By Mina Kobayashi
Continuing my work in fundraising and in the nonprofit sector has not always been easy. One of the biggest reasons I have been able to stay in the field has been finding my people within the fundraising community. These people support me, challenge me, and motivate me to improve our profession and the nonprofit industry. They give me solid advice, inspire me to be a better citizen in my local community, and make me a better leader. I am so grateful to them for helping me grow my professional and personal confidence.
When finding and building a supportive community, people have different needs and desires. What are yours? Is there a skill you want to build? Is there a gap you feel? Are there qualities of people in your personal life that ignite you that you don’t currently have professionally? For me, I wanted to find others who could relate to the experience of being a fundraiser of color in a predominantly white field. I also wanted to be in the company of people who champion for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Fundraising as a profession continues to evolve. There are important conversations happening about power, money and race as they relate to our work around relationship-building partnered with financial contributions. Digital strategies have become more prevalent, and generational personalities have shifted. We all can continue to grow and learn in our different ways. We MUST. I hope you find excitement in that!
I believe that having a fundraising community is a form of self-care. Sometimes I need to debrief with someone who I feel understands or has experienced a similar situation. I’ve leaned on people to pump me up or to talk me through negotiating a new job offer. I have stood alongside someone I trust at a networking event until I felt I belonged. Most importantly, I too, have been there for others to lean on, showing me that I have something to offer to this community. And trust me, everyone can make an impact on a peer.
What are some ways you might be able to build supportive relationships with other fundraisers?
Association of Fundraising Professionals Triangle. Join as a member, or attend one of the free social or conversational events. And if you identify as a BIPOC Fundraiser, we have our next Zoom gathering on Tuesday, July 19 from 8:30-9:30am. You don’t have to be an AFP member to join us!
Community-Centric Fundraising. A global movement seeking to change traditional fundraising practices, centering the voices and experiences of those historically underrepresented. At times, they have global virtual gatherings; local chapters are growing; and they have a very active Slack channel. Join the Triangle channel on the CCF Slack!
Personal Outreach. Send that LinkedIn message to someone you’ve been wanting to connect with! You are likely to get a yes and grow your network and community of peers. Then take the next step! Virtual meetings have made it easier and quicker for these introductory coffee chats!
Leadership & Professional Development Programs. What a great way to meet people across different industries and walks of life. Often, these spaces help build reliable relationships through authenticity and vulnerability. Even if the program isn’t specifically for fundraisers, you’ll bring back skills to your work and walk away with meaningful pals.
As an introvert, I have my own challenges in stepping out of my social comfort zone. In speaking out of my personal experience, I hope that I have motivated you to to give an event, coffee date, or happy hour a try! In addition, if you are on the other side, be welcoming and fold new people in. Building our fundraising community one meeting and one person at a time is essential to staying in the nonprofit sector and in the fundraising profession!
Reach out to let me know other ways you have found your community of fundraisers!