Alison’s primary vocational passion and expertise is in cultivating opportunities for individuals to engage their voice – as self-expression, acts of healing, bridges of connection, and expressions of personal power – and promoting truth and transparency. Because of this, she has pursued opportunities to work in the arts, media, and civic engagement. During her time at Elevate she has had the privilege and joy of supporting a variety of clients working in these spaces, with budgets ranging from $500k – $80M and with local to national reach. She also volunteers with local public media. Outside of her expertise in the arts, media, and civic engagement, she has further enriched her fundraising acumen by working with youth and adult education, healthcare, and disability advocacy organizations, amongst others.
As a fundraiser, she is inspired to connect people based on what excites them and the type of impact they want to have. She is drawn to engage individuals on their interests, what fulfills and energizes them, and what kind of a difference they hope to make in the world. This impacts how she approaches her work as an Associate Director & Senior Grant Writer at Elevate, where she is excited by opportunities to uncover the ins-and-outs of what excites nonprofit leaders about their work and funders about their contributions. By connecting these individuals, she hopes to create relationships where everyone can deepen their impact while sparking new ideas that can further their mutual visions. She sees the primary value she brings as a relationship developer and partnership identifier, rather than as a resource builder – although her efforts consistently result in new and expanded funding for her clients.
Because of her prioritization of people’s individual visions and desires, she also encourages nonprofits to consider the viewpoint of the individuals they engage through their work. She believes programs should align with these individuals’ interests, desires, and goals. When helping clients with program design, she highlights opportunities to engage stakeholders’ voices and ensure they have a seat at the table. She challenges how discussions of the individuals that nonprofit organizations engage are framed and engages in an ongoing critique of the culture of philanthropy. At the 2019 national Grant Professionals Association conference, she presented ways for fundraisers to engage in this process by challenging common approaches to the grant application’s “Need Statement” and offering ways to engage with the visions and voices of constituents within a fundraising strategy. This offering was developed and presented in collaboration with Sierra Francis and LaTissia Mitchell and shared, in part, here on the Elevate blog. It has since been shared through additional educational workshops.
Before joining Elevate, Alison spent six years as an Art Director and actor working on small independent projects across the US and in Europe, worked briefly in international development evaluating education initiatives for girls in the Middle East, and supported the rapid growth of a small woman-owned federal contractor as a key member of the business development department (where she learned many of the relationship-building and partnership development skills she brings to her work with nonprofits).
She studied Visual Communications/Art History at the University of Buffalo where she completed her honor’s thesis on The Semiotics of Gendered Violence, served as the President of the Women’s Center, and wrote for The Spectrum. She continues to be deeply engaged in women’s and gender issues. She studied Economics at the University of Maryland, trained in video and audio production at Virginia Commonwealth University and Arlington Independent Media, participated in a fellowship at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and completed The Theatre Lab’s Life Stories Institute program before beginning her own music-based Life Stories program for women survivors of violence.
In her personal life, Alison loves gathering and analyzing new information and cultivating moments of transcendence and illumination, with a particular passion for exploring the peak and nadir moments common to all human lives. She explores these arenas as an experimental musician, experimental visual artist, writer, and integrative breathworker. When not at work, you can find her playing experimental shows in basements and DIY venues, composing a weekly experimental soundscape with the voices of DC-area people for WERA 96.7, creating experiential installations, writing stories, engaging in mystical and meditative experiences, and reading (profusely). She chills out by spending time on the water or in bustling cafes, playing with complex mathematical concepts and computer programming languages, and interacting with people and ideas that challenge her world view.
Her favorite aspects of working at Elevate are that no two days look the same, working with a variety of clients offers the ongoing opportunity to learn, and she feels like she gets to be part of deepening the positive impact of people on the world. As an Associate Director, she is also part of the Client Partnerships team and is happy to answer any questions you may have as a potential client or future employee.
Among my favorites, from Mark Twain, “Words are only painted fire, a look is the fire itself.” I sometimes think of my words as painted fire as a draft proposals and outreach to supporters.
I present for immediate consideration a selection of important, yet largely un-discovered, talent: my cat, Sunji; the trench coat with a child and a broom from Bojack; or, as co-stars, my fern and his brother, La Fern and Surely.
Museum hopping, checking out shows at small venues, attending free lectures, and supporting friends’ creative endeavors.
I don’t honestly have any. We’re all human.