When Jim Diverio first visited the Charles River Esplanade nearly a decade ago with his wife to watch their daughter participate in the annual Head of the Charles Regatta, he never imagined one day he would join the staff of a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and enhancing the historic park.
“I was struck by how nice it was to feel as though I was endlessly walking along the park with the race fully visible,” said Diverio, the Esplanade Association’s recently named director of development, in recalling his first impression of the park.
Diverio comes to EA with more than 25 years of prior fundraising experience, including his most recent stint of 15+ years at Gill St. Bernard’s School – a small pre-K –Grade 12 in Gladstone, N.J. Here, he led and completed three campaigns for various capital projects, endowment growth and annual support, which resulted in underwriting the construction of new athletic facilities, a new Upper School Academic Center and a Performing Arts and Community Center, as well as creating an endowment for financial assistance and various other programs. When the last campaign he worked on at the school wrapped up last June, it exceeded its $20 million fundraising goal.
Last June, Diverio also relocated from New Jersey to Boston to join his wife, who had moved to the city a year earlier to pursue an employment opportunity. He found himself in a fortunate situation then as he was able to bide his time in finding a job he considered his perfect fit, both professionally and personally.
Outside of work, Diverio has always been interested in and active with environmental organizations. This includes, most notably, his time with The Raptor Trust, a nationally recognized wildlife center dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of wild birds, with a particular focus on birds of prey. He started there as an intern while attending college and has since volunteered and participated in its research studies; he now serves as vice president of the group’s Board of Trustees.
Diverio also received a Hawk Banding license and went on to become a founding member of the Kittatinny Mountain Raptor Banding Station.
“I believe fundraising skills are transferable; I have experience in building a development program and coordinating campaigns,” he said. “That experience, coupled with my love for the environment and nature, seemed like a perfect match for the goals and mission of the Esplanade Association.”
March 23 was Diverio’s official start date with EA, but since Boston was then in the midst of a lockdown, he was forced to start working remotely.
“It’s been challenging, but less so than I thought,” he said. “I’ve been learning and catching up on projects they have planned and getting ready for the capital campaign as they prepare to kick it off soon.”
The goal now, Diverio said, is to raise the money for the everyday maintenance and enhancement of the park, such as the work of horticulturists who tend to its more than 1,700 trees, before moving into what he describes as “capital-campaign mode.”
Said Michael Nichols, EA executive director: “Jim is a spectacular addition to the Esplanade Association, and we’re thrilled to have hired him from New Jersey, where he had a successful career in fundraising. It became quickly apparent he had a real passion for the kind of work we do, and we are thrilled to have identified him as someone who could move EA’s mission-based work forward.”
Diverio, meanwhile, has noticed usage of the Esplanade has increased considerably in the last few months as more people are visiting the park to find a bit of solace during turbulent times.
“The park has been busier, if not busier, than ever before,” he said. “It has been such an important escape for so many people during lockdown.”
Since Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to reopen the Commonwealth took effect earlier this month, Diverio has also been making it into the office and getting to know his new coworkers, many of whom he is just meeting for the first time.
“I feel like I’m ready to hit the ground running in the office now,” he said. “The job as [other EA staff and the organization’s board of directors] see it and as I see it is how to let everyone know this is a state park that’s privately funded for the most part, and this requires everyone who walks over a bridge or uses the Esplanade to consider supporting it.”
Bottom line: Diverio knows he must now remind the public just how much the Esplanade brings to Boston and what a profoundly lesser city it would be without the park.
“Think about what the city would be without this park that is so unique, welcoming and beautiful,” he said. “It’s something I think about all the time, and we need everyone to help keep it that way.”