A 2003 Jacksonville High School graduate who said his love of reading was instilled at an early age by his mother recently was named chief development officer for the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.
“When my wife Amy, parents, siblings and extended family found out, they could hardly contain their excitement – they all know how much I love fundraising, literacy and the Bush family,” said Allan Marshall.
He began the position on Sept. 23, with 12 years of professional work experience in fundraising.
“From nonprofit management to higher education, I understand how important development and fundraising can be on any entity,” he said. “I started my career in fundraising at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce where I managed a community-wide reading program and education initiatives. I also brought nationally recognized authors to the Waco community. Then, I spent time in development at several higher education institutions.
“All of these experiences in higher education gave me a great perspective on donor development, systems and strategic agility: The ability to take an organization upward and forward. Now, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is a culmination of all these experiences.Talk about life coming full circle!” Marshall said.
Dr. Julie Baker Finck, foundation president, said the team is “delighted to have Allan” aboard.
“His experience in strategic development will serve as a catalyst for advancing our mission of helping more people in Houston learn how to read,” she said, adding that “Allan has a servant’s heart, making him a great fit within our organization’s culture.”
The son of Walter and Phyllis Marshall, Marshall grew up in Cuney, a place that holds a special place in his heart.
“I have fond memories of walking down to the Cuney Post Office where I learned to build relationships. My home church, Rock Hill Baptist Church, is still there, and I visit from time to time when I am back in town,” he said. “Those two places were my foundation.”
Following graduation from Jacksonville High School, he attended Baylor University, from where he received a bachelor's degree in political science in 2007; in 2012, he obtained a master's degree in higher education from Dallas Baptist University.
His mother, Marshall said, “was the conduit to my reading.
“She read to us every night, told and illustrated Bible stories on a chalkboard, and she took us on picnics behind our house in Cuney,” he recalled. “We took books and discovered new worlds. I loved reading – everywhere. My favorite childhood books were 'The Little Engine that Could,' 'Oh the Places You’ll Go' and The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series.”
The power of literacy, he added, “starts in the home, and I know that Former First Lady Barbara Bush believed that very thing as well: Reading starts at home.”
His aim is to use that concept as a basis for fundraising for the foundation.
“Our strategy must engage all types of folks, from all walks of life; it will be multifaceted with donor’s intent. It will encompass current donors, new ones and our volunteers. From legacy, major and annual giving, we will make sure that everyone is finding ways to promote literacy and give to the great students of the Greater Houston region,” Marshall said, adding that he is eager “to advance the wonderful legacy of Mrs. Bush.
“I will build a comprehensive fundraising plan that engages donors, stewards them better, and positions the Foundation for great success. It will take time to build a quality model, but this is a dream job of mine,” he said. “I am grateful that I can have fun. Most people do not get to experience a job that they love doing or a dream one. I am very honored and humbled that this opportunity came to me, and with great power comes great responsibility, in the words of Spiderman.”
Finck has every faith in her new chief development officer's plans for the foundation.
“I am confident that with Allan’s expertise and his focus on donor stewardship, not only will our overall revenue will grow but also our donor base will broaden. This will, in turn, extend the reach of our literacy programs across this vast city,” she said.
The position is a culmination of Marshall's personal goals and experiences, and he encourages others to strive for their own goals.
“I am a firm believer that it doesn’t matter where you come from – it matters what mark you leave and what you do with your life,” he said. “Even a little, lanky country boy like me can accomplish the American Dream and for that I am grateful to the Almighty for what he has done in my life.I have the best wife, family, extended family and friends – I cannot complain for the road that I have traveled. It has been tough, but what a blessing it has been too.”
As a child, “I used to look out my window at night and look up the stars and think: Allan, you are destined to do great things. I started to believe that there was something special that I must do in life. To promote literacy through fundraising in the honor of one of the greatest First Ladies this nation has ever seen is truly aspirational, inspirational and just what I was destined to do,” he said. “If you are a kid from a small town, just look at my story and know you can do it, too.”
Marshall and his wife Amy reside in Richmond.