When a Talent Becomes a Calling

Lorena Stelter

Lorena Stelter

Director, Gift Services
USC University Advancement

For Lorena Stelter, it all began with a job as a cashier at a check-cashing center. In her twenties at the time, she realized she had a knack for counting money and processing transactions—and doing it fast and nearly error-free. Soon she was practically running the place, and she was certain she’d found her life’s work: accounting.

Today she’s director of gift services for USC Advancement. She makes sure that donor giving records are accurate and up to date, organizes daily workflows, resolves donor issues, prepares valuations of high-dollar transactions, and reconciles transactions to Salesforce. In addition, she contributes to the department’s strategic planning and audit compliance, and serves as Gift Services’ liaison with all other Advancement units. 

Lorena arrived at USC thanks to a good friend who told her to apply at a nonprofit close to campus. She got the job and began meeting people whose lives had been positively transformed by their USC experiences. She had family members who attended USC and were brimming with Trojan pride, but she’d never realized what a huge impact the university has on the community around it.

One day 12 years ago she saw a USC job posting for assistant director of gift services; she applied and was hired. She worked as hard as she could and began cultivating relationships across Advancement. She helped streamline her department’s processes, not just for her group, but for everyone who uses them. A year ago, her dedication paid off, when she was promoted to director. These days, she, too, is brimming with Trojan pride—about contributing to all the good work that USC does.

And she has a lot to be proud of. Lorena played a critical role in USC’s move from CRS to Salesforce for its customer relationship management needs. A lot was at stake, and, due to her expertise in both the new and old systems, she helped ensure the changeover’s success. Another notable accomplishment involved a different software conversion that took place during her time as assistant director. “When my director was temporarily unavailable, I stepped up to lead the team in learning and implementing Workday. I spearheaded the staff training efforts, and also took on additional responsibilities to ensure a seamless transition.”

Lorena has a simple message for her peers when it comes to succeeding in USC Advancement. “Do not shy away from asking questions,” she says, adding, “Create realistic goals and never stop learning and growing. We are all here together working towards the same outcome. Always be the best that you can be and apply yourself every day.”

Lorena might as well add, ‘have a positive attitude.’ She’s the kind of person who, whenever she sees the sunrise (which, she claims, is “most days of the year”), she’s reminded of new opportunities and new beginnings. Sounds like she knows how to succeed in life, too. 

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