In honor of Women’s History Month, we are continuing to recognize and celebrate women through our Top Ten Most Inspiring Women Series. We’ve interviewed many amazing women and we’re excited to introduce you to Jennifer Saienni, Marketing & Communications Manager at Delaware Hospice.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I work at Delaware Hospice, and I do all the marketing and public relations for the organization. In my free time, I also work with Spur Impact to put on the Millennial Summit, which will be happening this August. It will be a virtual event, hopefully we’ll have some in-person activities going on throughout the day. I’m also part of the DoMore24 Delaware campaign, which just wrapped up and raised $2 million for local profits here in Delaware. I was born and raised in Delaware, and I’m excited to continue my career and raise my family here in Delaware.
“The biggest change that I would love to see in the world is people being able to just step outside the box and go ahead and introduce themselves.”
What change do you want to see in the world, and how are you aiding that cause?
The biggest change that I would love to see in the world is people being able to just step outside the box and go ahead and introduce themselves. Reach out, maybe it’s through email or LinkedIn, and put yourself out there. I think that’s been very hard, especially for introverts like myself. It’s a little daunting, but it’s something that I hope people will start doing more. I think the skill has been lost in recent generations. You have to go, you can’t just sit behind your computer anymore, and I think a lot of us have resorted back to that and said ‘oh well, I’m in my home, I’m happy.’ But we need to go out and make those connections, that’s how we’re going to be successful whether it be personally or professionally. The work that I’m doing with Mill Summit and DoMore24, and the other nonprofits that I work with, I think it’s helping aid that. I am trying to make those connections and bring those people, bring those organizations together so that they can start having those conversations, and really start to see that there are more people out there just like you, trying to do good in the world.
“We plan for marriage, we plan for college, we plan for babies, so why not plan for death?”
Another change that I hope to see in our world is encouraging people to have end-of-life conversations. The work that I do with Delaware Hospice really strives to educate and introduce these types of conversations about death and dying, and what a good death looks like. As the marketing and communications person at Delaware Hospice, I really work to showcase that there are other options when it comes to death. It’s inevitable, there are two things in this world, taxes and death. We plan for marriage, we plan for college, we plan for babies, so why not plan for death? I hope to bring death into a normal conversation in our culture and in our community. I’m doing that by helping to promote different events such as Cocktails and Caskets, Death and Donuts. So that’s another change that I would like to see in our world is people willing and openly having conversations about what they want when they die.
Delaware is not a very charitable state, right? Tell us about DoMore24.
No, individual giving for the state of Delaware is pretty low when compared to all 50 states. It was an initiative that was brought together and trying to help increase individual giving, especially with all the corporations and foundations that have been struggling over the past few years.
We just hosted the fifth anniversary of the event, and this year, Spur Impact partnered up with United Way of Delaware, and together we had over 450 nonprofits register and raise money. We had a goal of raising a million dollars, and we surpassed that at the 18-hour mark. We ended the 24 hours online giving with just under $2 million; I think the final numbers were like $1.9 million for local nonprofits. We are ecstatic that we were able to help those nonprofits, and I think what’s really impactful about the initiative is it’s not just the big nonprofits, the named ones that you and I know right off the top of our heads, but it’s the small ones. It’s the ones that might be run by one person and a small board. We had one nonprofit that takes care of the pets of homeless people. So you know, organizations that have little niches, and just need a little helping hand in getting those online donations to continue the amazing work that they do here in the state.
What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
One of the most rewarding things that I do is getting people to think outside the box. At Delaware Hospice, we really try to strive to get people to have those tough conversations about end-of-life care early and often. And to do that, you know, these conversations can be daunting, they can be scary, they can bring up crazy emotions. My job is to help our employees at Delaware Hospice to try to articulate ways to an individual what the benefits are of having these end of life conversations, and how important they are, and how beneficial they can be to the quality of life for not only the person, but also the entire family. When someone passes, it’s not just them that is affected, it’s the whole unit. It may be just the husband and the children, but it could also be the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, and even the friends and coworkers. So by having these early and often, and being open, and saying, you know, in a joking manner ‘hey, I want this song at my funeral,’ when the song comes on the radio. These are the conversations and that’s what is rewarding is when I can encourage people to have these conversations, and you see the light bulb go off, ‘oh, you’re right, this could really make a difference in my wife’s life.’
