Position: Vice president for development, Strathmore Hall Foundation Inc., which operates the Music Center at Strathmore and the Mansion at Strathmore in North Bethesda.

Career highlights: Director, campaign for the arts, American University; director of development, the Washington Ballet; director of development, the National Museum of Women in the Arts; program director, Institute for Advanced Studies in Immunology and Aging; regional director, the Worth Collection; writer and editor, Crowley Communications Inc.; editor, Legal Council for the Elderly.

Age: 61

Education: BA, English, American University; certificate in horticulture, garden design, George Washington University.

Personal: Lives in Chevy Chase with husband, Philip, and their son, Tim, 22, a marketing student at American University. She also has adult children from a previous marriage, Chris Hallett, 38, and twins, Andrew Hallett, 35, and Jonathan Hallett, 35.

How did you get to where you are?

From the time I was a child, I played the piano, I took ballet classes. In college, I got interested in choreography. I directed a couple of plays here in Washington. So when I became an adult and a mother, I always tried to incorporate my interests in the arts into a business. I started an antique shop, a small photography business and a wearable art business. Then, after getting divorced, I decided to go back to school and major in literature. It was not a direct trajectory from one thing to the next.

My work at the Worth Collection, a company that targets the luxury women's apparel market through in-home sales, involved marketing and sales. And basically a development job is a marketing and sales job. Instead of selling an actual product like a dress, the product becomes the concept, which in this case is the arts at the Strathmore Foundation. So what you're doing is instead of finding someone to purchase something, you're seeking supporters who understand and value the arts. One of the most important qualities to have as a development person is the ability to listen to other people and find out what their interests are. You're not necessarily going to ask somebody who has three kids in college, who's paying a mortgage. Find out what somebody's interest is in, whether it's science, education or the arts. And you begin to craft ways that they can be involved that meet their interests. It could be personal, like they just want to meet artists; they might like to be with other art lovers. Or it could be corporate. They might want to be perceived as good community members and therefore sponsor an event or program or even a space in a building where their name will be for perpetuity.

When there is a disaster like [Hurricane] Katrina, foundations and individuals tend to rise to the occasion and help. And arts organizations are usually the first ones to go, to be put on the back burner. What do you do? You just keep going. Here at Strathmore, we've created a fundraising effort for the artists of New Orleans. . . . . The most important thing about fundraising is the cultivation process. You plant in the right place. You position those seeds where they get what they need. If someone likes dance, you bring them to an open rehearsal or a pre-concert rehearsal. You give people an opportunity for them to be involved in a way that they find meaningful. Then, they'll often support you. And sometimes if you're lucky, you don't even have to ask. But generally you do.

-- Judith Mbuya