Meet the Staff


Meet the Staff

Kati Liss-Hensel, Manager of Major Gifts and Planned Giving

By Melinda Graber, Marketing Apprentice

Kati Liss-HenselTell us a little about yourself.

I am native to Connecticut. I was raised in Windsor Locks and am currently residing in East Granby.  My husband and I have a 4-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son.  I attended the University of Hartford, majoring in English Literature and Creative Writing. I was a paid intern in U-Hart’s Communications Office writing for their alumni magazine before graduating and starting my nonprofit career at United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.

My first theatre experience was actually here in Hartford when I was about 9 or 10. I don’t remember what performance or what theatre, but I remember the feeling I had sitting in the audience. There was an energy that cascaded from the stage and down the aisle. Looking around, it was amazing to see every audience member sharing this experience. From then on, and still now, whenever there is an opportunity to see a show, I take advantage of it.

Take us through the day-to-day responsibilities of the Manager of Major Gifts and Planned Giving.

My job is all about creating and building relationships while connecting people with all the wonderful things Hartford Stage is doing. I listen to people in order to understand their philanthropic goals. The magic happens when I am able to help someone meet their objective of contributing to a program or initiative that matches their interests. It is like connecting puzzle pieces and making everyone feel great about what they are accomplishing.

What drew you to working in development?

I really wanted to be a writer, a researcher or journalist but my course veered towards philanthropy when I started volunteering for the Special Olympics while I was in high school. That rewarding experience introduced me to a career path that I hadn’t considered, and I knew I wanted to combine writing and communicating with fundraising. It seemed like the right fit for me, and I’ve never regretted my decision.

What are the challenges of working in development?

Fundraising is hard. There are so many factors beyond our control that determines its success – the economy, politics; even people’s personal lives can influence their giving. The biggest challenge for me, in development, is when there are things you can’t control, especially when those things directly influence meeting goals.

What are you looking forward to at Hartford Stage?

I am looking forward to many things! First, being back in Hartford – I haven’t worked in Hartford since 2012, and I love being in the downtown area. Second – being able to participate in the theatre community by seeing the shows. Recently, seeing Make Believe was a moving experience, and I was immediately reminded of why live theatre is so important to me and important to the community. Third, I am excited to hear from our many patrons, donors and volunteers about why Hartford Stage is so meaningful to them.

Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?

My husband and I are, very slowly, renovating our Revolutionary War era Federalist style Colonial home. It was built in the 1770s by an Army Officer who was a member of the CT Continental Line. While I would like it to be haunted, unfortunately it is not.

What is your personal motto in life?

I’ve spent my entire career meeting people, and I continue to add to my network as I grow professionally. It is important to me to stay in contact with the people I connect with, whether they are interns or CEOs, regardless of where life takes us.