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AFP Member Spotlight - Jeff Ashley

  • 1.  AFP Member Spotlight - Jeff Ashley

    Posted 01-12-2022 09:16 AM
    AFP Member Spotlight

    Jeff Ashley, Founder & President of Ashley|Rountree and Associates

    Background information:
    Studying journalism, I thought I would go into media or write the "Great American Novel," anything other than fundraising. I had a summer internship at Trinity High School, and John Grenough was the first Director of Development at Trinity. He allowed me to come in and do work in the development office, mainly with the newsletter at first. Through that I began to get an understanding and taste of annual giving and what fund development was all about.

    Then fast forward to graduate school, and I was working for the University of Kentucky Athletics
    department doing game day, media relations and operations management work. One day, the Associate Athletic Director overseeing the Blue White Fund asked me to go on a development call with him. And again, that gave me a little more of a taste for fund development and donor relationships.

    After that and when I began to look for full-time employment, I was fortunate to go back to Trinity in a
    role with the Development Office. I eventually became the Director of Advancement and also oversaw the Trinity High School Foundation, and that was really my first opportunity to step up into a leadership role in the sector.

    What has been one of the highlights of your fundraising career?

    Honestly, it's been the work through Ashley|Rountree and Associates. Being able to work with so many great organizations and so many great and talented people in those organizations. Seeing missions fulfilled and move forward, and lives impacted for the better. It's always great when campaigns meet or exceed their goal, and seeing donors fulfill their philanthropic dreams through legacy commitments. It really is the culmination of all the work we do that is the highlight.

    What is your favorite part of your work with Ashley|Rountree and Associates?
    Most of the work we do is in the Greater Louisville community, and we are expanding to the surrounding region very rapidly. With that, I've been able to see and experience progress and things that have made a difference almost on a daily basis. My wife Holly and I have two daughters, and today one is in college and the other in medical school. Several years ago when they were younger we went to the zoo (as we did often), and spent some time at the Glacier Run exhibit. The first time we saw that exhibit as a family, I was able to tell our girls how Ashley|Rountree played a role in the effort that made that vision a reality. That and them seeing all the organizations we have helped over the years have made a real positive and lasting impact on my children, showing them how to give and be generous, and the impact giving can have for the good. Giving is a learned thing, I am convinced. With over 400 clients in the last 20 years, I'm proud we've been able to move things forward to help generate more generous people and impactful programs for our community and others in the region.

    What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started your fundraising career?

    I wish I would have understood relationship vs. transaction better. I learned it along the way, and by mistakes I made early on. It's simple I believe -- when you focus on relationships, the transaction will follow. The other thing is not taking for granted the power of great mentors. I had great mentors and I have great relationships with those mentors still today. Early on, I probably didn't invest as much into those relationships, so I wish I would have recognized it a little sooner. And finally, the power of best practices. Groups like AFP are the caretaker of ethical and best practices for the profession. I tried to do an awful lot on my own earlier on, and wish I would have gotten more engaged with others sooner.

    Why did you join AFP?
    The networking. You can't dismiss that. The access to and ability to ensure the things I do professionally meet the highest ethical standards. AFP is the gold standard for professionals and the sector.

    How have you benefited from your AFP membership?
    Ashley|Rountree is invested in the relationship with AFP supporting the group financially and as a sponsor. And to be candid, it's paid off in a big way and on multiple fronts for us. An example is that when we post job openings, we rely on the AFP network to help get the information out to the professional community. We have relied on AFP as a great partner over years and will continue to do that.

    What is one tip you recommend for connecting with donors?
    Frankly, don't be afraid to pick up the phone and call. I see too many fundraisers who rely on passively trying to engage through things they feel are direct communication with donors, like social media and e-blasts. It's still about relationships, engagement and picking up that phone, making that call is a simple but often overlooked action that can move things forward. Meeting donors where they're at and building relationships is obviously key, but sometimes forgotten and sometimes intimidating. I would encourage folks not to forget about that and make it a big plan of their day every day. A great habit to think about is personal, handwritten notes. I have this on board in my office: "A Note a Day". The impact of that, I've seen, is huge. 365 at a minimum written over the course of a year. People remember that personal note more than an email or text message.

    Do you have a fundraising-related resource you recommend? If so, what is it?
    Lots of them. AFP communications and resources are great, as are the resources provided by the Kentucky Nonprofit Network. The Chronicle of Philanthropy is also an ongoing, great resource. Finding three to four mentors in the field that you can personally call and bounce ideas off of. These are key resources I count on. I rely on my team as well. We have experts in just about everything. It's not just thinking you know it all. It's having the right attitude and openness. I value collective wisdom.

    KY, Greater Louisville Admin