Blog interview series: Ashlee Wilson Fujawa

2014-06-14_09.36.26.jpgAshlee has been the Director of Public Relations at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful since 2010, setting direction for all things creative in the marketing and communications field. She works closely with the programs staff and the media to highlight the amazing things that KIB is doing all over Indy and beyond. You’ll find her most days toiling away at social media, drafting press releases, organizing events and planning, developing and implementing all of the KIB’s marketing strategies and public relations activities; but if you look closely you might find her in the warehouse or driving a dump truck — all in the name of keeping Indy beautiful.

How long have you lived in Indy?

I have lived in Indy since 2006. I moved here after grad school; first living downtown for a few years, then purchasing a home in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood — one of the best in Indy.

Why have you focused your career on the nonprofit sector?

Having a direct impact on my community is really important to me, not only making effective, tangible change, but change that will make my city better for everyone. When I left school I thought I would be an educator, but by happenstance, I was lucky enough to make a career in the PR/marketing field that still had traits in learning — the subject is just how to make Indy awesome.

How did you find your current position?

I had been looking to make a move for a while from my previous role, to something more local. I was also willing to focus on the mission, the work and the opportunities that would be possible in a new role. Sometimes making a change — especially in nonprofit work — is more about the future opportunities (even years down the road).

Then, I saw a posting on Charitable Advisors, and applied (along with more than 250 people!). It wasn’t until after I made my way through the interview process that I realized connections that I had made doing volunteer work with other Indy nonprofits helped me rise above other candidates. That, coupled with the potential in future projects and creative initiatives, the staff, and a mission that helps people and nature thrive, underscored that this was the place for me.

What would you say to another young professional considering a nonprofit job?

Be ready to hustle. Often you hear people say things like:

·         I’d love to win the lottery so I could work at a nonprofit, it’s basically like volunteering professionally; or

·         What do you do all day? You must have a lot of downtime; or

·         I can’t believe that’s your job.
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A)     You’ll be glad you won the lottery, because no one is getting rich working at a nonprofit. It’s a ton of hard work that usually stretches well beyond the 40-hour work week. But at no other job can you bring your dog to work (what your NP doesn’t do this?), have access to a warehouse full of tools and a branded fleet, and get 75 separate high-fives every day, every summer from our Youth Tree Team — and all of these things are priceless. You can read more about what my everyday looks on our blog. (Did I mention I’m a hustler, and SEO doesn’t grow on trees…)

B)      My day is nonstop, downtime is just a buzzword. Not that balance isn’t important, but at a nonprofit you usually do the job of no less than 3 other people at any given time. While most of our volunteer opportunities may take place in the spring and the fall, planning, implementing, forging creative partnerships, talking us up to the media and meetings (oh, the meetings) take place year round. When you’ve got a staff of 22 full-time employees — from tree planters to fundraisers — you better believe something is always afoot.

C)      Truth is, I can’t either! I have been so incredibly lucky, but also so incredibly industrious. It takes the right kind of person to work at a nonprofit. If you are considering it, look at really turning a position into something that not only plays to your strengthens as a professional, but allows you the opportunity to develop other skills, make connections and strengthen your mission as much as the organizations.

If you could learn a brand new skill, what would it be?

I would love to learn to code. Awesome programs at IUPUI and Iron Yard make opportunities like this tangible — especially to someone without the luxury of going after another degree.

If you were an inanimate object, what would you be and why?

I’m a total coffeemaker. Providing something everyone needs to get their day started/job done/life better. Plus, you get to hear all the latest gossip.

What do you hope to accomplish that you haven’t yet?

Creating a truly wonderful city for everyone to call home. I am Indy’s biggest cheerleader. I know we are capable of great things, and I can’t wait to be part of that.

Share a little-known treasure of Indianapolis with us.

The Indianapolis Public Library Bookstore is the most amazing place ever. Books, magazines, DVD, VHS, CDs, tapes, vinyl and even 8-tracks as far as the eye can see. All new and used at for pennies on the dollar. Located at 2450 N. Meridian St. in the Library Services Center, this bookstore is only open a few times a year for these monster sales. Folks come from 3 states over to wait in line and scoop up these amazing deals. From rare books, pristine training manuals, and even the complete fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (still regret not fighting harder for that…), this sale is one of a kind and a total gem for the city.

The store is all volunteer run, overseen by the amazing Richard Swan, and proceeds go right back into the Indy Public Library. How could you not pick up children’s books for 10¢ or fill a bag for $7 (yes, that is a thing.). Also, it one of the best places to volunteer. You get your own coffee mug for group coffee chats (complete with handmade sweets and crockpot delights), a snazzy blue apron (and if you’re there for multiple years, you get your name embroidered on it) and the pleasure of working alongside some of the most awesome folks in our city, most of whom have been there for more than 25 years doing detailed jobs. There is one volunteer whose favorite job is to check the DVD for scratches — and she’s amazing at it (you can thank Sherry for that pristine copy of The Critic). Check their website for sale details; it only comes around a handful times a year.

Most important question: Where’s your dream vacation location and why?

Iceland, hands down. I mean, it’s basically the land of Vikings, elves, Bjork and ice volcanoes — and I love all of those things. I get the amazing pleasure of marking this trip off my list this year. My very best friend will marry the love of her life in this true-life, make-believe world, and I get the awesome privilege to officiate their I do’s atop an Icelandic fjord.


 Want to support Ashlee's work?

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This year is the 40th anniversary of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and they are celebrating all year long! Ashlee would love it if you followed KIB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest to Get the Dirt on everything they are doing to help people and nature thrive. 

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