Q&A Sessions Get to Know Her: Jill Mitsch, Development Director

Family Giving Tree’s newest member to the team, Jill Mitsch dives into a fun, get to know you Q&A where we learn about Jill, her experience in the nonprofit sector, and her thoughts on what to do after the quarantine is over.

Q: When did you first discover your passion for nonprofit work? What sparked your interest?

A: When I was a student at San Jose State University, I also worked part-time at a bank. A friend and I decided to sign up for the Honolulu Marathon to raise money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. I had never done anything like that before, but the organization was really helpful in providing tips and advice on how to fundraiser. I asked co-workers to support my fundraising efforts and leveraged the companies matching gifts as an incentive to donate. I raised $6,000, which was $3,000 more than the fundraising goal.

Q: What is it like working for a nonprofit organization? What is the best part?

A: I have been in the nonprofit sector since 2007, from organizations with a staff of two to 90 people. In every organization I worked at, it was very clear that the staff was passionate about the mission. I think people go into the nonprofit because we know there are problems in the world, but together we can right the wrongs. Especially on a local level.

Q: What are the challenges? How do you stay motivated?

A: I think one big challenge is seeing how divided Silicon Valley is; that there is so much wealth here and yet our neighbors are sleeping on the streets or struggling to pay rent. What motivates me is knowing the community takes care of each other. At my previous organization I remember being very touched when someone made a donation because years ago the organization helped them. In my short time at Family Giving Tree it is apparent that people are very committed to ensuring students have what they need for school.

Q: Tell us what it was like growing up in the Bay Area?

A: I grew up in Morgan Hill, which definitely had more of a small-town feel than today. In high school, the opening of a 24 hour Safeway was a major news story! During the holiday season, my mom and I would take Bart up to San Francisco and see all the sights and pop into stores. That was always fun because the city was so busy and alive. Though I do have a soft spot for Morgan Hill as my parents still live in the house I grew up in.

Q: Would you say that nonprofit services are different from those outside of Silicon Valley? How?

A: That is hard to say, as I have only worked for nonprofits in Silicon Valley. I do think the tech sector plays a big role in philanthropy. Because we have so many companies here practicing Corporate Social Responsibility, there are opportunities for their employees to get involved in nonprofit work. Through that, people get a better sense of the realities people are facing and hopefully are driven to get involved on a deeper level.

Q: Who are some mentors you’ve had in the past and what have they taught you?

A: My older sister has been a great resource for me when I am needing a sounding board and some advice. For many years I was part of a women's triathlon training group, led by an awesome woman named Heidi Boynton. She was such a great cheerleader for me, helping me train for races and cross finish lines. There were some races that did not go so well, and she helped me see that even though I was disappointed, I should acknowledge that I gave it my all and put the time in. And she also would give me a well- meaning reality check when we knew that maybe 3 weeks to train for a half marathon is not ideal. Professionally, I am thankful for the network of peers I have met through the Association of Fundraising Professionals Silicon Valley Chapter. This is my second year on the board, and they are a great group of smart, seasoned leaders who support one another.

Q: How has generosity impacted your life?

A: It keeps me in the sector. Every day I get to see the generosity of people, whether it be a financial donation, people doing backpack drives, volunteers helping distribute school supplies to schools during the pandemic. The world can be very messy, and seeing people care about their community is a very bright spot.

Q: What does a day in the life of Jill Mitsch look like these days?

A: This would have been a very different answer two months ago! I wake up, drink tea, and catch up on social media. I then get ready for work and settle in upstairs at my desk. My husband works downstairs at our dining room table. I have zoom meetings with colleagues and board members, create campaigns with my teams, and we brainstorm ways to pivot in the new reality. After lunch, my husband and I will walk around the neighborhood. Depending on the day, I will (socially distanced) run or ride my bike. I will cook dinner, he does the dishes, and then we hang out with our two cats, Kiki and Katie and watch TV or movies. On the weekends, it is pretty much the same, plus make time to read a book and catch up with friends and family.

Q: What are some things you’re looking forward to once things get back to normal and the shelter in place is over?

A: Meeting my coworkers in real life! I started at Family Giving Tree the week after the shelter in place started. I also can’t wait to celebrate special occasions with my family and get together with my friends. Walking on the beach sounds amazing. And, a pedicure.

(Photo of Jill and her husband)
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