The team behind your team.
Bottom line, we “get" grants: we understand the grant seeking process, how to interpret the grant making patterns of funders, and what grant seekers can do to tip the odds of getting a grant in their favor.
We partner with organizations as their trusted advisors to identify funders, recommend grant strategies, write compelling proposals, and make long-term gains.
Grants Plus is a professional grant seeking firm with staff located across Ohio, from Cleveland to Cincinnati. The company has received the Weatherhead 100 Upstart Award for five consecutive years, a 2014 Inside Business Northeast Ohio Success Award, a 2016 Smart Business: Progressive Organization Award, and a 2016 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award from the American Psychological Association.
We practice multiple ways of giving back, from sponsoring company-wide volunteer days, to adopting a cause at the holidays, to growing a philanthropic fund at The Cleveland Foundation to support nonprofits.
Combined, our team brings hundreds of years' experience in the nonprofit sector. We have walked in our clients' shoes as executive directors, development directors, foundation officers, and grant writers.
Grants Plus is a proud member of The Giving Institute, which consists of member organizations that have embraced and embodied the core values of ethics, excellence and leadership in advancing philanthropy.
Lauren Steiner, JD
Lauren worked as a filmmaker, attorney, college instructor, and nonprofit development executive before founding Grants Plus in 2007 to help more worthy causes raise more funds. Because of Lauren’s leadership, Grants Plus employs twenty staff across Ohio, almost all women, and has secured more than $150 million in grant funding for nonprofit organizations.
In 2017, Lauren was honored as Outstanding Fundraising Professional by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Greater Cleveland. Grants Plus has received the Weatherhead 100 Upstart Award for six consecutive years, a 2016 Smart Women "Progressive Organization" Award from Smart Business, a 2014 Inside Business Northeast Ohio Success Award, a 2016 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award from the American Psychological Association, and was featured as a 2019 Notable Woman in Entrepreneurship by Crain's Cleveland Business. Grants Plus is a member of The Giving Institute, the prestigious body that produces the annual Giving USA Report.
Lauren is past president of the Grant Professionals Association Ohio–Northern Chapter as well as an active member and former board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Cleveland Chapter. She is an alumna of Cleveland Bridge Builders and was named one of the “Top 25 Under 35” in 2007 by Inside Business Magazine. To fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a puppy washer, she volunteers at Love-A-Stray dog shelter where she walks dogs and cleans cages. Lauren holds a BS in Telecommunications from Ohio University and a JD from Cleveland State University, Cleveland Marshall College of Law, where she remains active in the Alumni Association.
Sarah has great experience with nonprofit donor strategy building, donor database management, event management and administration, grant writing, brand management, and marketing.
Before joining the Grants Plus team, Sarah served as the Development Director of Greater Cleveland Youth For Christ. She worked to further the organization’s brand and developed specific strategies and processes to further relationships with current and potential partners. A proponent for personal growth, Sarah carves out time to read every day and always welcomes a recommendation for her next selection. Sarah also volunteers with various organizations, helping develop strategies for marketing and fundraising events. Sarah holds a BSE from Bowling Green State University.
Dana has been a leader in major gifts philanthropy, grant seeking, fund development strategy, marketing and writing, and business development for non-profit and for-profit organizations across the country.
As Managing Director at Grants Plus, Dana propels the company’s vision to help nonprofit organizations around Ohio and across the country to be more confident and successful at getting grants. She develops the firm’s internal capacity and external reach to influence and impact the nonprofit sector.
Dana cut her teeth in fund development as Grants Coordinator for a youth-serving organization in Oakland, California. She then crossed the San Francisco Bay into other areas of fundraising, serving as Director of Major Gifts for the ACLU of Northern California and Associate Director of Development for NARAL Pro-Choice California. While in California she contributed leadership to multiple statewide ballot initiative campaigns and policy initiatives, raising millions of dollars to help reform the state’s criminal justice system. Her greatest West Coast fundraising adventures included a lunch date with MC Hammer and hitchhiking to a last-minute meeting with the CEO of YouTube. She returned to her hometown of Cleveland in 2012 to lead a $1 million tribute campaign for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and then joined the team at Grants Plus, first serving as a grant writing consultant and eventually leading the company as part of its executive team.
She is grateful every day that she puts to use her skills in writing and communications that she honed while completing her B.A. With Distinction at The Ohio State University. Dana has been a member of the City of Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board, the Development Committee Chair for FrontLine Service, an officer of the Development Executives Roundtable in San Francisco, and a founding Board member of Good Ol' Girls, a professional networking group for women in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Matt's experience includes grant development, corporate giving, individual fundraising, government relations, policy analysis, and project management for a variety of policy, social service, and cultural organizations.
