Jeanelle S. Chang
Deputy Director of Development, Southern California & the Southwest
Jeanelle Chang is a dedicated and passionate NPO Development and Fundraising Professional who turns the field on its head - focusing on relationship development and providing meaningful opportunities for those with the capacity and interest to support worthy causes that changes lives. She has over ten years of non-profit experience and has worked in a span of diverse NPOs, including arts organizations, cultural institutions, health and medical associations, social service entities and higher education. Jeanelle is currently the Deputy Director of Development for Southern California and the Southwest at the Obama Foundation. Her primary role is to be a frontlines fundraiser to build and maintain a strong major and principle gift prospect/donor portfolio, priorities including the Obama Presidential Center and the Foundation’s current programming. Prior to this, she was at the University of Chicago and worked for Theaster Gates as the Associate Director, Major Gifts for Arts + Public Life and the Arts Block. She executed a breadth of development skills through multiple fundraising avenues at the Chicago Sinfonietta, SkyART, Art Institute, Asian Art Museum, AsianWeek Foundation and International Anesthesia Research Society. In 2016, she received YNPN Chicago’s 2016 Young Nonprofit Professional of the Year award. Jeanelle is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and YNPN Chicago. She is also so thrilled to be welcomed as a member of AADO. She has a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego and M.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
How did you get interested in the fundraising profession?
Like many people, I fell into fundraising. I learned what Development and fundraising was when I worked at the Asian Art Museum (AAM), my first job out of undergrad. I had a degree in Visual Arts however I was terrified to be a “starving artist” and I realized I spent more time promoting my peer artists than myself. During my tenure at AAM, it clicked for me: wow I can work in a space that focuses on the Arts and culture, I can share my passions of art and culture with multiple stakeholders, AND have a steady paycheck. When an AAM colleague introduced me to Arts Administration as a professional occupation, I was over the moon and from there, worked to build my career in Arts Administration with a focus on Fundraising and Philanthropy. As many life plans, there have been deviations but I stay true to working at organizations I really champion for.
What is something you wish you knew early on in your fundraising career?
I wish I knew of AADO earlier on in my career! It took me a while to find a community of professionals who just simply looked like me, and reflect the communities in which we work in and serve. Going to an AADO conference was life changing! I have worked in too many organizations with missions of diversity and equity (or identify-based/affinity-based) that are led by homogenous leaders who cannot related to the communities we serve, who have unintentionally demoralized POC staff, made strategic decisions from a very privileged lens, etc etc (list goes on). At the AADO Conference, I was surrounded by amazing POC development officers who affirmed the issues and challenges I had experienced and said I SEE YOU, and also said there needs to be more POC fundraisers like ME! I felt like I belonged and also gave me a stronger sense of purpose. It is so important to have POC leaders who are talented, experience, cognizant, culturally aware and competent, empowered and have authentic perspectives around these mission-based organizations to truly be effective and impactful, internally and externally.
What is the one quality every fundraiser should have?
The mindset to do GOOD WORK for all and believe in the culture of Philanthropy. I think many fundraisers, particularly those who work in larger institutions, only focus on external relationships and bottom line. A successful fundraiser makes internal relationships as much a priority as external relationships. I see a lot of cliques and departments working in silos. There are leaders who bully staff and we are all aware of the burn-out factor. It’s so frustrating when I witness nonprofit boasts about serving underserved communities at the sacrifice of staff well-being. We are the relationship brokers and we can help connect those in our organization to come together, remind each other it’s not ego-based work, and collaborate to be successful and sustainable.
What inspires you about the fundraising profession?
Being able to meet the most amazing people, from leadership at the top of their field, colleagues and fellow peer fundraisers doing phenomenal work, powerful thought-leaders and creatives, and extraordinary young people. I consciously choose to work for organizations that aligns with my passions and personal mission. I have been able to meet so many incredible folks during my career and each interaction has been an enriching experience.
How do you want to be remembered as a professional?
I would like to be remembered as a professional who put FUN in the fundraising! People find the field so daunting and unapproachable. I just geek out about Philanthropy, Fundraising and Development, so much that for my graduate thesis I developed a game to help emerging professionals learn basic mechanics of fundraising! I hope I can help break down those barriers and make this career more accessible to those who would like to use it as a vehicle to do good work.