Faces of WID - May 2022

Headshot of Women in Green shirtName: Jessica McNeill
Title & Organization: Harvard Business School, Assistant Director, Reunion and LeadershipGiving
WID Role: Member
Hometown: Dorchester, MA
Lives Currently: Dorchester, MA
Education: BA Communication Studies, Bridgewater State University; MS Nonprofit Management, Northeastern University
Hobbies: I don’t know if I have many “hobbies,” but some of my interests are: traveling, astrology, watching documentaries, volunteering, and reading (although I used to be much better at this).


When and how did you join the development field? What path brought you to your current role?

In college, I interned at a small nonprofit in Brockton as part of my public relations writing course requirement. This internship experience introduced me to development; before that, I had no clue what development was. After graduating, I stayed on that path and took a position as a development coordinator at Horizons for Homeless Children. I spent a year there before moving on to Harvard Business School. When I was looking to leave Horizons, I searched for an organization that would teach me development/fundraising best practices. My goal was to return to the social service sector. However, I am enjoying higher education more than I expected, so time will tell!

Is there someone who has shaped or influenced your career in development? If so, in what way?

No one person comes to mind. However, I’ve been fortunate to have many great mentors, advocators, and cheerleaders along the way.

Tell us a bit about the organization for which you currently work and why fundraising is important to the mission?

Harvard Business School is dedicated to educating leaders who make a difference in the world. Before joining the development team at HBS, I was not aware of the breadth and depth of the influence of HBS alumni across all sectors. HBS alumni truly do go off to make a difference in their local communities (many of them sit on nonprofit boards) and the world. When I think about some of society’s most pressing issues, I think of HBS as the vehicle to tackle some of these issues on a more significant level. We call it giving through HBS.

Why did you join WIDGB? How has the WIDGB community supported you either throughout the pandemic or before?

I joined WID to learn from professionals who’ve been in this field for many years. Throughout the pandemic, WID allowed me to continue to network and make connections. I actually did more networking during the pandemic than I did before!

Describe your biggest development success story to date Or Can you share with us an inspiring development story from your career?

Before I moved into my current role, I was a development coordinator, but I had the opportunity to manage Reunion campaigns for our older alumni. In 2019, I worked with the MBA Class of 1959 on their 60th Reunion campaign. One day I was randomly contacted by the daughter of an alumnus who was looking for information on giving opportunities. When I say random, the daughter, who was from CA, happened to be in town and came into our office on a Friday (casual day) for an impromptu meeting! Long story short, I worked with her to create an endowed fellowship fund ($500K) in her father’s name in honor of his 60th Reunion. Before this gift, the alumnus’ total lifetime giving to the School was around $7,000! Sometimes, organizations tend to forget about older alumni OR write off prospects that don’t have a history of supporting at high levels. This was the perfect reminder that EVERY alumni/prospect is important.  

How do you incorporate principles of DEI into your development work? Or Share with us a DEI priority or principle from your organization that particularly inspires you and why.


As a black staff member, I was invited to be a part of the Dean’s Anti-Racism Task Force, whose work led to the creation of the school’s Racial Equity Plan, which was released in September 2020. Over the past year and a half, the school has made progress, but there is still so much more to do. One of my priorities is to increase engagement with black alumni in the classes I work with. I have had great conversations with alumni 40 years out who have never met with a staff member from our office. I understand it may take years before we increase the overall giving amongst alumni of color, but I am willing to be as patient as needed to reach long-term success.

What advice would you offer to someone new in the field of development?

Network, ask questions, and do not let fear or self-doubt stop you from advancing and seeking new opportunities.


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