The Story Behind Jane Slusser: Campaigns, Causes, and Burger Clubs

16 Dec


Jane Slusser volunteering for the Obama campaign.

Catchafire’s Chief Service Officer, Jane Slusser, started working at Catchafire with the motive of promoting a new and interesting way to volunteer.  At first, she was really only thinking  about the volunteers.  She had been a volunteer herself and found it natural to approach Catchafire from that standpoint rather than the organizations.  However, over the past year, Jane has gotten to know many of the nonprofits and social enterprises of New York City, and has found that her focus has now shifted to include their needs high on her list of goals for Catchafire!  Jane hopes to see organizations run more efficiently, and believes that through the help of professional volunteers, any nonprofit or social enterprise can be run better and more efficiently.

Jane’s experience with volunteering began at a young age. When she was younger, she helped her mom volunteer to raise money for their town’s community pool (which finally got built just a few years ago). Entering into college, Jane participated in a 28 hour dance marathon for the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation.  Today, she enjoys helping with the Tribeca Film Festival while also getting free tickets to see the films.  Ask Jane about her greatest volunteering experience and she won’t hesitate to mention her work on the Obama campaign.  In fact, she’ll tell you it was one of the best experiences in her life so far.   Jane saw first-hand what great results come from a well-run volunteer effort,  and after the campaign wanted to make sure all the enthusiasm from those volunteers was funneled towards new channels of  engagement and participation.

Prior to her life at Catchafire, Jane came to New York City from a small town in Northern California to attend Barnard College.  After living in a town of 5,000, Jane was excited for the opportunity to come to a big city.  At Barnard, Jane met her  current colleague, Rachael Chong when they were paired up as freshmen roommates.  The two roomed together for all four years of school.  “Rachael was a good roommate,” Jane said, “and even took care of me when I was sick just a few weeks into the first year and bought me a teddy bear.”  A few months later, there was an  instance when Rachael got paint all over Jane’s white rug.  Although she acted okay with it, Jane struggled to keep her very neat and clean (somewhat OCD) personality from showing her annoyed feelings.  Today, Rachael and Jane laugh about this as one of their favorite roommate stories.  Another one happened before the two even met.  As the more details-oriented one, Jane  sent a letter to Rachael introducing herself and trying to plan who should bring what for their room.  However, Rachael was traveling and did not receive the letter until the night before arriving at school.  Jane  worried that her new roommate must think she was a “big nerd” for sending the letter.  Little did she know that they would end up being great friends and working together for a great mission in the future.

Before joining Catchafire, Jane worked at Oxford University Press until she quit to volunteer full-time for the Obama campaign in 2008.  She said, “in publishing I was editing history, and in the campaign I felt like I was making history.”  Deciding that she preferred the latter  motivated her to make the leap to quit her job.  For her, the passion she put into volunteering for the Obama campaign turned into a job at the inauguration in DC.  After that, Jane started to pay a bit more attention to her old roommate’s idea, eventually coming on board with Catchafire last year.

Aside from Jane’s work with Catchafire, she  devotes herself to another passion in New York City—burgers.  She belongs to a Burger Club with four of her friends.  The group meets once a month at a new burger place and write a blog to keep up with it.  Though she admits it may disappoint those expecting some secret underground burger,  Jane’s favorite burger place is Shake Shack.

When she was younger, Jane wanted to be the first female president, a paleontologist, a lawyer, or an actress.  Somehow, Jane feels like her job as Chief Service Officer brings together a bit of each of these roles (except for the dinosaurs).  She also jokes that in college, “Rachael often told me I should be a construction worker since I was always putting everything together in our room.”  Always having ambitious goals, Jane has combined this hardworking attitude and love of volunteering into a career at Catchafire where yes, she does occasionally move furniture.


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