Community Corner: Jess Aleksy

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Community Corner


Jessica E.M. Aleksy
Director of Marketing & Development | January, 2012 – Present


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Tell us a bit about yourself…

Hometown: Cape Cod, MA

Other Places Lived: Providence, RI; Martha’s Vineyard, MA; Paris, France; Chicago, IL; Mpumalanga, South Africa

Academic & Professional Background:

  • 2005 | International Certificate in French & Political Science, concentration in International Relations | Sorbonne University | Paris, France
  • 2006 | B.A. in French & Political Science, concentration in Development of Western Civilization | Providence College | Providence, RI
  • 2007-2008 | Graduate Development Intern & Membership Secretary | Boys & Girls Club of America | Bloomington, IL
  • 2008-2009 | Research Intern & Homeless Count Coordinator | Alliance to End Homelessness | Chicago, IL
  • 2009 | M.S. in Political Science, concentration in Sustainable Community & Economic Development | Illinois State University | Bloomington, IL
  • 2009-2011 | NGO Development & HIV/AIDS Outreach Volunteer | U.S. Peace Corps | Mpumalanga, South Africa

Describe a typical day in the life of the Marketing & Development Director:
The primary focus of my work is on donor stewardship and sustainable development – which includes both annual and restricted fundraising, as well as marketing. Now that The Open Doors Campaign is completed (yaaaaay!!), I have shifted my focus to the more than one dozen annual giving programs that we have created to help supplement the completion of campaign gift payments. In terms of marketing, I spend a good portion of each day on our online & print communications, social networking & branding, and physical marketing materials. Finally, I am always looking for new ways to build our organization’s effectiveness through leadership development, partnership creation, community collaboration, and internal evaluation and capacity building. All of these account for a stronger development foundation, focused on best practices, ethical & transparent processes, and long-term sustainability.

What other professional pursuits do you have?
As with most development professionals, a large amount of my time outside of work is spent on professional pursuits that  help to strengthen our community’s work. In addition to professional association memberships, I also serve as Facilitator of the PDX Development Roundtable, Marketing Chair for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Portland, Co-Chair of the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Certification Committee, and Member of the Willamette Valley Development Officers Steering Committee for MicroMentorship, as well as serving as a speaker on Generational Giving and Millennial Engagement at Portland State University and other local community groups. 2013 was also an incredibly exciting year, as I was accepted to test for the Certified Fundraising Executives Exam, as well as being honored with Portland’s Starbright Award for Development!

What is your favorite part of your job at Saint André Bessette Catholic Church?
While being the first Development professional at Saint André Bessette has its challenges (the trials and tribulations of start-up offices & first campaigns), it also allows for an immense amount of freedom to pursue areas of opportunity. Every day at work provides new avenues for development – of organization policies & procedures, of creative outlets for marketing, and of course, of sustainable sources of funding and support – so I am never bored!

Now for some easy starter questions…

Favorite Quote:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” by Sir Winston Churchill – It’s on every one of my email signatures. I remember reading this quote for the first time in college and wondering why so many people worked only to get by… and not to give back. This quote probably had a bit to do with becoming a nonprofit development professional.

What do you love most about Portland?
You mean aside from the Unicycling Darth Vader Bagpiper and Happy Hours?? Hmmm… well, one of the reasons my husband and I chose this city was because of its reputation for placing a real importance on sustainability and meaningful interaction – in other words, not only would the Happy Hour food be amazing because it comes from a farmer 35 minutes away, but you can also stop to talk to the Unicycling Darth Vader Bagpiper and he’ll likely be happy to chat! But seriously, Portland has a definite passion or taking things a bit slower, enjoying life, and remembering what’s really important – and that’s really important to me.

Okay, now for some tougher questions…

Who would you consider an inspiration in your life?
My parents – they are very different people that have been through a lot of life together and are still happily and successfully married. From my dad I get my academic passion and sense of wanderlust: he has taught me a lot about being a good student and professional, but taking time to explore the world, its people and its cultures, and hold on tightly to my dreams. From my mom I get my empathy and my passion: she has taught me how to care for fellow human beings, to give back through my talents, to remain idealistic and to follow my heart in everything that I do. My parents put me on the path to where I am today and inspired me to keep moving forward. I couldn’t have done any of this without them in my lives.

What 3 things would you bring if you were going to be stranded on a deserted island?
A pocket knife, a cast-iron skillet, and my husband… he can do just about anything with a pocket knife & cast-iron skillet!

Is there one moment in your life that you consider a turning point? If so, why?
Travelling around parts of Cambodia was one of the most difficult things I have ever done – the abject poverty and obvious suffering was so apparent and constant. Finding a middle ground in that experience to enjoy the beautiful landscape and people around me while also feeling that my presence could offer some help – some hope – is what made me realize that I could succeed in this field. Shortly thereafter I completed my Masters, joined the Peace Corps with my husband, and have continued my development work with both national and international at-risk populations.

If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
You mean after donating a portion to a really great cause, such as St. André Bessette Catholic Church?? *wink* But honestly, with the remainder, I would want to buy houses and huts all over the world so that I could travel anywhere for the rest of my life and always be “at home”.

And just for laughs and pondering…

Ninjas or Pirates?
Ninjas. Obviously. Is that even a question?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would play you?
Summer Glau – she’s direct and gets things done… and she’s just a bit “off”.

And finally, before we conclude…

Any words of wisdom to pass along to the rest of us?
Enjoy the journey… the destination will find you.

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