Passing the Baton: Elizabeth Dobrska takes on TUGG’s Executive Director role

Team TUGG is thrilled to announce that Elizabeth Dobrska will take on the role of TUGG's Executive Director this July! Elizabeth is currently TUGG's Managing Director responsible for all of TUGG's programming and non-profit engagement. Elizabeth joined TUGG in January 2016 and has since put her mark both on the organization and the broader community. We are excited to see her bring TUGG to new heights in the future.

Below, TUGG's current Executive Director, Zoe Anetakis, reflects on her time at TUGG.


Nearly three years ago, TUGG was in search of a new Executive Director. I wrote Jeff Fagnan, founder of TUGG and Accomplice, an email.  We were closing Accomplice’s first fund, which at the time, was nameless. We had yet to rebrand the firm, but I thought I had some time on my hands. (Famous last words? My first child came 10 months later.)

“I think I should run TUGG. I want to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do,” my email said. Reader take note: I had zero nonprofit experience at the time, and the only thing I ever ran was a 5k. Slowly.

“That idea is so crazy, it just may work,” was his response.

Representing TUGG when we won BostInno's 50 on Fire award in the Civic Category in 2015.

Representing TUGG when we won BostInno's 50 on Fire award in the Civic Category in 2015.

And so it was. Together with the Board we decided that I would take on the role of Executive Director of TUGG. We sketched out a plan that I would work towards my goals but eventually hire myself out of the position to come back to my work at Accomplice.

My aspirations for my time at TUGG were simple. I wanted to build on TUGG’s momentum and growth by constructing the support – the building blocks underneath – to help TUGG move to new heights. When I joined TUGG it had grown to a community of nearly 11k and the team had been running at a sprint. Things were moving so fast there was no time to clean out the cabinets. I wanted to take everything out, shake it, and put it meticulously back in place.

The 2015 Wine & Tequila Party. Excited by all the possibilities that lay ahead, with Sarah Downey @ Accomplice and Isabella Patton @ Hopper.

The 2015 Wine & Tequila Party. Excited by all the possibilities that lay ahead, with Sarah Downey @ Accomplice and Isabella Patton @ Hopper.

It happened just like that. (No, it didn’t!!)

I started with strategy, finance, and operations. I structured the way we think about the nonprofits in which we invest. I experimented with how to engage our partners. I reevaluated our strategic relationships and built new ones. There were a lot of Google Sheets. There was a lot of ignoring said Google Sheets.

I took advantage of my lack of background in the nonprofit world and questioned everything. I prioritized TUGG’s brand and differentiation in the philanthropic and tech communities. I coached our nonprofit portfolio on how to walk and talk like a tech start-up.

TUGG’s famous Wine & Tequila Party evolved in both structure and audience and grew into a must-attend event.  Tech Gives Back, TUGG’s community-wide day of service, expanded to meet the demand of our community, and then expanded again. It is now a trademarked example of Boston’s leadership around community.

7.5 months pregnant and awarding David Delmar of Resilient Coders a $50k grant at 2015 Tech Gives Back

7.5 months pregnant and awarding David Delmar of Resilient Coders a $50k grant at 2015 Tech Gives Back

In 2015 we established our Boston marathon program, which bucks the idea that runners are fundraisers for our organization. At TUGG, our runners focus their time and energy on raising awareness for our nonprofits. We fundraise for them.

Just this year we built a partnership with The Boston Foundation to roll out Pledge 1% Boston to our community. We rebranded. We brought 9 new nonprofits into the portfolio. We took risks – two of the nonprofits we brought in failed in their pilot year. I learned from those experiences and evolved without being defeated. In fact, evolution is my most marked memory of my time at TUGG. I altered my course by a matter of degrees continually.

At Science from Scientists for a TUGG It Forward Evening of Service, a quarterly volunteer program we established in 2017.

At Science from Scientists for a TUGG It Forward Evening of Service, a quarterly volunteer program we established in 2017.

In January 2016 I hired Elizabeth Dobrska to join me as my partner in all things TUGG.  Elizabeth started at TUGG focused on events, marketing, and non-profit engagement. Soon, she spread her wings in the community and grew to take on partnership development and new strategic relationships.

I am proud of my time at TUGG and what we have accomplished. But I’m most proud of hiring Elizabeth and seeing her grow into her newest role, Executive Director. Elizabeth embodies the TUGG spirit. She is smart, she is scrappy with resources, and she isn’t afraid to try something new and run fast towards her goals. She is also a believer. Her passion is in the impact space, and she wears that passion on her sleeve, creating TUGG ambassadors wherever she goes.

We’ve put the building blocks in place, now is her time to attack the new goals and milestones we have for the organization. I’m returning to Accomplice full time but will stay on TUGG’s board as her, and the organization’s, cheerleader and champion. I’m specifically going to direct my time towards TUGG and The Boston Foundation’s Pledge 1% Boston initiative. It is my goal to help make Boston the largest concentration of pledging companies in the world.

At TUGG Makes Boston, the 11th Annual Wine & Tequila Party, in front of the Uber wall, a partnership established by Elizabeth

At TUGG Makes Boston, the 11th Annual Wine & Tequila Party, in front of the Uber wall, a partnership established by Elizabeth

In my time leading TUGG there were moments of failure, there were moments of success. I woke up at 3 am in a panic more times than I should admit. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

As I pass the baton to Elizabeth, my advice is this: Try. Fail. Try again. And when you succeed, point your face towards the sun for a brief, shining moment…then get back to work.