Leadership Spotlight: Joy Bentley Phillips, AoH

Trusting Her Instincts, Changing the World

Joy Bentley Phillips is a Washington, DC-based fundraising executive and change agent who currently serves as Chief Advancement Officer of Development and External Relations at Academy of Hope Adult PCS. In her role she oversees fundraising, student recruitment, and strategic communications. Prior to this role she advanced philanthropy as Director of Development at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation, and Director of Development at GW Medicine. Joy has served the nonprofit sector for over 10 years and has inspired individuals and institutions to invest more than $10 million in charitable causes.  Joy holds a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the George Washington University and she holds a Bachelors of Arts in Communications from Temple University. Joy lives in  Washington, DC with her husband and two year old daughter. 

What made you choose education as a career field?

Starting out, I worked predominantly in fundraising at large institutions like the American Cancer Society and Johns Hopkins University. After receiving my master’s degree, I wanted to use my skills to help organizations with a meaningful mission, in communities that looked like me. Academy of Hope meets that criteria in that the services we offer adult learners has a ripple effect in individuals, family and communities. Help an adult, a family thrives, children thrive, and a community thrives.

What are some things you’ve learned about yourself or your career over time?

Prior to working in the non-profit sector, I worked in TV because I thought I wanted to host my own talk show where I counseled people. My job was to get free products for a kitchen renovation show, building relationships with vendors and sponsors. I knew I wasn’t changing the world at the job, but I learned how to get funding for projects, how to manage events, and more importantly, I learned that Americans can be quite philanthropic—you just have to match the right people with the right cause where they can effect change. 

My current position with Academy of Hope is the same thing. It’s raising awareness about the needs in adult education, that some people were forced to make difficult decisions as children and grew up to be adults with responsibilities that didn’t include school.

Is your team diverse? 

It’s new for me, to be in a space with many people of color in the room. Before coming to AoH, I was used to being the only POC (and person in my age group) at the table. 

How has it been different?

I didn’t’ realize the amount of microaggressions, the things I had to spend my time thinking about at other organizations. Now I can bring my full self at AoH and do the work. I don’t have to stress about my appearance, having colleagues who supposedly know you and see you every day not recognize you because you change your hair…it’s a bit of a cut. At predominately white institutions, there are underlying things you’re experiencing that you can’t talk about out loud, white privilege flaring its head. AoH doing a lot of work around race equity and understanding privilege, white privilege, helps to allow to name certain things and focus on the work. 

How do you take care of yourself, in order to be a better leader?

Self-care is critical in every level. I probably took it for granted prior to being a mom. But as a leader, I have to be able to free up creative juices, to learn how to deal with different personalities when managing people. So, I work out throughout the week, and I meditate. I like to find quiet time to recharge and think through what went well and what I can be better. It’s also important to me to find time to journal. And, of course, a good brunch! 

What advice can you offer other POC transitioning into leadership positions?

In no particular order:  

  • Be able to sit with your inner self; make sure you’re comfortable in who you are and trust your gut as you navigate any professional space.
  • Make sure your network is strong, and filled with people who look like you, especially in PWI spaces. It matters if you’re navigating a workplace politically and professionally to maybe grab a coffee or lunch with colleagues and find a common ground. 
  • Using calendar as offense and defense—do an offsite on a quarterly basis and reflect on the past quarter or adjust plan for upcoming work. Blocking time to reflect/strategize, and for learning is crucial, because if it is not on your calendar it’s not going to happen. 
  • Be comfortable with saying no to meetings that don’t serve the work you do.  

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