BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President & CEO, Searle Freedom Trust
Kim Dennis has served as president and CEO of the Searle Freedom Trust, a grantmaking foundation established by the late Daniel C. Searle to support public policy research, since 1996. For five of those years, she also directed the National Research Initiative, a Searle-funded program of AEI. Kim first began working in the grantmaking arena in 1980 as a staffer for the John M. Olin Foundation, and later became the first executive director of the Philanthropy Roundtable. She co-founded and serves as chairman of the board of DonorsTrust. She has also served on the boards of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, the W. H. Brady Foundation, the Philanthropy Roundtable, the Property and Environment Research Center, and George Mason University.
President, William E. Simon Foundation
James Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation, a private grantmaking foundation located in New York City. The foundation has broad charitable interests in education, religion, and problems of youth. Jim is also a senior fellow at The Manhattan Institute in New York where he is director of the Center for the American University. Jim was executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation from 1985 until the end of 2005 when, following longstanding plans, the foundation disbursed its remaining assets and closed its doors. Jim is the author of several book including Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism (Encounter Books, 2007). He serves on the boards of several other tax exempt institutions, including: The Pinkerton Foundation, the TWS Foundation, the Center for Individual Rights, The Philanthropy Roundtable, the Foundation for Cultural Review, and Donors Trust. Jim earned a B.A. degree (1968) and a Ph.D. degree (1973) in Political Science from Michigan State University. He lives in Sleepy Hollow, NY, with his wife, Patricia, and son.
President and CEO, DonorsTrust
Since 2015, Lawson Bader serves as president and CEO of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Before coming to DonorsTrust, he amassed twenty years’ experience leading free-market research and advocacy groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He began his career in DC in as special assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, then worked as a legislative analyst/paralegal with Pierson, Semmes & Finley, and managed government relations at SRI International. He is a former weekly columnist with Human Events, and is a current member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council and is a Kiplinger contributor. He serves on the governing boards of Atlas Network, State Policy Network, and Oakseed Ministries International. Lawson earned a BA in political science from Wheaton College (IL) and an MA in public policy from The Johns Hopkins University.
Founder & Managing Director, Beach Investment Council
Tom Beach is the founder and Managing Director of Beach Investment Counsel, which manages the financial assets of high net worth families and foundations. Prior to forming Beach Investment Counsel, he held various portfolio management and executive positions with a major institutional investment management firm. He served as chief executive officer of its mutual funds and as a member of its three person management committee. Tom earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He currently serves on the board of Reason Foundation, Atlas Network and also of The Property and Environment Research Center. He is a director of Pennsylvania Lumberman’s Mutual Insurance Company and previously was a Director or Trustee of the Haverford School, Eisenhower Fellowships, Philadelphia Youth Tennis, the Laurentian Capital Corporation and The International Lawn Tennis Club of the United States.
Chairman of the Board, The Commonwealth Foundation
George G. H. Coates, Jr is a 25-year veteran of the fine wine and beverage alcohol industry, where he held executive roles on the distribution side of the industry with Southern Wine & Spirits (now Southern/Glaziers) and on the supply side with W. J. Deutsch & Sons (now Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits). In 2012, he and a partner launched an importing company focused on supply chain efficiencies allowing high quality wine to be delivered to the consumer at a lower cost than traditional shipping and packaging would allow, which was subsequently sold to investors. George serves as board chair for The Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg-based state-level free-market think tank. He serves as a board member of Americans for Fair Treatment, an advocacy group focused on educating, equipping and empowering public servants to receive fair treatment and transparency from public sector unions; the Chestnut Hill Conservancy and Historical Society, a local open space and architectural conservancy protecting the nation’s first urban accredited land trust; and the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research, the first research botanical garden founded by a woman, Mary Gibson Henry. A Philadelphia native, George studied at The Haverford School in Haverford, PA and Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He resides in both Philadelphia and Washington with wife, Dr. Victoria C. G. Coates. They have two children and one dog, all three of which migrate with them occasionally.
President and CEO
Since 2015, Lawson Bader serves as president and CEO of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Before coming to DonorsTrust, he amassed twenty years’ experience leading free-market research and education groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He began his career in DC in as special assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, then worked as a legislative analyst/paralegal with Pierson, Semmes & Finley, and managed government relations at SRI International. He is a former weekly columnist with Human Events and a Kiplinger contributor. He is the former president of the Antigua Forum at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, and is a member of Mont Pelerin Society. He serves on the governing boards of Atlas Network, State Policy Network, and Our America. Lawson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wheaton College (IL) and a master’s degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University.
