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.


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.





Hey Hey. Ho Ho! Activists in Pictures

#WomensMarchVancouver ~~~ 1/21/2017

Creative expression through song and signage: some were amusing; others were moving. All words were creatively crafted. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Say it loud. Say it here. #BlackLivesMatter here. (Chant three times at least!)
  • Respect existence or expect resistance.
  • Proud nasty woman. (My personal favourite. I had to trail this woman for three blocks to snap a clear shot of her awesome sign!)
  • And finally, a woman’s place is … only where she wants it to be.


I hope this activist spirit continues in us all. See you on the streets, good peeps!i

Take Two: So, I found out later that the official hashtag for my local rally was #wmwyvr.



Why We Need More Female Physicians

No Ma’am, this is not fake news.

If you work in a healthcare setting please keep reading because I’m not making this stuff up. Recently, I came across this striking headline in mainstream media:

Female Physicians Save More Lives

That’s right!

Researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health recently compared hospital mortality and readmission rates for Medicare patients treated by male versus female physicians. Their results were small but statistically significant (i.e. clinically meaningful). They found better patient outcomes among those who were treated by female physicians in each area – fewer deaths after hospitalization within 30 days of the admission date, and lower hospital readmission rates, within 30 days of the discharge date, at the same hospital over a period of three years.

Specifically, patients treated by women had a four percent lower risk of dying prematurely and a five percent lower risk of being readmitted to a hospital.

“If male physicians achieved the same outcomes as female physicians do, we would save about 32,000 lives per year,” one of the researchers explained in media coverage.

Now I urge you to read the fine print here in JAMA Internal Medicine if you can power through a complex medical study. I persevered through the key points and discussion sections, relying on sturdy reporting by Vox (where I originally saw this gem), The LA Times and Fox News to help me make sense of the study’s results. Not surprisingly, Fox News appeared the most skeptical among mainstream media – medical girl power, what? 

Female Physicians Build Stronger Relationships With Their Patients

While the Harvard researchers discovered better patient outcomes when treated by female physicians, they did not explain why, drawing instead on previous studies that show the gender of the physician can influence the quality of care patients receive in hospitals.

Women have shown to practise differently than men: they employ evidence-based research and techniques more often; women adhere more closely to clinical guidelines; and they communicate more effectively with patients, offering psychosocial counselling alongside physical treatment. In so doing, women build stronger relationships with their patients.

It likely means female physicians have more satisfied and hence grateful patients.

Too long of a leap in logic? I think otherwise.


Let’s develop prospect development and fundraising strategies that include – heck, are driven by! – female physicians, as partners in healthcare philanthropy.

Because better patient outcomes are what we ultimately strive for in healthcare (and the philanthropy which supports it), some suggestions to get started:

  • Identify veteran as well as up-and-comer female physicians at healthcare institutions

Do you know who they are, where you are? Where I am, major gift officers tend to focus their outreach efforts on hospital department heads and rock star researchers (rightly so), but I think we could extend our reach beyond this small elite group to help us identify grateful patients.

I’m not referring to those female physicians who are focused solely on women’s health either, but across all medical areas like cardiology, gastroenterology, renal and respiratory. Harvard’s results held up across a wide range of medical conditions.

One special source where you may locate your female physicians is through one of the local branches or national chapters of The Medical Women’s International Association. Members advocate for themselves and the advancement of other women in their profession, so solicit them for advice.

  • Help fundraisers build productive, trusting relationships with female physicians who are comfortable introducing their grateful patients.

Where I am, our go-to crew for grateful patient referrals are currently middle-aged male cardiologists who have been with our institution for some time. What keeps me fulfilled is actually the reactive research I conduct on their donor leads. It’s my intelligence that helps inform fundraisers in dealing with our medical partners. They can quickly put research into meaningful action in these grateful patient cases, so these leads take high priority in my work.

Perhaps our male cardiologists could also introduce us to their female colleagues in addition to grateful patients?

