We’re at the Non-Profit Top. Or Not?

Vanessa Chase Lockshin

Like you, I like lists. The kind that identify powerful, influential – *successful* – people. Something like this: top-paid South Asian technology entrepreneurs living in Vancouver, ranked by annual revenue estimates. Ah yes, those kinds of lists!

So, imagine my pleasant surprise coming across a storytelling non-profit consultant from my very own local network on this list of 30 Under 30, published by BC Business Magazine, last March. I’m referring to female fundraiser extraordinairess Vanessa Chase Lockshin. 

I can’t do Vanessa’s success story cogent justice here in this small space, so I encourage you to look her up and join me in acknowledging (admiring, truly) her career so far. She is 28 so her most successful career days, this prospect researcher predicts, are still ahead of her.

Recently, Vanessa and I reconnected on the topic of gender data and women’s philanthropy. She asked me to be a guest on her popular online show Summer FUNraising, to talk about my time as a prospect development practitioner and to discuss research and fundraising strategies that promote women’s giving across different non-profit types.

You can view our 35-minute segment here.

Vanessa is well-placed to facilitate this topical conversation based on her own social advocacy at #FundraisingIsFemale. She is clearly passionate about empowering female fundraisers to lead and grow non-profit organizations and institutions, while many of our industry counterparts shy away from this issue.

And we so very much need her voice right now, especially given recent reports that show slow (practically stunted) progress for female leaders in our sector. One example hails from Council on Foundations, who just released some sobering results in The State of Change: An Analysis of Women and People of Color in the Philanthropic Sector. The download is accessible here. (I warn you, this report’s findings are depressing.)

How is it possible that, in an industry dominated by competent, creative and strategic female staff, we still struggle to identify, promote and appreciate women at the upper echelon level? It forms the heart of a difficult but critical conversation. Cheers to Vanessa Chase Lockshin for courageously carrying on this conversation with me and you.

Related News:

Roxanne Scott, “If Women Rule the Fundraising Game, Why Don’t They Hold More Top Positions?” 89.3 WFPL Online, January 31, 2017 – http://wfpl.org/women-rule-fundraising-game-dont-hold-top-positions/

 

 

A place where women rule philanthropy (…and it’s close to The White House)

Thank goodness for the late Madeleine Rast’s tremendous generosity. Had she not left a sizeable estate gift to her beloved National Museum of Women in the Arts, [NMWA] in Washington, DC, I wouldn’t have come across her transformational philanthropy on my media monitor, and certainly would not have learned about this place.

(Forgive me, Feminists, I’m Canadian.)

On the 4th of July, I walked and walked DC – passing by the comfort shoe stores and organic restaurants around Dupont Circle; and by the fancy shops on Connecticut Avenue; shuffling quickly next to the eerily quiet White House; and eventually entered this iconic building – formerly a Masonic temple – on 1250 New York Avenue NW.

Rather than attempt to demonstrate, through words, the meaning and beauty of the artworks housed inside these walls, I’m sharing photos of a few of my favourite pieces that arrested my steps and truly moved my soul toward a deeper appreciation of women’s artworks.

Since this space isn’t meant to be a travelogue, I point your attention to the NMWA as it embodies all the ways women have contributed to its 30 years in existence. You see, women founded this institution based on one simple, obvious, yet rarely asked question, “Where are all the women artists?”

Women volunteer their time here. They offer their talent here. Women give here.

I believe it’s one of the few places on this planet where women feature more prominently on the donor walls (and screens and steps) than their male counterparts. A brief scan of the NMWA’s latest annual report shows more women donors than I have ever seen giving to a single organization. Most generous donors start at the US$1M level.

It’s a place that wouldn’t be possible without women who support women artists.

This Prospect Researcher is heartened by such a place, especially since I spend much of my time and energy profiling fancy financiers (men, of course) who have amassed important art collections, rivaling the ones in spaces where you and I can actually enter.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is not just an arts institution – a building where artifacts are stored and paintings displayed. It is an advocacy organization, working to champion women through the arts.

“Across the centuries, women artists have often been marginalized,” according to the NMWA. “While gender bias is less overt today, contemporary women artists still face obstacles and disparities, including being under-represented in museums worldwide.”