Chris Bohn joined DonorsTrust in March 2021 as senior accountant. Prior to joining DonorsTrust, he managed accounting operations at the Leadership Institute as assistant controller. Chris also worked at Just Facts, The Heritage Foundation, and as a staffer for the late Jack Kemp at Empower America. Introduced to politics at a young age, he served in Congress as a House page and saw Communism up close on a trip behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin. A graduate of The Hill School in Pennsylvania, Chris earned a BA from Emory University and an MSc from The London School of Economics. In 2020, he received a Certificate in Data Analytics from Springboard in San Francisco. An admirer of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr., Chris enjoys spending time with his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, reading savvy political commentary, and learning more about American exceptionalism.
Marketing and Communications Director
Carolyn Bolton is the communications and marketing director at DonorsTrust. Before joining DonorsTrust, Carolyn was a senior content specialist for a public-affairs firm in northern Virginia. Prior to her foray into content creation for corporate and nonprofit clients, Carolyn was a general-assignment reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press and a content editor for Cox Media Group. She is a graduate of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in political communications. After graduating early, she interned for the National Journalism Center and The Washington Times. She lives in northern Virginia.
Vice President of Programs
Gregory Conko is the vice president of programs at DonorsTrust, where he supervises the grants disbursement process and develops relationships with new grantees. He has nearly thirty years of experience in the non-profit sector as a scholar, fundraiser, and senior executive. Before joining DonorsTrust, Gregory was a senior fellow and then executive director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and he served as deputy director of the George Mason University Law & Economics Center. Gregory has broad expertise in health and environmental policy, as well as in administrative and regulatory law, and he has authored or co-authored dozens of books, studies, and articles, published in both the popular press and scholarly journals. He earned a J.D. degree magna cum laude from the George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from American University. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.
Lukas Dwelly joins DonorsTrust after two decades of executive nonprofit experience. Lukas has led the fundraising efforts of several regional and national organizations as both a team member and consultant, raising tens of millions of dollars. Before becoming a fundraiser, Lukas began his career working for the U.S. Senate. A decorated veteran, Lukas first served as a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, deploying to Bosnia and the Middle East during his active-duty career. He continues his military service as an Intelligence Officer in the United States Navy Reserves, where he’s deployed to Africa and again to the Middle East. Lukas holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Louisville, a Master of Arts in Communication, and a Master of Business Administration from Bellarmine University. Lukas is the proud father of twin teenage girls and his goldendoodle, Norman Buckley, and is a single-digit handicap golfer.
Junior Software Developer
Luke joined DonorsTrust in 2023 after spending five years as a web- and software-development expert with a focus on Microsoft C# development, Microsoft SQL databases and ensuring continuous integration and continuous delivery of application software. In his free time, Luke enjoys spending time with his family and two cats; playing piano; and hiking the trails of Colorado.
Executive Assistant to President and CEO/Associate Director of the Novus Society at DonorsTrustJulia Johnson is executive assistant to the president of DonorsTrust and associate director of the Novus Society at DonorsTrust. She holds a bachelor’s in mathematics from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Passionate about singing, dancing, and acting, Julia emphasized musical theater in her coursework and extracurricular involvements while studying at JBU. On the weekends, you might catch Julia sipping coffee, hosting dinner parties, or performing on stage in local theater productions. She and her husband live in northern Virginia.
Chief Technology Officer
Stephen Johnson leads DonorsTrust’s technology efforts with a focus on modernizing infrastructure, improving security initiatives, and supporting company-wide efficiency efforts. Prior to starting at DonorsTrust, he spent over 15 years in the field of IT, Managed Services and private-sector organizations. He’s also performed consulting and IT services for a number of non-profits in the arts and professional-development spaces. Stephen has industry certifications with Microsoft, Cisco, VMWare, Dell, Comptia, Six Sigma, and ITIL. In his spare time, Stephen enjoys bouldering, mineral collecting, photography, playing guitar, and woodworking.
Stephanie Giovanetti Lips joined DonorsTrust in 2018 as a philanthropy advisor with a general focus on planned giving. Before joining DonorsTrust, Stephanie led the events department at Atlas Network, leading its international expansion to organize annual events in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. She also took on major gift officer responsibilities and headed up its planned giving program. Stephanie has consulted on events and fundraising for organizations such as The American Spectator, the Future of Freedom Foundation, National Association of Chemical Distributors and Johnson and Johnson. Stephanie attended Marymount University and has a B.A. in English Literature. When not working for DonorsTrust or mentoring think tank leaders from within the Atlas Network or speaking on topics close to her heart, like planned giving, Stephanie loves listening to the giggles of her children and the panting of her dog, Scooby Doo.
