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Tiffany Thomas

thumbnailWhen Tiffany Thomas began her college career at Sam Houston State University in 1999, it didn’t take her long to find her place. Perhaps it’s because she’s never let anything intimidate her.

While at SHSU, Thomas worked hard for the numerous organizations she was involved in, including the NAACP, the Public Relations Student Society of America, the National Association of Black Accountants and SamMentors. If T-shirts needed sold, she sold them; if money needed raised, she found it.

Her determination not only has led to the launch of a successful career in non-profit fundraising but has landed her recognition among professional women in Houston.

Last May, Thomas was recognized with Houston Woman Magazine’s HER Award title of “Gutsy Gal” for her determination to better her community. The annual HER Awards program recognizes eight Houston women who “influence and inspire those around them and, thereby, serve as excellent role models for others in our community,” according to the magazine.

“I like to consider myself as someone who is gutsy, so I thought this award was fitting in title,” Thomas said. “I was honored to be nominated by Licia Green Ellis, the wife of Texas State Sen. Rodney Ellis, and to be voted on by the magazine subscription holders.

“This award affirmed to me that being my authentic self will always reap the best reward. I believe you simply have to be true to yourself and believe that any dream can happen.”

A Houston Women’s Magazine article said Thomas “personifies the definition of a ‘Gutsy Gal.’”

“She has taken a position on an idea, and, by pursuing her belief, influenced others to the betterment of her community,” as seen through her work in the non-profit sector, the article continued.

Thomas, who began her career in SHSU’s Student Activities Department, said the university “really exposed me to non-profit as a career.”

“I had an awesome experience and a lot of support from professors and faculty members who saw potential and were very encouraging,” she said. “The things I did at Sam basically transitioned into a profession for me.”

After graduating in 2003 with a degree in communications, Thomas began working for Memorial Herman Health Care Systems in patient advocacy before moving on to several non-profit organizations in the offices of public relations and project management.

She soon decided in order to continue advancing in the field she would need a graduate degree and enrolled at Prairie View A&M, where she earned a master’s degree in community development.

“What I’ve learned being a professional woman is being my authentic self has allowed me to become successful. I didn’t have a role model from the non-profit background, so I had to carve all paths when I made the decision that this is who I’m going to be,” said Thomas.

Thomas has now enjoyed eight years as a professional fundraiser in the non-profit sector. She is currently the development officer for Interfaith Ministries in Houston. The organization has four programs: Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to more than 6,000 seniors in Harris County each day; Disaster Preparedness, which offers disaster training to faith based communities and organizations; Interfaith Relations; and Refugee Services.

In mid-2010, Thomas started a consulting firm, The Maven Group, which provides non-profit management training and political fundraising. Thomas got the inspiration for the name of her company while reading “The Tipping Point” by Malcom Gladwell.

“The name Maven just stuck out,” Thomas said.

If a full-time job and a private company seem like enough to keep Thomas busy, think again. She is also the national policies and procedures chair for the National Urban League’s Young Professionals, the group’s volunteer auxiliary for 21-40 year-olds.

“We are committed to volunteerism, philanthropy and community outreach,” Thomas said. “We are really focusing on the direct services that the organization provides in terms of housing, job training and education.”

Thomas has been affiliated with the Urban League since 2005 and is a national board member responsible for legislative rollout for the group’s 55 chapters throughout the nation, including Washington, D.C.

Part of her duties have included organizing a city-wide voter registration in 2008 that involved 13 locations in the Houston area where she and other volunteers focused on getting 18 year olds registered, as well as people who recently moved to Houston.

“It was absolutely successful in terms of what we expected,” she said. “This was right after Hurricane Ike, so our expectations were low in terms of lack of power and mobility of some of the residents in the city. But on that day, the weather was perfect and we registered more than 175 people.”

Her dedication to the Urban League led another board member to nominate Thomas for Houston Woman Magazine’s 2011 Gutsy Gal Award.

Thomas’s dreams include someday working in the White House in the Office of Public Engagement.

For now, Thomas will continue focusing her energy on raising funds in the non-profit sector and teaching others how to do it as successfully as she does.