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September 28, 2023

By Molly Alpern, Assistant Director for Advancement Communications

Marjorie Jean-Paul joined ECFS as Chief Advancement Officer in July 2023, and she quickly became immersed in ECFS by learning about the history of the School and the people who shape our community. We sat down with her to hear more about her background, what she’s most excited about this year, and what she wants the community to know about the Advancement Office.

What’s your professional background, and what brought you to ECFS?

The thread that runs through all of my professional experience is a sense of purpose — a sense of something bigger than just the work at hand. I was drawn to the nonprofit sector after graduating from Cornell. As a student, I had a concentration in gerontology and quickly learned about the incredible work accomplished by these organizations, specifically for the elderly. I went on to study nonprofit management and I was fortunate to work at a nonprofit management consulting firm that focused on community development and corporate social responsibility.   

As a nonprofit management consultant, I focused on board development, governance, strategic planning, and community engagement. I loved going into organizations, peeling back the layers to hear about the work they do in our communities, and then figuring out what they could do to be a stronger organization. It became clear to me the important role of fundraising, and drawing on my experiences, I worked with funders in corporate philanthropy on strategies for working with their business partners and building stronger relationships with nonprofit organizations and their community neighbors.

From there, my path led me to working with independent schools after years of working as a capital campaign consultant raising money for educational, health, and art causes. I moved first to Waldorf School of Garden City for 10 years and then Buckley Country Day School for six years, which is where I really found my place. I enjoy the energy you get from children and their families when they first come to a school setting with all of their dreams and aspirations. When you’re part of a community for a longer period, you get to see the families through their whole life cycle in the school, and in some cases, you get to know not only the students but also the parents/guardians, grandparents, and extended family members.

I am finding that ECFS is a school filled with people who are committed to something bigger than themselves: the mission to help children and young adults feel empowered to go into the world and make a positive impact. Working at ECFS ties together all of my previous work experiences, and I see all of the ways I can contribute to the School today, which excites me.

What’s been your biggest takeaway after three months at ECFS?

I’m often in meetings where I hear people talk about how important the mission is, and I see how much that multilayered, complex mission drives the decisions being made at the School. Many of my conversations with colleagues, parents/guardians, and alumni have centered around a different part of the mission that resonates with them and inspires them each day. 

Another big thing I see at ECFS is the focus on how we impact our local community and our world through student-centered initiatives. With only a few weeks of the academic year underway, many of the student-led projects are starting to take shape around campus. You can see that there is a commitment to doing something bigger than ourselves and that this is a community that embraces philanthropy through the volunteers and giving each year. I’ve already learned that the community is being mindful of what the  future for ECFS looks like and making sure that our students are set up to go out into the world with the skills to influence change on their community.

How do you see the mission reflected in your role? 

The work of advancement is focused on supporting the current operations of the School, while always looking to create a stronger school for the future. The mission is reflected in everything that I do as the Chief Advancement Officer. At the heart of my role is highlighting the exceptional educational work of our faculty, knowledge of our students, and accomplishments of our alumni, while engaging the broader community. Philanthropic gifts set ECFS apart and fund a margin of excellence in everything we do. I want to ensure we are able to offer our students and our community experiences that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the commitment to excellence and the availability of resources. All of this feeds into the mission of supporting each and every ECFS student.

A big part of this work is raising awareness around what we do and inspiring our community to be a part of it, too. People often say, “I’d like to give, but I don’t feel like I have enough to make a substantial gift.” ECFS is a school where everyone is asked to be an active participant in our student’s education. Everyone can get involved and contribute to the success of ECFS, at any level, by reaching for excellence and stretching whatever gift is within their means. In this sense, we are all philanthropists. 

At the root of philanthropy is an unselfish love for others and I hope through my work, I can lead an effort that inspires everyone to give of their time, talents, and financial resources for the school that they love and cherish.  

Marjorie Jean-Paul, center, at a P+T volunteer fair at Ethical Culture on the first day of school

What are you most excited about for the year ahead?

Overall, I am excited to be part of a community that values its members and challenges us all to be engaged in the advancement of ECFS. I am looking forward to learning more about the School’s past, present, and goals for the future. There are many important projects that I am excited about this year. First is the planning and strategizing for our next capital campaign, which will enable us to move the work done from the previous capital campaign into the next phase and begin new projects that continue to care for our facilities, augment programing and carry ECFS into the future.   

Major capital campaigns have a transformative effect on communities, and understanding the hopes and dreams of the community more deeply, along with developing the plan to achieve these goals, is truly fulfilling. I am especially delighted to get out there to talk to people in the coming months and have the conversations inform the focus of the campaign. A capital campaign creates a collective experience and gives people the opportunity to be a part of the legacy of our School. When we look around the campuses today, so much of what we see is because of support from past generations — and a capital campaign lets us be that support for now and into the future. 

I am also looking forward to the work around the School’s accreditation process through NYSAIS. We are so immersed in the School every day, and the accreditation process makes us take the time to stop and say, “What have we been doing, and how can we do it better?” It’s a lot of work, but at the end of that process, the School will be much stronger in every way, which enables us to support the overall mission.

And finally, with Communications now a key member of the Advancement Office, I am looking forward to continuing to bring stories about the exceptional work of our faculty, the genius of our students, the caring of our parents, and the accomplishments of our alumni to the broader community.  

ECFS is a gem of an educational experience that needs to be shared more widely. From working intentionally to raise awareness of the benefits of our educational approach with parents to sharing the accomplishments of our students and the outcome of our graduates more widely to the broader community, we are all asked to be actively involved in sharing the School with those seeking this type of academic experience for their student.  

What do you want everyone to know about the Orange Fund and the Advancement Office?

The Orange Fund, especially when contrasted with the capital campaign which plans for the future, is all about right now. The big question is, how can we give the students at ECFS today the best possible experience? The Orange Fund is about reaching that margin of excellence for this academic year. I encourage everyone to be a part of getting our School to the highest parent/guardian participation possible, giving money to push us past the finish line for our fundraising goal, and creating a culture of philanthropy that inspires your fellow Eagles to give, too. 

In terms of the Advancement office, I want people to know that everyone on the team is fantastic and excited to partner with you! The office includes Advancement, Alumni Relations, Communications, and Events and Engagement — we call ourselves the AACE team. You can read more about AACE here

Our work touches every area of the School. We interact with every constituent group, and we are committed to telling the story of ECFS in a strategic and engaging way that creates opportunities for everyone to feel connected to the mission and each other and inspired to contribute time, talent, and treasures to advance the School. Each member of my team is so committed to this work and to connecting with our ECFS families. If you have an idea or you want to get involved, I absolutely encourage you to reach out