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Ellen Hongerholt
Founder, President

Ellen Hongerholt, M.A., owner and co-founder, received her undergraduate degree from Winona State University and a master’s degree in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She has more than 30 years of experience in the fundraising field and 23 years specializing in campaign management. In 2023, she received the Outstanding Fundraising Professional Award for the Upper Mississippi River Valley of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Hongerholt has raised millions for municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and schools. Her education, skills and experience are combined with an engaging personality to effectively work with individuals of many backgrounds and interests. She is tenaciously devoted to reaching her clients’ goals by planning and creatively managing a fundraising process unique to each project or campaign. Ellen has consulted and specialized in capital campaign management including but not limited to the feasibility or campaign readiness study process, fundraising proposal development, grant development, capital campaign execution and individual, foundation and corporate major gift solicitation.

Ellen is secretary of the board of Houston Community Food Shelf and serves on the church council for Cross of Christ Church, both of Houston, Minnesota. She formally served on the Board of directors of the Upper Mississippi Chapter of Association of  Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and the Children’s Museum of La Crosse Board of Directors. Ellen is a former adjunct professor in Major Gifts and Capital Campaign Management for St. Mary’s University’s Master of Arts Program in Philanthropy and Development.

Sara Johnson-Steffey

Sara Johnson-Steffey, M.A., graduated from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in 2004 and Gordon College in 2000 with a degree in International Affairs. She has served as Director of Development at a human rights organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Associate Director of a housing and community development agency in Pittsburgh, PA. In Pittsburgh she was trained by a local long time fundraising and campaign consultant after joining the firm of A. L. Brourman and Associates. After returning to the Midwest, Sara worked as Grants Associate at Dunwoody College where she managed scholarship and annual requests for the college. In 2005 she spent six months working in Iraq managing a multi-million dollar governance support program funded by USAID. As an independent consultant for the last ten years Sara has provided guidance to a variety of clients in program management, strategic planning, and setting and achieving fundraising goals. 

Brittany Bral

Brittany Bral serves Crescendo Fundraising Professionals as a consultant with a specific attention to campaign readiness studies and communications planning.


Brittany graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing. Brittany has a strong background in customer service and has established herself well within the marketing field.  

Linda Albrecht
Administrative Assistant

Linda has extensive experience serving not-for-profits in the area of branding, marketing, volunteerism, event planning, database management and publication development.  Linda serves Crescendo with her engaging personality, most specifically in the areas of business development, publications, project management and assists campaigns with their management administrative needs.

Mikayla Larsen
Graphic Designer

Mikayla graduated from Iowa State University in May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. She enjoys a good challenge and finding the perfect solution to a client's problem. With an eye for the aesthetic, she finds delight in all types of design, on computer and off. 

Brianna Pyka

Brianna Pyka, MBA, serves Crescendo Fundraising Professionals where she plans, organizes, and manages fundraising studies and capital campaigns for nonprofits and municipalities. 


Brianna received her Master's of Business Administration degree from Concordia University, St. Paul and her undergraduate degree in marketing and entrepreneurship from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul. Her background includes leading multi-faceted teams in fast-paced environments as a marketing manager.


She currently serves on the board of We Can Learn, a nonprofit started by Edmentum that focuses on building up the limitless potential of every student when given access to equitable learning opportunities.

Katrina Scoville

Katrina serves Crescendo Fundraising Professionals as a consultant project manager, with specific expertise focused around prospect development, donor segmentation, solicitation, and reporting.


Katrina Scoville, M.A., graduated from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. in 2000, and subsequently began her fundraising career working on a successful $12.5 million dollar capital campaign for her alma mater. Upon her return to the Mississippi River Valley, she has served both at Cotter Schools as their Development Director and at Saint Mary’s University of MN (SMU) as a Leadership Gifts Officer which offered her practical experience in all areas of fundraising. Earning her Masters of Philanthropy and Development at SMU reinforced her professional proficiency and provided an increased awareness of the philanthropic process.


While her professional career allowed her to be engaged in volunteer opportunities with organizations, like the Association of Fundraising Professionals, her role as a mother has inspired volunteerism with Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE).

Deb Ward

Deb has 25 years of professional fundraising experience. She is a nationally recognized grants expert, and the author of three books focusing on proposal writing and grants management. She has raised more than $15 million writing successful proposals to state and federal government, foundation, and corporate funders.


Deb received her master's degree in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota in 1998. She obtained her Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation in 1991 and is recertified through 2018.

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Jillian Harris

Jillian Harris serves Crescendo Fundraising Professionals as a consultant with a specific attention to campaign readiness studies and strategic/communications planning.


Jillian graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) with a degree in Public Relations and Marketing. While attending (UNI), she always knew she wanted to get into fundraising, so she obtained her certification in fundraising. She then furthered her education at the University of Iowa obtaining her Masters in Strategic Communications.

Beth Hoven
Finance Manager

Beth Hoven has expertly served the Crescendo firm as Finance Manager for 18 years. She has more than 20 years of experience as a finance professional. After graduating from the University of St. Thomas, Beth began her career in public accounting with CliftonLarsonAllen. In 1993, Beth and her husband moved to Winona, MN, where she began her career in industry as Director of Finance for Technigraph Corporation. She was a strategic leader of the organization for 25 years. Most recently Beth has accepted the position of Sr. Vice President/Controller at Trust Point Inc. in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She began working with Ellen as Finance Manager for Crescendo Consulting, LLP and continues to serve in this role for Crescendo Fundraising Professionals, LLC.

To learn more or to contact a member of our team, please visit the Contact Us section.
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