We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Schwartz-Dulaney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, what do you attribute your success to?
As the Executive Director of the Dear Jack Foundation, the most important factor behind the success of the organization is the cohesiveness of my team. Internal staff and board communication, collaboration, empowering team members to make decisions, encouraging thought leadership within the organization are all vital to team cohesiveness and to the long-term success of the organization.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In 2014, I joined the Dear Jack Foundation as the organization’s first full time compensated employee. Founded by musician and cancer survivor Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and based in Denver, the Dear Jack Foundation is the leading non profit in the United States that provides quality of life programs to young adults, ages 18-39, affected by cancer. I have a mix of non profit and for profit business experience in progressive development, marketing and management leadership roles. After college, I immediately joined the corporate finance world and very quickly decided it was not for me. Since my mid-twenties my career has very much been mission centric. Between then and now, I have held purpose driven leadership roles for various organizations. I very much have an entrepreneurial mindset which I believe drives my success and is unique to the non profit environment. I think the most challenging aspect of my career has been finding ways to avoid burn out. As a mission first individual (and a self identified empath), I tend to give most of myself – time, expertise and energy – to others. I would say it wasn’t until recently and as a senior leader within my field, that I am imperfectly practicing what I preach – balance. For me, I have found the combination of practicing work-life balance and goal setting that when implemented are successful strategies to avoid the the feeling of burn out. I think what I am most proud of in my career is where I am at currently. When I look back on the last 7 years at the Dear Jack Foundation it hasn’t been without challenges. I am proud of the way I have guided the organization through these challenges to include all that 2020 presented us with from the pandemic and an all too delayed social justice movement. I am proud of the growth that Dear Jack Foundation has experienced over the last 7 years to include increasing our operating budget by 500% and implementing new programs that are closing the gap in quality cancer care for adolescent and young adult cancer patients, survivors and their families. Additionally, I have recently received the incredible honor of joining the Forbes Non Profit Council, an invitation only community of non profit leaders across the United States.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First let’s assume COVID-19 is long gone and that it is summertime. I am Colorado native, a lover of all things outside and I appreciate patios at local pubs/breweries. I live in Evergreen, though I spent many, many years living in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood. So my hometown tour would include these areas. Our time spent together would be a mix of hiking and mountain biking the trails just outside of my doorstep in Evergreen and afterwards visiting my favorite Evergreen brewery, Revival, for food and a beverage on their patio. Additionally, we would most definitely eat at Bacon Social House in Sunnyside because everyone needs to be introduced to their bacon tots! Also, we’d go on a walking tour of my old Denver neighborhoods, visit the Denver Art Museum, seek out ramen at OTOTO and live music at Red Rocks.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many individuals who I think deserve a shoutout! For this purpose, I would like to recognize Dear Jack Foundation board member Steve Smith. Steve paved the way for my role as the volunteer Executive Director prior to me joining the organization in 2014 as the first compensated employee. Over the last 7 years, Steve’s mentorship and expertise helped to guide my direction as an Executive Director. His ongoing trust and confidence in me to step into his shoes to lead the Dear Jack Foundation year-over-year and into the organization’s next phase of growth, provides me the space to carry out the long term vision of Dear Jack – to be the national leader in adolescent and young adult quality of life cancer care. Steve Smith continues to serve on the Dear Jack Foundation board of directors in an emeritus role. His commitment to the organization is invaluable. I would also like to mention Brene Brown. Her research on topics like leadership, vulnerability, courage and empathy have helped to shape me as a leader and overall as a human being. I very much recommend the books: Dare to Lead, Braving the Wilderness, and Daring Greatly.
Team photo: Caption – The Dear Jack Foundation team