A distinguished fundraising authority, Bob Pierpont has enabled many of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations to achieve milestone successes.  For seventeen years before joining Skystone Partners, he was a senior partner and chairman of Pierpont & Wilkerson Ltd., based in New York.  His client service activities include capital campaign management, directing major gift programs, conducting fundraising assessments and studies, constituency building and board development.  Earlier in his career he also served as vice president for development at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and at Widener University in Pennsylvania, his alma mater.  An active and influential volunteer in professional development circles, Mr. Pierpont is former chair of the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation for Philanthropy, chaired AFP’s ethics committee and the professional certification board.  In honor of his contributions to the field of philanthropy, Mr. Pierpont is one of only nine individuals to receive the Association of Fundraising Professionals Founder’s Medallion.  A 1970 graduate of Harvard's Institute for Educational Management, for more than ten years he served on the faculty of The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy, where he co-wrote the three day capital campaign course.  Contact Bob at 800.883.0801 or via email at

Liz Knuppel’s expertise includes major donor, foundation and corporate giving, and development and strategic planning.  Before joining Skystone Partners, Ms. Knuppel held executive level positions with Starling Project Foundation and Women Helping Women.  As executive director with the Starling Project Foundation, Ms. Knuppel oversaw international programs that served over 18,000 individuals worldwide to promote artistic excellence and musical pedagogy.  Her service to nonprofit organizations includes Saint Louis Zoo, Knoxville Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cleveland Zoological Society, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Zeta, TMS Foundation and Soroptimist International of the Americas.  

She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and actively volunteers for the Women's Committee of the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.  A former board member of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Ms. Knuppel continues as an active member of the association and served as a founding membrer of Cincinnati Chapter's Ethics Committee.  Liz currently sits on the AFP International Publishing Advisory Committee, is a member of Leadership Cincinnati Class 39, and in 2015 was named the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce WE Celebrate Woman of the Year Entrepreneur.  Contact Liz at 800.883.0801 or via email at

​​​The Leadership Team

Robert Pierpont

Senior Partner

a team approach

Because sound judgment, experience and expertise are the most important contributions of professional counsel, it is the firm’s policy to assign senior staff members (with an average of more than 15 years of experience in the development field) to every project.  Members of Skystone Partners work as teams.  Each consulting engagement is directed by a lead consultant, and other consultants will be involved in its various aspects.  

Elizabeth Kohler Knuppel

President & CEO


​​Julie Bergantino
Senior Consultant

Julie Bergantino is a development professional with more than 15 years of experience with arts and cultural organizations.  Julie’s wide-ranging roles include strategic leadership and virtually all aspects of management and execution of annual campaigns, major gifts, direct mail marketing, donor cultivation, event planning, young professional engagement, and data systems implementation for cultural attractions and other types of nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining Skystone Partners, Julie spent more than 12 years as an integral member of the Cincinnati Opera’s development team and served as Campaign Manager for Cincinnati Opera’s $20 million New Century Campaign. She oversaw all aspects of the campaign, including volunteer orientation and engagement, prospect research and solicitation, timeline and budget tracking and accountability, brand positioning, donor focus groups, and message development. Julie is a graduate of Kenyon College where she studied Psychology and Mandarin. She was a member of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s C-Change class of 2007. She also serves on the development committee for the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.  

Karen Bledsoe
Senior Consultant​​

Karen Bledsoe has more than 15 years of fundraising experience working with various nonprofits.  Karen's expertise is in a wide range of fundraising activities including directing campaigns, database management, sponsorship and corporate giving programs, event management, volunteer recruitment and management, board and donor relations/stewardship.  Prior to joining Skystone Partners, Ms. Bledsoe held development positions as Director of Sponsorship & Corporate Giving for Victoria Theatre Association and as Director of Development for Planned Parenthood SW Ohio.  Karen also has more than 10 years of media and marketing experience and has held positions with Cox Media Group Ohio as National Account Executive and as Advertising Director for the Dayton Business Journal.  She has served as a board member for WYSO Public Radio, Antioch Writer's Workshop, and as a volunteer for various nonprofit fundraising committees.  

Jack Darrah
Senior Consultant

Jack has been leading successful fundraising programs for over 35 years.  While still in college, he directed his first campaign when he led alumni brothers in a project to improve the fraternity house.  Throughout his career, Jack has served as a member of senior management and as chief development officer with organizations such as the Boy Scouts; Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital; Samaritan Health Foundation in Dayton, Ohio; Missouri Baptist Health Foundation; Westmorland Health Systems; and Detroit Medical Center, with primary responsibilities for Grace and Huron Valley-Sinai Hospitals, including the Wayne State University School of Medicine Family Medicine Residency and community outreach programs.  During his time with Detroit Medical Center, it was one of the top 125 fundraising organizations in the country per the Philanthropic 400.  Jack served as Vice President of Philanthropy for Memorial Health in Savannah and Hamot Health Foundation in Erie.  An Ohio University alumnus, and past chair for the Michigan and Ohio State Associations for Healthcare Philanthropy and volunteer Scout leader, Jack’s personal goal is to help nonprofits secure their futures through assisting them to establish and maintain sustainable fundraising programs. 