  • Good data practices please

Don’t you just hate it when a prominent physician (i.e. a potential ally) has no record in the database? Or when a new prospect is not naturally partnered to her physician’s record in the database? Me too! That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time physically connecting constituent records to one another. Those data connections will be powerful someday.

  • Start now since the number of female physicians is about to increase

Inevitably, women will become a stronger force in medicine given their fierce enrolment and completion rates in both Canadian and American medical schools.

In a Huffington Post article entitled “Canadian Women are Storming the Ivory Towers,” Bob Ramsay notes three out of five medical student graduates are women. In the USA, 46 percent of all physicians in training and almost half of all medical students are women, according to an Association of American Medical Colleges analysis quoted in The Wall Street Journal more than a year ago.

Intentionally identifying and reaching out to emerging female physicians – tomorrow’s medical leaders – makes good sense now. The future of advancing healthcare philanthropy is held in their capable hands. Now, if only female physicians were paid at par with or better than their male counterparts?

Visuals: A nursing school graduate from St. Paul’s Hospital, circa 1919.

The painting is by “D. Booth ’14.”


Learned Woman, 2017

Well now it has been a minute, friends, colleagues and other readers for whom I am grateful. It feels good to glide fingers along keyboard keys again.

I am so glad to shut both the front and back doors on 2016.

Goodbye, Old Bad. Hello, New Good.

In a concerted effort to make the first few days of 2017 better (and productive), I’m looking forward to all the learning opportunities already planned for the first half of my year. I’d like to share them with you, in part, to keep my plans on track and perhaps to inspire your personal development efforts.

There seems to be one common thread that unites all the lectures, events and conferences on this upcoming learning journey: WOMEN!

(You are smart, so you may have already guessed as much.)

What more is there to learn? Are we so damn difficult to figure out? Why women?

It’s simple: to combat complacency.

I resolve to keep practising what (or more pointedly, who) I preach – women donors and funding prospects, because they are potentially forgettable. You read me correctly; women donors could be forgettable. For example:

  • The gift from her estate is now settled and, to be honest, we didn’t really know her while she was alive. . .
  • She volunteered here? Where is that logged?
  • The donation cheque had both Mr and Mrs Smith’s names on it, but only one gets full (i.e. hard) credit in the database. Who do you think defaults to primary donor in this situation?

OK, I digress slightly. This post is really a small compilation of the learning road ahead to grow my knowledge of women donors and prospects and to celebrate the positive and varied ways they (we) contribute to the philanthropic sector.

“Educate Women and Their Community Will Prosper.”

To begin, in January, I registered for a seminar entitled Women and the World, led by lawyer and educator Susan Bazilli. While this seminar is hosted by a female-led financial planning outfit, the topic is about women’s rights, specifically progress made in this area and what more needs to be done. I’m not 100% sure what to expect from this seminar, but am looking forward to an informed discussion.

Of course, during the Presidential Inauguration, I will drink (heavily!) with a fellow political junkie Maureen, so we will see you at The Morrissey.

In February, I am volunteering at a gala event hosted by the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs BC. Rather than just read about their accomplishments in local media, I’m hoping to meet (or merely observe) some of my city’s finest women business leaders in real life.

Perhaps someone in that room is the next advisory committee member or board director or major donor for my own organization?

The evening includes live pitches by these women entrepreneurs hoping to clinch a $25,000 prize. Before that can happen, someone at the gala needs to check your name at the registration desk and stick a name tag awkwardly on your being.

(Leaning into the discomfort I will, as a wise woman once said.)

March promises to be epic with (another) trip to Chicagoland for a symposium hosted by the progressive Women’s Philanthropy Institute of Indiana. I’m so excited! Having read through most of their Women Give studies, I appreciate and respect the WPI’s work; it provides real evidence about women donors’ behaviour and their impact. The WPI grounded me and other advocates with sound information to make persuasive arguments for engaging women as viable donor prospects in advancing and broadening philanthropy.

Among the BIG goals of this symposium:

  • Place women’s philanthropy as central to building civil society and strengthening democracy in the United States. (Timing feels right.)

