Jennifer Downing of Acushnet was appointed to lead the Coalition’s public engagement and outreach efforts and will officially begin her tenure with the Coalition at the start of 2021, President Mark Rasmussen said in announcing her appointment.
“I am thrilled to welcome Jen Downing to the Buzzards Bay Coalition. She has a strong track record of bringing people together and empowering individuals to make a positive difference for the community and the environment,” Rasmussen said. “Our work at the Coalition relies on the active participation and support of partners and supporters around the Bay, and I’m looking forward to Jen’s contributions to broadening and deepening those relationships.”
In her new position, Downing will be responsible for overseeing the Coalition’s public outreach and engagement efforts—a broad area that spans the organization’s hundreds of volunteers, the Bay Adventures outdoor recreation offerings, the Discover Buzzards Bay website, and fundraising efforts, including the Buzzards Bay Swim and the Watershed Ride.
“I’m really excited about joining the Coalition,” Downing said. “As someone who loves the outdoors, I feel personally aligned with the Coalition’s mission, and it’s an opportunity to make an impact on the future for the entire Buzzards Bay region.”
Downing most recently served as the first full-time executive director of Leadership Southcoast (LSC), a position she had held since 2014. Before becoming LSC’s executive director, she served on the organization’s Board of Directors for four years; two of those years she served as Chair of the Board. In 2020, she was honored as a recipient of the John S. Brayton Community Service Award, by the One South Coast Chamber of Commerce, awarded to individuals who have made a “genuine difference” in our region.
During her time at LSC, Downing expanded the impact of the organization’s work with a greater focus on serving emerging leaders and organizations throughout the South Coast region. She also oversaw the development and implementation of an alumni program, creating opportunities to establish a network for graduates and a mentoring program for new members. She also redesigned the annual program to include more experiential education and an emphasis on strengths-based leadership.
Prior to Leadership SouthCoast, Downing spent more than a decade at the Garfield Foundation, a private foundation that awards more than $2 million nationally to empower changemakers in addressing complex social and environmental problems. Her responsibilities included serving as program officer for a place-based grant portfolio supporting economic and community development projects in Greater New Bedford. In fact, Downing first learned about and worked with the Coalition during her time at Garfield, which granted funding to support renovation of the historic Coggeshall Counting House in downtown New Bedford to become the Coalition’s headquarters.
That experience prompted Downing to follow the Coalition more closely and to become a supporter. “I’ve always cared for the environment and been very active in outdoor recreation. I’m a big hiker. I love all kinds of outdoor activities like snowboarding, snowshoeing and paddling,” said Downing, who is also a certified yoga instructor. “The Coalition’s mission of working for clean water and bringing people together to be stewards of the environment really speaks to me. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to help advance this important work as a member of the BBC team.”
The Coalition’s accomplishments as an organization that relies on community involvement through its members and partner organizations—protecting clean water, preserving lands for conservation and recreation, restoring natural habitat in areas damaged by development—particularly impresses Downing.
“I appreciate the commitment and generosity that goes into making the Coalition’s work possible,” Downing said. “I’ve always been an active volunteer, whether that’s serving on a nonprofit Board or being a member of a volunteer committee,” she said. Most recently, she served on the Board of the United Way of Greater New Bedford, and currently is the Chair of the Acushnet School Committee.
Downing holds a BFA from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City and an MA in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute & University, where she studied collaborative leadership and multi-sector collaborative processes.