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A Degree that Opens Doors and Fills Pantries: Jillian Morgan G'19

“No day is the same. I go from thinking about a budget, managing it and overseeing how it’s applied to thinking about our revenue goals and making sure volunteer shifts are full,” explained Jillian Morgan g'19, the director of philanthropy at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. “But I’m always thinking about promotion—how we’re telling the story of The Food Bank, explaining what our impact is and describing how we’re responding to the needs in the community.”

Morgan arrived at The Food Bank in 2019, having spent years searching for a career that could bring together her creative ambitions, her desire to have an impact on her community and the professional skill set she’d worked hard to develop.

“I started college at GCC (Greenfield Community College), and I was passionate about theater. I transferred to UMass, thinking about theater and acting, and just wanting to be around that,” she explained. “Someone told me that communications majors can become theater managers, and that’s what got me. But I learned it applies to lots of things—how to tell a story to the public about a product or an organization. Whether that be through documentaries, film or marketing, it’s making that connection with each other through communication.”

Upon earning her bachelor’s in communications, Morgan spent her early post-undergrad years doing lots of self-described “wheel spinning,” balancing jobs in retail and radio sales, as well as a stint working for a touring theater company. Morgan saw herself as versatile, instead of all over the place, her interests multifaceted, instead of miscellaneous. “In sales, I dealt with business owners and a lot of organizations, and I saw the work and responsibility that came with being a manager. I knew if I was afforded the opportunity, I would do well in that role. But I had a hard time getting the recognition,” she said.

Getting an MBA would give her the concrete skills and the “proof on paper” that potential employers would value. 

“I definitely knew that I was using the degree as a tool to pivot my career,” she explained. “I learned how to prove that your idea is viable, how to research and pressure-test an idea. I also learned about effective performance management and the dynamics of a team, and how to do accounting and really get the nuts and bolts of the business.”

Today, as director of philanthropy, she manages a budget for her division and continually develops ideas on raising awareness and funds for The Food Bank and the many programs, and ultimately people, connected to it.

“Our mission is twofold. We feed our neighbors, but we also are aiming to lead the community to end hunger, and that’s where my team comes in,” she said. “We’re about getting folks involved in The Food Bank through donating time and money, and helping us spread the word about the impact of this organization and its partners, and the ways hunger and food insecurity are part of a larger systemic issue. It all comes together in our efforts to end hunger.”

One of four food banks in the state, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts serves as a hub for a network of 160-plus neighborhood food pantries throughout Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties. In addition, they oversee direct-to-client programs such as the Brown Bag: Food for Elders program run through senior centers and a mobile food bank that travels to communities that lack access to grocery stores and fresh food.

This summer, Morgan, along with the rest of The Food Bank staff, will move from their current base in Hatfield to a brand-new building in Chicopee, the result of a $26 million capital campaign that not only doubles their space but also puts them in Hampden County, a strategic location for meeting the needs of all the rural, suburban and urban communities of Western Massachusetts.

“Everyone is excited about this move and thinking about how we can join this community and forge deep relationships. We’ll still be serving Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire counties, but this is going to be a big change. It’s the start of a new era for our mission and the ways we’ll meet the community’s needs for decades to come.”

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