Berkshire School is pleased to announce that Shawn Ingram '85 has joined Kelly Price Noble ‘82 as Co-Chair of the DEI Alumni Council, replacing Rob Jacobs '04. Ingram has led the Advancement Committee within the Council for the last few years and is a member of the Regional Advisory Board which supports alumni engagement.
Professionally, Ingram has 30 years of experience as a fundraiser and nonprofit executive. He recently launched Relationship Strategies Group, a consulting firm dedicated to providing interim development leadership and fundraising consulting, utilizing community-centric practices. Over the course of his career, Ingram has held fundraising positions at Harvard University, American Repertory Theater, and La Jolla Playhouse, among many others, and provided interim fundraising services for Laguna Playhouse, Para Los Niños charter school in Los Angeles, and The Dallas Opera to name just a few. His practice incorporates DEI principles in every aspect of his work to ensure all voices are heard and to support the creation of more dynamic, diverse, and inclusive organizations.
Ingram is deeply invested in the LGBTQ+ community. He’s had leadership roles with The Trevor Project, The San Diego LGBT Community Center, and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). In addition, he has held positions as executive director of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and My Friends Place. He also serves on the board of Shanti Orange County. He is a graduate of Boston University and currently lives in Los Angeles with his partner, Alexander.
What led you to start your new consulting firm, Relationship Strategies Group
The change came from a desire to narrow the focus of my work life and to have more time and space for things other than work. I am a fundraiser and strategic relationship manager (thus the name of the firm) and am devoted to helping organizations build their relationships and revenue. Strategic work at that level takes a lot of energy, and I was feeling pulled away from this work in my previous role. So, in opening my own firm focused exclusively on fundraising consulting and interim management work, I can narrow my focus and spend more time focused on my family, my partner, and my volunteer work, and enjoy a mix of travel and homebody stuff.
What are some of the DEI Council's initiatives that you are most excited about as you begin your tenure as co-chair?
Given my affinity for relationship-building, it will be no surprise to learn that I think Community Engagement, Faculty/Staff Support, and Career Networking/Mentorship are among my favorites. DEI is about belonging. I subscribe to the acronym DEIAJB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access, Justice, Belonging). Belonging creates safety. And safety creates opportunities for growth. I see these committees creating space for many people to grow and thrive. I acknowledge that it’s very easy to say those things. It is much harder to put them into action. That takes time. I am very impressed with the alums who have signed up with their hearts and minds with the goal of creating change.
You are on the board of Shanti Orange County and have held leadership roles with The Trevor Project, the San Diego LGBT Community Center, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. What does it mean to you to be involved with these organizations?
Furthering the health and well-being of a community that has been historically marginalized and actively discriminated against has been some of the most important work of my career. While at Berkshire, the AIDS epidemic was gaining traction and during college at Boston University, I saw a lot of injustice and hatred legislated against LGBTQ+ folks by politicians and supported by religious figures, and much of the general population who bought into the rhetoric. It felt like a pretty helpless situation.
When I got the job at the LGBT Center in San Diego, I finally had a chance to have an impact. With that team, we built permanent supportive housing for queer youth who had lost their support networks. We raised money to refurbish a building to represent the pride, power, and progress of the LGBT+ community in San Diego. We lobbied for funding to provide mental health and HIV services in the community and built a Latino/a/x center to ensure equitable access, advocacy, and safety. Later I was able to raise money to build support networks for queer youth to prevent suicide and advocate for fair and equal representation for LGBTQ+ folks in the media. Now with my board service at Shanti, I’m an advocate for mental health, ensuring that LGBTQ+ and HIV+ folks get the services they need to overcome trauma and move forward in their lives. I’m extremely grateful that I have had a career that helps others while also representing my passion and values.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time under the Mountain?
I was big into theater and music, and my interests and talents were nourished at Berkshire by one of my mentors, Irene McDonald. I loved performing and was onstage a lot during my time at Berkshire. I loved the campus and loved reading, so between the time on stage, time outdoors, and time in the classroom, I look back on my time at Berkshire with fondness.
How has your time at Berkshire influenced your life today?
During my time at Berkshire, it was obvious to just about everyone that I was gay. And, not to negate my answer to the previous question, that made things complicated for me at times. However, that adversity helped me develop a very strong sense of self at Berkshire, for which I am extremely grateful. That assurance helped build my confidence as an athlete when I did not see myself as athletic (even though I ran track for three years), on the stage, and as a prefect. Once I got to college, I built upon that resilience to find time to volunteer for causes that were important to me: supporting the presentation of the AIDS Quilt in Boston, and later helping establish a resale store and delivering meals for AIDS Action Committee, among many other opportunities. My Berkshire experience informed my desire to volunteer which then informed my career in nonprofit management which was in part undertaken to help affect change in the world. I’ve been on that journey ever since.