The most rewarding thing that I get to do and experience with my committees such as Mill Summit and DoMore24 is knowing the impact that I have on our community, as well as the world. But knowing, specifically for Mill Summit, the connections, the networking, the new relationships, both professionally and personally, that have been developed over the years through the Mill Summit. Also the aha moments, the new education, the new resources, I wish we had statistics on how many new companies and entrepreneurs took the advice and ran with it, about the seminars that have come out and really have developed their programs and their livelihood through the help of Mill Summit. I think it’s one of the most rewarding aspects about being on the planning committee, and personally just the connections that I’ve met. I have met so many people by going to the planning committees, meetings, going to the happy hours, and the networking events, and meeting people that I would have never have come in contact with before, and really getting to understand the makeup and the dynamics of what makes Delaware and our communities so amazing. All of these different organizations and people make it a tapestry in my community, and I really love working with the Mill Summit because of that.
“The best opportunities come from a busy person.”
How do you make time for a full-time job, multiple volunteer positions, and a family?
It’s a lot. I’m not gonna lie, not gonna shy away from that, but I think that I’m able to do this because at a young age, my dad instilled in myself and my sister that the best opportunities come from a busy person. You know, if you see somebody who is always doing something, going in and out, and you need something done, you’re going to give it to that person versus the person who’s just twiddling their thumbs. So at a young age, I’ve always been pushed to be busy. I started playing sports in fourth grade and played all the way through college. I played three sports in high school. My freshman and sophomore year in college, I played three sports. Then junior and senior year, I played two sports. Student council member all through high school and college, various committees I was on as well and still graduated top of my class out of college.
So time management has been the biggest thing that has allowed me to create and be able to keep moving day in and day out and be able to balance my family, which comes first and foremost, with my professional life and my nonprofit life as well.
How do you define success?
I define success as being able to look back on yesterday, on last week, and knowing that I tried something. I didn’t just sit back and say ‘okay, well, this is the way we’ve always done it, so let’s continue doing it.’ Knowing that I have done something, whether it has been noted and has worked, fantastic, or whether it failed, either way, I tried. That is my biggest way to say that I’ve been successful. Regardless of whether or not the project or statement you made worked or satisfied the client versus this blew up in your face, you went out and tried. Success is trying something new and being able to look back on the battle, or look back and say ‘okay, it’s going, we’re moving, we’re moving in a direction.’ And at this moment, you can either pivot and go left or pivot and go right, or continue going straight. Those are the successes that I think make me successful, knowing that I went out and did something instead of just sitting back and relying on somebody else to make a decision for me.
What is the most important business or personal discovery you’ve made?
I think the biggest discovery that I’ve made has been balance. It is definitely one of those things that I continue to work on every day. It is a balance between professional, wanting to grow within my organization, and to grow personally as well. But also to balance my family, my friends, to balance my nonprofit commitments, and really working towards knowing that I’m okay. You know, some days it’s all going to be family and that’s going to be the priority for today. Or some days, it’s going to be the work and working 15 hour days, and trying to get material out into the community. And some days, it’s just going to be a solid even, I think that’s really been the biggest discovery that I’ve come across in my professional career.
“There is no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist.”
If you could go back and share some wisdom or guidance to your younger self, what would that be?
There is no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist. I have spent so much time reviewing and going over papers and documents, and just trying to find the perfect outfit, and making sure my hair looks good for presentations. It’s not there. There’s no such thing. Strive for it, but don’t spend time agonizing over it. So, younger Jenn, there’s no such thing as perfection, just go enjoy the ride, and you’ll be fine.
Why Jennifer Saienni is On this List
“We would have to put Jennifer on this list purely for the number of organizations she volunteers and advocates for! But her time management skill is just one of her superpowers. Jennifer is involved with a really broad range of nonprofits and works with everyone from people just joining the workforce to people planning for their end-of-life care to improve quality of life and help people achieve their goals. She also reminds us of the importance of balance — for yourself, your work, and your friends.”
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