Alicia Cross serves as the Assistant Director of Operations, Gift Systems at Columbia University in New York City. Prior to joining Columbia, Alicia began her Development Operations career at Barnard College where she worked her way up from Alumnae Record Assistant to Gift Processing Assistant to Manager of Development Operations. In this role, Alicia oversaw the processing of all charitable contributions to the college. Originally from Jamaica, NY, she earned a B.A. in Public Relations from the State University of New York at New Paltz. Alicia also serves as a member of the Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee of WID.
WID: When did you join Women In Development and what prompted you to join?
Alicia: I joined Women In Development in August of 2020. With everything that was going on with COVID and other life changes, I wanted to become more involved in networking and learning about the field. A former colleague of mine suggested that I join.
WID: What events and/or programs have you participated in since joining WID? Which ones have been most impactful or meaningful to you?
Alicia: I have participated in the Resume Reboot workshop and Deconstructing Development: Beyond Black and White – Creating More Inclusive Workspaces and Boards. I also took part in the Career Advisors program. As a woman of color, more specifically a black woman, I would say that the most impactful event was Deconstructing Development. One of the speakers, Dee Brecker, was very candid and transparent about many of her experiences being a black woman navigating the field of development: it is not always as diverse as people would like to believe. Especially when you get to the people who are making the decisions. I admired her willingness to be true to herself and command respect because I related to that.
WID: Fundraising in higher education has faced numerous transitions this past year due to the pandemic. As a development operations professional in higher education, what are some of the opportunities and hurdles you have encountered?
Alicia: Anyone working in development operations knows that we are a paper-based department. In the ten years that I’ve worked in development operations, we’ve always believed that we were the one team that could never work from home. So my greatest hurdle was transitioning my team from working in the office to working remotely. Added to the challenge was making that transition without a Director in place. But it presented the opportunity for myself and my team to come up with strategic and cohesive procedures that would allow us to work effectively and to serve the campus community.
WID: Development Operations is at times overlooked in fundraising, even though it is an essential function. What do you love about Dev Ops, and what do you wish more people knew about it?
Alicia: I honestly love the work. There are always new challenges. I enjoy putting together the pieces of the puzzle. What I wish more people knew about Dev Ops is that things are not as simple as they appear. It takes a great deal of time and effort to make sure that we are entering the most accurate information. Imagine sending out solicitation e-mails and half of those e-mails are one letter or digit off? Think about the number of opportunities that could delay. What if a gift goes to the wrong fund and a donor receives their acknowledgment with incorrect information? It gives the impression that the organization is incompetent and that can deter people from giving in the future. But Dev Ops puts in a tremendous amount of effort to ensure that those errors do not take place. If someone in Dev Ops is coming to you asking you to clarify something, just know that it is in everyone’s best interest.
WID: What advice would you give to someone thinking about specializing in Development Operations?
Alicia: Working in Development Operations requires you to do a lot of analysis and problem-solving; it requires great attention to detail. No day will ever be the same. Some days may be a little predictable, and some will be very busy, but every day you will be learning and growing.
On Thursday, May 6th at 2:00pm, WID’s Deconstructing Development series returns with Smooth Operation: Development Operations – the Cornerstone of a Thriving Development Department. Learn more about the critical role that Alicia Cross and her Dev Ops peers play in a thriving development department.