BLI Graduation Year: 2001
Donna Hill Communications & Grant Writing
Tell us briefly about yourself and please update your classmates on your personal/professional experiences since graduating from BLI:
Basic info: I’m a Broome County native, with family ties going back to the early days of post-Revolutionary War settlement in this area. I spent my childhood in Whitney Point, graduated from Alfred University in western NY, and attended the University of Exeter in Devon, U.K. as a Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellow.
In January 2014 I acted on an urge I’d felt for several years and started my own business, Donna Hill Communications & Grant Writing. My work today as a professional freelance writer, copywriter and grant writer builds upon years of experience in communications, fund development and grant making.
When I participated in BLI in 2000-2001, most people knew me either as a long-time radio producer/programmer for WSKF Public Radio (until 1999) or as Program Officer for the Hoyt Foundation and the Community Foundation for South Central New York (1999-2010). After moving on from the Foundations, I served as a Major Gift Officer and Grants Specialist for the American Red Cross, and then became Director of Development for the Broome County Council of Churches. I left the Council in July 2016 to devote myself full-time to my own business. I’m really enjoying it and it’s great to be able to put my experience and skills to work for businesses and nonprofits both in and outside the local area.
I have a strong interest in history, believing that without knowledge of history we have no context for the times we live in, no understanding of how we got here and little hope of avoiding repetition of past mistakes. That said, I enjoy the histories of Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Blanche Wiesen Cook and others. Favorite novels: To Kill A Mockingbird (also a favorite film), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (for its evocation of a time past and its echoes that still resonate for first and second-generation immigrants today), Pride & Prejudice, The Razor’s Edge. Favorite films: The Color Purple, Forrest Gump, anything with Gregory Peck or Greer Garson. I love classic films.
Current and Past Notable Civic Activities:
Center for Civic Engagement Advisory Council (Binghamton University), 2014-present; AFP, Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2015-2016; Broome Leadership Institute Alumni Association, 2001-present; CAST, Communications Association of the Southern Tier, member, 2016-17; Broome County Arts Council, Grant Allocations Panel, member 2017-2018; 2014-15, 2010-11; Broome County Youth Bureau Advisory Board, 1999-2009; Vice-chair, Acting Chair, 2008-09; Chair 2004; Southern Tier Women’s Network, Co-organizer and coordinator, 2000-2008
History, travel, gardening, music, reading. A vacation is perfect for me if it combines two or more of these, and throws in an ocean coastline, too.
How did your BLI experience change your perception of the community?
It gave me a clearer, more hands-on understanding of the vast array of good and innovative work being done in our community by all the terrific people in both for- and non-profit businesses and organizations.
How did your BLI experience motivate you to become more involved in the community?
See the list of “Civic Activities”, above….
What was your most memorable BLI activity/moment?
It’s hard to choose because all of the activities, tours and panel discussions were interesting and enlightening. For me, the most memorable was probably the orientation weekend with the team-building activities at BOCES. I’d never done anything like that before and it gave me insights and a sense of camaraderie with my BLI classmates that I truly value.
What was the most valuable benefit to your from your BLI experience?
All the terrific contacts I made; the networking skills that BLI sharpened; the friends I met who are friends to this day.
What “nugget of wisdom” do you have for your fellow BLI alum?
You’ll get out of the experience what you put into it, so on BLI days give it your full attention and enthusiasm. And once you’ve “graduated”, keep reaching out to your classmates and to those you met in the sessions, tours and panel discussions. The networking is invaluable and provides opportunities for you to be of service, as well as to form relationships with people who will likely become great friends, mentors, and colleagues.