News Details

SP2 Nonprofit Leadership Alumna Honored as Fundraising ‘Rising Star’

Headshot of Emily Conners

Authored by: Alina Ladyzhensky

Photography by: Elaine Zelker Photography



The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Eastern PA Chapter has named Emily A. Conners, a 2016 graduate of the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) program at the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), as the recipient of their 2018 Rising Star Award.

The award serves to recognize a fundraising professional with five or fewer years paid experience who has shown dedication to professional development in the field of philanthropy, and has exhibited both creativity and documented success in their fundraising endeavors.

“I am deeply appreciative to my colleagues who nominated me for this honor,” Conners said. “I am blessed that my path has led me to a wonderful career that benefits others in such an impactful way.”

Indeed, Conners’ demonstrably impactful work includes her current role as the Development Officer at Valley Youth House, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based nonprofit human services organization that provides housing, community connections, and other resources for homeless, foster, and vulnerable youth throughout the state. The agency serves over 31,000 young people each year, an undertaking that requires no small amount of resources.

Conners is responsible for raising over $500,000 annually for Valley Youth House through development work such as corporate and community sponsorships, annual giving, fundraisers, and other special events. She also wears a variety of other hats, handling media and public relations, branding, communications, social media, and marketing initiatives. Conners’ dedicated efforts have secured over $1.9 million dollars in fundraising revenue for the organization since 2016.

After attending Freedom High School in Bethlehem, PA, Conners studied Sociology and Geography at Bucknell University and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Upon her acceptance into the AmeriCorps VISTA national service program, she dedicated her time to improving education initiatives for low-income students in the Easton Area School District through the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Following this, Conners furthered her skills and solidified her commitment to social change by enrolling in the NPL program.

During her time at SP2, Conners also taught at Lehigh Valley Summerbridge, a nonprofit educational enrichment program for economically disadvantaged middle school students. She is now a member of Lehigh Valley Summerbridge’s Advisory Committee, in addition to serving as co-president of the Bucknell Club of the Lehigh Valley.

“My studies at SP2 built a strong foundation for a career within nonprofits by allowing me to explore many aspects of the sector, providing a nurturing environment for learning to occur, and deepening my passion for social innovation,” Conners said. “The skills I gained while at SP2 are invaluable, and will continue to be with me as I evolve as a nonprofit professional.”