Julie Siebel

Julie received her BA in American Studies and went on to receive a PhD in U.S. History at USC. As a seasoned nonprofit executive and civic leader, she believes that each of us has a responsibility to make a difference, either on a small or a large scale. To do so effectively requires a focused and strategic commitment to an issue that speaks to us on a personal level. Julie currently serves as Senior Director at CCS, one of the most comprehensive and widely recommended fundraising consulting and management firms in the world.

1.) What was your most valuable student experience while at Pomona (sports, internships, extracurriculars, on-campus job, etc.)?

What makes Pomona so special is the diversity of experiences in which we all participated. My world view, my personal mission, my lifetime friendships, were formed in bits and pieces during my four years. Whether over dinner at Frary, taping ankles in the old Memorial Gym training room, sitting on Walker Beach enjoying the sun while supposedly studying, during late night conversations in the corridors of Mudd-Blaisdell, riding on the bus home from Glee Club tour, serving on the alumni relations council, or occasionally even in class, my most valuable experience at Pomona was absorbing all the opportunities presented to us as students.

2.) What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What is most rewarding?

In the nonprofit sector there is an ethos that spending money is wrong, that doing so somehow delegitimizes an organization’s commitment to its mission. While no nonprofit organization should spend money beyond its budget, there are very real reasons to manage finances effectively, and spend money where needed to support overhead and administrative needs.

When I go into a nonprofit organization that has hired my firm to help them build capacity and raise funds, the very first thing we look at is how money is raised and how it is spent. If corners are being cut because the organization doesn’t believe in spending money on basic administrative and overhead needs, then we know we need to help change the culture. In order to be truly successful achieving its mission, an organization must invest in people, systems, and processes.

The most rewarding aspect is the people with whom I work – my colleagues, my clients, and the volunteers. The core of the work we do in the nonprofit sector is building authentic and empowering relationships. If we can do that well, we can help facilitate the change. There is simply nothing better than celebrating with a client when they achieve their goals and are in a stronger position to deliver on their mission.

3.) What do you wish you’d known when first starting out in your career?

There is time in life for more than one career – embrace the opportunities you are given and know that every experience is a learning opportunity that will better prepare you for the future.

4.) What is the most difficult interview question you’ve been asked?

“Tell me about a time when you failed. Why did you fail? What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently, knowing what you now do?”

5.) Was your first job after graduating from Pomona related to your current profession?

Yes, and no: I hired into Disneyland to help pay the bills and ended up staying at Park for 15 years. This gave me the space to select the right graduate program (a Ph.D. in US and Women’s History), supported me through a rather extended doctoral research and writing experience, and gave me time afterwards to find a great first professional job (a member of the Advancement Office at Scripps College).

Although it was “just a weekend, part-time job”, working at the mouse-house provided me with some of the best learning opportunities of my career. The skills I developed and honed as a member of the Disney Cast continue to serve me well now. They included: public speaking, training and mentoring, problem-solving and crisis management, customer service, staffing oversight, budgeting, leadership, and operational planning.

6.) How do you stay up to date on trends within your industry? (books, professional associations, journals, conferences)

Staying up to date on the trends means reading, researching and analyzing information – the foundation we all gained as students of the liberal arts at Pomona! In addition to the typical books, journals, conferences, webinars and professional associations, the most important resource for trend-spotting comes from connecting with colleagues, sharing ideas, and being open to new ideas.