Peter Lipsett drives DonorsTrust’s growth through outreach, cultivation, and marketing. He also founded the Novus Society, DonorsTrust’s network of donors under 40, and hosts Giving Ventures, a podcast showcasing innovative free-market giving opportunities. Previously, Peter spent a decade within the Koch organizations helping to build a unique donor network. He studied theater and political science at Davidson College, earned an MBA from George Mason University, is an elder in the Presbyterian Church USA, and is on the board at America’s Future and the Thomas Jefferson Institute. His real education comes from listening to podcasts and reading histories. He, his wife, and two daughters live in the mountains of Lexington, Virginia.
Nathan Owens joined the DonorsTrust team as the Development Coordinator in 2022. Nathan graduated with his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Longwood University, where he excelled in the classroom giving attention not only to his education but also to the changing nation around him. Prior to DonorsTrust, Nathan worked at the American Conservative Union, where he developed his foundational beliefs of conservatism and love for fundraising. A native of Goochland, Virginia, Nathan grew up with his four siblings and two loving parents. Nathan lives in the D.C. area and continues to enjoy his hobby of running.
Eli Peterson serves as the supervising accountant at DonorsTrust. Eli comes to DonorsTrust from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he was the senior accountant. While there, he managed the financials of the organization, and worked to streamline the administration of the organization through overseeing internal HR processes, compliance filings, and IT services. Before ALEC, Eli worked in auditing with both a Big Four and regional accounting firm in Ohio and obtained his CPA license. Eli is originally from West Virginia and moved to Ohio to attend Cedarville University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in accounting. During his undergraduate studies, he gained his first exposure to the world of public policy when interning with Tax Foundation and State Budget Solutions in Washington, D.C. He lives in Northern Virginia and, when he is not busy documenting his life goals in spreadsheets, he is busy exploring the D.C. area or planning/completing road trips with his wife Lacey.
Grants Administrator/Office Manager
Rosemary Purple joined DonorsTrust in February 2018. She is assisting in the grants administration and general office management areas at DonorsTrust. Rosemary is a native of Alexandria and has extensive office administration experience having worked as the Assistant to the CEO and President /office & security manager at a local bank; assistant and paralegal at several law firms with many areas of interest, and other corporate environments. Rosemary most recently spent over three years as the office and facilities manager at the Charles Koch Institute.
Chris Renner is a CPA in Virginia and has been in various roles at DonorsTrust since December of 2012. As controller, he oversees DonorsTrust’s accounting and reviews grants and contributions. Prior to joining DonorsTrust, he was a project accountant for a large construction company and was the sole proprietor of a small car electronics business. He received his BS in Economics and Business from the University of Pittsburgh and Certificate in Accounting from the University of Virginia. He was in the US Marine Corps Reserve for seven years, deploying to Iraq twice. Chris is a Pittsburgh native and a life-long Penguins fan. He is a classic car enthusiast and has traveled to 41 of the 50 states. Chris, his wife, and their young son live in Fairfax, Virginia.
Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer
Jeff Zysik is an attorney and accountant with fifteen years of tax planning experience, focusing primarily on sophisticated estate and income tax concepts. Before joining DonorsTrust, he was managing-director and co-founder of Charitable Entity Administration, LLC (CEA). Before launching CEA, Jeff served as Director-in-Charge of strategy development at myCFO’s national tax group. He also spent five years with KPMG LLP–one year in a tax practice office, three years with the firm’s Washington National Tax Personal Financial Planning practice and a final year serving as Director-in-Charge of the firm’s South Florida Personal Financial Planning practice. Admitted to the New York State Bar, Jeff holds a Bachelor of Accountancy degree from George Washington University, a Master in Public Accounting-Tax degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a JD degree from George Mason University.
President & CEO, 1999-2015
Ms. Ball served as founding President and Chief Executive Officer of DonorsTrust from 1999 until August, 2015. Before launching DonorsTrust, Ms. Ball served as Executive Director of The Philanthropy Roundtable, as well as Director of Development at the Cato Institute. She was also Director of Finance for the Education and Research Institute and Circulation Manager of Consumers’ Research Magazine. Additionally, Whitney consulted with a number of nonprofit organizations and served on governing boards and committees of local volunteer organizations, including Donors Capital Fund, the Foundation for Teaching Economics, and the State Policy Network. After a long battle with cancer, Whitney passed away August 17, 2015. For more on her life and work, please see Remembering Whitney Ball.