Melanie Ulle is a Denverite, a philanthropist, a wildly talented writer and an overall force when it comes to supporting people and organizations she’s passionate about. She’s the CEO and Founder of Philanthropy Expert, but she manages to find time to write for us each month. You’ve seen her name associated with our monthly Making A Difference article, so this introduction is long overdue.
Having grown up in Wash Park, can you offer our readers a snapshot of what life was like here four decades ago?
What I really loved about the Wash Park of old was that it was heartily and truly middle-class. It was a neighborhood where Denverites were working hard and achieving the American dream.
There was a really beautiful mix of young families and aging adults. It was a place with doll house stores and indoor race tracks for miniature cars. Just weird funky shops not targeting any particular financial demographic. It was so far from elitist or hipster and that was delightful. Obviously, my heart lives in that park and always will, but it’s changed so much!
We met you in 2017 when you first opened Women In Kind. Tell us a bit about your professional background paving the way for female entrepreneurs in Colorado.
Women in Kind was a really special place for women to work together and gather and was (unsurprisingly) in many ways a reaction to the 2016 election. We hosted women in every phase of their adult lives and had weddings, funerals and campaign launches! I’m proud of it, but pleased that it ran its course.
How did Philanthropy Expert come to fruition and how can our readers help you support local nonprofit organizations?
We started in 2012 as a solution for both nonprofits and funders seeking to give and receive money smarter and better. I could never have imagined how much we would grow over 12 years. It’s been a beautiful wild ride. Your readers can always check our site, join our newsletter and get monthly highlights of awesome organizations serving our state.
If readers want to get involved with organizations as volunteers in Wash Park, I hope they would consider A Little Help, a group that uses local volunteers to keep older residents in their homes. I firmly believe that age diversity makes a neighborhood and grows better children. When older adults leave, history and knowledge leaves and that is a tragedy in my opinion.
We’ve been so lucky to have you write our monthly “Making A Difference” article each month. Can you tell us about any other writing projects you might have in the works at the moment?
Funny you should ask! I started a novel last December 26, (yes, I recall the day) about the next Dalai Lama being reincarnated as just a regular dude from Cleveland. It’s been a joy to write. I’m currently rewriting the entire thing from a different point of view, which is fun and challenging. My neighbor’s dad told me recently that anyone can start a novel, but only winners finish and that was a gut punch and a great motivator to finish soon. I don’t want to not win!
What is spinning on your record player?
Oh my gosh, why, oh why, don’t I own a record player? I spend a lot of time listening to contemporary mariachi, like Mariachi El Bronx, but my old reliable favorites are ELO, Gerry Rafferty, and Supertramp. Clearly, I am firmly a child of the 70’s.
Aside from your family and pets, what are three things you’d save in a fire?
I have a photograph taken by Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot that I might grab and probably the paintings of my great, great grandparents from Europe and definitely a ring my husband bought me in India and presented to me on my 31st birthday on the Great Barrier Reef.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I like starting things. I’ve started half a dozen companies with and without partners. I don’t think I’m done starting stuff. I’m selling this company to my business partner over the next few years, but I’m too entrepreneurial to not come up with some new tricks.
In the short term, I hope to train more fundraisers through our PE Fundraising Academy. I have learned so much from all my mistakes as a fundraiser and I’d love to share that knowledge with others so they can do better!
On the philanthropic advising side of our business, I’d like to move more money to organizations that are being entrepreneurial, trying new things and building earned income models. I want to incentivize taking risks that may have generational payoffs!
Thank you, Mel. You serve as a monthly inspiration and we hope to be like you when we grow up. Visit philanthropyexpert.org for more information about fundraising success with compassion, nonprofits and foundations you can support.