Wesley K. Wicker, Ed.D.

Principal & Partner

Wes counts more than thirty years of experience in higher education and development, and nine years as a non-profit consultant. Wicker began his career in Admissions, and then in Alumni Affairs at Georgia Southwestern State University. He also worked as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia, and as Vice President of Advancement at Kennesaw State University, and concurrently as Executive Director of the KSU Foundation. He also served as Vice President of Major Gifts for United Way of Metro Atlanta and held a similar position with United Way of Central Indiana (Indianapolis).  

Wes has a B.A. in History from the University of Alabama, an M.Ed. in History from Georgia Southwestern State University and an Ed.D. from the University of Georgia in Higher Education Administration.  


Wicker has served on the boards of the Fulton County Schools Foundation, the Georgia Planned Giving Council, United Community Bank of Marietta, and the Georgia Education Advancement Conference. He served as the Senior Director and later as President of the Theta Chi National Fraternity Foundation. He currently serves as President of the Norwich Housing Corporation. Wicker is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus of Theta Chi. Wes and his wife, Kay, have two adult daughters, and lives in Big Canoe, GA.

Direct Phone: (404) 213-4446

Email: wes(at)columnsfundraising.com

Note: We dislike spam just as much as you do!  To prevent spammers from harvesting and adding our email addresses to their lists, we've replaced the @ in our email addresses with (at).


Mark R. Wilkison

Principal & Partner

Mark has extensive expertise in major gifts, planned giving, feasibility studies, execution of capital campaigns, strategic planning and visioning for organizations, and executive search.


A graduate of the University of Vermont, Mark has more than 35 years of consulting and fundraising experience, including serving as Vice President - Development for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Chief Development Officer at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Chief Development Officer for the International Life Sciences Institute, and as Executive Vice President of Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation.  Mark's additional Phi Gam work included serving as a Field Secretary for the Fraternity and as Director of Graduate Services.  


He has served as President of the Atlanta Peachtree Rotary Club, and has also been involved with Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), Georgia Education Advancement Council (GEAC), Georgia Association of Development Professionals (GADP), and the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (PPP). 


He enjoys spending time with his wife, Shari, and his two grown children, and playing an occasional round of golf.

Direct phone: (404) 317-0435

Email: mark(at)columnsfundraising.com

Scott H. Sikes


Principal & Partner

Scott has over 30 years of experience with nonprofit organizations. He has broad experience in frontline fundraising & leadership, including positions as:  Elected Chairman of the Council of Vice Presidents of External Affairs for the University System of Georgia; Vice President for Development & Community Relations at Shepherd Center, the nation’s largest spinal cord & brain injury hospital; Vice President for University Advancement at Valdosta State University; Interim Executive Director of Development at University of Georgia, where he was also Director of Principal Gifts, Major Gifts & Planned Giving & he has years of service on various nonprofit boards. He was a founding member of the Georgia Planned Giving Council in 1988, later served as President & he was co-founder & President of the Athens Estate Planning Network.


Scott earned his BA in Political Science/Russian Language & Certificate in Global Studies from UGA, Russian Language Certificate from St. Petersburg State University (Russia), then an MBA from Kennesaw State University. He is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), Fellow of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (FAHP) & Certified Financial Planner (CFP®). He’s a member of the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta’s International Relations Committee, where he utilizes his proficiency in Russian, German & other languages. Scott enjoys bicycling & camping.  He & his wife live along the Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga Trail - an approximately 100-mile paved bike path beginning on the outskirts of Atlanta

Direct phone: (404) 304-5237

Email: scott(at)columnsfundraising.com

J. David Carico
Principal & Partner

David started his fundraising career in the early 1990’s serving as Executive Director of the Kappa Alpha Order Educational Foundation.  After moving back to Atlanta, he settled at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  There, he was Regional Director of Development, soliciting major philanthropic support from Georgia Tech alumni in the Northeastern United States, then on the West coast (and getting to know the Delta Air Lines employees on a first-name basis).  Most recently, he served as Vice President of Business Development at Omega Financial, Inc.


