studio (un)scripted: 5 questions with janine powell.

JANINE POWELL, DIRECTOR OF DONOR RELATIONS (and a woman with an actual golden soul, bleeding heart & giving spirit who does it all with style and grace)

The studio is my happy place, where is yours? 

I feel most alive and content when I’m at the beach or embarking on new adventures through travel. The beach brings me so much peace — whether I’m sitting in the sand, enjoying the water, or fishing with my husband, I’m happy. Not to sound cheesy, but I am a Pisces and connect deeply to the ocean. Traveling excites and challenges me in a way I never expected. It fills my soul to experience new challenges like hiking the Shetland and Orkney Islands. To see Viking ruins and standing stones older than Stonehenge is just incredible. I had never hiked before and was terrified I wouldn’t be able to do it. 8-10 miles a day with challenging ascents was intimidating, but the sense of accomplishment I felt was incredible.

My first hiking trip in 2022 was especially meaningful. The hardest day of hiking coincided with the anniversary of my beloved brother Joe’s death. I hiked 9 miles up a terrifying ascent in 30 mph winds. To complete that hike and see The Old Man of Hoy, a 500-foot sea stack on that day when my grief was so intense, felt like the very best way to honor Joe who loved the outdoors and hiking. I enjoyed it so much I took on another hike this year!

In your role as Director of Donor Relations, you are honestly the queen of all trades — from directing the development department for these insatiable parks to managing fundraising efforts, marketing and PR efforts, social media channels, website supervision, media buys — the list never ends! How do you remain organized with such a full plate? All of us — seriously all of us — want to know! 

Organization. I wish I had the magic answer! Honestly, if it’s not on my calendar or a sticky note prominently displayed, it does not exist! The other side of it is that I love that every day is different. I don’t think I would thrive in an environment where I did the same thing every day. Being nimble and able to pivot is key. I’m very fortunate that I have a job that allows me to do things I love. I also serve as one of the Lead Public Information Officers for New Hanover County meaning that when there is an emergency like a hurricane, or a global pandemic, I am part of the task force for finding and executing a meaningful solution. Hurricane Florence challenged me in ways I never imagined. We worked 18 hour days and coordinated all the public messaging going out. It was a high pressure atmosphere but I’m so proud of the work we did. From 2016-2020 our Emergency Operations Center was activated for Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, Dorian, Isaias and the pandemic. Florence set the record for the longest time the EOC was activated for a hurricane. Then the pandemic said, “hold my beer”.

A highlight during Florence was getting to meet chef José Andrés whose nonprofit World Central Kitchen fed all of us working in the EOC and so many people in our community. I have never met someone with kinder eyes. 

Anyone with any kind of experience in fundraising knows that it is not for the weak of heart. It’s honestly one of the most challenging things, in my opinion, to do successfully. What sort of tips and techniques would you offer someone looking to help raise money or items for a cause important to them/their client?  

I never thought that I would be a fundraiser. I started my career at a nonprofit doing substance abuse prevention and eventually running all crisis intervention services. Grant writing was always a part of my job there, so I was fundraising, even though I didn’t necessarily think of myself as a fundraiser.

The best part of fundraising is building relationships with donors and connecting them to our organization. My professional philosophy is to work for organizations whose missions I believe deeply in. When you love the organization, asking people to support it is easy. And as a fundraiser, no is your second best answer!

That said, my advice to anyone who wants to become a fundraiser is to look for an organization whose mission you truly believe in and remember that it is a profession. We have a Code of Ethics and stewarding people’s donations while maintaining integrity is so important. I know you understand because of your work with the amazing Samaritan House.

Your kindness and generosity expands from your professional world into your personal world and I can absolutely attest to that. You go above and beyond for friends, family, colleagues — even strangers. Tell us why this is so important to you. It’s really inspiring. 

I try my best to be kind, but I am also human and not perfect. I would say my upbringing is my biggest influence. I was raised catholic and “do unto others” was a huge emphasis in our home. My beloved father would literally give you the shirt off of his back, and my mom was never happier than when the house was filled with the five of us and our friends. She loved to feed people and our home was always open when a friend was in need. I’m the youngest of five with four older brothers

My brothers Joe and Andy were and are my heroes. They had different styles of showing kindness, but both were and are so giving and kind. When you’ve lost both your parents and a beloved sibling, you really understand what is important in life. So my kindness comes from a place that honors them and fills me with joy. I also married a man with a huge heart and the gentlest soul. He is a retired fireman who spent his entire career helping others and that didn’t stop when he took off his turnout gear. I genuinely believe that what you put out in the world is what will come back to you in the most unexpected ways. So, be kind and do nice things for strangers — you’ll be amazed at what a difference it will make in your life.

If you could ask me anything, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. How is your skin so radiant, how do you manage a full-time job and incredible volunteer work? I could go on, but I’ve already gone over the question limit!

To bring all of this love, peace and joy into your daily like, follow Janine immediately.

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