Early in recovery, with my entire career experience being in bar and event management, I was praying for a job that would allow me evenings off to go to meetings, enough income to afford the bus on rainy days, and the ability to clock out without smelling like stale beer and the dish pit. After much rallying and many rejections letters, I was given a chance as a receptionist at the McLeod Center, a local nonprofit that offered addiction treatment to just about anyone willing to walk through their doors.
There I found a home, a blank slate, and a career opportunity. Quickly, I discovered I had a knack for business, and I went to work, identifying opportunities to repair relationships, improve systems, grow service offerings and revenue, expand the referral base, and improve customer service. I asked for projects, offered solutions, and delivered. Within nine months I became the executive assistant to the president, where I found mentorship from one of the most successful addiction treatment administrators in the Carolinas. Opportunities arose that helped me rapidly recognize my strengths and accept that my calling wasn’t in changing lives one counseling session at a time, but in streamlining and drafting policy that reduced barriers to treatment and implementing required and less conventional professional development opportunities to improve the field as a whole.
Several months later, I became the manager for the very office that gave me my start as a receptionist. Soon after, I was made the Director of Support Services , where my administrative skills truly came to life. During that period, I managed all board affairs; found a seat in every executive meeting; and continued overseeing the front office, the screening lab, and special projects. While in this position I also recognized an opportunity to replace the unsatisfying and expensive catered client meals by opening a fully functioning cafeteria and internal catering service, and I saw that opportunity through.
Subsequently, the Professional Training Series was moved to my department, and I was given complete creative control. Within a year, national and international speakers were slated for our monthly event, and registration filled within minutes of opening; McLeod Center began receiving national attention and awards (CARF, NIATx, NAADAC) for it’s commitment to professional development and its standard of excellence in training. As a result, I became the Director of Business Development and was invited to serve on several addiction education and recovery advocacy boards (APNC, NCFADS and UNC-Charlotte’s Collegiate Recovery Center). In these environments, I was well served by my experience-earned education in board psychology and dynamics.
Drawing upon my colorful past, I discovered inspiration and a passion for promoting treatment opportunities over incarceration by conceptualizing North Carolina’s first Residential DWI program. Timing could not have been better: the program aligned perfectly with the strategic plan we’d developed to expand into a statewide private pay market. I was given the freedom to not only collaborate with the clinical team in development, but also to market the program and to work directly with referents, families and clients, thus streamlining admissions and ensuring clear communication and follow up. Today, the majority of McLeod Center’s private pay residential clients come from that program.
After 7 years with McLeod Center, opportunities presented themselves to expand my experience in the industry beyond the local level to a regional, and later national, presence. The first was with Fellowship Hall, one of the region’s oldest and most reputable treatment centers, where, after a few short months traveling the southeast, I was able to replicate many of the successes enjoyed at McLeod Center. During my time there, I was able to contribute to a re-branding campaign, streamline the admissions and discharge processes, expand the referral base into untapped markets, revive stagnant relationships, spearhead the marketing and execution of successful community events, and introduce fresh talent into training programs. Soon I joined the management team, reported directly to the CEO, and was privileged to continue my education in industry essentials, marketing, strategic planning, and administration. Later, I accepted a position as the Director of Development with Palm Beach Institute, the longest established, true residential treatment center in South Florida. There I reported directly to the Executive Director and gained experience at the national level.
Voluntary service positions on marketing committees, on conference committees and as Conference Chair on North Carolina’s major addiction boards allowed me the opportunity to gain valuable experience; I planned and executed conferences: choosing topics; locating talent; negotiating honorariums, riders, and travel arrangements; negotiating hotel blocks, menus, and accommodations; acquiring and negotiating sponsorships; streamlining registration processes; marketing to new audiences; and troubleshooting in real time. Recently, I accepted an invitation from the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with NC State’s Institute for nonprofits and UNC-Chapel Hill, to participate in the first Leadership Fellows Academy. The program is designed to create the next generation of workforce-ready nonprofit administrators. I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to enhance my understanding of strategy, funding, regulation, and leadership and executive functions in this arena.
Years of working in administration and in the nonprofit world provided me insight into a dilemma common to nonprofits and startups; with limited staff, limited budgets, and big missions, agencies pool their resources to compensate for gaps and vacancies, to accomplish special projects, and to pull off events. They use new hires or borrow talent from other departments and hope for the best. These efforts to keep costs down actually increased overhead costs due to expanding personnel expenses, and all too often resulted in less than desirable outcomes. In July 2016, capitalizing on a decade of experience in administration, branding, strategic planning, marketing, and event/conference planning, I created Jessica L. White and Associates, LLC; a one-stop-shop that offers executives of small agencies and nonprofits the ability to outsource their needs, utilizing an economical approach that eliminates the training curve, keeps administrative cost burdens low, and can demand hard deliverables. We offer consulting for operational effectiveness, branding (logo, print marketing, social media, web design, etc), along with event planning for occasions ranging from continuing education and professional development conferences to networking events, open houses, and fundraisers.
Since opening, I’ve built a cohesive team of savvy, talented, and experienced professionals to offer solutions to smaller agencies, startups, and nonprofits. Our mission is to always provide seamless service delivery, clear communication, and positive outcomes for our clients. No matter the size or scope of the project, we welcome the opportunity to help bring your vision to fruition. Freeing you and your staff up to do what you do best, is what we do best.