Member Spotlight: Natalie Coles

Natalie R. Coles

Area Development Director

UNCF (The United Negro College Fund)



Natalie (center) with two UNCF scholarship students.


Q:           Tell us a little about your organization. Mission? Population you serve? What do you like most about working there?   

A:           UNCF is the nation’s oldest scholarship organization. We have been in existence since 1944 and currently give more scholarships to students nationally than any other organization second only to the federal government. UNCF’s mission is to help minority and underrepresented students get to and through college. We accomplish this with a three tier strategy: we support 37 historically black colleges and universities, we support students with over 10,000 scholarships annually and we advocate with local and national stakeholders as to why our work is so important. Some of our most passionate supporters include Bill and Melinda Gates, Colin Powell and even the late great Michael Jackson who has an endowed scholarship in his name.

I love working at UNCF because I truly believe in our mission and am beyond proud of our legacy.  America is on track to be a minority majority country by 2020 and it is imperative that we educate our growing minority workforce so that we can compete globally as a nation. Being the first person to graduate from college in my family, I have seen first-hand the impact a college degree can have. I received assistance from UNCF to attend OSU and will be forever grateful for the support.


Q:           How long have you been an AFP member, and what has your involvement been?

A:           I have been a member of AFP since 2006. In that time I have served on the scholarship committee, participated as a mentee in the mentor program and led a course on marketing during the Fundraising Fundamentals seminar.


Q:           What do you consider the most valuable part of your AFP membership?

A:           I love the people at AFP. Although working in a small shop and covering a vast territory, (Ohio and Kentucky) makes it hard to get away for lunch sometimes, whenever I am available to join an education session I have a great time, I learn a lot and enjoy bouncing ideas off of my fellow fundraising peers.


Q:           How long have you been in fundraising, and how did you get into it?       

A:           I started fundraising at United Way of Central Ohio in 2005 under the leadership of Angel Towns and Janet Jackson. Before that I worked at The Girl Scouts and would watch then VP of Development Tammy Wharton (now their CEO) bring donors and guests through the organization. I was younger then, and had just left a high profile job in sales for a Fortune 500 company. I was fascinated that Tammy had the privilege of sharing all the good work happening at the organization with the community. I was immediately hooked on development and have been doing the work ever since. We are more fortunate than we realize sometimes.  We are the people who get the great honor of sharing the sacred stories of those we serve with others. We are a vessel for change and I feel blessed by that, nearly every day.


Q:           What is your favorite part about living/working in Columbus? Favorite Restaurant?

A:           Columbus is a great city full of innovation. We are a clean, caring community invested in big ideas. My favorite thing about Columbus is that we are family friendly and the traffic is easy to navigate. I try to travel often and am always happy to come home to Columbus.


Q:           Tell us a fun fact about you that other AFP members wouldn’t know.

A:           A fun fact is that before I moved to nonprofit work I worked in the music industry. I helped to launch amazing artists like Alicia Keys and Pink in the early part of 2000 but left when a little company called Napster started to change the way people purchased (or pirated) music. I saw the writing on the wall and left before the music business changed forever. That was an important lesson and taught me that I could trust my instinct.

Posted: February 2017