David has a dual B.A. in English/History from Emory University and earned his CFRE designation in 1997.  He has been active in the Junior Chamber of Commerce, serving as President (Lexington, VA) and State Director, and as Chairman of the Junior Chamber International Conference of the Americas.  He served as a Board member and Treasurer of the North American Interfraternal Foundation and as member of the National Committee on Planned Giving. He is an avid tennis and golf player, but he and his wife spend the majority of their free time chasing their 5 year-old son around the house and asking him not to jump off all of the furniture.

Direct phone: (404) 477-4287

Email: david(at)columnsfundraising.com

Our Team

Who We Are

Salvador Arias


Salvador has more than 37 years of experience in providing strategy, marketing and innovative growth advice to for profit, non-profit and social enterprises. After receiving his MBA from the University of Chicago, Salvador began his career as a strategy consultant for Booz, Allen and Hamilton. He gained further experience as a director in the planning organizations of PepsiCo and as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Bellsouth. Salvador returned to business consulting as a partner focused on driving client value through strategy and marketing transformation at PwC and IBM. He retired to work in the non-profit sector serving as the initial Master Planner for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, teaching Marketing at Kennesaw State University and then founding the Marist Hispanic Center. Salvador has been engaged in strategy formulation for numerous education and non-profit organizations, including Mercy Care, Catholic Charities, Medshare, the Archdiocese of Atlanta Schools, IHM School, Ferst Foundation, UNICOR and the University of Mississippi.

Salvador received his MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago where he was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi and Merrill Fellowships, a Rotary International Fellowship for study at the Ibero-American University in Mexico, and his BA in Mathematics with highest honors from the University of Alabama in Huntsville while doing research in the Space Sciences lab at NASA. He has engaged in numerous start-up ventures, patents and publications.

Direct phone: (404) 824-0971

Email: sal(at)columnsfundraising.com

Sandra Cathy
Grants Consultant
Sandra brings to Columns numerous years of experience in both the nonprofit and for profit worlds, and comprehensive expertise in grant writing, fundraising, strategic Planning, marketing, capital campaigns, and government relations. Sandra graduated from the University of Alabama. She then completed a seven-year stint at the White House serving on the President’s Commission for White House Fellowships. Sandra returned to the Atlanta area to work with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. She is a loving wife and mother of two beautiful girls.
Direct phone: (404) 610-7300
Email: sandra(at)columnsfundraising.com
Colleen Eakins

Graphic Designer

Colleen earned a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and an MBA in Marketing from AIU. Colleen won an ADDY Gold Award from the American Advertising Federation, while still a student at UAH.


Colleen brings twelve years of experience in branding, collateral design and printing Web design and development, Mobile App and Social Media design and development, and Digital Media design. Not surprisingly, in her spare time Colleen enjoys photography.

Bob Edwards

Operations Manager

Bob is responsible for overseeing the production and timely deliverance of our grants work and funder research. Bob spent over 25 years in various engineering leadership positions at high tech companies such as Motorola, Scientific-Atlanta, Cisco, and Cognizant. He has extensive experience in leading teams, managing projects, and maintaining strong customer relations. Bob has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.


In his spare time, Bob enjoys spending time with his wife of 36 years, spoiling his three grandchildren, and cycling.​

Direct Phone: (404) 307-5740

Email: bob(at)columnsfundraising.com

Dick Elder


Dick Elder was the co-founder and President of TEAM Marketing Group, Inc. a worldwide leader in the development, production, and implementation of Sales and Sales Management Training. Founded in 1983 and in continuous operations through 2015, TEAM’s clients included a broad range of Fortune 250 companies and corporations across the globe.

In addition to his corporate experience, Dick served Theta Chi Fraternity as International President from 2012 to 2016. A recipient of Theta Chi’s Distinguished Service Award (Theta Chi’s highest honor) and a thought leader in the Fraternity movement, he is well known in Greek circles throughout the Nation. Through an extensive speaking and workshop schedule, he represents both for profit and non-profit organizations in building top line revenue.

