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Lee A. Ernst

CEO and Senior Consultant

In addition to providing counsel to a wide range of nonprofit clients in education, social services, and the arts, Lee Ernst serves as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and leads new product development and strategic industry partnerships for JGA. As a Senior Consultant, Lee has demonstrated a keen understanding of the philanthropic landscape and actively shares her deep experience working with donors at large universities and social services organizations with JGA clients.

Before joining the JGA team in 2013, Lee provided counsel as a Development Officer Consultant with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She previously served as Associate Director at the University of Chicago during the institution’s $2 billion campaign and worked closely with the boards and giving councils to create the inaugural Parents Program fundraising initiative. She began her career at The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters in Chicago.

Lee provides leadership in the field by volunteering with several local and national organizations. She is past chair of the Miami University MUDEC Alumni Advisory Board and chaired The Giving Institute’s Summer Symposium in 2023. Lee is also a member of the Communications Task Force for The Generosity Commission. This national, nonpartisan group brings together stakeholders, voices, and expertise to explore questions that will shape the future of giving, volunteering, and other forms of civic engagement in America. She has served on The Oaks Academy Task Force and as an Annual Fellow with the Development Leadership Consortium in Chicago. In 2022, Lee completed the University of Oxford’s Said Business School Women’s Leadership Development Programme certificate program.

Previous Experience

  • Development Officer Consultant, Women’s Philanthropy Institute, The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University
  • Associate Director, Parents Program, Development, University of Chicago
  • Assistant Director, Parents Fund, University of Chicago
  • Major Gifts Advisor, The Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division


  • Master’s degree in Public Service Management from DePaul University
  • Bachelor’s of Science degree in Speech Communications from Miami University