same sorority to which Vice President Kamala Harris belongs.

“Utica’s formal educational background in business, research, public administration, and human services is of tremendous value to our work,” says Johnson. “She also understands the tremendous importance of relationships in fundraising and nonprofit management. We’re so happy to have her on board.”

About Creative Fundraising Advisors

Creative Fundraising Advisors is a full-service consulting firm dedicated to transformational fundraising counsel and implementation. The firm prides itself on developing and applying new techniques to tackle complex fundraising challenges. CFA’s services include campaign counsel, development assessment, strategic planning, annual giving, creative services and data analytics.

CFA’s clients include The Actors Fund (New York), Friends of the Mississippi River (St. Paul, MN), The Gabriella Foundation (Los Angeles), Milwaukee Art Museum (Milwaukee, WI), Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), Portland Museum of Art (Portland, ME), St. John’s College (Annapolis, MD/Santa Fe, NM), The School for Advanced Research (Santa Fe, NM), North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC), Northside Achievement Zone (Minneapolis MN), and Walker West (St. Paul, MN), among many others.

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