Deborah McAuliffe Senner’s connection to the arts is personal. Growing up in a family of seven children, financial restrictions made her unable to take ballet or piano lessons or attend arts events. Now, as president and CEO of Oklahoma City’s Allied Arts, she spends her life ensuring arts opportunities are available to as many Oklahomans as possible
Growing a Vibrant City
Allied Arts is a united arts fund that provides funding and awareness for over 26 arts and cultural organizations in central Oklahoma. Deborah and her staff help with critical funding, education, capacity-building funds, marketing and more. “Our city is not complete without arts and culture. People want things to do; they want a full offering. The arts are not the icing on the cake, they are the main ingredients,” Deborah explains. “When cities are ranked across the country, the ones at the top of the list are the ones who have a strong and vibrant cultural representation and offerings year round. It’s what makes a city strong.”
In the course of her job, Deborah meets one-on-one with over 100 board members and eight months of the year is spent raising money for Allied Arts’ annual campaign. Last year, the organization raised $3.36 million in support of arts organizations, the most successful campaign in the organization’s 43-year history.
And Deborah’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. She has been recognized as the Top Fund Raising Professional by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Oklahoma Chapter and was named one of Oklahoma’s 50 Women Making a Difference by The Journal Record. Under her leadership, Allied Arts has earned the distinction as a finalist for the Center for Non Profits ONE Awards for best non-profit in the state, and was named as the best non-profit helping other non-profits in The Journal Record’s Beacon Awards. She has a national appointment with Americans for the Arts Private Sector Council and is a member of the Oklahoma City Chamber Board of Advisors, Leadership Oklahoma City, Junior League of Oklahoma City and more. “Professionally, I could not do what I do without a stellar staff, an incredible board of directors and the support of very generous donors,” Deborah adds. “And personally, I could not do what I do without the unwavering support of my husband and kids.”
Growing a Strong Family
Deborah and husband Scott have two children, son Brevin, age 15, and daughter Sterling, age 12. As a family, they love game nights and being active together playing tennis, golf, or white water rafting—and of course, attending arts and cultural activities. “It makes me better at my job if I am there, experiencing it,” she notes. “I’m doing what I am speaking about.”
“I have a really amazing supportive husband. We are a very strong team. I work a lot of hours and it’s crazy, but we want to be there for whatever the kids are doing. We just work our schedule around that. We divide and conquer every day.”
Deborah is proud of her work to help others, both personally and professionally and her philanthropic efforts continue with her own children. “My kids will always know and be aware that there are people who need their help. Whether we have money or not, there is some way you can be helping somebody else.”
Here’s more about how this 53-year-old mother combines her love of the arts with her love of family.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I am obsessed with my Fitbit®, which calculates my activity and my sleep. The goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. When I am getting ready for bed, if I am only at 9,800 steps, I make myself get up and walk around the house until I hit the 10,000 steps.
How has motherhood changed you?
It makes me wonder every day how my parents were able to survive with seven kids! It is the greatest joy and has taught me how truly precious life is.
What are you most proud of?
My family. My husband and I have a great marriage and our kids actually like hanging around with us. I think with two working parents you have to be very intentional about family time and we make it a priority.
What motivates you?
Professionally, it’s the countless thank you notes that we receive from students across Oklahoma who have been introduced to the arts through a program that we funded with one of our arts organizations.
How do you find balance in your life?
I have learned that every hour slot in my calendar doesn’t have to be filled in order to accomplish what I need to be fulfilled personally and professionally. When I realized that everything did not have to be picture perfect, it all got easier.
Advice for other moms?
Never stop talking with your kids about things that matter.
How do you help others?
I am pretty much a lifelong volunteer. My mom was a terrific role model in this respect. We never had much but her selfless actions taught me that there was always someone who had less than we did and they need our help.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT DEBORAH:
- What are 5 words that describe you? Committed, driven, creative, enthusiastic, positive.
- What’s on your playlist? Everything from Broadway show tunes to piano solos, Buble to Beyonce, from Carrie Underwood to Katy Perry, Stevie Nicks to James Taylor.
- What’s your favorite meal to cook for dinner? Coconut shrimp, strawberry spinach salad and my husband’s favorite cheesecake for dessert
- What’s always in your handbag? My phone, ID, keys, business cards, mints, credit card, lipstick and glasses.
- What’s your guilty pleasure? An iced mocha frappuccino.