Faces of WID - January 2023

Name: Patricia D. Keenan
Title & Organization: Vice President of Advancement, Community and Equity, Ellis Early Learning
WID Role: Current WID Member, former WID Board member
Hometown: Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Lives Currently: Sharon, Massachusetts  
Education: BA in Urban Studies from the College of the Holy Cross
Hobbies: Sharing movies and books with family and friends, spending time with our grandchild, walking in the woods, traveling anywhere and everywhere

 When and how did you join the development field? September, 1984

I started out as a sales management trainee for Jordan Marsh (similar to Macy’s) in the early 1980s because “I liked to talk to people.” I soon learned that I wasn’t inspired by selling towels and wanted to do something to help the world. A family friend introduced me to the CEO of a small nonprofit in Providence, OIC of Rhode Island. I was hired to build a development program that would reduce their dependence on United Way funding.

Tell us a bit about the organization for which you currently work and why fundraising is important to it: I work at Ellis Early Learning, a mid-sized nonprofit child care center with 3 locations in the South End and Jamaica Plain. Our children are ages 8 weeks to 5 years.

Ellis relies on philanthropy to cover 25% of our operating expenses. Fundraising is critical to Ellis because our student body is socio-economically diverse. Most (65%) of our children come from families who rely on government subsidies to pay for childcare. The government reimburses Ellis less than 75% of the cost to care for these children, some of whom live in shelters, many of whom have open DCF cases. Philanthropy is what makes it possible for all 250 of our children to have equal access to the best in early education regardless of their family’s’ ability to pay.

Why did you join WIDGB? I re-joined WID after an absence of several years because I missed being part of a community of professional women with similar interests.

How long have you been a member? Off and on for 25 years.

Do you have a favorite WID moment or memory?  I am proud of having been among the first women of color on WID’s Board of Directors and working to expand the diversity of WID’s membership.

Describe your biggest development success story to date Or Can you share with us an inspiring development story from your career? I would like to share two stories.

I started the development office at City Year in 1994, just 5 years after its founding and was the lead creator of their signature event Starry, Starry Night. And, I was one of two staff leads for a $30 million campaign, The Millennium Fund for Children and Families: an endowment partnership of the Boston Foundation and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay. This was the first endowment campaign partnership between a United Way and a community foundation in the country and considered groundbreaking at the time.

What advice would you offer to someone new in the field of development? I’d like to share a quote from someone whose life has inspired me a great deal, even though she isn’t a fundraiser.  “Upon seeing my journey know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain, and still succeed.” – Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer and a former foster child.

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