Brett Barnes, CFRE, CFRM (He/Him/His)
Co-Chair of Philanthropy Day 2023
[email protected]



“It’s not so much the decisions you make; it’s what you make of the decisions you’ve made!”

This adage, told to me by my grandmother, remains a guiding principle in my life – personally and professionally. An adopted child from San Antonio, my loving parents worked hard to set an example and give me the foundation I needed to learn, grow and succeed in life. My musical abilities were nurtured from an early age and would become a vehicle for many outstanding opportunities in my life, which continue still. Leveraging my singing, I attended the University of Texas, trained at some of the most prestigious programs, studied with teachers from around the country, traveled extensively, and garnered many awards and accolades. Growing tired of living out of a suitcase, I accepted a position as Artistic Administrator and Director of the Young Artist Training Program with Austin (Lyric) Opera. Realizing my skills extended past singing and wanting a new challenge, I worked my way into fundraising by taking the Development Director position for Conspirare, a professional choir based in Austin. In a matter of four and a half years, I helped grow this organization from $280,000 annual revenue to nearly $1M. I had found my passion for connecting with people and using my creativeness to help bridge relationships. I spread my fundraising wings by moving into the social service realm with LifeWorks, which creates paths to self-sufficiency for youth and families. As Chief Development Officer, I helped establish this organization as an Austin leader in the “Young Professional” fundraising arena. I worked with Board and staff to conduct a mission refresh and create a messaging manifesto that elevated their fundraising to its highest levels of success. For my work at LifeWorks, I received the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser award from the AFP Greater Austin chapter in 2013. As a new challenge, I accepted the Vice President of Development role at The Long Center, Austin’s premier performing arts venue. During my tenure, annual support grew an average of 10% each year, and I secured a $2.5M endowment for their education programs, the largest gift received since their original capital campaign. I returned to the social service/healthcare fundraising world by joining Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. I am passionate about this organization and felt like I wanted to contribute to its mission at a crucial period in our history.

In addition to my professional duties, I remain actively involved with singing; serve as adjunct faculty at Austin Community College’s Nonprofit Austin/Center for Nonprofit Studies; continue my tenure as an Austin Arts Commissioner and serve as the liaison to the city’s Art In Public Places panel; adjudicate for the high school musical theatre awards program; serve as a judge for the TX State Solo & Ensemble Contest; serve on the Nonprofit Advisory Board of I Live Here, I Give Here; and, support charities that impact my life. I live in East Austin with my beautiful baby dog, AnnaBelle, and my mom’s cat, Tiger. I love to travel and be a citizen of the world.

Though my life has had many turns and twists, I hear my grandmother’s voice and remember: we may not always make the decisions, but we always get to make the most of them.