Elder holds a B.A. in Social Science from San Diego State University.  He still plays baseball in the Men’s Senior Baseball League and enjoys sports cars. He lives with his wife Terri in Morrison, Colorado and has four grown children.

Direct phone: (303) 888-8350

Email: dick(at)columnsfundraising.com

Laura Gonzales
Grants Consultant​

Laura Gonzales is an editor for the company’s grant proposals. She works as an academic editor in the greater Washington, DC, area and has nearly a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. Her areas of expertise include program evaluation, program development, survey design, and volunteer leader development.


Laura earned a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Psychology from Cornell and a dual-degree Master’s from Arizona State University. She previously worked as a research psychologist specializing in healthy adult and Parkinson’s populations, then became an academic consultant for the statistical and behavioral sciences. She is a highly active volunteer in organizations that serve our nation’s capital and focuses her work on poverty reduction, environmental stewardship and education, and alumni affairs.

Direct Phone: (703) 672-1378

Email: laura(at)columnsfundraising.com

Kelly-Ann Green

Kelly-Ann​ earned a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Accounting from the University of Georgia. She began her career as a public accountant providing audit and tax services to small to medium businesses all over the United States.  She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Vice President of Atlanta Independent Women's Network.  In her free time, Kelly-Ann enjoys spending time walking in Atlanta parks, traveling, and riding horses.

Email: Kelly-ann(at)columnsfundraising.com

Meredith Hammons
Grants Consultant

Meredith has a varied career in education, having taught at the high school, college and graduate levels, worked as a librarian in public and academic libraries, and served as  the Assistant Director of the local office of a national education non-profit. Meredith loves to research anything, from grant prospects to statistics, enjoys writing and editing grant proposals, and creating infographics. She came to grant writing through library work and primarily focuses on youth development, education, human services, and faith-based organizations.  She is active in the Georgia Grant Professionals Association, currently serving as Treasurer, and is a long-time volunteer in a local mentoring program for elementary school children.


She holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Vanderbilt University, a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Davidson College. Meredith loves college basketball, Broadway musicals and reading, and spends most of her spare time with her daughter, husband, two dogs and two cats.

Direct Phone: (615) 512-4484
Email: meredith(at)columnsfundraising.com

Rebecca Jean-Baptiste
Grants Consultant
Rebecca has over 15 years of experience in the administration of higher education programs. She has secured funding and managed a variety of educational programs such as teacher recruitment, teacher preparation, k-12 school climate and partnerships, cross cultural education, STEM, underrepresented populations, disconnected youth, college access & success, community development and business partnerships, financial, digital and data literacy programs among others. During her career, Rebecca has provided financial management oversight for grants from both federal and private sponsors totaling over $100 million.
She is a Doctoral Candidate in Public Administration at Valdosta State University specializing in Education Policy; and holds a Master of Public Administration degree in Policy Analysis and Evaluation from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
Direct Phone: (404) 702-4293
Email: rebecca(at)columnsfundraising.com

Carla Lavender
Senior Consultant

Carla is a passionate fundraiser and enjoys working with community-based organizations poised for growth. She has more than 20 years of experience, leading major gifts campaigns and securing transformational success for program growth and expansion. Her first individual giving officer's role was with Spelman College, and she moved on to Kennesaw State University, where she established the corporate giving program. Later, she served as a lead development officer at Georgia State University, where she supported a $300 million campaign.   Additionally, she served as the principal fundraiser for national organizations to build their presence in Atlanta.  At Devereux Behavioral Health Center, she worked with the local Board of Directors to promote community engagement and giving. She led Year Up Greater Atlanta's team raising over $12 million to launch a college partnership with Atlanta Technical College. 


Carla is an active member of the National Gift Planning Council, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the African American Development Officers Association. She holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Walden University, and BA undergraduate degree from Georgia State University.


