New development staff member Jennifer “Jenny” Stitely arrived at the Institution just two days before the 2019 summer season started, but that didn’t stop her from making major strides in her position.
Stitely serves as the director of gift planning, succeeding Dusty Nelson, who retired in May of this year. She has always known about Chautauqua but had never physically visited the grounds before June.
“I had known about Chautauqua from my college days,” Stitely said. “I was not unfamiliar with Chautauqua, I had just never been on the campus before.”
When Stitely first arrived, she said that it felt just like coming home. She was happy to be back in the arts environment. As a voice major in college, Stitely said she enjoyed the opera program and that the art form was important to her. She also loves attending the symphonies and lectures.
“It’s unbelievable, … the caliber of people who are coming in to present and and the level of intellectual discourse from the people who attend programs,” Stitely said. “This is just such a unique community of intellectuals, of people who want to make a difference, who are having hard conversations, who are tackling tough issues, and I love that. I love this whole idea of having a civil discussion about the things that are most pressing. It’s been amazing.”
Stitely has 18 years of experience in fundraising. She has served in a variety of capacities within the field and always had the intention of working in planned giving. Stitely first started out in health care fundraising, working for community hospitals. She most recently served as the divisional director of planned giving for the Salvation Army, and held that position for about four-and-a-half years until she saw the vacancy at the Foundation.
“When I saw this position become available — and having always had a passion for art, history, language, education in general — it was too good to pass up,” Stitely said. “Seeing that I could have the best of both worlds — I would be here for the summer to experience the season, then I would be back home the rest of the year — it was a perfect fit.”
Stitely lives in Westminster, Maryland, with her husband, Tim, and their four children. During the balance of the year, Stitely will work from Chautauqua’s Washington, D.C., office. She said that this position appealed to her because of the setting, as well as her love for planned giving and the role that it plays in fundraising.
“I got into this particular aspect of fundraising because I think it’s an opportunity for people to really tell their story and to share with future generations who they are and what is important to them,” she said. “If I can be a part of helping to write that story, that’s a huge reward.”
As far as her position, Stitely is excited to take Chautauqua to the next level through philanthropic programs and planned giving. She hopes to explore the new strategic plan and continue to lay a foundation that will help the Institution flourish.
“I’m looking forward to growing the planned giving program,” Stitely said. “I think the work that’s been done before now has been great and has laid a solid foundation. As we consider what the future holds for Chautauqua, it’s great that planned gifts can be a part of that whole concept of transformational philanthropy.”
Stitely said that she is thrilled to be serving in this position. Chautauqua’s intellectual environment inspires her and makes her even more excited for what’s to come.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” Stitely said. “You have so much talent collected in this little spot in Western New York, it’s really so unique. You just have to see it, there’s no way to describe it without being here.”