Sharpe Group Consultants
Sharpe is led by a group of people who truly care about the nonprofits we work with and the missions you support. Sharpe’s lead consultants each have more than 25 years of experience in planning and implementing effective gift planning programs. They also bring perspective gained from years as active volunteers in their communities. Others on the Sharpe team are specialists in the fields that drive successful gift planning programs – attorneys, writers, editors, designers, print and digital marketing experts and management consultants.
Bob Mims, CPA, CGMA – Senior Consultant, CFO
Bob is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Mississippi and brings his 30+ years of experience in finance and nonprofits to the Memphis office. Previously, he served as the chief financial officer for Wetlands America Trust and controller and director of investments for Ducks Unlimited. He has also served on the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory and Not-for-Profit Advisory Councils for the national Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).
For nine years, he chaired the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts’ (AICPA) Not-for-Profit Conference and is the current chair of the Environmental Roundtable, which is a membership organization comprised of CFOs from the largest environmental nonprofit organizations in the United States. An active speaker at AICPA conferences, he also is frequently published in the Journal of Accountancy, NonProfit Times and other industry publications.
Bob helps Sharpe Group enhance our services to fundraisers by helping our clients identify training and recruiting needs of their development departments.
Jana Lawyer – Senior Consultant
Jana is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in business administration in marketing. Before joining Sharpe Group, she served on the National Direct Marketing Acquisition Team for ALSAC/St. Jude and was an advertising representative for The Reflector, Mississippi State’s newspaper.
Jana works with the Sharpe consulting team and partners with clients to help them develop and strengthen their gift planning fundraising strategies. She advises organizations and institutions of many sizes and missions on communications to educate their donors on planned giving.
She has volunteered her time and talent at many nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Operation Christmas Child and the Humane Society.
Joe Chickey, MBA, CFP® – Senior Consultant, SVP
Joe brings more than 30 years of experience in the charitable arena, with a focus on gift planning to Sharpe Group. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, he is a senior vice president and senior consultant. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in finance from Rhodes College and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Illinois.
Joe has spoken locally, regionally and nationally on planned giving to estate planning councils, AFP, CASE and local CGP groups. His recent speaking engagements include the Chicago Council on Planned Giving, Colorado Summer Symposium, Middle Tennessee Planned Giving Council and The Carolinas Planned Giving Conference. Joe recently completed a three-year term as a board member of the National Association of the Charitable Gift Planners (CGP).
Joe served as lead fundraiser for a $1.5 billion capital campaign at the University of Illinois and a $500 million capital campaign for a major hospital in Chicago. He has administered charitable remainder trusts, lead trusts, gift annuities, life estates and IRA gifts.
He has experience from the nonprofit side and for-profit side, as a gift planner for nonprofits and a bank trust officer. For 14 years, he worked with nonprofit endowments, family foundations and high-net-worth clients. His expertise includes estate and financial planning, asset management and charitable planning. As a vice president and trust officer for Regions Bank, he was a leader in the Endowments and Foundations Group and worked with more than 125 charities throughout the Southeastern United States. Prior to Regions, Joe was a vice president and business development officer for SunTrust Bank. In the fundraising arena, he served as director of gift planning for the University of Illinois Foundation. He was also a major gift officer for Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and a planned giving officer for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Kristin Croone, JD – Senior Consultant
Kristin is a Sharpe Group senior consultant returning to the Sharpe team after a hiatus from the gift planning field. Previously, Kristin worked with Sharpe as a technical editor. She has also worked as an associate in tax and estate planning in Cleveland, Ohio and Memphis, Tennessee. She also served as director of planned giving and legal counsel for The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. She brings valuable experience in donor stewardship as well as tax and estate planning law.
Kristin is a graduate of the Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. She is available to assist planned giving, major gift and other staff members of Sharpe Group client organizations with estate gift administration and gift planning strategies.
Laura Knitt, JD – Senior Consultant
Laura previously worked with a large national nonprofit, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, where she served in progressive roles as associate director for planned giving, director for legal and regulatory compliance and assistant general counsel. She brings valuable experience in donor stewardship, planned giving and major gifts, endowments and donor advised funds, real estate and securities, regulatory compliance and nonprofit governance.
Laura is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the University of Wisconsin Law School and currently serves on the board and as corporate secretary of the Chicago Council on Planned Giving. She is able to assist planned giving, major gift and other staff members of Sharpe Group client organizations with issue identification and strategies, estate gift administration, writing and editorial work, staff training and program audits.
Lewis von Herrmann, CFRE – Senior Consultant
Lewis is a Certified Financial PlannerTM professional and a Certified Fund Raising Executive who is based in Florence, Alabama. He has more than 45 years of experience in charitable fundraising, primarily with faith-based organizations including CRU, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, American Bible Society and The Mission Society. He has specialized in developing both major and planned giving programs and, as a planned giving officer, has met privately with more than 2,000 individual families to discuss their philanthropic goals.
Lewis directed field teams of major and planned giving officers at CRU and American Bible Society and held key leadership positions in major and planned giving programs. In addition, Lewis directed one of the largest gift annuity programs in the U.S. and has published multiple articles on various planned giving subjects. He has spoken to hundreds of groups around the United States on charitable giving as well as estate and financial planning topics. He has completed in-depth analyses of donor demographics for numerous charities and developed marketing plans and gift acceptance policies to ensure effective resource allocations for the charities. He has a B.S. and an MBA from Auburn University and is a Distinguished Toastmaster.
Tom Grimm – Senior Consultant
Tom is a senior consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. His planned giving and nonprofit experience includes more than a decade with World Vision and four years with the American Bible Society. In his role as a consultant, Tom has worked with numerous charities to design, build and enhance their planned giving and major gift programs. He also has extensive experience in the insurance, venture capital, private equity, banking and financial services industries.
Tom’s combination of experience and passion for the philanthropic arena equips him to assist Sharpe clients in designing, implementing and evaluating successful planned giving programs in a way that will help maximize giving potential through the careful balancing of personal financial and philanthropic objectives.
Additional Consulting Resources
Russell James – JD, PhD, CFP®, Texas Tech University
Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® is a professor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University where he directs the on-campus and online graduate program in Charitable Financial Planning (planned giving).
Prior to his career as an academic researcher, James worked as the Director of Planned Giving for Central Christian College in Moberly, Missouri for six years and later served as president of the college for more than five years, where he had direct and supervisory responsibility for all fundraising.
James has published research in more than 40 different peer-reviewed scientific journals and has been quoted on charitable and financial issues in a variety of news sources including The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, ABC News, US News & World Report, USA Today, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and his financial neuroimaging research was profiled in The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine.
Dennis Koerner – PhD, Technical Advisor
Dennis Korner is an expert on cognitive data and business performance metrics using artificial intelligence. He works with Sharpe Group clients to collect and analyze donor data to help gift planners gain more insight into their donors and hone their communications and fundraising strategies. Her has served as chief operating officer of ACH Foods, an international food and chemical company and as vice president of research and development at Kraft Foods.
Dennis has a Bachelor of Science and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Memphis in the Herff College of Engineering and as chairman of the Assessment Standards Institute and on a number of other corporate and community boards.
Kathy Sperlak – JD, Tax Attorney, Technical Advisor
Kathy Sperlak, JD, earned her BS in Journalism from Northern Illinois University and her JD and LLM (taxation) from The John Marshall Law School. Kathy is a member of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, the PPP Leadership Institute and the Suburban Chicago Planned Giving Council. She is a member of the DuPage County Estate Planning Council and serves on the planned giving advisory council of the Chicago Zoological Society (Brookfield Zoo).