One session of keen interest will feature the skills required to be a strong woman philanthropic leader in the 21st century. Hearing from fundraising peers and leaders from the ‘Y’ and community foundation movements will also highlight this two-day experience. Wish me luck; reach out if you’d like to hear more; and stay tuned on Twitter: #WomensPhilanthropy.

International Women’s Day is March 8th (hence, epic). While uncertain of my own organization’s plans to commemorate #IWD2017, we have discussed bringing together our medical experts in women’s health with our generous women donors for an informative exchange in a meet-and-greet setting. My part consists of identifying A Few Great Women donors and prospects from our major gifts and annual giving portfolios, who need to be in the room.

In April, I’ll be in Lawrence, Kansas, to deliver a keynote address on women donors at the APRA-MO/KAN conference. I am honoured to attend this chapter’s gathering, knowing its board has worked to be more active and provide meaningful opportunities for its members. I’m hoping to draw on all the wonderful experiences from months prior to inspire and motivate prospect development and fundraising professionals, so we can all engage more women in new and different ways.

Now more than ever, I’m researching determinedly a powerful segment of donor prospects in real life. And enjoying the learning journey ahead. How about you?

The picture is a painting called “Red Cross dropping at Pochella” by James Makuac, a Sudanese artist whose work graced the Nashville airport last summer.

Q for #ResearchPride Month

Dear Friends of A Few Great Women,

This particular post is not about one inspiring and successful woman who gives, volunteers, raises funds and provides great prospect research. This post is about many –  you.

To honour #ResearchPride month, my contribution is simply to pose a question that will motivate you and make you care to comment:

“As a principled prospect development professional, how do you help philanthropy grow?”

Tell me the first words that spring to mind, or take some time to craft a careful (witty?) response. Do please comment here or share on your favourite social media.

And of course, MEN, I want to hear from you too!


UPDATE | Your tweets from #ResearchPride first week:

I grow philanthropy w/ strategic info analysis, advocacy – @rissatodd

I’m a motivator, educator, & gadfly. Advocate for prof’l excellence toward increased respect & resources – @AskHelenBrown

I grow philanthropy w/ info & insight, & by inspiring confidence – @srbernstein

 I grow philanthropy by being a matchmaker: prospecting & prioritizing – @jenfilla

Great Q! I grow philanthropy through bespoke research. – @kathmscott

Through research, strategic use of info. and by sharing innovative ideas – @MsSParkinson

By building trust and confidence for the Frontline Team! #make that ask – @Lieberstein

I’ll have to think about it – @SarahJLA (a reflective Canadian -ed.)

Big Dreams



Martha Taylor | A career devoted to women’s philanthropy

MarthaMs. Martha A. Taylor

VP of Development, Principal Gifts and Women’s Philanthropy Council at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, since 1975

GREATNESS: an outstanding fundraising professional, pioneer and leader in the international women’s philanthropy movement.


Meet Martha, who I like to call the “mother” of the women’s philanthropy movement in the USA. If you study philanthropy through a female lens like me, you have already heard of Martha and come across her work. She has crafted a stellar career with a life-long focus on fundraising. She wrote her master’s thesis on fundraising in higher education more than 40 years ago. Then she moved up the advancement ranks at the University of Wisconsin Foundation, becoming the first woman vice president of development in the Big Ten.

Martha’s tireless advocacy of women donors and prospects is what caught this prospect researcher’s attention. In 1988, she co-founded the UW Foundation’s Women’s Philanthropy Council, the first women’s major gift program at a co-ed university. It’s a program she leads to this day. Not stopping there, she and Sondra Shaw-Hardy co-founded and co-directed the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, now part of the Indiana University School of Philanthropy, to increase philanthropy by women to all causes. Along with Shaw-Hardy, she wrote the first major book on women’s philanthropy, which won the Grenzebach Research Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. 2015 represents the twentieth anniversary of that important work.

Her numerous accolades, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals to the YWCA, are highly-deserved.

Did I mention she’s an enthusiastic and supportive interview subject? I had a chance to speak with Martha last week, asking her some lofty questions about her interest and motivation in advancing women’s philanthropy.

