Staff Spotlight: Welcome Director of Development, Jason Molihan
Join us in welcoming new Director of Development, Jason Molihan, to the President Lincoln’s Cottage team! External Communications Coordinator Jenny Phillips sat down with him in his new office at the top of the stairs — pop in and say ‘hi!’– to chat about his new role, Lincoln, and to geek out about architecture.
Tell us your title and explain your role here at the Cottage?
I’m the Director of Development, and to put it simply I was brought on board to assist with bringing in more donations to support the Cottage’s mission, and to expand our presence with donors.
You came to us from the National Archives Foundation. Could you give us a summary of your professional background and what experience you’ll bring to this role?
I got my start working in political fundraising in Ohio, mostly on state-wide campaigns. Working on political campaigns, it was very different — very fast-paced, tight deadlines, and you basically started from a zero-line budget. We were very scrappy. I think that experience has really helped me learn how to grow programs, since you’re starting from very minimal support and you’re building up bigger capacity. Then I went to the Newseum here in Washington, DC, and I did just that; built the membership and annual giving program and nearly doubled their size by doing a lot of grass-roots activities I had learned from my political fundraising background.
I took that experience to the Bill of Rights Institute, where I worked with major donors on the individual giving side and then to the National Archives Foundation. At the Foundation I also managed the individual giving and membership programs, planned the first-ever ticketed fundraising event, secured some major gifts, and grew individual giving revenue by 21%.
What was one thing that made you interested in working at President Lincoln’s Cottage?
Wow, you said that with no hesitation. The team. What about it?
The team is small but just the right size for me. It was also clear that you all are very committed to the day-to-day work here. It’s a great opportunity to work closer with people, to break down silos and have a greater impact and relationship with donors.
How had you first heard about the Cottage? Was it through the job posting, or had you heard of it before?
I heard about it before, but I hadn’t visited.
If I had a nickel for every time I hear that.
It was always on my to-see list of things when I first moved to DC, but when I saw the job posting, I thought, “Ok, now’s the time! I better go check it out.” In addition to the great team, visiting the site itself for the first time was really inspirational. The tours are so unique and I knew I had to get the job!
Are you a big museum guy?
What’s your favorite museum?
Glenstone. It just reopened in Potomac, Maryland and is a privately owned contemporary art collection. A philanthropist and his family redeveloped a gorgeous space and have their works on display for the public for free. They have some large and immersive art installations and the grounds and architecture of the building are beautiful and pristine. Besides Glenstone, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio; that’s where I got my first official start in development.
I also really like the architecture of most museums!
When you first visited the Cottage, did anything pop out to you regarding the actual building or its architecture?
The jib door! I’ve never seen anything like that before, so walking through it for the first time, was fascinating. But beyond the physical structure, the tour itself really stuck out for me. Kevin was my guide and the questions that he posed to the group provoked everyone into deep thought about some really important issues. The look on people’s faces as they confronted these issues was really transformational.
I know you’re from Mansfield, Ohio, but how long have you been in D.C.? What do you think of D.C.?
I’ve been in D.C. for about five years, and I hated it at first. I was so caught up in finding an apartment and starting a new job, I didn’t really explore that much. But when I was settled, and got to see all the neighborhoods, I started to really fall in love with it.
Tell me more about your hobbies.
Like I said, I’m really into museums and architecture, and I love visiting homes built by famous architects. I want to see all of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sites, or at least as many as I can. I haven’t been to the one in Virginia yet, but of course I’ve been to Falling Water. It’s a nice day-trip. I went there for my birthday three years ago and even had a nice brunch at Nemacolin nearby. I also saw the Allen House in Wichita, Kansas when I had some free time on a work trip once. It’s one of the few things to really see in Wichita, Kansas (sorry, Wichita).
My other favorite architecture to see is from a Mexican architect, Luis Ramiro Barragán. A lot of his work is in Mexico City, and I travel there often — it’s my favorite city. Mexico City is massive, the people are so friendly and there’s so much history. Barragán has a couple of sites there, including his studio and home. Then there is Casa Gilardi, it’s a private home built by Barragán, but the family let people come in and see the architecture for a small fee. You literally just knock on the door and ask for a tour of their house. They’ll be like, “come back tomorrow morning when the light is better,” and so you do. It’s really amazing they open up their home to strangers who just really appreciate the architecture.
My dog Stella! She’s a four year old boxer and the best behaved dog in the world. I will advocate for bring your pet to work day. I also love watching trash TV. I enjoy the Real Housewives series and my favorite franchise is New York. When I was in New York last time I tried to find Sonja Morgan at her townhouse — but Dorinda is my favorite housewife of all time. After a stressful day, I’ll turn it to Bravo; it’s almost cathartic.
What’s your favorite thing about Lincoln?
I think he led by example, and I really like that in people. It inspires me to better myself and to know my actions have an impact on others. I try to set that good example. We all could learn a little bit more from Lincoln.
Lastly, I ask this to everyone. You’re at a cocktail party. What’s your pitch about President Lincoln’s Cottage? Why should someone come here?
If you want to be inspired and learn more about Abraham Lincoln’s ideas, visit. It will definitely have an impact on you unlike any museum you’ve been to.
For further questions about membership or development, if you’ve visited a Frank Lloyd Wright home, or simply want to talk about how Real Housewife of New York City Dorinda Medley likes to “make it nice,” email Jason Molihan at email@example.com