Staff Q&A: Meet Abby, Associate Director of Development

It’s always great fun to let our staffers speak for themselves on our blog – you get to know them better and so do their coworkers! So today we’re handing the mic over to our Associate Director of Development, Abby Csanda. Enjoy!

UG: How did you wind up working at Urban Gateways / in arts education?

Abby: I came to the arts field by way of politics in Washington, DC. Right after I graduated from college (with a studio art degree in dark room photography), I moved to Washington, DC to work for a nationally-focused non-profit that was doing student organizing work on college campuses throughout the country. It was really lofty, large, national work. Something I had trouble wrapping my hands around. I eventually decided to look into graduate programs that focused on something smaller, more manageable – places where I could feel the change and movement I was working on. And I found the Masters of Arts Management program at Columbia College here in Chicago. At the time, they had a track that was focused on teeny tiny organizations and helping business and non-profit professionals learn how to effectively and efficiently run these small organizations. It was exactly what I needed! A small community where I could feel the change I was working towards. I spent a few years bouncing around small non-profit organizations in Chicago (Snow City Arts, Green City Market, Old Town School of Folk Music) and a small stint at a huge architecture firm. Eventually, I came back to my roots and landed here at Urban Gateways!

UG: How would you sum up your position here?

Abby: As the Associate Director of Development, my main focus is on raising funds from individuals and growing our donor base through special events and mailing campaigns. I plan Urban Gateways’ fundraising events throughout the year including our large annual Art for All Gala. I also handle our direct mail campaigns (mailed letter solicitations) and donor newsletters.

UG: Has anything surprised you about this position that wasn’t included in the job description?

Abby: The amount of leeway and creativity I’m allowed! We experiment all the time with new things whether it’s types of events, themes for events, direct mail campaigns, reporting, how to break down data, telling the right stories, etc. I’m excited each time there’s something new for me to play with and really dive into what works and what doesn’t. We’re constantly evolving and moving with our constituents whether they be our donors, schools, board members, community centers, youth, adults, or staff and artists.

UG: What is your favorite part of your job? What is a challenge?

Abby: My favorite part of my job is event logistics! I love the nitty gritty of making an event flow seamlessly (at least hopefully that’s how it appears to our attendees!). I’m totally a spreadsheet kind of gal and checking things off my to-do list is one of my daily joys. As for challenges…running mailing lists always seems to be a bear of a task for me. It requires so much energy and major concentration to make sure the lists are exactly right. And let’s be honest, it’s not the most glamorous of tasks to tackle!

Picking up drinks for an event…

UG: What do you do when you need inspiration (artistic or otherwise)?

Abby: Stand on my head! No, seriously. I’m an avid yogi and sometimes changing your perspective (literally) is exactly what you need to get started again!

UG: What are some of your favorite places in Chicago?

Abby: Lincoln Park Zoo – Specifically during Zoo Lights around Christmas. Christmas lights are one of my favorite things. There’s something so magical about them! And what better way to celebrate the season (and my birthday in January!), than with a cup of hot chocolate (and Bailey’s) and twinkling lights?

Art Institute – Best museum in the world. Go. Now.

Chicago River – When it’s green and when it’s not! The new River Walk is one of my absolute favorite places to visit during the day. It’s great for people watching!

The Lake – Chicago is one of those amazing cities where you get skyline AND water. Take advantage of it.

Anywhere on a rooftop – Totally a Chicago phenomenon – like saving parking spaces in the winter. We only get about four months out of the year to enjoy our city outside. What better way to take it all in than from 25 stories up in the sky?!

Sculpture Garden in Millennium Park – A special place for my fiancee and I. It’s where we fell in love and where he proposed to me. I’m a lucky gal!

Clark Street between Sunnyside and Wilson – BEST jewelry shopping in the city. It’s where all the boutiques buy their products wholesale. But individuals can go in and buy a few pieces too. Who turns down earrings and necklaces for less than $5?! But it’s my secret…so don’t go telling everyone!

Zoo Lights & the River Walk

UG: Sooo you’ll be in Greece in October? What’s happening there?

Abby: My HONEYMOON!!! My fiancee, Hayden, and I are getting married in 21 days (but who’s counting?)! Immediately after our wedding – as in the NEXT DAY – we’re on a plane to Greece for two whole weeks! Our first week in Greece will be spent visiting Santorini and seeing all it has to offer: beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, ancient cities, amazing restaurants, some of the world’s best wine, and an active volcano. We can’t wait for some sun, volcanic sand, and LOTS of stairs! After 5 days in Santorini, we’ll head back to Athens and begin our journey through the Peloponnesian Peninsula. Stopping along the way to tour a few small towns and see the local culture: Kardamyli, Pigi, Monemvasia, Nafplio, Epidavros, and Mycenae. We are so excited for this journey!

UG: Two truths and a lie…

Abby: I have a coffee cup collection of all the places I’ve ever been. I own 3 snuggies. My favorite food is cottage cheese.

Thanks Abby! Congratulations on your big day in just three weeks, and enjoy that honeymoon! We’ll post the answer to the last question in the comments at a later date…