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Huntington, NY 11743

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Fundraising Forum Speakers

AFPLI Thanks Our
2019 Fundraising Forum Speakers


Amanda Abraham has over 15 years of experience in the not-for-profit fundraising field, predominantly in small shops with one to five development team members.  Most recently, Amanda was the Assistant Director of the Annual Fund at Stony Brook University, and is currently the Director of Development at the Peconic Land Trust in Southampton, NY.  Her career has given her experience in all aspects of fundraising, including events, major gifts, planned giving, and annual funds.  She lives in Baiting Hollow with her husband Charles and their two children, who attend the Peconic Community School, where Amanda is part of the Board of Trustees and consults on fundraising efforts.


Jennifer B. Cona is the founder and managing partner of Genser Cona Elder Law.  Ms. Cona’s practice focuses on asset protection, Medicaid planning, estate planning, probate and estate administration, estate litigation, special needs planning and guardianships.  Ms. Cona also heads up the firm’s Health Care Reimbursement and Recovery practice group.  Under Ms. Cona’s guidance, the firm works to secure and ensure a payment source for long term health care, working together with both families and health care facilities to sustain quality care for older adults.

Ms. Cona is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation (“LIAF”) and serves on the board of the United Way of Long Island.  She is the founder and chair of the Advanced Elder Law Focus Group, an industry think-tank.  Ms. Cona is a New York State Certified Guardian, Court Evaluator and Counsel to incapacitated persons and is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (“NAELA”), the Elder Law and Trusts and Estates Sections of the New York State Bar Association, the Nassau County Bar Association, the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Estate Planning Council of Nassau County. 

For more than thirty years, Thad Henry has held executive leadership roles and provided consultative services to a broad array of universities and non-profit organizations.  Combining his leadership development skills, Thad is known for designing creative fundraising campaigns that optimize organizational growth and expand missional impact.  He has managed campaigns ranging from $1 million to $125 million at universities, colleges, food banks, independent schools, museums, art schools, historical museums, hospitals, social service organizations, faith-based organizations, and botanical gardens.   

Over the past two decades, Thad has been a faculty member at Columbia University’s (NY) Master of Fundraising Management program, and at University of New Haven’s Master of Business and Engineering Management programs on courses related to leadership development.    He is a certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach and has mentored many professionals in the non-profit, corporate and fundraising industries.   He has led numerous workshops, retreats and has been a keynote speaker for AFP, CASE and a myriad of organizations.

Thad has a master’s degree from West Virginia University in Higher Education Administration and studied Leadership Development in a doctoral program at Fielding Graduate Institute.  He is also a graduate of the Robert Sharpe Institute of Planned Giving (College of William and Mary). In his spare time, Thad supports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) by riding 100-mile century bike rides through their Team-In-Training (TNT) program.    


Mitchell Linker has been working in development for 18 years, primarily at independent schools. He is currently the Senior Major Gifts Officer at The Loomis Chaffee School, where he has worked since 2011 in various capacities. In 2017, Loomis Chaffee completed a record-breaking comprehensive campaign, far surpassing its $100,000,000 goal raising $131,000,000.

Since 2008, Linker has also served as the Development Chair of Our Companions Animal Rescue, New England’s only domestic animal sanctuary. Since its founding in 2002 by his wife, Susan Linker, Our Companions has procured over $3,000,000 in capital funding and currently raises over $1,350,000 annually.

In the fall of 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published Linker’s fundraising memoir, “No One Dreams of Being a Fundraiser: My Unexpected Journey from Music to Major Gifts.” Over the past 2 years, Linker has presented at the Connecticut AFP, CASE District One in Boston (twice), the higher-ed MaGiC Conference at Trinity College, and CASE/NAIS in Anaheim, CA where he was recognized as a “Stellar Speaker” by session attendees.

Sara Lipsky’s ability to create and implement strategic programs that result in broad impact led her to a career in the non-profit sector that spans more than 20 years. In 2013, Sara was named the Executive Director of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Long Island Chapter.  In this role she is responsible for the oversight of staff and volunteer development; fundraising and marketing; strategy development and implementation; financial management and operations; and community-outreach. 

Prior to her ED role on Long Island, Sara spent more than eight years at The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s NYC Chapter where she held a number of roles. As Deputy Executive Director she was responsible for leading staff and volunteers in the development and execution of campaigns that generated revenues in excess of $5.6 million, a 92% increase from when she joined the chapter in 2005. This included oversight of its annual walk, young professional’s committee, school programs, annual dinner with a Major League Baseball team and an intense 10-week fundraising competition. In addition, she worked on recruitment and engagement of a 30-plus Board of Trustees resulting in a board that generated more than $4.6 million. Key to her board development strategy included the elevation of high-level volunteers within the organization as well as personalized engagement plans.

