Q&A: Associate Director of Development Aja Davis

Emily Siebenmorgen, Communications Intern

Apr 29, 2021

Aja Davis

We’re happy to introduce Aja Davis, the Wex’s new Associate Director of Development. In this role, she will lead efforts to acquire and retain donors through a new program focused on major gifts, cultivating donors beyond central Ohio. 

Davis comes to the Wex from the United Way of Central Ohio, where she served as a Director of Individual Giving and Donor Stewardship. Prior to that, she worked at St. Stephen’s Community House, a nonprofit serving children and families in Columbus’s Greater Linden Community. Born and raised in Columbus, Davis brings a contagious enthusiasm for community and an intrinsic ability to connect and collaborate. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Ithaca College and lives in Westerville with her husband, Josh. 

Davis spoke with Wex marketing and communications intern and rising Ohio State senior Emily Siebenmorgen.  

Tell me a bit more about your new role. 

My primary responsibility is to lead the acquisition and retention of individual donors. I work with our five-member development team to ensure we are being thoughtful and consistent with outreach to donors and ensure we are uplifting and stewarding Wex members as best we can. 

How do you plan to engage with potential donors outside the region? 

There’s tremendous opportunity here. I think being part of Ohio State helps us catapult ourselves beyond central Ohio. The university, as a higher learning institution, has done such a good job at this. They have made sure their alumni continue to feel connected and elevated and given them so many opportunities to get involved. I think when it becomes safe to travel and meet with people more, I’m going to have so many leads to follow. I’m really excited about that. 

What are you most looking forward to? 

I'm most looking forward to better getting to know the contemporary and cultural arts community in Columbus. I'm excited to learn more about this world and really use artists’ commitment, talent, and drive to help bring donors and community members along on a journey. I see myself as being a sort of convener, someone who says, “Come look at this! See what awesome things people are doing!” 

What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge?

What I identify as challenging for fundraisers of any kind, especially now, is the fact that the average person consumes something like seven hours of media per day, from commercials to podcasts, to Zoom meetings. That's a lot of noise. How do you make sure you’re not just noise? Also, I think the downfall of some development work is leaning too much into a transactional approach. When you start thinking of your relationships or your exchanges as “doing this so that I could ask for this,” or “going to that, so I can get this.” When that starts to creep into your work, I think potential donors can feel it.

You’ve worked with nonprofits dealing with very pressing issues. What drew you to working in the arts sector?

I've had almost five years of fundraising experience, and it all has been around human services and dealing with very challenging issues in our community. That work is tremendous, and it needs to be a priority, but it does take a toll on you. Working on the human services side—the story of disparity, the statistics on how many folks are living in poverty in a city full of resources—can be a challenging space. I'm looking forward to the light, love, and passion that comes from the arts, which speak to our human condition and common humanity.

You’re from Columbus. Do you have an early memory of visiting the Wex? 

I do remember an early visit to the Wex with my mom and grandma when when I was about 10 years old. An author had a book launch, and I remember the space being just magical. I remember a display of masks from an indigenous group, colorful paintings, and things in different languages written on the walls. It felt like a place of wonderment and exploration and mystery. It must have stuck with me because that experience of cultural exchange later led to my studies in anthropology—traveling the world, studying cultures and languages, and being really involved in having cultural interactions. 

Do you have any advice for younger patrons—broke college students—who want to show their support but don't necessarily have the financial means?

There are so many ways to help the life of the arts community thrive beyond just dollars. Sharing a special skill or talent, helping with technology or social media, volunteering your time, all of that goes toward the mission of the institution and can be an extraordinary way to give.

I heard you like to try new recipes. What’s one meal you're looking forward to sharing with friends and family once social distancing is no more? 

One thing I’ve mastered during quarantine is the Greek salad. I've got the quinoa ready. I've got the grilled chicken ready. I’ve got the honey lemon dressing. When the world opens up again, everyone’s going to get a big Greek salad from me.

Photo courtesy of Aja Davis

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