Associate Vice President of Development and Communications
The Fortune Society
INVEST IN EDUCATION
Fast fact: Favorite cartoon? The New Yorker cat cartoons
Since assuming leadership of The Fortune Society’s development team in 2013, Jill Poklemba has brought about consistent increases in funding. Between 2010 and 2016 the organization’s annual budget grew from $18 million to nearly $28 million. Prior to joining The Fortune Society, Poklemba worked as director of development and communications at STRIVE International, and as a policy analyst with the New York State Assembly Office of Program and Counsel and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. Poklemba is also treasurer of the board of directors at the New York City Community Garden Coalition.
NYN: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD?
JP: I’ve always been very passionate about fighting against poverty. Initially my career started working in Albany, in the New York state Legislature. I remember we were able to go on some site visits in New York City. I was just so deeply inspired, especially by just the charismatic leaders of those organizations – constantly seeking new ways of expanding their services, expanding their programming, taking risks. I just knew that someday I really wanted to work in an organization like that. I had I guess the luxury of being able to grow up in a nice neighborhood, in a nice community in upstate New York right outside of Albany. But then when we would travel into the city, just seeing the disparity between what I was fortunate enough to have and what other people weren’t, it bothered me on a deep level. I didn’t know how I could make a difference. I think that was the journey that I had to take, figuring out how I could use my skills and my abilities to make a difference.
NYN: WHAT CHANGE WOULD MOST HELP THE INDIVIDUALS YOUR ORGANIZATION SERVES?
JP: I think there needs to be an investment in education in the communities that are most directly affected by incarceration. Helping people gain reading skills, literacy skills, math skills – that’s really the key to breaking out of poverty and to gaining the self-confidence you need to put yourself on a positive pathway.
NYN: WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU RETIRE?
JP: I’ve always had this passion about green jobs and climate justice but I’ve never really done much of the work directly. I think being more directly involved in the food justice movement and actually learning how to grow food, how to distribute it to low-income communities – how to do a little bit more of that on the ground work.
NYN: WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR JOB?
JP: The amount of effort and attention to detail that goes into the process of raising money. There’s so many different components to it. The level of effort and the attention to detail and the relationship building process is enormous. It’s almost a 24/7 job, and it really depends on a team of committed people; it’s never just one person.