“Twenty years worth of work in three sound bytes?” she asked as we first started our talk. Still, she didn’t hesitate to offer thoughtful, candid answers with characteristically mid-western graciousness.

On Anonymity

Martha wanted to dive right in to my question about why many women tend to remain anonymous with their major giving. I sent her two recent examples of major alumnae giving to Smith College and Wellesley College – $10M and $50M respectively – where the donors chose not to be named.

“I just found that so interesting,” Martha said.

“The fact they wanted to remain anonymous, doesn’t surprise me. But I still ask – why? That’s the way it is.”

When I asked her whether she thought anonymity is a generational issue, without any hesitation, she said, “No.”

Having worked with many women donors and prospects on their philanthropic planning throughout her career, some have told her:

“Get used to it, Martha, we don’t want to [be named].

“They want to be part of a group. That’s one of the key differences in giving by men versus women. Women respond to peer inclusiveness.

“It’s a big thing for women to pool smaller gifts – collaborative giving and making challenge gifts,” Martha said.

“These gifts are probably from baby boomer women, the age when their philanthropy is coming to fuller fruition. Older [civic generation] women have already made their lead gifts to their colleges.”

[Editor’s Note: must segment latest SYBUNT list by generation, that is if we track this data point in our system.]

On Philanthropic Women

When you manage to get the co-founder of the WPI on the phone, you just let her talk:

“People didn’t think women were making the [giving] decisions in the household, so they weren’t being approached to give. The woman’s interests weren’t being heard [by fundraisers].

“Women were disenfranchised by philanthropy. They weren’t being [exposed]. Women learn about philanthropy by being asked!

“That’s all changing now. We hope,” Martha said.

On Prospect Researching Women

Of course, I asked Martha what tips or advice she had for prospect researchers like me, on identifying and researching women.

First, focus on existing loyal donors:

“Look at women who have given your organization $100 each year for the past twenty years,” she noted.

Also, take a look at women who give to community foundations, since they offer a popular vehicle for philanthropic planning. (Martha currently serves on the Madison Community Foundation’s board and gives to their women’s fund.)

“The best indicators for women’s giving are indicators we don’t track in our databases,” she said, citing the work of her colleague Kathleen Loehr with whom Martha recently co-addressed the Minnesota Planned Giving Council.

“CRM systems are particularly bad for crediting women, recognizing women, tracking women. They’ve gotten worse!” Martha noted.

“Keeping in mind education and zip code [in my case, postal code] are stable…”

Just as Martha was getting ready to list off the top qualitative indicators prospect researchers could look for in identifying women from the database, the phone line dropped.

We got back on track quickly for Martha’s top tips:

  • frequency of worship – actively religious, especially among the baby boomers and older generations, who are prime prospects now.
  • number of children. Some studies have shown that number of children isn’t [a likelihood indicator] for very wealthy families, but it is important to note for upper-middle class donors.
  • source of money. This will help you understand the psychological relationship the woman has with money [and parting with it; giving it away]. Three ways to source money:

Inherit the money | Marry the money | Earn the money, or a combination.

“It’s a very different dynamic with inheritors,” Martha said. “Source of money isn’t something development officers and prospect researchers tend to track in our databases at the moment. These indicators aren’t on prospect radar screens.

“Take a look at the research from the Lilly School of Philanthropy. Then think about what indicators are searchable in our data systems? What do we keep track of? We’re not taking advantage of all this good research out there on women.

“It’s going to be a slow process,” Martha noted.

On Personal Recognition

“Women donors’ biggest pet peeve with non-profits is crediting their gifts. Not public recognition [like a cheque presentation or a donor reception], but personal recognition. Having the CEO and key people in the organization know who they are, value and appreciate them as donors. That’s what they want.

“One of the key ways to show them appreciation is to credit their gifts correctly. Have acknowledgement letters addressed both to them and their men. Solicit women for gifts directly, not all of the time, but some of the time.”

Great advice on research and stewardship from a great woman in our field!