In this edition of Leadership Voices, Jenny Salisbury talks about leadership in fundraising and the importance of collaboration. Jenny is the Director of the Bucks County Community College Foundation, which raises money for scholarships and special projects for the school. She oversees all the functions of the foundation, with a primary focus in their fundraising.
Kristen: Has fundraising always been your professional foray?
Jenny: I kind of tripped and fell into fundraising. I went to school for public relations and event planning and when I moved here for the second time, in 2007 I was piecemealing together some part-time jobs. A Woman’s Place, a domestic violence organization here in Bucks County, was looking for a development associate. I had no idea what that meant, but it looked like it required a lot of the skills that I learned through my major and so I applied for it…and that’s where it all started.
I was there for 6 and half years and I kind of worked my way up the ranks, so by the time I left I was Director of Public Advocacy – overseeing fundraising, communications, the volunteer program, and the thrift store. From there I went to the Bucks County Playhouse, because I knew I needed a break from human services, and did a year there. After a year, I realized that I needed to find a job that had hours that were more conducive to also being a parent, and that’s when I went over to the college. I started out as the Assistant Director of the Foundation and have since been promoted.
Kristen: Okay, so when somebody talks about leadership, when you think of that word, which is kind of ambiguous and amorphous, what do you think of leadership?
Jenny: When I think of a leader I think of somebody who inspires, versus somebody who just gives directives. I see a true leader as somebody that inspires people to be their best and reach to be better at what they do, and who they are. Leadership to me is really finding that way to not just direct but to walk along side and guide people to be their best or to strive to be better than their best.
KD: Is that how you practice your leadership?
Jenny: It is. I really believe when you’re a leader or when you’re a supervisor that it’s so important to roll up your sleeves and do the work too. I’m a big fan of collaboration and working with staff members on projects so that they can learn from me and, quite frankly, I can learn from them. One of the interesting things about supervising people or being a leader is that there are always different personalities that you’re dealing with and it can be very exhausting to try and manage and juggle multiple personalities. But I think the more you work with different personalities, you learn more about those different types of personalities and it makes you a better person too, because you can relate better to people.
KD: Right, right, so when you have to kind of teach leadership or anything else like that, when you orient new staff, are there resources that you use, or rely on?
Jenny: We talked about the Golden Circle, I love that TED talk, and thinking about why, I think particularly in the field, in fundraising, knowing your ‘why’ is paramount to being able to do your job, and so that’s kind of it. Because to find your passion for it is to really find that thing that can get people to get on board with what you’re doing.
There’s another book that I really like, it’s called Good to Great, it is about rather than being good at a lot of different things, it’s focusing on something that you can be great at. I think that’s important for not just individuals but for organizations and companies too. So rather than trying to be the jack of all trades, or the organization of all trades, it’s really kind of focusing on what your organization or what you as a person can be great on, and really honing those skills or talents.
Thanks so much to Jenny for her time and wisdom! If you'd like to participate in a Leadership Voices interview - follow this link to schedule. You can do it as a video or as a blog - whatever is best for you!