So Jim, tell me more about yourself. Your hometown? What high school did you go to? Where did you go to college? All that good stuff.
I was born in Cutlerville, Michigan, but basically raised in rural Grandville. I went to Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville. I then attended Trinity Christian College in Southwest Suburban Chicago. Eventually, I went to Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, for my Master’s in Counseling.
Hi! I'm Jim.
In terms of first jobs, my dad was a paint contractor and I started working on jobs with him when I was 10. But the first job, where I got the job myself, was a dish washer at Jerry’s Country Inn in early high school. In many ways it was super humbling and challenging especially during weekend night “rushes” and being up to your elbows on people’s garbage, but it was a valuable early work experience as it tested my resolve and contributed to developing my work ethic.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The first thing that comes to mind was a rodeo star. I grew up with horses and in the country and loved western themes and rodeos. We always used to go to the Wyoming Rodeo here locally in Lamar Park, after which I would play rodeo for the next three weeks. Later, I used to think about things such as teaching, HR management and helping professions.
What has your journey to DABSJ been like?
In many ways, it started in college. I had a double major in business and sociology. Business was the total practical side of me, thinking primarily of income and employability. However, it was sociology and social issues that really interested me, and where my passion for helping people developed. Initially, I took the practical route as a human resources intern at a large bank in Chicago. I ended up getting a job there as a compensation analyst. I was there a little over four years. My world was deep into banking and large corporate mergers, and there were about 9,000 North American employees by the time I left. It was a profound experience, but I didn’t have a passion for what I was doing. I was always looking for other things, like teaching and helping professions.
I eventually moved to St. Louis for graduate school. When I graduated, I sought jobs in the St. Louis, Grand Rapids and Chicago areas. I had an internship in school counseling as well as marriage and family therapy, where I concluded I didn’t want to do full-time counseling. My nature was a bit more task-oriented. That led me here where I got a job as a foster care worker, which included a fair bit of administrative, more task-oriented case work, in 1997, which was a formative experience.
After 3 years, I shifted to some fundraising and PR work, which led to becoming the first-ever Director of Development for D.A. Blodgett. That’s where my two worlds came together. I had a passion for the purpose of my work to help kids and families, and I found my sweet spot because the work itself was more business-like in nature, and I loved interacting with donors.
Following D.A. Blodgett’s capital campaign at the time, which I really enjoyed, I wanted to learn more about this world of fundraising and advancement, so I looked into other opportunities. I ended up working for Wedgwood for six and a half years. I became their Director of Advancement, and engaged in a major capital campaign there. One year after the merger of D.A. Blodgett and St. John’s, I returned to the new DABSJ to work in advancement. In March of 2020, it will be nine years, which has been crazy fast.
What are some of your primary responsibilities as Chief Advancement Officer?
Ultimately, I have responsibility for fundraising and our advancement team’s efforts. That involves our team working with the board, advisory council, emerging leader’s council, event committees, major donors, everything that we’re doing with special events, foundation grants, donor communications, estate giving, capital campaign, all that.
What are some accomplishments that you’re proud of?
With the help of great team members, and I truly look at it that way, because when I look at how you achieve an annual fund goal, or how you secure a large gift, or how you made your capital campaign goal, it’s never one person. There’s so many pieces that come together, and that’s why I love capital campaigns. For one, it’s big impact, but all these different pieces come together through the work of the team and campaign cabinet volunteers to reach your goal. So, I am proud to have participated in three major capital campaigns – one at D.A. Blodgett, another at Wedgwood, and our current campaign here at DABSJ. More than $21 million has been raised through those 3 campaigns, and I find that very satisfying when I see the building projects completed and the associated long term impact on children and families. Since 2011, we’ve achieved all our annual fundraising goals, with more than $19 million raised, so that pretty fulfilling. Finally, I’m personally grateful for the opportunity to develop authentic relationships with donors and leadership volunteers that are about more than fundraising. That comes fairly naturally for me, and is really satisfying.
And what are some of your values within work? What gets every morning and into work, excited for the day?
I’m passionate about what we’re doing to help struggling kids and families, and I get to work with a fantastic team who are humble, have many talents and are absolutely essential to our success. I’m also inspired by our many donors and leadership volunteers that don’t have to do what they do. They are choosing to help voluntarily. I get to interact with some really great, quality people. It’s very satisfying. Also, in advancement we’re always mindful of the big picture, and I love engaging in and striving to advance the big picture. I love our vision, and what we’re doing to achieve it – the Together for Kids capital campaign being a very tangible example of that.
What are your values outside of work? What’s your family like? What books are your reading? What’s your favorite TV show? Things like that.
Family is huge. I’ve been married for 26 years and have two college-aged sons. Yes, I’m that old! My wife and I are getting used to just the two of us again. I’m very involved with my church community, and have been an elder for several years now. Sports used to be a bigger part of my life. I still enjoy it, but mostly watching and talking about it with my sons. My youngest son plays football in college so that means lots of fall road trips.
My wife and I with our sons, Ethan & Micah
I love the outdoors. I enjoy things like getting up super early, driving up to Sleeping Bear Dunes and hiking in the woods all day, regardless of the weather, with friends. I enjoy hunting, hiking, and biking. I love the adventure of it. I’m not a particularly good hunter, but I’m always learning new things. It’s totally different from work, which I find refreshing.
Hunting in the Black Hills
My wife and I enjoy cooking, trying new restaurants and going to festivals to experience different kinds of foods. That’s kind of how we started dating in Chicago, which was awesome. We’ve been enjoying different wines of late, and I think I might try making wine on my own. I like trying new craft beers, and I started roasting coffee beans last year.
I enjoy reading, but do so slowly. Lately, my wife and I have returned to reading together, which essentially means I read aloud while she knits. I’m not sure if many people would like the books I read. For instance, I’m currently reading a book on Roman Catholic and Protestant theology. I don’t know that I have a favorite book, but I enjoy suspense and mystery books. I rarely read one book at a time. I do love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and read that two times to my sons when they were young.
As for music and movies. I love suspense and spy movies, especially when it has a British flair to it. For music, I love anything but pop. I’ve always been that way. I like jazz, blues, classical, country, classic rock, and the occasional visit to the 80’s!
Also, meet Tucker, the Visser Family puggle!
About Allyssa Murphy
Allyssa's journey in the nonprofit world began in 2016 when she started working as a marketing assistant at a small residential facility for foster children in Flint, Michigan. This is where her passion for advocating for children's rights began. She later joined the DABSJ team in 2017.
Her hobbies include planning vacations - but never taking them, game nights with friends, keeping up with the latest movies and TV shows, and visiting friends and family on the other side of the mitten.
Allyssa graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor's degree in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Nonprofit Administration. She also has an associate's degree in Media Arts from Mott Community College.