Hillary Needle, President of Hillary Needle Events Inc., has more than 20 years of senior management expertise in event planning. Her experience includes serving as the Director of Development for the American Heart Association and then as an Executive Vice President for eight years at a prominent event planning corporation active in fundraising event management for not-for-profit organizations. Hillary created Hillary Needle Events Inc. in 2009 to bring her creativity, passion and dedication directly to her clients.   

Clients value her unique ability to create exciting opportunities to generate revenue and gain recognition for their events.  She brings organizational skills and staffing knowledge for a broad spectrum of special events that include large galas, golf outings, networking receptions, food tastings, fashion shows, art auctions and educational symposiums.  Hillary is successful in developing and implementing strategies that help organizations brand and grow existing events in addition to building an event from concept to celebration.

Lori Peterson is currently a Senior Associate Director for Special Events at the Northwell Health Foundation where she oversees multiple Northwell Health Walks across the state of New York and the fundraising efforts for Children's Miracle Network in the New York City/Long Island market.  Recently, Lori has been appointed to start the all new peer to peer fundraising initiative at Northwell which she is very excited to bring to life.  In addition, Lori has years of experience as a public speaker as she is a past AFPLI presenter and currently a facilitator for the Beginnings orientation program at Northwell Health.  

Outside of work Lori loves spending as much time as possible with her husband Kevin of 8 years and their two children, Molly (4) and William (1).  As Lori has been an event professional for almost 15 years for both profit and nonprofit organizations, she has a wealth of knowledge and stories that she is always willing to share and encourages fellow fundraisers and event planners to do the same as we can all truly learn something from one another.    

Susan Shiroma provides leadership and support for amplifying Candid’s impact in the New York City metropolitan area.  Susan provides fundraising guidance and training to stakeholders who visit Candid’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan.  Susan also manages library relationships with Candid’s Funding Information Network partners in eight states from NJ to Maine. Susan is a popular Candid speaker, trainer and conference presenter.

Susan began working for Candid in 1995 when Candid was known as Foundation Center.  Her Foundation Center achievements include the national expansion of proposal writing seminars and management of a prospect research program with 1,000 nonprofit clients.  Prior to Candid, Susan was an Associate Curator at New York University and adjunct professor at St. John’s University and Long Island University where she taught in their graduate programs of library and information sciences. 
Susan’s public service includes being elected and appointed to serve on NYC’s Citywide High School and Community Education Councils. Susan spent ten years advocating for better public schools to City Hall.

Currently, Susan is involved in preserving constitutional history and the story of the early antislavery movement. She serves on the Board of Directors of King Manor Museum.  Education: Columbia University, MLS and Barnard College, BA. 


Tracey Segarra launched her career in NYC as a reporter and editor for local newspapers and national wire services, interviewing assorted politicians, celebrities and criminals. Since 2010, she has overseen the marketing department at a professional services firm on Long Island.  In 2014, she discovered live storytelling via The Moth Radio Hour and started performing her own true stories. She has appeared on The Moth Radio Hour on NPR, the Story Collider and Risk! live show and podcast, is a 3-time NYC Moth StorySlam winner, a Moth GrandSlam champion and the host of a live storytelling show based on Long Island, "Now You're Talking!" In her spare time, Tracey gives workshops to organizations, schools and individuals to teach them how to craft effective, compelling stories.


Mark Hobbs is the CEO of Fundmetric, a company helping charities raise more money using machine learning and big data.  He  has a track record of producing results and an instinct  to jump in and help others. He was named one of the top 50 Emerging Leaders in Atlantic Canada by 21inc.  

Previously, Mark was a partner at a full service advertising agency called Denote Communications.  He also founded Profile Halifax Magazine. In 2009, Mark served as the Vice President (Internal) for the Dalhousie Student Union where he pioneered the Brains for Change Leadership Conference attended by 250 students across multiple campuses. The event continued for 3 years after his departure.

Mark sits on the board of Easter Seals Nova Scotia and the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network.

Mark`s current ambitions involve working with communities to create financially sustainable programming that help young people connect the dots between their dreams, their careers and communities. He is involved in numerous community boards and organizations spanning Canada and the globe.


Saskia Monteiro Thomson is the Vice President of Development and Marketing for Planned Parenthood of Nassau County. Prior to working at Planned Parenthood, she led the Marketing & Communications program at the national office of the Tourette Association of America and the YMCA of Long Island. With more than twenty years of experience in communications, she is an accomplished marketer, fundraiser, public speaker, writer and presenter. Over the course of her career, she has coached board members, volunteers and colleagues in the art of crafting stories of impact. Saskia is also an occasional storyteller for the Now You're Talking storytelling show, which takes place in different venues across Long Island.


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  • Huntington, NY 11743
  • Phone: 631.249.5008
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Advancing Philanthropy through Education, Training and Advocacy