I hope this non-profit museum attracts more global attention by women who wish to present their work here and by media who wish to spotlight noteworthy yet lesser known artists. Avid museum goers won’t mind the US$10 fee to enter this building, even among the gigantic Smithsonian buildings a few blocks away, that are free to stroll in and out at leisure. ~~~

This post is dedicated to Jane Ebreo, my friend and colleague at St. Paul’s Foundation. She happens to be a scrupulous learner of new things and a visual artist of multiple forms. Jane has taught me how to appreciate art as storytelling, less by technique and design. Maybe we will see Jane’s work in the NMWA someday? I sure hope we do. ~~~

Stewarding donors and volunteers on steps and screens:

Stewardship

From top left: names on steps leading to one of the NMWA’s five floors; screen of donor champions; “Welcome to the museum” message (sorry you can’t see the whole image); and so many women advisers, volunteers and patrons live on the walls.

Some random pieces:

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From top left: Revival billboard outside the NMWA; What if Women Ruled the World, 2016 by Yael Bartana; “I am a writer…” (now I’ve forgotten who she was and the image isn’t great); They call me Redbone but I’d rather be Strawberry Shortcake, 2009 by Amy Sherald; and Blue Gowns, 1993 by Beverly Semmes (chiffon that goes on and on).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donation Desensitization?

Do you remember John A. Paulson? He gifted Harvard University US$400M for its engineering school, two years ago. I draw attention to his gift based solely on its astronomical size. “An historic act of generosity” is the way Harvard described its largest-ever gift, at the time.

Do you remember Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett? She gifted the University of Southern California (USC) US$4M to support mature female MBA students, two months ago. Called “visionary and courageous,” her gift happened to squeak in to my media monitoring of gifts at the million-dollar mark (and above) across North America.

John and Marilyn share a couple of commonalities. Both are intelligent investors who chose philanthropy to do some good. Both John and Marilyn value education and seek to increase access to it, as their giving clearly demonstrates.

Both John and Marilyn attended Harvard’s business school. During Marilyn’s time, however, Harvard did not allow women on its campus, so she went to nearby Radcliffe College to attend the Harvard-Radcliffe School of Business Administration. (I suppose Harvard professors agreed to teach the women only if they stayed in their place.)

I guess that’s where the similarities between John Paulson and Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett end. Also, I’m guessing that you’ve never heard of Marilyn until just now, unless you meticulously monitor media for mega gifts. Her smaller donation may not have registered in the kind of way his larger one did. As gifts grow in size, are the smaller gifts – you know, the $4M ones – merely philanthropic rubble under $40M and $400M rocks? Are we increasingly desensitized to all the great big giving going on out there?

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I think prospect development professionals are particularly prone to this phenomenon of “donation desensitization” since we study such giving so closely. We suffer from repeated exposure to transformational philanthropy!

Think about this: we’re trained to look for financial indicators first and foremost – the more, the better. The higher, even greater. Capacity of major gift donors and prospects is growing by extreme proportions. (Millionaires are OK, but billionaires are better.) Take a look at the #prospectresearch hashtag on Twitter, where you’ll find the latest news about sky-high luxury real estate in NYC (pun intended) or the growing number of gazillionaires on the latest Forbes list.

Are mid-level million-dollar donors – in the $1M to $10M range – even worth a prospect researcher’s attention now? This working-class prospect researcher hopes so. I’m trying not to perpetuate “donation desensitization.” For example, when a $40,000 gift comes in to my organization, I take the time to congratulate the frontline fundraiser who secured that donor’s generosity. I want to know more about who that donor is and what prompted her or his act of giving; trying hard not to take such a gift for granted.

We would likely pay more attention to women’s philanthropy if we face “donation desensitization” straight on. Women give big, but perhaps not quite at the $400M level yet. Watch power women like Mellody Hobson and Sheryl Sandberg patiently, as they are just starting to set inspirational examples on their respective philanthropic journeys.

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Her giving deserves eternal accolades, too. Perhaps she initially gave more of her time and then her talent; eventually her treasure? Even if she left a gift in her will that was realized only upon her death. Or maybe her outright donation didn’t crack the mega-million dollar mark? Is her philanthropy somehow less transformational? I say she deserves acknowledgement still.

Please refer to a new kind of donor roll: [*drum roll*] Donations at the Diva Level. It’s a short summary of major gifts made by women, sometimes specifically for women’s causes, that managed to make the headlines (and their way into my media monitor).

Bookmark Donations at the Diva Level Page HERE

These women made gifts at the million-dollar+ level to organizations of their endearment in recent memory. This is my little way of celebrating their philanthropy, by sharing with you, dear readers, the positive emotional responses their gifts continue to elicit from me.

Care to comment? Tell me about a woman at your organization who has quietly gone about giving her time, talent and treasure with little fanfare. I would love to add her generosity to this list. Let’s celebrate her altruistic and courageous acts together, shall we?

