Fairmount InSights
Adela Smith

We’re back with another edition of ‘Get to Know Fairmount Ventures’, a series of short Q+A’s with our team members, showcasing the many passions and personalities behind our firm.

Lauren Zimmerman, Fairmount Ventures

Lauren Zimmerman, Project Manager, uses her experience in writing, marketing and strategic planning to help Fairmount’s clients craft careful messaging and branding for their organizations. Lauren holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from Boston University, where she studied a number of languages including Turkish, Portuguese, French and Kazakh.

FV: You began as an Associate at Fairmount, and now you’re a Project Manager—tell us about how your role has evolved over these past few years.

LZ: My role as an Associate was initially very research-intensive. I researched the giving levels and priorities of foundations for resource development and strategic plans and conducted various needs assessments to help us clearly identify the problems we work to address for our clients. As I transitioned to a Senior Associate and, later, Project Manager, I began managing timelines, tasks, and staff, and contributing to strategy. The greatest difference between my starting role and my current role is my level of responsibility and visibility towards the client and the team. Above all else, Fairmount has really helped me build up the skills to analyze my research and to develop strategy from it.

FV: What does a typical day look like for you?

LZ: One of my favorite things about working at Fairmount is that no two days are the same. The variety of clients, their different sizes and unique scopes means that I do something different every day. Some days I work on six or seven projects, spending fewer than 30 minutes on each. Other days, I’ll focus on one client for six hours.

My days are truly a mix—I manage timelines and work plans, review work from Associates and edits from my client leads, produce original writing, help with internal brainstorming sessions, develop strategy and attend client meetings.

FV: You majored in linguistics at Boston University, and you’ve described your fascination with the nuances of language—how do you apply this intrigue to your work with Fairmount’s diverse set of clients?

LZ: I love listening to the specific words that people use to describe their organizations and visions, and in fundraising, this is especially important because their word choice tells you a lot about their priorities and passions. No two people describe the same organization in the same way, so spending time focusing on how they talk about their work really helps us learn what’s most important to them.

When writing client materials, I’ve found that it’s natural to describe complex ideas in significant detail, but at Fairmount we focus on using language as efficiently and effectively as possible. As a result, I often have to go back to my proposals and cut a lot of my language out because I know that I can be more efficient in my writing.

FV: What’s one of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on so far?

LZ: The intricate and complex projects are always the most memorable for me. Specifically, the Promise Zone Strategic Plan and the subsequent Promise Neighborhoods application stand out. In one of the most hands-on projects I’ve done here, the Promise Zone project brought Fairmount into this federally-designated West Philly community to facilitate conversations with community members and policy makers around increasing opportunity for residents. The plan and the leadership teams that were created through that process became critical to pursuing additional funding (including the recent $30 million Promise Neighborhood grant) and other plans in the community. Attending the announcement of the Promise Neighborhood award was one of my proudest moments.

Also, I live in West Philly, and I loved getting to know community leaders and history, as well as unique characteristics of each neighborhood.

FV: What are some of your favorite things about the city?

LZ: This is a great city for beer—I’m a huge beer nerd. Philly has long been a city with access to great beer from across country, but since I’ve been here, there’s been a real renaissance in local beer, too. I also love that Philly is a city of neighborhoods and that every neighborhood can feel like a different city.

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