Sharpe 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.

joe chickey

Joe Chickey | MBA, CFP®


Joe brings more than 30 years of experience in the charitable arena, with a focus on gift planning to Sharpe Group. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, 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

Kristin Croone | JD


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 Vanderbilt University and the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. 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.

julie schuldner

Julie Schuldner | MBA, CFRE


Julie has always had a passion for the nonprofit community, involving herself in volunteering, teaching and community outreach for nonprofits throughout her career. Before joining Sharpe Group, she served as the executive director of the Fellowship Foundation, where she helped to build and sustain an industry-standard Life Plan Community (LPC)-based fundraising program as a senior leadership team member. Other roles in nonprofit leadership included serving as vice president of development and communications for Alzheimer’s New Jersey and executive director of Family Promise of Sussex County. Most recently, Julie earned certification as a CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive). Julie graduated from Seton Hall University with a history degree and Temple University with an MBA in health administration. Before relocating to North Carolina from New Jersey, Julie served as a board member for Family Promise of Sussex County, member of the Nonprofit Advisory Board for Sobel Co. and as chair of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce Not-for-Profit Roundtable. Julie resides in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband and two sons.

matt czyl

Matt Czyl


Matt brings more than 30 years of development, consulting and marketing experience to Sharpe Group. His experience is very diverse, covering many different industries and disciplines. Matt is also highly active in service, volunteering for different organizations and leading a justice ministry for his church. He is very excited to bring his skills and successes to nonprofit organizations and foundations to help them achieve their fundraising goals and ensure their sustained success. Matt has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also earned an Evans Scholarship caddying on the south side of Chicago. While he values his education highly, he feels he learned more about service and people caddying for 11 years! Matt looks forward to marrying his experience and personal passion for service and bringing it to nonprofits and foundations.

bob mims

Bob Mims | CPA, CGMA


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.

Additional Consulting Resources

russell james

Russell James | JD, PhD, CFP®


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

Dennis Koerner | PhD


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

Kathy Sperlak | JD


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).