 

Lady Links You May Like

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Power pose outside Lawrence Arts Center, Kansas (April 2017)

So far, I have resisted the urge to compile and collate a list of resources (web links) about anything, knowing there are more competent prospect development professionals out there who are better resourced and best placed to provide this kind of intelligence for our community.

Recently though, I began a thorough cleansing of Chrome bookmarks and noticed that my links about women donors and prospects has grown substantially over the past few years. Why not share the best of these articles, blogs, reports, statistics and lists with other researchers, fundraisers and even donors who are also passionate about women’s philanthropy?

Lady Links was born – you can view (and bookmark) this page on A Few Great Women:

https://diversitydrivendata.blog/resources/

Take a look around, stay for a while. Find out who are the most influential African-American women in corporate America (or were, as this list is from 2014) or check out Catalyst Canada’s comprehensive CVs of board-ready women professionals.

(Like you, I love lists, and when it comes to women, influence and power are key identifiers.)

I hope to grow Lady Links with fresh content often as both grassroots and media interest in women’s wealth and philanthropy grows.

Please do feel free to suggest additional resources in your purview or tell me what you think. If I mentioned your work in this esteemed group of resources, THANK YOU for making a positive contribution. We’re in this quest to narrow the gender data gap in philanthropy together!

— Preeti

 

Michal Shaw | Growing a Women’s Giving Program

Dear great women,

Meet Michal Shaw, a fundraising executive at Oklahoma State University (OSU) Foundation in Stillwater.Michal Shaw

Michal has an impressive depth of diverse experience in higher education fundraising which includes research, prospect management, scholarship administration, gift administration and compliance. In her current role, she oversees donor relations, stewardship and special events.

A double OSU alumna, Michal also leads the University’s women’s philanthropy program, called Women for Oklahoma State University. 

(Basically, she does it ALL.)

I was first introduced to Michal through a joint learning initiative between Apra and the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP) in 2015. While still on maternity leave, Michal kindly agreed to co-present a webinar with fellow prospect researcher Jennifer Filla and me on harnessing the power of women’s philanthropy. Our collaboration highlighted statistics on women’s wealth; offered practical prospect research techniques specific to female donors; and introduced the concept of starting a women’s giving program.

You can view this webinar in its entirety here as well as read a recap blog post on the Apra website here.

Once the webinar wrapped, for some reason, I thought Michal and I would cross paths again given our mutual interest in advancing women’s philanthropy, but I didn’t think we would reconnect so soon.

A chance meeting at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute Symposium in Chicago still warms this prospect researcher’s heart. Meeting Michal in person compelled me to look closer into the Women for OSU program which is led by an advisory council of passionate donor volunteers.

The Women for OSU Council is made up of about 40 women who hold a minimum lifetime family giving history of $50,000. The council advises OSU Foundation staff on programs and events designed to engage both alumni and friends.

Each member agrees to make a $1,000 annual commitment to Women for OSU while serving on the council which meets three to four times a year.

With that background, I was fortunate to catch up with Michal Shaw recently, to ask her some additional questions about her women’s giving program.

Me: What are the major goals of your women’s giving program?

Michal: Our primary goal is to channel passions and strengthen women’s connections to the University through their relationship with our program. We also aim to increase the number of female donors to OSU as well as increase their total giving through the Women for OSU Endowed Scholarship, a prestigious award that recognizes academics, philanthropic and volunteer activities among OSU students. Funds for this endowment are generated through private donations and sponsorship from events, allowing students to become stronger leaders and educated philanthropists.

Our mission statement says that, “Women for OSU is a diverse group of visionary women who share a passion for inspiring leadership and financial support to OSU. Women for OSU envisions a culture of giving and service that acknowledges the significant impact women have here and inspires others to positively shape the future of the University through philanthropy and engagement.”

Me: I noticed that OSU has a prospect research/management team. Can you tell me about a successful collaboration with your team? If you haven’t worked with the prospect research team, how could they help you increase participation by women donors?

Michal: Our prospect research team plays a crucial role in our success. Not only does this team refer potential WOSU donors and council members to us, they also assist us with research on potential members who have been recommended by third parties. Ultimately, the goal is to find women who are looking for opportunities to engage with the University and/or are passionate about leadership.

Additionally, this team ensures we are strategic in our approach to regional events. We are in the midst of planning an event now for the Washington, DC, area and rely heavily on prospect research to provide us with women who have high interest and high giving capacity, but are not assigned to a development officer or currently engaged.

Me: Just to play devil’s advocate, do alumnae need to be deliberately pursued in a separate giving program in order to feel engaged by the university? 