Margaret DeMichelis

Senior Grants Consultant

Margaret is experienced in leading client organizations in developing successful fundraising strategies, crafting and managing action plans, and building partnerships with funders.  Through collaborative team leadership, strategic goal setting, trusting donor relationships, and compelling written materials, Mary is responsible for successfully raising more than $60,000,000 for nonprofit operations, programs, scholarships, endowments and capital projects.  Margaret believes that telling your story is the key to successful grant applications that win 6- and 7- figure grant awards.  She is practiced in helping clients articulate and celebrate the unique aspects of their work; identify and establish positive relationships with high potential grant-makers; author compelling application narrative; develop financial reports and other supporting materials, manage reporting and follow-up activities; and continually steward and deepen funding partnerships.  A seasoned grantsmanship coach with a background in grant review, Margaret assists clients in developing successful grant fundraising programs from the grant maker's perspective as well.

Blanche B. Gaynor
Technical Writer

Blanche Gaynor has over 30 years experience in administration. She has coordinated and assisted in the development of fundraising planning studies; campaign, annual fund and planned giving plans; solicitation and volunteer guidelines; and executive search.  Mrs. Gaynor joined the firm after serving as a coordinator of subscriber education programs for a health insurance company and manager of administrative services for another consulting firm in the Greater Cincinnati area. She earned her Bachelor's of Business Administration degree from Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky.  Her volunteer activities include serving on the Transportation and Infrastructure and Women’s Initiative Committees of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, as an eWomenNetwork Cincinnati chapter advisory board member, and supports local Special Olympics events.  Additionally, she is a contributing author of the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky. 

Carla Goring-Madden
Senior Consultant

Carla Goring-Madden has fifteen years experience in fundraising with expertise in donor research, information/database management, donor relations/stewardship, and communications/marketing.  She has identified major gift prospects and devised cultivation strategies for multi-million dollar gifts to capital campaigns, annual funds, and new fundraising initiatives.  One new prospect identified by Ms. Goring-Madden subsequently contributed a $60 million lead gift and enabled the recipient institution to expand its capital campaign goal.  In addition, she has designed and implemented information systems to track solicitations and report on campaign progress, enhancing efficiency and productivity of development operations.  Ms. Goring-Madden has worked for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Trinity College, and Georgia State University, where she received her bachelor’s degree. 

Kay Marsh Green
Senior Consultant

Kay Green has over 40 years of experience working with nonprofits and associations. Ms. Green has previously served as CEO of PATH International, ED of Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship and institutional development officer of a variety of nonprofits including Hood College and Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.  Kay has been a fundraising consultant for 25 years working with museums, hospitals, colleges, private schools and trade associations providing consulting in all aspect of fundraising.  She is a frequent speaker and trainer for organizations on numerous nonprofit topics and her writings on fundraising have appeared in professional publications.  Ms. Green has been active in AFP for 35 years, is past president of the Dallas chapter, past Board member of AFP and past member of the national Board of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy. 

Robert W. Grove
Senior Design Strategist

Bob Grove has designed and produced a variety of fundraising support materials for Skystone Partners clients.  He is experienced in developing comprehensive campaign branding programs which include designing a distinctive visual identity for the campaign and implementing it in every item produced to support the campaign strategy.  Over the quarter of a century that he has been affiliated with the firm, Mr. Grove has created materials used in fundraising programs by numerous associations and foundations, civic, cultural and community organizations, religious organizations, educational institutions, health agencies and hospitals, and social service organizations.  He brings over 30 years of experience in design, including assignments with a number of Fortune 500 companies, to his work with nonprofit organizations.  Mr. Grove holds a bachelor of science degree in design from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning. 

Mary Hackett

Data Analyst

​In her years of fundraising for local, regional, national, and political organizations, Mary has honed her annual major and campaign strategy skills by working with a multitude of organizations specializing in advocacy, improving the lives of children, ballot initiatives, and community health care.  In addition, she has utlized her database and analytical skills to drive strategic and impactful outcomes for acquiring, retaining, and upgrading donors of all giving levels.  Mary has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Dayton and a Masters Degree from Gonzaga University.  

Melanie Hoffman
Senior Consultant

Melanie Hoffman has served as a senior development officer and a successful fundraising consultant for over 30 years.  Her experience spans the fields of higher education, academic medicine, the arts, and the environment.  Ms. Hoffman's strengths include capital campaign planning and management, board development and governance, major gifts strategy development, annual giving programs, strategic planning, and interim development program management.  She has successfully directed major fundraising programs and campaigns at such leading organizations as Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the National Audubon Society. As a consultant, her clients have included Penn State University, the University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, the Saint Louis Zoo, Ocean Conservancy in Washington, DC, and the Hartford Stage Theatre in Connecticut.  

