Aly Sterling Philanthropy - Making It Matter in Toledo

Aly Sterling set out nine years ago to change the world. Her mission - to help non-profits execute their mission successfully. "I love being able to bring out the best in our non-profit clients. The collaboration is what I wake up every day kind of excited about."

A native of Toledo, Aly was originally from the finance arena. "I thought that was what I was going to do." It wasn't until she was completing a graduate sociology program at the University of Toledo that she realized she may want to utilize her talents outside of the world of finance. An internship with a non-profit forever changed her course. "I had this internship at a non-profit and I fell in love with it. It was one of those moments where I thought, wow, I wonder if I could use my business acumen in a way to assist non-profits." 

This lightbulb moment came to Aly 19 years ago. Since, she has worked for a small HIV/AIDS service organization, a mid-sized mental health and wellness organization doing fundraising and marketing, and finally for a big regional healthcare system in the Toledo area. Through her position with the larger system she learned a lot about strategy.

"I was able to see the non-profit arena across a broad spectrum - grassroots to emerging to sophisticated. No matter how small or how large your mission, there are many similarities, but there are also just as many amazing differences. All of these experiences serve to create unique and innovative strategies for our various clients – we never take a one-size-fits-all approach."

After those experiences, she decided she could bring her skill set to all sorts of non-profits. Her inspiration? Her family. Aly shared that many of her family members were, and continue to be, entrepreneurs. She figures it was in her DNA to do something like Aly Sterling Philanthropy. She is also passing along the entrepreneurial genes to her three daughters, one of whom we had the pleasure of meeting.

Nine years ago Aly opened the doors to her consulting business in downtown Maumee. Four short years later she made the deliberate decision to move to downtown Toledo and she "just loves it." Many of the region's non-profits are headquartered downtown, plus, Aly wanted to be a part of the forward momentum and Renaissance we are seeing today.  "I have always wanted to be in the heart of an area and in a space where a lot of things are happening culturally."

In the beginning there were just two employees, Aly and one other. The time quickly passed and more employees were brought on. "I knew as a visionary, and someone very passionate about what I wanted to do, that I need to bring people on very soon and very early on to be able to do the things that I'm not good at." Aly Sterling Philanthropy now has ten employees, nine in the Toledo office and one in the new Indianapolis office that opened in April 2016. With a twinkle in her eye she shared that she is very excited about the expansion.

Aly, her company, her employees and her family are a huge asset to the Toledo community. As part of the Giving Institute, an organization that recognizes the top 50 consultants nationwide, she has shown the country the caring and wonderful nature of the people and organizations of Northwest Ohio. The company has expanded into the Tri-State market and even has some clients coast-to-coast, from Maine to California.

Culture is a huge part of what has made Aly's business so successful. She herself greets clients, guests, and colleagues with an authentic sense of vibrancy and warmth that immediately brings a smile to their faces. Her passionate excitement for her work is contagiously captivating and she hires only those that match her enthusiasm. "We hire first to fit the culture so that we can continue the vibe that we have here. There is this pairing of attitude and integrity that is contagious. We have a lot of fun and we work really hard. Culture is one of our greatest assets."

Aly has found that Toledo is a really great place to start a business. In the beginning, her support system was her family, along with a network that she worked hard to build. She literally wrote down a list of women in the area that had successful businesses and picked up the phone to call each one of them. Her opening line, whether she knew them or not, was quite simple, "Could I have a few moments of your time?" She would ask what made them successful, what they had learned, and what, if anything, they would have done differently. What she learned was this, the people of this town, the women and men in business, are more than willing to share their experiences. The accessibility to business leaders and the shared Midwestern value system made her feel supported and she continues to pay it forward by serving as a mentor to those who reach out. Her advice to others that feel the entrepreneurial tug, “You need a cheerleading team. You need to surround yourself with people who believe in you and who will be honest with you.”

Beyond the incredible support network, Aly loves the cultural treasures and outdoor gems throughout the city, including our amazing Metropark system. She has made a commitment to our region, “I think Toledo is a perfect place to not only start a business but find talented employees and redefine industry and ideas. Our city has been doing this since its inception, and now it is our turn to continue this legacy. There’s no better place to be."

It Matters Where You Make It ®