Ashleigh Graves-Roesler is vice president of development for the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, the home and museum of America’s 23rd president.
Ashleigh majored in English and minored in Communications at Asbury University in Kentucky. She earned an MA in Philanthropic Studies from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Ashleigh helps people to give, learn and serve their communities through her work as a nonprofit development professional for arts and cultural organizations.
She and her husband, Bryan Roesler, live in a circa 1918 house in the Warfleigh neighborhood of Broad Ripple with two dogs and some lemon trees.
How long have you lived in Indy?
I grew up on the Southside. I moved back to Indy in 2007 to attend grad school at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (back then it was still the Center on Philanthropy!).
Why have you focused on using your skills in the nonprofit sector?
Both my father and grandfather worked in fundraising. Growing up in a “fundraising family”, I was always aware of the nonprofit sector, and of fundraising as a profession. In college, I became very interested in museum work. I applied to grad schools for both curatorial and arts administrative programs, with my eye on a PhD. I was really fortunate to have an amazing suite of arts fundraising internships during my time as an MA student at the Lilly Family School. I gave up all interest in PhD work – I realized that I wanted to be a boots-on-the-ground fundraiser. This work is joyful, exhausting, inventive, tough and exciting. While I found my personal passion and my fundraising voice in arts and culture, I also never want to stop growing and learning.
How did you find your current position?
My current position came to me. It was serendipitous timing, and I was really thrilled to come back to arts and culture fundraising after a couple of years working for a school.
What would you say to another young professional considering a nonprofit job?
Nonprofit work is lively and rewarding, but it is still work. Your passion for the work will be the key to your success and personal fulfillment. Take time to identify the type of organization and culture that will fit you best. Arts? Human services? Established? Start up? My husband Bryan was also a fundraiser for about 10 years. He’s generally worked for large nonprofits with big teams and more corporate structures. I, however, have spent my career in small shops, with more grassroots-style organizations. Know what brings out your strengths, and you’ll know where you can have the biggest impact and the most personal investment.
If you could learn a brand new skill, what would it be?
Sheep-shearing. I’m pretty obsessed with knitting and all the fiber arts, so working directly with sheep is kind of a dream. I listen to all these fiber and sheep podcasts even; it’s ridiculous.
If you were an inanimate object, what would you be and why?
An apron. Put an apron on over any outfit and you’re instantly ready for service, to jump in and get things done. I always keep one in my desk (along with a corkscrew – I consider the two to be the twin engines of philanthropy).
What do you hope to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I’d like to carry on the family fundraising tradition of international work, and of foundation work. That legacy is really meaningful to me.
Share a little-known treasure of Indianapolis with us.
Well, did you know that the museum of America’s 23rd president is in downtown Indianapolis? The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site houses over 10,000 artifacts in a 10,000 square foot Italianate mansion. The 75-minute tour is an immersive history experience, and I dare you not to enjoy it. You can visit us online to learn more and plan your visit.
Most important question: What are your three can’t-miss Indy events written in permanent marker on your calendar every year?
The Wicket World of Croquet – The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site’s annual croquet tournament is an afternoon of very civilized fun!
Art Vs. Art – Primary Colours puts on this riotous competition every year to highlight emerging artistic talent in the city.
Broad Ripple Lights Up! – If you’ve ever lived in or loved a small town, you will charmed by my neighborhood’s annual holiday kickoff tradition. It’s a really cute little parade followed by a tree-lighting at the fire station.
Want to support Ashleigh's work?
Gather your family close and join the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site on Dec. 16 and 17 in creating new holiday memories at a special Candlelight Theatre event! "Twas the Night Before...", written by James Trofatter, offers a heartwarming interactive theatre experience for all ages in the historic Harrison mansion. Sip on hot cider, enjoy complimentary treats and be delighted by holiday figures from tradition and folklore, as well as new jolly friends. Tickets are $14.50 for Presidential Site members and children ages 3-12, and $17.50 for adults. Make your reservations online or by calling 317-631-1888.