A public radio fanatic, Jennifer Brake has cultivated a reputation for being one of the most enthusiastic voices at St. Louis Public Radio. She has been with the station for almost five years, and has quite the collection of selfies with NPR celebrities to show for it.
We sat down with Jennifer to learn more about her work, her love for public radio, and what it's like to work for STLPR.
What does it mean to be a Development Officer at St. Louis Public Radio?
Well, development is just a fancy word for fundraising, and fundraising here is as simple and as complicated as finding people who depend on public radio and showing them how they can leverage their resources to strengthen the work we do. It's really about connecting people with what they love. I spend a good part of my day thinking about how we can find those people, and how to demonstrate to them the impact of their investment once we have.
Tell me about your path to St. Louis Public Radio. Why did you choose to come here?
I sort of fell into fundraising - it was not something I had ever really thought about. My introduction to nonprofit work came by way of a temp agency assignment at the YWCA as a development and communications assistant, and I fell in love. After working there for a few years I had the opportunity to work with donors at the Missouri History Museum, which was an amazing experience, and then I saw the job posting for a development position at St. Louis Public Radio and I knew I had to apply. I had been a volunteer (back in the day when volunteers could be used to answer phones during membership campaigns!) and I was an NPR fanatic. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.
What is one thing you can't work without?
I can't imagine making it though the day without my headphones. People might not realize that St. Louis Public Radio is playing nearly everywhere in the building all day (including in the bathroom!), but the noise of the office is often just enough to make it impossible to hear the details of a story. Headphones are a necessity!
Let's talk favorites:
- Holiday - Christmas. Just 16 more weeks to wait!
- STLPR event - The annual dinner, Talk, Toast, Taste, is something I look forward to every year. We bring in an NPR personality and I have made a point of volunteering early to man the photo wall so I can spend time with that person. It is also a great opportunity to meet our donors!
- Spot in the office - The kitchen! There is a never ending supply of food, and it is the place I often run into colleagues who I wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to catch up with.
- STLPR story - This is another impossible question, but I am going to have to say it was a death penalty story done by former STLPR reporter Chris McDaniel. It was incredible investigative reporting in its own right, but it had more significance for me because I was invited to read part of a court transcript on-air as part of the story. It was amazing to be part of the journalistic process.
- NPR reporter/host - This is like asking me to pick my favorite child. It's almost impossible. But I have a real love for David Greene, who let me spend time with him in the studio during Morning Edition on a trip to DC.
What are you working on during an average day?
My job necessarily entails a pretty vast array of tasks, but my primary focus of late has been supporting and growing our monthly membership program, and managing the Generation Listen Leadership Council.
In terms of the monthly membership program, I focus on making the case to members that becoming a sustainer is the single best way to increase the impact of their contributions, and to remind members who are already giving monthly that their support is having a measurable effect on the work we do at St. Louis Pubic Radio.
Generation Listen STL is a growing group of young professionals who rely on STLPR, and the Leadership Council is a 24-person committee who plans and orchestrates their activities, like the upcoming MetroQuest. My role is to serve as the liaison between them and the station, and I love doing it. They are an incredible group of supporters and I am constantly impressed with their dedication.
I also get to choose the thank you gifts we offer each membership campaign. New options are available this week!
As a fan of St. Louis Public Radio, it must be fun to work here. What is the best part of the job?
It really is incredible for me. I am still starstruck on occasion, and I still have friends text me screen shots when someone like Maria Altman or Don Marsh 'like' my status update. But the best part of the day-to-day for me is knowing first hand that those people are genuinely dedicated to doing honest, important journalism. It is a privilege to be able to play a role in that.
But in a close second for "best part of working at STLPR" is the opportunities to meet national NPR personalities. I have been fortunate enough to see a number of shows live, including The Takeaway, Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion, and Ask Me Another, and I have been able to spend time with Kai Rysdal, Guy Raz, David Greene, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Sam Sanders, Susan Stamberg, Tom Ashbrook, the cast of To the Best of Our Knowledge, Kelly McEvers, Glynn Washington, Garrison Keillor, Chris Thile, and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. And I always try my best to get a selfie!
When you are not working, what are you doing?
- What is the last movie you watched? - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I have two young daughters, my youngest is five and my oldest will be seven this month, and we have a tradition of watching each of the Harry Potter movies after we finish the corresponding book!
- What is the last book you read? - Anthill by E.O. Wilson
- Do you play an instrument? - No! I tried them all in elementary and middle school before realizing that I have no rhythm.
- Do you have any pets? - Yes. I have a cat named Grover, who is named after Grover Cleveland, and dog named Charlie, who got his name when my then two-year-old daughter heard me say "sorry, Charlie" and assumed it was his name. It stuck.
What's next? What are you looking forward to?
In fundraising there is always something new to research or try, but right now I am focused on recruiting new members to the Generation Listen Leadership Council (applications are being accepted now!) and helping them plan a great year.
We are also launching the fall member campaign, which always brings with it an uptick in the energy and excitement in the office as we rally together to meet our goal. I look forward to it each year.