Stephanie Schwartz

Founder of Little Bean Group

Stephanie Schwartz leads Little Bean Group, a fundraising consulting firm based in Washington, DC. She has a passion for relationship building and creating connections, both of which are at the heart of successful fundraising. Stephanie has raised tens of millions of dollars for a variety of organizations and developed fundraising strategies for dozens of organizations. She believes that philanthropy has the power to create and sustain profound change in our society.

Stephanie spent 10 years in front line fundraising before transitioning to management roles where she had broad responsibility for running development operations including resource allocation, talent management, and campaign strategy. She has extensive experience in raising transformational gifts and stewarding donors for long term organizational engagement and giving.

Stephanie launched Little Bean Group in 2019 in order to work with organizations and nonprofits that are focused on advocating for important issues and creating change across our society and around the world. Every organization needs effective fundraising in order to reach its goals, yet many struggle, thus prohibiting them from achieving maximum impact. Stephanie loves to identify solutions that help organizations start, improve, and sustain their fundraising so that they can achieve their goals. Stephanie’s client base includes advocacy and policy organizations, universities, independent schools, and community organizations.

Stephanie earned a BA from Douglass College, the women’s college at Rutgers University and an MBA from The George Washington University. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, and young son. Stephanie maintains a daily yoga practice and coffee drinking routine, both of which she believes are key to personal and professional success.

Where did the idea for Little Bean Group come from?

After many years of fundraising for a single organization and a single issue, I wanted more variety. I truly believe that philanthropy is a powerful force to create change and improve our society. As such, I wanted to be able to help more organizations raise the resources they need in order to create change.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I start my day early with coffee and yoga. I then have a mix of client meetings and calls, business development, and blocked time on my calendar to work on client deliverables. I rigidly follow my calendar which keeps me organized and on task.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I take ideas and break into down into individual pieces. I then create plans and strategies to weave together the individual components and bring the idea to life. I am not the type of person who can constantly generate new ideas and make them happen. I need time to think and strategize and then I act.

What’s one trend that excites you?

More and more young people – pre-teens, teens, and those in their early 20’s – are engaging in philanthropy. They are creating new platforms through which to give. They are entrepreneurial and I find it exciting to watch.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I schedule most of my day on my calendar. I find that my mind wanders and I become unfocused when I have large chunks of open time. As such, I schedule in work time, break time, exercise time etc. I like to wake up and see that my day is planned. It motivates me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You don’t have to excel at everything. There is room for failure – it provides an opportunity for learning and growth and ultimately makes you a more resilient and confident person.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Black licorice is delicious.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Be very clear in what you do and what you don’t do. Play to your strengths and think about how what you offer is different than what others are doing – that’s your niche. Then, communicate that clearly to your audiences and do so often.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Ask for help! I regularly ask clients, friends, and associates if they know of an organization that may need help with their fundraising strategy. As a result, I have received numerous referrals. I repeat that process regularly to keep my business pipeline fresh. I am amazed and energized by how willing people are to help me.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I initially made a bad choice when selecting a vendor for an important project. It cost me time and money. I ultimately had to walk away and start anew. I learned from that experience and now spend much more time on the front end before I partner with or hire anyone.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An online proofreading service that is available on demand.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently purchased a bottle of MADAM Vice President Whiskey in Honor of Vice President Kamala Harris. I’m not a whiskey drinker but the bottle is a reminder of progress. I keep it in my office. It sounds silly to say but I smile when I look at it.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Quickbooks! It’s such an easy way to manage my finances and keep the back end of my work organized. I use it to track both revenue and expenses.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Diary of Anne Frank. I have read it dozens of times throughout my life. I am moved each time I read it and I find that I notice new things depending on the stage of my life. As a young reader, I could relate to Anne’s frustrations with her mother. As a mother, I can read the book through Anne’s mother’s perspective. The way in which Anne reflects on the simple pleasures in life – jam, a warm bath, fresh air – should remind us of the things in our lives for which we are grateful.

What is your favorite quote?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Key Learnings:

  • There are many ways to be a part of improving our society and our world. Working with or volunteering for an organization is one of them. Don’t overlook the key processes that allow for impact such as planning, strategy, and fundraising. They are as important as direct service.
  • Discipline and focus are key to success.
  • The definition of success can change over time. Be flexible, open, and honest with what success means to you.
  • Relationships matter. In business, they are critical. Cultivate and nurture every relationship because you never know where it may lead.