As seen in the book Miami Women, a pictorial by photographer Femke Tewari. Used with permission.

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“Fundraising is like being Robin Hood; you have to be able to identify with those who are giving and those who are receiving.”

With that statement, Lucy Morillo effortlessly describes the quality of empathy, which is not only the key to her success, but also her superpower. Her compassion is deep and genuine, naturally drawing people into her orbit. It is expressed in every facet of her life, from family to business to community. Lucy has been there, and she feels you.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Lucy moved to the US in 1987 as a college freshman at Penn State. She experienced culture shock and soon discovered that it went both ways. “I was struggling with learning English and with fitting in. I was the token Hispanic – there was no one else like me in that part of the country. I was considered exotic with my dark coloring and heavy accent. It was difficult being ‘different’, but I embraced it and turned it to my advantage.”

Lucy became one of the faces of diversity at the university, and was recruited by Alumni Relations & Development after earning her master’s degree in Public Administration. She had intended to enroll in law school immediately, but instead took a pause, becoming the Director of Development for the School of Business. She uncovered a talent for fundraising, contributing significant effort to the school’s first billion-dollar campaign.

She enrolled in law school and obtained her degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. In quick succession she got married, became a mom, and got divorced when her son, Nicholas, was just three months old. Lucy relocated to Miami for work, bringing along her mother, who had just been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

During the next twelve years Lucy became resourceful and resilient. She built a law career, raised her son, and handled her mother’s escalating physical needs. “I have nothing but admiration for my mother. ALS is a degenerative disease that robs individuals of their ability to perform even simple tasks. Despite the fact that she couldn’t do much physically, my mother got up every morning and took charge of the household, giving instructions to her helpers. When I was working long hours to provide for our family, she covered for me. Nic understood that he could count on us.”

Lucy accepted an opportunity with the University of Miami working under the legendary Donna Shalala (who went on to serve in both the Carter and Clinton administrations and to represent Florida in the House of Representatives) and created the Office of Estates & Gift Planning. She utilized her training to facilitate large donations that required complicated legal structures. Shalala had set an aggressive fundraising goal for the university – $1 billion. Thirty-three percent of that billion was procured through Lucy’s office.

Although her legal background has been instrumental in her success, it’s Lucy’s ability to engage with people that has made her a fundraising phenomenon. “I interacted with wealthy individuals who wanted to leave behind a legacy but hadn’t found the right cause. I attended a lot of galas, luncheons, and community events where I mingled with the same people, sometimes for years. I got to know them; I learned what motivated them. We built relationships, and I was able to pair their interests with the needs of the organization. Most of the time I simply helped them realize that they cared more than they thought.”

Lucy transitioned from the education sector and assumed the role of President of the Miami Children’s Health Foundation (MCHF), where she remained for a decade. During her tenure, Lucy elevated her fundraising skills, taking the organization from donations of $4 million annually to more than $27 million. She spearheaded and completed a $150 million capital campaign two years ahead of schedule, and secured the largest single donation in the hospital’s history, $60 million from the first family of golf, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus. Miami Children’s Hospital was renamed Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to honor their generosity. Lucy was rewarded with a key to the City of Miami.

In spite of her undeniable success, Lucy still felt a yearning to do more. She teamed up with Lisbet Fernandez-Vina, a seasoned marketing and public relations executive also at MCHF, to found LMA Consultants (LMA) with a corporate mission of “doing well by doing good”. LMA is a “B Corp” which is defined as a company that embraces social responsibility while maintaining sustainable profits. Well-known B Corps include Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Patagonia outdoor clothing. B Corp status is covetable because it is difficult to obtain. LMA is one of two B Corp companies in Miami-Dade, and there are only eight B Corp businesses in the state of Florida. LMA works with both for-profit and non-profit businesses that are moving the dial in corporate responsibility and making a difference in the community. “We do everything from helping them shape their messaging and mission to marketing, communications, strategizing, implementing business models and capital fundraising.”

Lucy is animated when talking about her career, but she lights up when discussing her passion project, the International Women’s Forum (IWF). The IWF is composed of preeminent women worldwide, and membership is by invitation only.

“IWF is comprised of female leaders in 33 countries dedicated to advancing women’s leadership and promoting equality worldwide. We provide mentorship and resources to women across the globe, advocating for women’s contributions to be recognized and shared. Within this community the membership is amazing. Women are so willing to empower one another.”

When asked to share her favorite life lessons, Lucy replies emphatically, “Give the best of yourself to the people that you love. Spend quality time with them. It may require you to develop a support system or to hire help if you have the means. But it’s worth it. Men don’t feel guilty about doing it; we shouldn’t either. I learned to ignore the guilt so I could get things done.”

“Today my son expresses his admiration for my career and for me as a parent, so I know that I made the right decisions. I was a terrible homework helper. I got him a tutor when he needed it, and I spent time reading with him in the evening instead. And I took him to galas as my date from an early age. Those are great memories for both of us. He absorbed so much from his environment. My mother’s smile and the security she provided for him; watching me tend to her needs then take that attitude into my work life, caring about and supporting people. He witnessed our resiliency and dedication and he’s embraced those qualities. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Florida and is going on to law school. He’s unstoppable. Nic is more driven than anyone I’ve ever met, and he’s my hero.”