Michal: No, although the more deliberate, collaborative and strategic we can be in our engagement, the better! It’s been my experience that the more we tailor engagement to a particular donor’s interests, the more likely and quickly she is to jump on board.


Thank you, Apra, ADRP and the WPI for bringing Michal and me together in conversation about building a women’s giving program as well as the critical role prospect development can play in growing our female donor bases of support.

RELATED NEWS:

“Alumnae announce new goals in women’s philanthropy,” (aim to fund 250 scholarships by 2019); Dartmouth News; May 5, 2017 – here

When a woman self-advocates, does she show too much #ResearchPride?

I’m supportive.

As a prospect researcher, my primary responsibility is to offer strategic support for front-line fundraisers, by helping them better understand our donor base. To aid from the background with gentle nudges of informational wisdom.

I’m also critical.

Having practiced prospect research in all of its progressive iterations for more than 15 years, I’ve worked at a number of advancement and non-profit institutions, gathering experiences and formulating opinions about how to work effectively. I’ve grown to judge when it’s not working as well. Out loud, I should add.

subversive-imagery

Decades in the workforce have offered some serious self-awareness shaping as well; it’s not just about the work itself, but who is doing that work? [*Coughs*} A white male, I am not.

That’s me: a colleague-pleasing prospect researcher who strives to support. And a veteran non-profit professional who doesn’t tolerate well inaccuracies, inefficiencies (and other not-so-fun stuff) in the grander fundraising operation. Who feels an obligation to  critique provide feedback; to speak out; to self-advocate; and to school teach. Someone who therefore risks not seeming supportive.

I want to be liked and also want to succeed. As a short, brown female professional, is it possible to be both at the same time? If I continue self-advocating, do I risk being disliked?

~~~~~

Power woman and social technology executive Sheryl Sandberg writes about this issue in her bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead (2013). Refer to her chapter on “Success and Likeability,” where she resigns working women to being both damned and doomed! She cites research conducted by a number of American business schools including Columbia and Harvard to show how gender stereotypes disadvantage outwardly successful women.

“Our stereotype of men holds that they are providers, decisive and driven. Our stereotype of women holds that they are caregivers, sensitive and communal. Because we characterize men and women in opposition to each other, professional achievement and all the traits associated with it get placed in the male column,” according to Ms Sandberg’s research.

What does it mean for working women? She argues:

“If a woman pushes to get the job done, if she’s highly competent, if she focuses on results rather than on pleasing others, she’s acting like a man. And if she acts like a man, people dislike her.”

Consequentially, some women temper their professional accomplishments and goals. I’m no different.

Certainly, I think twice before taking credit, pointing to my own value and other self-promoting behaviour, knowing I may be disliked by men and women alike. When I do advocate for myself, it’s handled carefully and infrequently.

~~~~~

During Chapters Share the Knowledge Week last year, I shared with fellow Apra members some stories about my own challenges as a solo prospect researcher in my previous fundraising shop that didn’t fully ‘get’ me.

One of my defense mechanisms is an elevator speech which is the ultimate self-promotion tool. The speech articulates – during those times other staff don’t respond to or seem to appreciate – the work I do to help them sound and act smart and strategic in their donor interactions.

The speech is crafted and ready to launch well in advance of an actual emotion-triggering incident, hence assuring a coherent response. (!)

Recently, Apra board member Amy Turbes asked me to create a new elevator speech as part of a toolkit the advocacy committee is developing to help all Apra members self-advocate in their respective shops.

Before this sensitive soul shares said speech with you, it’s worth mentioning my pre-writing process:

For weeks, I looked for language before tackling this small writing exercise, partly because I’m a wurd nerd, but also being careful not to appear self-serving or ‘braggy.’ (Bragging is just not lady-like, I’ve been socialized to believe.) So, I thought about gentle, pleasant words and phrases I could use to describe prospect development efforts at my organization.

Referencing other sources for inspiration was also helpful. If you’re interested in crafting your own elevator speech, please have a look at the American Library Association’s tips here.

I managed to draw up this little diddly which met my own approval:

By ensuring they have access to relevant, accurate and strategic information, I encourage front-line fundraisers to engage our donors in more meaningful ways, ultimately to secure their support.

Stimulating interest, curiosity and awareness about our current and future donors forms a critical part of the strategic support role I play at my organization.

Specifically, new funding opportunities that I identify for further consideration always demonstrate financial capacity alongside some linkage or known interest in my organization. I help fundraisers determine the initial approach for these quality leads based on ethically-sourced research and my own humble experiences.

