Q&A With Jennifer Till
In the fourth and final installment of this monthly blog series, you will learn more about one of our staff members. Through these one-on-one interviews, we are pleased to share our career passions and philosophies—and some personal information, too. Below is an interview with Jennifer Till, Consultant and Executive Coach with Brighter Strategies.
What initially inspired you to embark on a career in the nonprofit space?
My primary motivation when I first embarked in nonprofit work and my continued inspiration are quite different. My initial experience with nonprofits was when I was hired as the Director of Development at a local private (Waldorf) school that my son attended. I accepted the position because I wanted him and me to be on the same work/school rhythm. Since that first exposure to the nonprofit world, my career path took me to Board and Fund Development work, first at the local Hospice and then at the Alzheimer’s Association, prior to my consulting career. I came to realize how important it was to use my energy for organizations that help to support our community, rather than to simply earn a paycheck by helping companies make money.
What is your philosophy for coaching?
Each of us has the natural ability to lead with excellence by cultivating our innate qualities of focus, authenticity, and compassion. Bringing awareness to not only what we’re doing, but how we’re doing what we’re doing helps with that purpose. Awareness also helps us to be less reactive so we can make better decisions; to see the bigger perspective so we can create better results; and to develop environments of trust and safety, where there is respect for each individual’s unique style, skills, and contributions.
Ironically, what holds us back is often what we cling to most. Over time, an ineffective behavior becomes comfortable and familiar, and ultimately, part of our identity. That’s why it’s so difficult to change. The good news is that through the coaching process, we can identify obstacles to our success that we’ve created internally, and we can develop new skills, or habits of mind.
How do you envision the nonprofit field growing within the next decade?
The nonprofit world will continue to mushroom as governmental programs are retracted and social, environmental, and spiritual needs rise. Competition for donors will increase dramatically, and in order for a nonprofit organization to survive, it will have to attract top talent in the field by incorporating innovative thinking, integrating sound business practices, and recognizing that leadership is in service to others. Strategic focus, values-based leadership, organizational alignment, and employee development are elements critical to long-term nonprofit success.
What do you enjoy doing for fun and relaxation?
Two things are drawing my leisure time attention these days: gardening and Japanese Tea Ceremony. This summer, I created a 500 square foot raised bed garden, and for the first time I’m experimenting with a winter-covered hoop garden. It is a tremendous thrill to walk down to my garden and harvest broccoli, snap peas, brussels sprouts, kale, and arugula—in December! And I picked the last of my tomatoes in November!
Also, I’m studying Japanese Tea Ceremony, which is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea, using the guiding principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. It is said that this practice provides calm in a turbulent world and focus amidst distractions by emphasizing the larger patterns of relationships that connect us to one another, to society, and to nature.