Willoughby: Collaborative leadership

At year end is when a lot of people think about charitable giving. In fact, 25% of all giving occurs in the last two months of the year. One of the resources in this state for charitable giving is the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson (CFGJ). The CFGJ was established in 1994 with a little over $200,000. The CFGJ serves as an “investment bank” for philanthropy for the community. Today, it holds more than $34 million in net assets in 150 funds. The organization runs a competitive grants cycle which awards grants from the CFGJ’s own endowment, the Community Trust Fund. I have worked with the organization over the years to assist my clients in accomplishing their philanthropic goals, and I have been impressed with the expertise and professionalism.

I recently interviewed Jane Clover Alexander, CEO and President of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, who brings a wealth of leadership experience to the job. Alexander is a native of Jackson and likes to tell people she has come full circle in life because she now lives a block and a half from where she was born at the Baptist Hospital on State Street in Jackson. After graduating from Millsaps, she went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Ole Miss and completed additional studies in Oxford, England.

Her first job out of graduate school was serving as Director of Marketing for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Alexander shared about this experience, “That was an excellent incubator for training, because when you work for nonprofits, you get to do a lot of things. And you also have access to the very best business people and community leaders – your board.” Alexander’s career has included working as the editor of Mississippi Magazine, and she founded South Magazine, about the people, places and popular culture of the region. She also has taught journalism at Mississippi College, worked for Communication Arts Company, Easter Seals, and Millsaps College.

Up Close With … Jane Clover Alexander
Title: CEO and President of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson
Favorite Books: A Pirate Looks at Fifty (Jimmy Buffett); Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen); Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (John LeCarre)
First Job: “In high school, I worked as a unit clerk at Woman’s Hospital — I filed a lot”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I have had many proud moments, but I don’t think I have reached my proudest moment yet!”
Hobbies/Interests: Watching television and movies, and dining out at our favorite local places.

Alexander explained that she has a collaborative leadership style which goes back to her earliest work experience. She noted, “In the nonprofit world, you don’t have a lot of choice but to collaborate. Everyone needs to work closely with management and board members in order to serve the organization well.” She credits her first boss, Holly Wagner, with teaching her the importance of hiring the right people then letting them do their job without micro-managing.

Alexander shared about her leadership philosophy. “I believe the person with authority has the responsibility, and should never assume he or she is less accountable than other employees. Leadership is about taking the blame for others, but sharing the credit with everybody.” She continued, “Leaders don’t pass the buck, and they don’t hog the spotlight.” For future leaders, Alexander has very straight forward advice –WORK! She shared, “Every job I ever had taught me something, most of which I use every day. No matter how menial the task, do the very best job you possibly can. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. And don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something.”

The Community Foundation of Greater Jackson is a great resource for this state, and Jane Alexander is the type of leader to help continue its growth and development. Alexander noted that her parents, Lois and Chandler Clover, were longtime community activists, and she believes that her appointment to her position at the CFGJ pays tribute to them and their commitment to community service. Alexander noted, “We say the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson is about ‘Investing in Giving: For Good. Forever.’” The CFGJ and Jane Alexander will definitely have an impact on Mississippi and its capitol city well into the future.

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