Heather O'Connor

Heather O'Connor
Research Scholar
Philanthropy, Fundraising, and Nonprofit Management
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Heather O’Connor, Ph.D., CFRM, CAP®, is Vice President of Research and Learning at Daylight Advisors. She provides targeted commissioned research, program evaluation, and curricula development services to support philanthropic advisors and maximize social impact.
Heather's work is informed by her experience as a frontline fundraiser. She is a former nonprofit executive with 25 years of experience fundraising for health and social service organizations. She has developed philanthropy and nonprofit management curricula for academic and professional development programs since 2013.
Her research explores how social contexts influence philanthropic behavior and decision-making by donors, fundraisers, and philanthropic advisors. She is particularly interested in fundraising communication strategies, the role of social identity in philanthropic giving, and the professional development of fundraisers and philanthropic advisors. Her recent projects have included research on a professional development credential for philanthropic advisors, educational programs provided by a regional planned giving association, and a reflective learning curriculum for philanthropists and social impact investors. She is currently conducting research to understand the experiences unique to philanthropic advisors of color and LGBTQIA+ philanthropic advisors. Her findings inform the design of a new program offering networking, continuing education, and professional support.
Heather's research has appeared in several outlets for practitioners, including Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, Forbes, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. She has authored chapters in three textbooks, Teaching Nonprofit Management (2020), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (2022), and Nonprofit Public Relations: A Critical Approach (expected 2024). Her academic studies have been published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), the Journal of Philanthropy and Marketing, the International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, and the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership (JNEL). 
Heather is trained in the social sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, an M.S. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, and a B.S. Public Relations from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She earned her Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation in 2008 and her Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® designation in 2020. In addition, Heather holds graduate certificates in college teaching and fundraising management from Indiana University.
She is an American expat living in Portugal with her husband and their adopted terrier.

philanthropy, fundraising, nonprofit management, NGO, charity, donor