Before coming to Grants Plus, Matt served as Associate Director of Development, Foundations and Grants, at the Western Reserve Historical Society, and as Director of Development at New Life Community (now Family Promise of Greater Cleveland). He has been published in journals in the US and Europe, and co-authored the book, Seen But Not Heard: Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy. Matt serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Cleveland Chapter. He holds a BA in Political Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Gail Dancy Heim
Gail's experience includes nonprofit development in healthcare, human services, education, and the arts.
As a grant writer, Gail has helped raise millions of dollars from foundations, corporations, individuals, and government agencies to support Northeast Ohio’s nonprofit community. Prior to joining Grants Plus, Gail managed proposal development for United Way of Greater Cleveland and Cleveland Clinic, and she gained extensive arts management experience working with two Cleveland-area orchestras. A native New Englander, Gail holds a Bachelor of Music from the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford and a Master of Arts from New York University.
Kelly has over 20 years of accounting and business experience working with companies in both the public and private sectors. She consults with businesses regarding financial reporting, budgeting, human resources, and insurance. Kelly has been working with Grants Plus since 2010. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from Miami University and is also a CPA (inactive).
Emily's experience includes nonprofit development communications, annual fund planning, grant writing, grant making, event administration, and donor database management.
Before joining Grants Plus, she spent five years as the Development and Communications Manager for Positive Education Program in Cleveland. She also worked in grant making and fundraising at Cleveland Browns Foundation. Emily holds a BA in Business Administration from Baldwin-Wallace College.
Kari Elsila, MNO
Kari is a skilled writer and editor who brings passion for the nonprofit sector and excels at crafting compelling cases for support.
Prior to joining Grants Plus, she held positions in foundation relations and grants management at Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Earlier in her career, she worked at a Cleveland-area family foundation, which gave her valuable insight into the grantmaking process. Kari holds a BA from the University of Michigan in Social Science and a Master of Nonprofit Organizations degree from Case Western Reserve University.
Kari Mirkin, MNO
Kari has vast experience in the nonprofit sector, most recently at the Foundation Center-Cleveland and through her local and national leadership roles with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN).
She's also a contributing blogger for Idealist Careers. Kari received her MNO from Case Western Reserve University and holds a BA in History and German from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She's loved writing for as long as she can remember, and enjoys helping nonprofits share their stories with the community.
Laura is an experienced grant writer, researcher, and program and project manager.
Prior to joining grants plus, Laura was the Manager of Research and Grant Development at Case Western Reserve University's College of Arts and Sciences where she advised faculty on crafting compelling proposals to support their scholarly work. Previously, she worked with the Great Lakes Energy Institute where she prepared large proposals for projects aimed at fostering a cleaner and more efficient energy future. During that time she was featured in Crain’s Cleveland Business’ 20 in their 20s for her commitment to nonprofit work in Northeast Ohio. An alumna of the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Laura also led client outreach initiatives with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Kent State University.
Shannon is experienced in research, grant writing, and project management.
Prior to joining Grants Plus, she most recently served as Foundation Relations Manager of the West Side Catholic Center in Cleveland, Ohio where she managed the grants process and stewarded relationships with family, community, and corporate foundations. Previously, she served as a Grant Writer and Human Resources Coordinator for Boys & Girls Clubs in the Boston and Orlando areas. She is passionate about racial and gender equity, cooking, and genre films. Shannon holds a BA in English from Baldwin Wallace University.
Cari comes to Grants Plus with a wealth of experience in nonprofit donor strategy and communications, grant writing and management, donor database management, annual fund planning, and managing the development office.
Before joining Grants Plus, Cari led the development department for eight years at Trinity River Mission (TRM), a nonprofit afterschool organization in Dallas, Texas – most recently as Director of Grants and Donor Strategies. Her past experience at TRM and with YWCA Greater Cleveland, Hard Hatted Women, and The Institute on Women in Columbus have given her a deep understanding of the complex challenges and realities nonprofits face. Cari has raised millions of dollars by managing the grants process, stewarding relationships with foundation, corporate, and individual funders, and producing metrics-driven results that prioritize and value the power of connection and storytelling. Cari is passionate about education, racial and gender equity, theater, and environmental sustainability. She holds a BA in Theater, International Studies, and French from Baldwin-Wallace University.
Jonathan is a graduate of John Carroll University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management.
During his time at John Carroll, Jonathan was able to learn the ins and outs of nonprofit development at The Gathering Place, an organization supporting individuals and families through the cancer journey. This opportunity led to his work on several special events, one of which was The Republican National Convention that was hosted in Cleveland. These experiences sparked his passion for working in the Cleveland nonprofit sector and his role as a Grants Accountant, and later Program Specialist, at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. During his time at CWRU, Jonathan produced grant proposals and oversaw a portfolio of assigned contract and grant funds. Jonathan is a huge Cleveland fan and enjoys all that the city has to offer.
Tracy is an experienced grant researcher and writer.
