Category Archives: Personal Development

Women Delivered!

woman in white shirt and denim jeans carries skate shoes and tote bag

Photo by Jean-Baptiste Burbaud on Pexels.com

“Change starts with every single one of us.”

Earlier this summer, my home city Vancouver welcomed the world to the fifth Women Deliver conference. If you’re not familiar with Women Deliver, it began as a convening for medical professionals and policy advocates in reproductive rights of women and girls, more than ten years ago. The conference has since grown to include youth voices; technology and change; the future of work; and innovative philanthropy. Speakers included global “big deal” figures Melinda Gates, Angelique Kidjo and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In my capacity as an information and non-profit professional committed to personal growth, I entered the convention centre not knowing exactly what to expect from the endless sessions or vast number of delegates (about 8,000 people to be more exact). I was sure though that each energetic soul on site intended to share and grow power; work towards progress; and create change, all to advance gender equality in positive ways.

Reflecting on all that I heard and learned from the world’s foremost feminist thought leaders, this experience has enhanced and altered my perspective on philanthropy. “Breaking the current charitable model” resonates still, months later.

We are finally living in a nation and world that takes the rights and well-being of women and girls seriously. How? By funding them. Period. Money – lots of it – was announced at Women Deliver to advance gender equality initiatives around the world which have been chronically under-funded until now. The new Canadian-led Equality Fund, comprised of $400M, is designed and funded by feminists in government, the private sector, international NGOs and community foundations. Championed by Canadian Jess Tomlin and others, the Fund will go a long way to deliver better outcomes for women and girls here at home and around the world in unprecedented ways.

“Money is a very specific type of power, and we believe that one of the most powerful things we can do is move significant money into the hands of women leaders driving change in their communities. Canada and the world can do more to shift power in this way,” said Theo Sowa, CEO of The African Women’s Development Fund, in a press release.  

In one of the most memorable sessions, Maame Akua Kyerewaa-Marfo, also of the African Women’s Development Fund, spoke eloquently from a beneficiary’s perspective, challenging traditional “hand out” ways of giving by the donor down to the beneficiary. Rather, Maame advocated for more “collective thinking” and participation in grant-making and philanthropy.

“We want to hold hands. Giving is more circular now,” Maame noted. She also talked about increasing the depth and impact of our efforts, by funding the art, beauty and romance of life, not just survival areas like business, law and medicine.

She instantly won me over when she proclaimed, “Women are the original philanthropists!”

Maame’s comments led me to wonder about the role of WGCI and giving circles in advancing gender equality. Already well-versed in collective participation, how can we help?  My hope is that members and advocates of the giving circle movement in North America and beyond will take a seat at the table. We need to be at the next Women Deliver conference! Beneficiaries are calling on our collective power to help create change and ensure continual progress.

What makes a conference truly meaningful? All the amazingly diverse, intelligent, values-driven and warm personalities I met through the course of the week. Many had wonderful words of wisdom, but youth leader and advocate Natasha Mwansa, 18, captivated hearts and minds early, with one powerful statement, during the opening plenary:

“Nothing about us, for us, without us, or it won’t work for us.”

Watch Women Deliver’s conference highlights: HERE

Talk on Twitter, Tomorrow! #FemaleFund

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To be frank, I’m hyper-conscious of the fact that most of my prospect research continues to focus primarily on middle-aged to older white men. Demographically, this will not continue to make sense as the years go on. But I keep hearing that the philanthropic sector is lagging behind demographic reality. Still, instead of continually perpetuating white male supremacy in my research practice, I’m going to change things up, one prospect profile or list of prospects, at a time. Will you join me? Will you help me, please?

I hope you’ll contribute to the conversation on Twitter and discuss ways that researchers, fundraisers and other non-profit stakeholders can move on gender equity from our special, privileged places.

After the marching, let’s continue the dialogue with specific respect to our third sector.

Some questions we’ll ask of you:

Q1 – The first question goes to #ProspectResearch pros: is researching women donors all that different from researching men? How? Or why not?

Q2 – Women’s contributions in philanthropy often remain hidden. What practical steps can we take to change that? No matter your role in the #nonprofit space, please weigh in.

Q3 – How does academic research on women and giving influence your fund development strategies, if at all?

Q4 – Tell us your opinion on *women’s giving* programs. Do you need one in order to increase women’s philanthropy at your organization? If you have one, what makes it effective and successful?

Q5 – Drawing from our communities in #prospectdevelopment, #fundraising and #philanthropy, tell us about a woman (or women) who inspires you.

For the second half of our live hour-long tweet fest, we’ll turn the questioning over to Vanessa Chase Lockshin, who plans to ask you the following questions:

Q6 – In your opinion, what could non-profits do to create work environments that are more inclusive and supportive of women?
Q7 – What are your favorite professional development resources that have supported your career growth?
Q8 – What could non-profits and/or the fundraising profession do to increase the number of women in fundraising leadership roles?
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on these topical areas and help develop some solutions.
All are welcome. Talk to you real soon.

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.

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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?

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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