Melissa Richardson Banks specializes in projects, events, and campaigns designed to inspire action. In Los Angeles, she is known for her long-time advocacy of Downtown Los Angeles (since 1993 long before it was cool!) and her boosterism of people and places in the Arts District through her blog Downtown Muse - now known as City as Muse. Since relocating to Houston in 2016, she has focused on exploring art every day in the nation’s fourth largest city through her online persona H-Town Muse. With her firm CauseConnect, which she founded as a full-time business in 2001 after 9/11, she produces corporate-nonprofit partnerships tied to cause marketing. The results speak for themselves: she has raised over $50 million in charitable dollars (since 1989), and her client list includes top-notch companies, charities, and celebrities, including Toyota Financial Services, Target Corporation, Cheech Marin, Melrose Trading Post, City National Bank, L.A. LIVE, Los Angeles Education Partnership, Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education, and many more.
Previously, Melissa worked for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles where she successfully started an inaugural corporate partnership program in support of the Los Angeles Public Library. She also spearheaded a new exhibitions program at Central Library, resulting in almost 30 museum-quality gallery shows featuring art, history, and photography for which she managed project teams, raised funding, and provided professional services such as sponsorship, marketing, community outreach, special events, volunteer engagement, contract negotiation, and budget management. She formerly worked at the Autry National Center where she launched an integrated marketing/sponsorship program to support over 30 exhibitions and associated educational programs plus other cultural events such as concerts and art fairs; and at Texas A&M University where she managed an international executive education program as well as administered and funded programs affiliated with statewide business-school partnerships. Prior to the nonprofit arena, she worked in corporate sales, marketing, and Hispanic market research. She holds a B.A. in journalism and communication studies from Texas State University and a master’s degree (and Ph.D. coursework) in educational administration with an emphasis on business and finance from Texas A&M University.