Jennifer V. Howard
Senior Consultant

Jennifer Howard came to Skystone Partners after working at Fontbonne College, the Combined Health Appeal of Greater St. Louis and in a volunteer capacity for the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association.  As a respectful fundraising consultant, Ms. Howard has served numerous clients through the management of feasibility studies, development assessments, annual fund programs and direction of capital campaigns.  Ms. Howard has had significant experience in working with nonprofit organizations that are embarking upon their first capital campaign as well as those seeking to enhance their annual giving program through the launching of a major gifts initiative.  She has also worked extensively in the area of staff training and recruitment, prospect research and volunteer coordination.  In addition to her consulting assignments, she is currently an executive committee member of Gateway Greening.  Ms. Howard graduated cum laude from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. 

John W. Kerber
Senior Consultant

Jack Kerber has served a broad range of nonprofit organizations in his professional career, including the planning and management of capital campaigns and feasibility studies for youth, cultural, education, health and social service organizations.  He is highly regarded for his ability to develop a creative approach to developing planned and annual gift programs, grant writing, membership development and endowment programs.  Mr. Kerber was the director of Civic Affairs & Development for the Muny in St. Louis for over ten years before joining Skystone Partners.  Mr. Kerber is a frequent speaker and instructor in development seminars, with a strong background in corporate strategies, Board development and marketing for nonprofit organizations.  He is past president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) St. Louis chapter and holds a bachelor of science degree in political science from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Sarah (Sally) Leyman
Director of Business Development & Consulting

Before becoming a Skystone Partners’ consultant, Sally served as a Trustee on The Seven Hills School Board where she chaired the Development Committee and served on the Trusteeship and Marketing Committees.  Sally currently serves on numerous Boards, including the Cincinnati Zoo Foundation Board, Athletes for a Better World in Atlanta, Harbor Point Association Board in Harbor Springs, Michigan and the Cincinnati Squash Advisory Board.  Sally has served Board positions for The Cincinnati Opera Guild, Kee-Way-Din Ski Club, Barrett Center Think Pink Lunch, and Greater Cincinnati Paddle Tennis Association. 

Anne Ward Stern
Senior Consultant

Anne Ward Stern has over 30 years of experience in fundraising, with expertise in major gifts, capital campaigns and planned giving.  She served for 14 years as Director of Development at The Summit Country Day School, where she successfully exceeded a $20 million capital goal.  Anne was also Director of Development of Oak Knoll School in Summit, New Jersey for 10 years.  Anne has served on boards of professional fundraising organizations and has volunteered in fundraising for arts, education and social service institutions.  She has been a presenter at national and local conferences.  Anne received her bachelor of arts in drama from Sweet Briar College and her masters of education in theatre from the University of Virginia.  She taught theatre, French and English on the secondary level for 10 years.  

Candice Terrell
Marketing & Communications Consultant

Candice has more than 10 years of experience leading comprehensive, strategic, marketing and communications initiatives and campaigns, integrating and utilizing digital, social and mobile strategies alongside traditional marketing techniques. She most recently led the University of Cincinnati Foundation’s marketing and communications team, where she was responsible for all marketing, branding, public relations, media relations, web, mobile and social media efforts. Candice is skilled in developing and executing strategic messaging and plans, and with aligning marketing efforts with organizational goals. She specializes in increasing constituent engagement and developing engaging, persuasive communications to cultivate private support. She is accustomed to working collaboratively with non-profit teams and executive leadership, providing strategic oversight and direction, streamlining workflows and maximizing marketing budgets. Candice also has extensive media relations and PR expertise, as she worked at WCPO Channel 9 in a variety of roles prior to her 8 years at UC. 

L. Christine Visnich
Senior Consultant

Christine Visnich has over 25 years of professional experience in executive search, executive coaching and due diligence, personnel assessment and human resource related consulting.  Her executive search background covers a broad range of senior executive functional areas and numerous businesses and nonprofits. For thirteen years, she was a senior consultant at Bason Associates, an executive search firm, serving as its vice president for four years.  Her prior experience includes ten years with another executive search firm and two years as an independent consultant.  Ms. Visnich has gained extensive experience recruiting and evaluating senior executives for nonprofit organizations, health care institutions, manufacturing, financial, and professional services agencies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies.  She is a graduate of Muskingum College and is recognized in “Key Women in Retained Executive Search.”  She is a past chapter president of the National Human Resources Association.  

​Alan Yaffe
Senior Consultant

Alan's career spans over three decades as a senior executive, consultant and MBA faculty in arts administration. He has served as Director of Marketing at the Pittsburgh Symphony and Managing Director of Shakespeare & Company, led the MBA/MA Program in Arts Administration at the University of Cincinnati and consulted with such organizations as the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Tennessee Center for the Performing Arts, Enertex Marketing and The Gallup Organization.  His strategic planning projects include work with such local organizations the May Festival, Contemporary Dance Theatre, Visionary & Voices, concert: nova and Catacoustic Consort, 

Most recently, Alan has worked with the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and the Brown University Arts Literacy Project in evaluating and planning their joint arts education programming.  He continues to lecture on arts management in the United States and Europe, including the Audencia School of International Management (Paris) and the University of Economics (Prague) in 2016-17.