Carla is married, lives in Smyrna, Georgia, and enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Direct Phone: (678) 524-9621
Email: carla(at)columnsfundraising.com

Cynthia McGuinness
Grants Consultant
Cynthia has served as a non-profit professional for more than twenty years. She has achieved success in securing grants for a number of non-profit organizations in the Atlanta area from a wide range of private, corporate, and government funders, primarily in the areas of child welfare, refugee services, education, youth development, and the arts. Cynthia came to the non-profit field after her first career as a professional dancer. She also has expertise in event planning and volunteer coordination. When not writing grants, she is busy cheering on her husband and two children at gymnastics meets, orchestra concerts, martial arts events, and more, and occasionally finds time for a hike or a good book.
Direct Phone: (770) 855-3677
Email: cynthia(at)columnsfundraising.com
Keith Oelke
Senior Consultant

Keith Oelke has over 30 years of experience in fundraising, both directly and in related fields. He retired from the University of Georgia (UGA) in 2015. He was the Senior Executive Director – Central Development for the Office of University Development. This position was responsible for the Estate & Gift Planning, Corporate and Foundation Relations and Regional fundraising functions at UGA. In 2005, Keith won the Georgia Education Advancement Council (GEAC) Distinguished Service Award for Educational Fundraising.


Prior to the University, Keith was Vice-President of Trust and Trust City Manager with C&S Bank/NationsBank (now Bank of America) based in Athens, Georgia and had 14 years of trust experience. Keith is a graduate of the University of Georgia with an undergraduate degree in accounting in 1975 and he a law degree from the University of Georgia in 1978.


After his retirement from UGA, Keith served as Director of Major Gifts/Planned Giving at Athens Regional Medical Center Foundation, (now Piedmont Athens Regional). He retired from that position in early 2019.


Keith is a past Chairman of the Georgia Bankers Association Trust and Investment Management Committee and has taught on trust and legal matters at the Georgia Banking School. He has been a presenter at CASE Districts III and IV, the Georgia Planned Giving Council and the Georgia Education Advancement Council. Keith has been a member of the State Bar of Georgia, the Fiduciary Law Section of the State Bar, the Georgia Planned Giving Council and the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.


Keith and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, a granddaughter and a rescued French Bulldog. He is active in the First Presbyterian Church in Athens, as an Elder not currently on the Session and is Chair of the Endowment Trustees. He is on the Board of the Presbyterian Student Center at UGA. Keith is an avid golfer and is volunteer Rules Official for the Georgia State Golf Association.

Direct Phone: (706) 255-5815
Email: keith(at)columnsfundraising.com
Katie Olliff
Grants Consultant
Katie has more than ten years’ experience as a non-profit professional in several organizations in Atlanta focused on children and youth, seniors, faith-based communities, and public policy. She has written winning proposals for foundation, corporate, and government grants. She’s also had a successful track record in individual giving, special events management, database administration, program management. Her previous positions include Director of Grants and Donors Relations at Meals on Wheels and Development Director at Voices for Georgia’s Children. She has also worked with Refugee Family Services and The Fund for Theological Education. Katie is a graduate of Georgia Tech and also holds a Masters in Theology from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. She is a foster parent to four children and enjoys reading, cooking, and watching college basketball.
Direct Phone: (404) 295-9744
Email: katie(at)columnsfundraising.com
Racheal Ricketts
Administrative Services

With over a decade of experience and a tremendous passion for her work, Racheal provides creative business and administrative support.  She uses her knowledge and experience in project management, operations, marketing, human resources, and administrative support to help the Columns team stay on deadline and on budget.  She currently holds two prestigious designations: Organizational Management (OM), along with Certified Administrative Professional (CAP), conferred by IAAP (International Association of Associated Professionals).

She enjoys spending her free time with her family, traveling, canvas painting and reading.

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Mike Sophir
Senior Consultant

Mike brings to the Columns team 30 years of experience in organizational and business leadership in both the public and private sectors. His primary focus has been strategic planning and implementation, marketing and branding communication and fundraising development.

