Category Archives: Advocacy

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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