Alexis Azria earned her undergraduate degrees in journalism and French from West Virginia University and her master’s degree in English literature at Hunter College, both with honors. She taught English at Bowling Green State University and has been published in various online publications and literary magazines.
Her passion for the performing arts also led her to be a choreographer for universities and theater. Alexis has appeared in television programs, movies, and commercials and still sings cabaret.
Besides her scholarly achievements, Alexis Azria is a talented writer, who tackles various topics, such as addiction, parenting, mental health, and domestic violence. After writing about sexual assault prevention for the FocusDirectionRecovery website, she created a multi-media program that educated high school students on recognizing and preventing sexual assault by being active bystanders.
Although she lives in New York, Alexis Azria is still very passionate about her home state of West Virginia. During her childhood, she witnessed the effects of poverty and the lack of educational services on communities. This led her to work with various nonprofit organizations that help people have the necessary resources for life.
For over a decade, she was a member of the board of directors of Action Against Hunger. This international organization, based in France, is also known as Action Contre La Faim, a nonprofit organization focusing on fighting global hunger and providing clean water to isolated communities, overcrowded slums, and refugee camps. Through her work with the organization, Alexis was able to establish corporate alliances and raise millions.
Alexis Azria’s philanthropic work has been recognized in 2012, 2014, and 2016.
Alexis also enjoys traveling and connecting with people from different backgrounds. As a polyglot, she has been able to experience various cultures and countries. She believes that traveling, whether online or in life, is the world’s best classroom.
Our Interview with Alexis Azria
Question: What’s the most important thing we should know about you?
Alexis Azria: My mother told me that “if there’s a will, there’s a way” at a very young age.
That motto encapsulates what I believe and as a result, I don’t give up even when facing seemingly insurmountable problems.
For example, our 6th-grade teacher informed us that only a few people could afford the class trip to Washington D.C.
And given that we were in rural West Virginia, there was little hope for our entire class to attend for a week.
But I believed no one should be excluded.
I immediately approached my principal and the two sixth-grade teachers with a fundraising plan for our upcoming trip. We had two fairs, 3 dance parties, and tons of baked goods sales during the next few months.
By May, every single student who wanted to go to Washington D.C. had the money to go.
Later in my life, one nonprofit claimed raising $1 million for their inaugural Gala would be impossible. I took up the gauntlet. We grossed over $1 million with Susan Sarandon and Christy Turlington as honorees, with subsequent increases in Gala revenue annually.
It may sound cliché, but people who succeed are those who refuse to give up.
Question: Name the most impactful lesson you learned from failure.
Alexis Azria: I’ve learned that failure is usually the stepping stone for your next success. Study why you failed, but realize that in some situations with some types of people, success would be difficult if not impossible. That’s ok. Fail big, learn from it, move on and keep taking risks.
Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Alexis Azria: My greatest accomplishment has been raising my daughter in a bi-cultural world and watching her grow into a compassionate, successful young woman who wants to help the less fortunate. I could not be more proud of her.
Question: What did you waste the most time on when you first started?
Alexis Azria: I put too much emphasis on copying others’ fundraising styles and chasing financial targets instead of following my intuition on how donors connect to a cause. When you stop to listen to potential donors, you suddenly understand why a particular organization speaks to them and their values, allowing you to engage them even more.
Question: Name a tool you use for work that you can’t live without.
Alexis Azria: There are actually 2 tools that I love for fundraising: Raiser’s Edge and Nexis for Development Professionals.
Raiser’s Edge is a fundraising and relationship management system where you can process online donations, manage how donors give, launch capital campaigns, and track key metrics. I also love that it requires less customization in its CRM platform and has a shorter implementation timeline, especially when compared to Salesforce’s NPSP.
Nexis for Development Professionals from LexisNexis is a program that allows you to do efficient and accurate donor research for your organization. The more you know about a donor, the more you can engage them. The program also lets you search news, corporate data, public records, and social media. With that information, you can determine if a potential donor is a good fit or not for your organization. In the long run, both programs save time and money.
Question: What concerns you most about your industry right now?
Alexis Azria: Since the average donor in the U.S. is 64 years old and makes 2 charitable gifts a year, how do we engage the next generation of donors? How do we encourage philanthropy among the young? What causes will motivate them to align their values with specific organizations or encourage them to become involved at the grassroots level? Then, how do organizations update their fundraising techniques to account for demographic changes, corporate giving trends, and even social media outreach for these new donors?
Question: What excites you the most about your industry right now?
Alexis Azria: Fundraising is still about connecting people to causes that speak to them. It is building relationships that ultimately improve our world. In the U.S. the Annual Report on Philanthropy reported that total charitable giving in 2021 was 4% more than in 2020 for an estimated $484.85 billion to U.S. charities. The fact that philanthropists still wanted to help others during the pandemic, gives me hope.
Question: What tips do you have for getting a seat at the table?
Alexis Azria: If you want a seat at the table, offer value and workable solutions to an organization’s problems. Listen and learn from senior management but be willing to see what they may not. Sometimes our greatest added value is thinking outside the box, and not thinking like current management who may be too close to a problem to see possible solutions.
Question: Name one small habit that positively impacts your productivity.
Alexis Azria: Meditation. Taking time in the wee hours of the morning clears my mind, permitting me to focus on what is truly important. Without it, I notice I’m more on edge and unable to accomplish my daily tasks.
Question: Do you value intelligence or common sense more? Why?Alexis Azria: For me, it’s common sense. Raw intelligence will not teach you that persistence is key to success. It doesn’t teach the value of taking risks or how to cooperate with colleagues. I have witnessed people with Mensa IQs fail miserably because they believed they were more intelligent than their clients or overthought simple problems.