Mike most recently served as the CEO of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. Prior to joining the Fraternity, he was Senior Vice President of a strategic marketing and communications firm with a focus on fundraising development, public/private partnerships, major donor and annual giving strategies, brand integration, and change and crisis management. Earlier in his career, Mike served as the Director of Corporate Development for Children’s Hospital Colorado, during which time, the hospital built a new $500 million-plus facility. He began his professional career with the SAE Fraternity Headquarters as a member of the educational field staff and later became the Director of Chapter Development. He also worked as a Director with an integrated marketing firm focused on the release of new products by Fortune 500 companies which partnered with renowned musical artists on nationwide tours.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Nebraska, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in History, English and Portuguese. He is an avid fitness enthusiast; he enjoys being in the gym, on the ski slopes, hiking the Colorado back country or going on summer runs with his dog along Lake Michigan.

Direct phone: (847) 533-4184

Email: mike(at)columnsfundraising.com

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Anne Stanford

Grants Consultant

Anne Stanford comes to Columns Fundraising with more than 18 years of experience in communications. She has written and edited successful proposals and grants to private foundations, corporations, and government entities. A storyteller at heart, Anne has enjoyed working in a variety of settings including secondary schools, higher education, the federal government, and non-profit organizations. For more than a decade, she worked at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she served as communications manager in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and senior writer/editor in Georgia Tech's Office of Development. Prior to Georgia Tech, Anne was the communications director for the Margaret Mitchell House. 

Anne received her bachelor’s degree in English from Colby College and her master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing from Emerson College. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and running.

Direct phone: (404) 434-0459

Email: anne(at)columnsfundraising.com

Pete Ticconi

Senior Consultant, Planned Giving Coach

Peter J. Ticconi, Jr. is a gift planning consultant, speaker, researcher, and author with more than 40 years of experience.  He has studied at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family as an Emotional System.  He is the founder of the CANARAS planned giving group and served on the boards of the Planned Giving Group of New England and Chesapeake Planned Giving Council.  Some of his research has been published in Planned Giving Today.  He recently retired from the Georgia Institute of Technology where he was the Executive Director of Gift Planning and Senior Philanthropic Advisor.  In his over 40 years in gift planning, Pete has led programs at Connecticut College, Babson College, Saint Lawrence University, Williams College, and The Johns Hopkins Institutions.


Pete also served as a First Lieutenant in the Army, stationed in West Germany, and was a Captain in the Army Reserves until 1980.  He and his wife, Janet, have 3 adult children and 10 (yes, 10!) grandchildren.

Direct phone: (404) 683-4117

Email: pete(at)columnsfundraising.com

Amanda Willis

Senior Consultant

Amanda’s 20 years in fundraising combines experience as a consultant, advancement officer, and volunteer member of not-for-profit boards. This broad experience enables her to see fundraising from a 360-degree view, creating a sound, cohesive strategy and successfully implementing fundraising plans. 


She entered the field as vice president of development at Westminster Christian Academy, a K-12 independent school with over 1,000 students in south Louisiana, following a tenure as a member of the Academy’s board of directors. Recruited to a leading consulting firm in the southeast, she rose to the position of senior vice president, and conducted feasibility studies and helped lead capital campaigns in independent schools, colleges and universities, and a variety of not-for-profit organizations. In 2009 she was recruited to the role of vice president for advancement at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA. A challenging turn-around opportunity, she led a small team in an advancement effort focused on donor relationships while growing alumni involvement, nearly doubling the size of the alumni donor base. For work "above and beyond" the call of duty she was recognized with Riverside’s President’s Award in 2017.

Amanda holds a degree from Auburn University in journalism and has written for Louisiana newspapers as well as The New York Times News Service. She earned her CFRE credential in 2005. She is a member and past chairman of the board of the Quinlan Visual Arts Center and is a member of The Rotary Club of Gainesville, GA, where she lives with her husband. In the little free time she has, Amanda enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. 

Direct phone: (504) 259-9055

Email: amanda(at)columnsfundraising.com