The self-proclaimed “new guy” to our staff is Brian Jones, Director of Development, whom we welcomed to Wellness in the Schools in August. A fundraising professional with a background in wellness programming, Brian is a Wellness in the Schools unicorn. His background spans city agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations and he has led significant growth in each role. We are thrilled to introduce you to Brian in a lightly edited interview below.
What brought you to Wellness in the Schools?
I applied for the Director of Development role with Wellness in the Schools because it seemed to be such a unique combination of my background in school wellness programming, fundraising, and health equity. Every role in my career up to this point has a connection to the work I am now doing, which also includes my role as an athlete, fueling my competitiveness and drive to exceed expectations as an individual and as a team.
Why are you passionate about wellness? What does “wellness” mean to you?
I have always been inspired by the role of wellness in personal growth, balance, and fulfillment. Wellness to me is a gateway to focus and concentration, and on the other side of the spectrum, it is also a form of relaxation for me. Rest, Hydration, and Movement are my wellness pillars and are where the physical and mental aspects of wellness live for me. Whether it’s a long run, a pick-up soccer game, or biking on a desolate trail, I prepare for my day, wind down from my day, and organize my thoughts during my moments of movement. In these moments I feel most connected to myself, making it easy to stay passionate and always in pursuit of a challenge.
Your prior experience is vast — what are some highlights from your career that apply to your experience at Wellness in the Schools?
There are a few. On the wellness end, having spent two years working for the NYC Department of Health, Division of Physical Activity and Nutrition in 2008–2010 and creating the Move To Improve curricula with the DOE, shaped the way I viewed large-scale municipal-level program implementation. That project from curriculum design to teacher training and evaluation taught me valuable lessons on how to manage the intricacies of schools, balancing partners, crafting reporting, and public speaking. Coincidentally, Nancy Easton and I were moving in the same direction at this time but did not cross paths!
In my role with the American Heart Association, I had the pleasure of leading the fundraising team that was responsible for supporting schools and youth in NYC. I worked intimately with all 32 district leaders of the DOE, in addition to working with the Office of School Wellness to drive pathways for funding to land in schools.
These are two examples of my past roles that apply to my current role — it feels like six degrees of wellness separation.
What project or engagement are you most looking forward to doing this year as Director of Development?
I am looking forward to increasing the number of donors, diversifying our donor sources, and building a culture of giving from donors we know and prospects that we want to engage. We are in a time of growth and I am excited to fuel our ability for continued growth through closing gifts and enhancing the visibility of our brand.
What is your favorite wellness practice?
My favorite wellness practice is unplugging with my family, preferably outside or on a beach. Inserting a run into my day somewhere is a very close second.
What is your favorite meal or healthy snack to make?
I love mango. Mango anything. Dried, fresh, salad… it all works.