2018 Influential Women in Business: Beverly Brooks Thompson
Photo by Collin Richie
Family: Married to Corky Thompson, with three sons—Brennan, William and Dalton—and niece Logan.
Profession: President and executive counsel, Brooks Thompson Consulting
Years with company: 1
“Forever LSU” is a hallmark phrase on the Baton Rouge campus of the state’s flagship university, a favorite social media hashtag among students and the emphatically sung last line of the university’s alma mater.
But for Beverly Brooks Thompson, the words mean something more.
It was Thompson—tapped in 2006 to direct the Forever LSU campaign—who played a part in making those words part of the LSU vernacular, as she led one of the most successful fundraising efforts in university history to raise more than $798 million, exceeding its $750 million goal, in four years.
Forever LSU was the first major milestone of Thompson’s career in fundraising, one that gained her national recognition. She then went on to join one of the most prestigious U.S. consulting firms, Pursuant Ketchum, and later returned to Baton Rouge as chief development officer of Woman’s Hospital, before starting her own consulting business in 2017.
But as Thompson reflects on her greatest achievements, she instantly thinks back to the Forever LSU campaign and the day she got the call saying the goal was met. That moment stands out because, she says, there was no reason for the campaign to succeed. In its four years, there was high turnover among LSU leadership, coupled with four hurricanes and a major economic downturn. It was also Thompson’s first foray into fundraising.
“Everything was against us. Sheer grit got that campaign through,” she says. “In my gut, with my stubborn nature, failure was just not an option.”
Perseverance has been a defining characteristic of Thompson’s career, along with “knowing what I don’t know,” she says. And it’s that stubborn, relentless nature that has helped overcome obstacles she’s faced in life, including an irrational fear of failure that women often experience.
“We live in a place of fear, women especially,” she says. “We won’t apply for a position unless we have all the qualifications. It takes people tapping you on the shoulder and saying, ‘Hey, you should do this.’”
Thompson has had people do that for her, and she returns the favor as a mentor for others, women in particular. She often shares opportunities with those she sees fit and provides honest advice when needed. Even today, Thompson admits she, too, sometimes still needs that tap on the shoulder.
Toward the end of a rewarding role at Woman’s Hospital—where Thompson launched its first foundation, formed a board and served as its president—she felt called to start a consulting company. But working for Woman’s was such a privilege, she says, leaving to start a business would take a huge leap of faith. Her husband, with whom Thompson has raised four children, was her voice of reason.
“He asked me, ‘What have you ever failed at when you really put your mind to it?” Thompson recalls.
So last year, she launched Brooks Thompson Consulting, where she leverages her fundraising skills to serve three types of clients. Thompson helps nonprofits raise money as well as develop boards and campaigns. She works with families to manage wealth for philanthropic giving, and she assists companies with their philanthropic goals.
Her tagline is, “We help people do good. Better.” The new challenge for Thompson is learning how to run a business. As always, though, perseverance will prevail.
“I’ve figured out a lot about what I don’t know in this role,” she says. “Over, under, around and through—I’ll find a way.”
2006: Becomes director of the Forever LSU fundraising campaign
2010: Forever LSU surpasses its goal, raising more than $798 million
2011: Becomes vice president and executive counsel of consulting firm Pursuant Ketchum
2013: Joins Woman’s Hospital as chief development officer
2014: Forms a Board of Trustees, launching the Foundation for Woman’s Hospital and becoming its president
2015: Earns her doctorate of philosophy at LSU
2017: Launches her business, Brooks Thompson Consulting
A life-changing experience
I failed out of college my sophomore year. After an 18-month hiatus working in the restaurant industry with long hours, low pay and little room for advancement, I quickly realized the value of a college education. I was granted a second chance at LSU and the experience truly changed my life’s trajectory—both personally and how I approach my work.
Necessary workplace changes
The day when there’s no need for a special award to be given out for 52% of our population. Wouldn’t it be amazing if women were seen as incredibly influential without the need to be singled out? The representation of women in our Legislature, in executive level positions, etc. in our community is appalling. We have much work to do.
Relaxing when stressed
I love a good book, a great massage or a day spent under the covers binge watching some Netflix show.