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IFES Q&A with Former Senior Development Manager Triona O’Connor


A former Senior Development Manager at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Triona O’Connor has over 15 years of experience in transforming strategic ideas into specific tactical procedures. Her in-depth knowledge in business development, marketing, program planning and communications has been beneficial to a number of organizations. She helped established the Development division at IFES to provide value-added support to its programs and developed IFES’ organizational plan to approach and build relationships with international multi- and bilateral aid agencies, international foundations and philanthropists interested in democracy and governance. 

What work are you currently pursuing?

My family and I moved to Portland, Maine in 2012 and I work here with CIEE, a world leader in international education and exchange. As Community Relations Manager, I am focused on community development and strategy for communities all over the United States that host thousands of international exchange students every Summer.

As the Senior Development Manager at IFES, what is the most memorable program or initiative you helped advance?

The most memorable project was one of the last programs I worked on: the Elections and Political Processes Indefinite Quantity Contracts proposals. It was a very complex, strategically important, time sensitive and a total organization-wide team effort. We had a fantastic team of experts from the Programs, Finance, Contracts and Applied Research teams working together on these dual proposals. It was a wonderful example of what an organization can accomplish.

What do you consider to be some of the greatest challenges for expanding relationships with potential partners and funding for future democracy programs?

My sense is that the funding for overall democracy-building programs has been shrinking over the past decade and thus the competition for fewer funds is fierce. Having a concept that is refreshing and attractive to the donor as well as providing evidence that you can deliver the required program with measurable results is very important. The challenge is to find a partner that is symbiotic with your expertise and organizational style. 

Did you feel that your work at IFES helped you grow professionally?

I was with IFES for eight years, and worked with wonderful people that taught me a lot about work across divisions and organizational development and strategy. My varied responsibilities over the years gave me a great overall view of how to manage projects and people.

Which IFES experience do you value the most?  

It is very hard to pick one that I valued most, as there are many. On the top of the list, is working closely with the Vice President of Development on new business development and alternative funding sources. It was challenging, exciting and productive and I felt like I was contributing to the financial health of the organization.