Prior to joining the Grants Plus team, Tracy served as Manager of Foundation Relations and Grant Writer for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. She has also worked in development for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland and Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland. Tracy holds a BA in Communications and a MA in Nonprofit Administration from John Carroll University.
Kerry's experience includes grant writing, fundraising, communications, and program development.
Prior to joining Grants Plus, Kerry served as the Director of Communications and Foundation Relations at OhioGuidestone, leading a team of marketing and grant writing professionals. During her time with OhioGuidestone, Kerry raised millions of dollars from foundations and government agencies. She has extensive experience researching, developing, and writing award-winning proposals and responses to RFPs, including multiple contracts from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Kerry holds an MA in Nonprofit Administration from John Carroll University.
Wendy Lefko Messeloff
Wendy is a journalist by training, with years of experience as a writer in a variety of professional capacities.
She has worked in corporate communications for MTV Networks; nonprofit research and analysis for the Anti-Defamation League's National Civil Rights Information Center; domestic policy advocacy and government relations for Hadassah; and fundraising and grant writing, as the Director of Grants Development for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and, most recently, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. As a grant writer, Wendy has raised funds for seven-figure capital projects, small community-based programs, and a range of human, social, cultural and educational services in the GreaterCleveland area. She earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Kristi's experience includes arts administration, specializing in grant writing, impact measurement, and grants management. She has a proven track record of success from foundation, corporate, and grant funders at the local, regional, state, and national levels.
Prior to joining Grants Plus, Kristi served as the grants manager for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Development Manager for the Taft Museum of Art, and held multiple positions for the Freed Center for the Performing Arts. Kristi holds a Bachelor of Music from Ohio Northern University with dual majors in Voice Performance and Professional and Organizational Communication. She received her MBA from the University of Cincinnati's (UC) Lindner School of Business and MA in Arts Administration from UC's College-Conservatory of Music.
Jessica brings experience in grant writing, corporate giving, event planning, donor cultivation, and executive leadership.
Formerly Vice President of Fund Development and Community Relations at Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired and Development Representative at the American Cancer Society, Jessica has raised millions of dollars in support of health and human service organizations in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. She has served on the Board of Directors and Diversity Committee for the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Cincinnati Chapter and volunteers for the Northern Kentucky Children’s Advocacy Center. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Kentucky.
Stella’s fundraising experience includes grant writing, program development, and project and relationship management for organizations specializing in human services, education, and the arts.
She has served as Senior Grant Writer at the Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) Cleveland, Corporate & Foundation Relations Manager for Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, and Grants Manager at the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning. Before becoming a fundraiser, Stella was a faculty member of the English Department at Cleveland State University. Her research and writing focused on literature of the late medieval period, and she taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses. Stella holds a BA in English (Creative Writing Concentration) from Barnard College and a PHD from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a LEGO master-builder.
Abby has experience working for and with non-profit organizations in the historic preservation and museum fields. She spent her early career working and interning at some of the country’s most prominent history institutions and learning from practitioners in the field of public history.
Before coming to Grants Plus, she managed grant writing and reporting for the Cleveland History Center, a museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Abby is a strong collaborator with experience writing proposals to private and community foundations, as well as government funders such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. She enjoys helping organizations understand how their programs and missions align with the priorities of grant makers.
In addition to her work as a grant writer, Abby is a long-time member of the National Council on Public History. She applies her passion for creativity and personal growth in her yoga practice and exploring new places through travel. She holds a BA in history from John Carroll University and an MA in Public History from Indiana University.
Gina is a graduate of Ohio University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, with a focus in Organizational Communication & Marketing.
She began her career as an Advertising & Communication Coordinator for a Non-Profit Performing Arts Theater in Sandusky, OH, and moved to Lakewood in 2017 where she began her work as a Marketing & Communication Coordinator at a small corporation in Independence. Gina is well versed in the creating, designing, and delivering process of marketing and communication material. She joins Grants Plus with a passion to be a part of a creative work community and assisting in services that are beneficial to the community.
Lori is a graduate of John Carroll University and holds a degree in English and Communications.
She began her career as a Sales Associate at Cleveland Magazine, and then spent 10 years at Sherman & Company, a small capital equipment leasing corporation where she was responsible for bookkeeping, human resources, sales, marketing, and office management. She began working as an Executive Assistant in 2003, and joined Grants Plus in 2010. Lori has three children, and she is very active in the Westlake City School PTA Units, including past President of Lee Burneson Middle School PTA.
Jane is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in Business Administration.
She began her career at State Industrial Products, where she was assistant to the Controller, Tax Manager and CFO. She has additional experience in Retail Sales and Hospitality Management, where duties included overseeing staff, audit, office management and human resources. In 2003 she began working in office administration and she joined Grants Plus in 2010. Jane is the mother of three children, and she serves as the Auditor and Scholarship Chair of her schools’ PTA Units.