OUR TEAM

CauseConnect® LLC is a consulting firm that works with nonprofit and corporate clients on projects in the visual and performing arts, education, environment, and community. With its guiding principle of “doing business by doing good,”  the firm has initiated and managed strategic marketing partnerships for major corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, and creative professionals (artists, collectors, performers, art advocates). Founded in 1999, CauseConnect began by providing unprecedented networking opportunities for corporate and nonprofit professionals responsible for sponsorship, cause marketing, and corporate giving. Growing demand especially after 9/11 in 2001 evolved into what CauseConnect is today.

CauseConnect maintains a roster of qualified individuals who possess expertise in a variety of areas from the corporate and nonprofit sectors. This allows the firm to provide clients with an array of services that integrate doing business by doing good.

Melissa Richardson Banks specializes in creating strategic marketing partnerships for corporate and nonprofit clients. She is known for designing innovative, cost-effective solutions that produce results — from raising funds to raising awareness. Since 1989, she has raised over $45 million for nonprofits.

In 1999, Melissa co-founded an unprecedented network with John H. Good, Angela Easton, and Hyepin Christine Im called Sponsorship Professionals Association (SPA), which uniquely connected corporate and nonprofit executives responsible for sponsorship, cause marketing, and corporate giving. After 9/11, Melissa launched CauseConnect® to provide professional services to companies, charities, and celebrities, including Toyota, Target Corporation, Cheech Marin, Los Angeles Education Partnership, Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education, and many more.

Previously, she 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 launched a major exhibitions program at Central Library, resulting in almost 30 major gallery shows 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 a groundbreaking integrated marketing/sponsorship program to support exhibitions, festivals, and other cultural events. At Texas A&M University, 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.

Since 1999, Melissa has taught nonprofit training workshops independently or for clients such as the National Arts Project, Center for Cultural Innovation, and InfoPeople. She has presented at national conferences such as the American Alliance of Museums, American Libraries Association, Mountain-Plains Museums Association, and Hispanic PR & Social Marketing Association. She has also served as a grant reviewer for many companies and government agencies.

As Downtown Muse, Melissa is also an independent cultural producer and a seasoned marketing professional. She plans, creates, funds and executes events, programs and projects such as museum exhibits, community festivals, speaker series, classical music concerts, influencer dinners, artist studio visits, outdoor art tours, and art salons. To date, she has produced, marketed, managed, and/or funded over 100 museum exhibits, and managed several national tours of traveling exhibits and art shows. She is also a lifestyle photographer who blogs about the arts at www.DowntownMuse.com.

In addition, Melissa is an author, book editor, and art publisher who has independently funded, edited and published five art books; among them, her book of her own photography, “MUSE-ings: Snapshots of the Arts District, Downtown Los Angeles,” which is sold on Amazon.

Specialties: cause marketing; corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives; nonprofit-corporate partnerships; cultural productions such as museum exhibitions, speaker programs, and community festivals; special events; volunteer programs; nonprofit training; social media; art services


EdgarVarela Edgar Varela has worked is an independent cultural producer specializing in art, music, and cultural happenings with an emphasis on brand-driven events and event production. Art events produced by Varela include several with Art Weekend LA, which connected local art galleries with national art fairs; The Analog Salon art series sponsored by Epson in Culver City; and Phantom Galleries, which revitalizes and energizes communities and pedestrian thoroughfares by transforming unoccupied properties into art venues. Music events produced by Varela include the Homage concert series featuring artists such as Roy Ayers, Peter Rock, Robert Glasper Experiment, Quantic, Thundercat, Alice Russell, and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble; World Music Series featuring acts such as Jeremy Sole and his Musaics, Very Be Careful, La Santa Cecilia, Las Cafeteras, Buyepongo, Mr. Vallenato, Maleco Collective, and Mucho Music. As a music consultant, he has programmed the stages and managed production for numerous large-scale events such as BloomfestLA (2009-2012) Target Feria de la Familia (2012-2013), and Downtown Dark Nights at L.A. LIVE (August 2014 to present). From 2006-2013, he owned and operated EVFA, a fine art gallery specializing in contemporary American art based in Downtown Los Angeles. Prior to working in the arts, he was a commercial real estate analyst for seven years. He has been working with CauseConnect since 2011.


Julie Rasmussen by Laykin PhotoJulie L. Rasmussen of A Little Birdy Told Me specializes in building and engaging online communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for restaurants, galleries, nonprofit organizations, art and music festivals, event venues, yoga studios, and more. Clients, past and present, include Flore Vegan, Four Café, Gobi Mongolian, Le Pink Co. Apothecary, Lifefood Organic, Melrose Trading Post, Pazzo Gelato, Sonny’s HideawayYogala Echo Park, and Xperiment USA. Originally from San Diego, Julie studied dance, art, photography, and theater, moving to Los Angeles in 1993 to pursue her dreams. After working for ten years as a producer of independent films, in 2004, she transitioned her love of promoting all things creative and good into her consulting practice. She has been working with CauseConnect since 2006.