Susan J. Oliver

Principal, Oliver Marketing and Nonprofit Consulting

A business-trained not-for-profit leader, strategist, and marketer with a record of results, Susan Oliver started her first business at age five when she signed a contract with her parents and became the owner of a newborn Holstein calf named Becky. By the time she (Susan, not Becky) left her family’s dairy farm at age eighteen to enroll at Harvard, she had bought, fully supported, raised, and sold nearly twenty head of cattle—most at a handsome profit—including the Grand Champion of the 1972 Broome County Fair.

Today Ms. Oliver brings thirty years of management and marketing experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors to her consulting practice, grounded in front-line experience in nearly every senior management position in non-profits—including CEO, chief development officer, and chief marketing officer. Her hands-on experience ranges from local organizations to several national ones, with most working on education, children/youth/family issues, and health. Her expertise extends from strategic planning to competitive positioning, branding, and producing successful print and digital outreach campaigns and public relations efforts, as well as marketing programs for nonprofits, associations, and for-profit companies.

Ms. Oliver has a sustained record of helping clients significantly increase earned revenue and philanthropic dollars. She creates on-target marketing communications that get results.

Ms. Oliver’s most recent work includes organizational assessments; governance reviews with action plans for strengthening Boards of Directors; strategic planning; scenario analysis for strategic positioning; and marketing programs for a range of non-profit clients, including the Unity Temple, the American Brain Tumor Association, the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability, the Lagniappe Project of New Orleans, and the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association. Prior to that, in her role as Executive Director of Playing for Keeps, Susan developed non-traditional channels for getting information about the importance of play to millions of parents and educators through partnerships with Target stores at the corporate level, the toy industry, and strategically positioned articles and books. Ms. Oliver orchestrated a well-aligned, win-win merger of Playing for Keeps into the Association of Children’s Museums in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Oliver also served as Executive Vice President of National and Community Outreach for the Ready to Learn Partnership (RTLP), a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Previous to that, she increased philanthropic revenues at the National Lekotek Center by 50%, collaborated with Toys ‘R Us to publish a toy guide for kids with disabilities, and increased annual revenues of Family Support America by almost 330% in less than five years. For the past 25 years, Ms. Oliver has also maintained a sideline brand development and marketing communications consulting practice for selected clients.

Ms. Oliver is a past president of Women in Direct Marketing International (Chicago Chapter) and the Radcliffe Club of Chicago. She is a member of the Playing for Keeps Advisory Council of the Association of Children’s Museums, a past member of Cook County Extension (4H) Advisory Board. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from Boston University.

Even though she has lived in Chicago for more than twenty-five years, Ms. Oliver regularly returns to her roots in rural upstate New York, where she always drops by the barn to milk a few cows and play with the calves.