It requires intelligence and preparation to make the right ask at the right time of the right person. My work equips fundraisers with the informed confidence they need to make it happen.

Anything less is just Googling.

Notice how I carefully tempered this self-promotion with non-threatening words: encourage, support, curiosity, help and humble. 

As a social being naturally wanting to be liked, my quest for likability intensifies at work, especially based on the scope of my role. Being conscious of it has helped me self-advocate anyway, as needed. I’d rather be real and effective at work to advance my organization’s goals. Really.

Apparently, Facebook king Mark Zuckerberg agrees. He told Ms Sandberg that her desire to be liked by everyone would hold her back, as relayed in Lean In. “He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making progress.”

Like me or not, I raise a stemless goblet to progressive prospect development during #ResearchPride month!

#IWD2017   #WeAreApra

Emma Lewzey | The Inclusive Fundraiser

Emma Lewzey is a fundraiser’s friend, especially if you’re a fundraiser who is different – from a marginalized community.

I first came across her on Twitter (@EmmaLewzey) and grew to respect her informative guidance on fundraising and philanthropy in Canada.

A socially minded fundraiser and a donor to a number of Toronto-area charities, Emma willingly shares her wisdom with our community during these interesting times.

Check out her blog on speaking out, first posted on fellow fierce fundraiser Sheena Greer’s blog which was later picked up by Hilborn e-news here.

“I feel for my colleagues who can’t take a public stance about political issues,” Emma said when I spoke with her over the phone last week. “At some organizations, speaking out about political issues can put you at real risk in terms of job security.

“I’m in a position where I’m working for myself now [consulting]. I have an opportunity to express and stay true to my values; say what I want to say.”

This led to a discussion about her “ever-evolving” career journey which she poetically coins an “organic unfolding” that took place after a sabbatical last summer. She recommends building some time away from your day-to-day role to reflect and shape future career possibilities.

“I’m interested in work that brings both fundraising expertise and my commitment to diversity and inclusion together,” she said.

In addition to consulting, Emma is active in numerous governance roles with AFP. She serves on the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada board and recently joined the AFP Greater Toronto Chapter’s board as VP Inclusion & Equity. She is also chairing the AFP Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy, a provincially-funded initiative that has a two-pronged goal: provide education and support to diverse fundraisers; and empower fundraisers to create diversity and inclusion resource capacity in the non-profit sector.

I found the Fellowship’s 2016 impact report an inspirational read here.

(I told you Emma is a fundraiser’s friend!)

We talked about how to develop fundraising strategies that include diverse and inclusive communities.

“The tone is set at the top, with volunteer leadership, at the board and committee level,” she said.

“For savvy donors who are interested in and value inclusive participation, they look at the diversity of your board. How serious are you about diversity and inclusion at your organization?”

Going beyond fundraising efforts, Emma emphasized the pervasiveness of barriers to access, at all levels of the organization and sector.

“Our strategies are broader than fundraising alone: look at the organization’s leadership, human resource practices – having diverse representation on staff – and people being skilled in cultural competencies.

“There is no quick fix; it’s complex and slow-moving at times. We need to have more meaningful structures in place, so diversity and inclusiveness become embedded in non-profits,” she said.

The development of a board recruitment policy that any non-profit could access and model to help increase its own candidate pool, is one example of the kind of solutions posed by Fellowship recipients.

“Addressing the lack of diversity in fundraising leadership is an ongoing focus of the AFP Inclusive Giving project,” she said, mentioning that AFP is interested in continuing this work outside of Ontario.

It’s welcomed news for fundraising and related professionals who are based in provinces like BC where minority populations are fast becoming the majority.

Emma stressed the need for continuous dialogue, perhaps even planning a future AFP learning where fundraising professionals from different communities come together and talk about the challenges they face in the non-profit sector.

She praised AFP’s commitment and investment in diversity and inclusion as pillars of strategic strength:

“It’s heartening that our professional association understands [diversity and inclusion] are crucial to the future of our profession.”

We discussed other topics, including Emma’s most memorable experiences working with A Few Great Women donors. I’ll reserve her stories for a future “Take Two” blog post this Spring. Do please stay tuned to learn more about this change-making fundraiser.

P.S. – The inclusive fundraiser wanted to share two opportunities to access professional development funding with you, dear readers: The AFP Diverse Communities Scholarship covers international conference fees and travel. AFP is looking for applicants starting this fall, so bookmark this link for more details.

Fellow Canadians have access to a variety of education offerings through a scholarship program here. The deadline is approaching: March 15, 2017.

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