Job: Peer to peer fundraising specialist, World Wildlife Foundation
Hebrew name: Ariel Liba
Currently living in: Washington, D.C.
Alma maters: Marblehead High School ‘09, Bentley University ‘13
Favorite foods: Milkshakes
Favorite music: Barenaked Ladies
Favorite movies: “The Princess Bride”
Favorite TV shows: “Freaks and Geeks”
Favorite books: “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling
Favorite travel destination: Croatia
Somewhere you’d like to go next: Originally I was looking at some larger trips like Peru or Japan, but with everything going on it may just be a road trip to Charleston, S.C.
Favorite North Shore spot: I love a good [Marblehead] Neck run
Favorite Jewish person: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Favorite Jewish holiday: Passover
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I grew up with a Reform Jewish family, so we went to Temple Emanu-El [in Marblehead], I went to Hebrew school my whole life, including after getting bat mitzvahed. I continued confirmation, and I worked part time at the temple teaching pottery on Sunday mornings and I also chaperoned bar and bat mitzvahs when I was in high school. That has led a little bit into my current life – I’m more culturally Jewish I would say than religious, but I do still keep up with some of the religious aspects for some of the holidays.
How did you get into nonprofit event planning and fund-raising?
I got into events in general from my senior project in high school – I worked with a wedding planner and I knew that I loved events, and then when I was in college I worked with the advancement office in my school part time, so I’ve just kind of combined the two into doing the fund-raising and the event. I started at the American Heart Association planning the walk, then the runs, then a gala. So that’s how I got started, and I moved from there to Best Buddies and I did a few of their bike ride and cycling events, and then I recently moved to D.C. and started with the World Wildlife Fund.
What is it like to plan virtual events and fund-raise during COVID?
[Fund-raising] definitely has its challenges right now. I actually just held a webinar for the people who signed up for our fall races. The marathon that we participated in came with a fund-raising commitment, and most of our participants signed up back before all this was going on. It is a little more challenging with the World Wildlife Fund not being a direct response to anything COVID – I know right now a lot of people are focusing their donations on Feeding America, or the Red Cross, or something with a direct response. But our work still continues, it’s still really important. So I think it’s just being open and honest and empathetic with everyone’s situation and not everyone’s able to donate right now … so we’re trying to keep the process as easy and open as possible.
How has your own COVID experience been?
I went away in February to Disney. I went away for fun, and I went straight to a conference, and when I got back I got sick with what I’m pretty sure was COVID. But they couldn’t test me because I hadn’t traveled outside the country, and essentially what they said to me was that even though I had all of the symptoms, my lungs weren’t so bad that I needed hospitalization or anything. So I spent my two weeks at home and once those two weeks were up, my office was fully remote, so I’ve been home pretty much since March 1, which obviously comes with its own challenges. But I go out for a couple of walks a day with my dog, and I get to be outside, and I’m lucky enough to still have a job. I’m lucky enough that my apartment complex is being cautious with everything and there’s still some outdoor space that we can use, so I feel like it’s been a pretty easy experience for me, but I do understand that I’ve been lucky with it.
There’s talk that this is a great time for wildlife and the environment in general. Is this true, and has it affected your work?
It is somewhat true – there are definitely some people who have posted fake pictures that have gone viral. So wildlife is out more, but I wouldn’t say that you should be seeing all this strange wildlife in places they don’t really belong. And I know that while everyone is home, there are benefits to people being home and not commuting or flying as much. So there is some sort of positive, but we’re not trying to focus on that as much at the World Wildlife Fund, because we don’t want to make a celebration around something that’s so tragic and horrible for people. We’re trying to get people to focus on the power of nature right now, and if you can get outside and enjoy any part of nature, that’s a gift – we need nature and nature needs us.