Jessie views life as a collection of wonderful experiences. Throughout his 17+ year career, he has had a passion for science and healthcare education, raising money to support the study of and students in disciplines including biology, nursing and oceanography. Jessie values the relationships that he has developed with world-class researchers and amazing colleagues along the way. He currently serves as the Senior Director of Development, Major Gifts, at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
What path led you to a career in fundraising?
I began my career in fundraising purely by accident. I was transitioning from a career in engineering to work in university administration not related to fundraising. I was approached by the AVP for Development and asked if I would interested in considering a position in corporate and foundation relations. He felt that I had the necessary skill set to be successful in the position so I decided to take the plunge into development and never looked back. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
What inspires you about the fundraising profession?
Two things: The first is that as a profession we have the ability to impact the lives of people in positive ways. Through our collective efforts, the institutions, organizations and individuals that receive philanthropic support are positively impacted, as are the donors who support them. The second is the amazing colleagues I continue to meet year after year who are enthusiastic, passionate and want the make the world a better place.
What is the one quality every fundraiser should have
For me, listening is a very important quality to possess. Everyone’s story is unique and worth hearing. Listening allows you the opportunity to connect with the donor and understand their motivations and wishes for making a gift of time, talent or treasure.
What is the legacy that you would like to leave regarding your fundraising activities?
I would like to be remembered as a good colleague and collaborator with my co-workers. No one accomplishes securing a gift without help from many other people. I would also like to be remembered as making a difference to the various organizations I have been fortunate to work for over the years – that I helped advance their mission, assisted donors in realizing their dreams to the organization through philanthropy and created an ongoing source of funding for the institution.
Finish this sentence… The most important thing I learned about fundraising but didn’t know is…
Every day is exciting and different. Each gift and each interaction is unique and special. It is what keeps me motivated to continue to work in this amazing field.
Who would you like to take with you (alive or transitioned) to a high profile meeting? Why?
I would take Colin Powell to the meeting with me. He is confident, persuasive and has a disarming personality. He would have the ability to articulate the case for support effectively and could explain it in an understandable way. I think it would be very hard to say no to him.
How well do you think African Americans are represented in the development field?
All of my fundraising experience has been in higher education in the Southwestern and Western US where I have worked with a handful of African American development officers. This number might be much different in other regions of the US with larger African American populations.
There is reason to be optimistic for the future because there are more programs and degrees being offered in fundraising and non-profit management than ever before. This allows more students and professionals to pursue development as a viable and fulfilling career—including African Americans. Developing effective ways to promote and create awareness of this field to all highly skilled students and professionals could assist in the effort.
What things do you do to continue to enhance your knowledge and expertise in the development field?
Even after 17+ years, I am continually challenged to hone and refine my knowledge and skills. I try to stay abreast of new trends and technologies that are being developed to make me a more effective development professional. I am actively involved with organizations such as AFP and CASE and recently participated in the CASE Minority Advancement Initiative. I interact with colleagues at different institutions to share ideas about the newest fundraising trends and selectively attend conferences that will help me strengthen an existing skill or to learn a new skill. I also enjoy being a mentor, when asked, to new individuals entering the profession.
What do you think the relevance of philanthropy is to the American way of life? How important is it?
Philanthropy is extremely important to the American way of life. Americans are the leaders and innovators of philanthropy. I have seen how it can help shape/improve lives through education, enable life-saving research and improve the condition of individuals affected by hunger, poverty and illness. Philanthropy also provides those transformational experiences using resources not available through typical funding mechanisms.
What is the most inspiring development/philanthropy quote that you’ve ever heard?
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”