image-20230308205027-1How long have you been involved in the nonprofit sector? And in fundraising?
I’ve worked in Development for the past five years, but have been involved in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, first interning at Mission Neighborhood centers in SF during my college summer breaks. Many of my family members have built careers in the not-for-profit space, so it is something of a family tradition.

Please describe why you chose to work in nonprofit fundraising.
I never expected I’d be a fundraiser – I’d planned on becoming therapist. For the first few years after college, I worked with teenagers as a behavioral health counselor at a nonprofit. The plan was to gain some hands-on experience and return to school for a master’s degree. But I came to realize a career in direct services wasn’t the right fit for me. Still, I had a passion and commitment for the youth I was working with, and wanted to continue to support the organization. That’s when a position opened up in the Development Department – a Development Associate – and my entry into the fundraising world began!

Please tell us about your current role and responsibilities.
I currently work as a Philanthropy Officer for the American Red Cross, Northern California Coastal Region. I’m on the Individual Giving team, and am responsible for developing ongoing relationships, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding major individual donors across the 15 local counties that we serve. The Red Cross is a really exciting organization to work for – my day can change in an instant in response to a major disaster or emergency. And so many folks have their own personal connection with our work. It’s always such a privilege to hear their “Red Cross story.” 

How has Covid-19 affected your current role, organization, and career path?
In some ways the needs and the mission did not change – but the way we delivered our services certainly had to pivot. Due to Covid, many of our trainings were shifted to virtual events. Additionally, we could no longer shelter folks in large congregate shelters after disasters, so we housed people in hotels. Cancellations of mobile blood drives at schools and offices due to Covid led us to create more fixed site blood collection opportunities while updating our safety protocols. These changes increased our expenses, impacting our role as fundraisers but overall led to some improved practices that allowed us to deliver our mission in a more effective and efficient manner.

What are some silver linings since the pandemic began in March 2020?
Definitely the bonding that happened within my team! I was my region’s first covid new-hire, and so worried I wouldn’t get the chance to connect with my colleagues with the shift to remote work. But there is something about meeting someone in their own home – with a toddler running around in the background or a pet popping onto the screen – that is so humanizing. It created a closeness that showed we were all in it together, which was really special. 

What are some highlights in your current role and in your career?
What comes to mind aren’t my fundraising highlights, but the mission-related experiences I’ve been privileged to have. Donating blood for the first time, installing smoke alarms and providing fire prevention education to Spanish-speaking households in my community, or supporting the mental health of child who’d experienced a loss and needed safe, empathetic support. These experiences fuel my passion for the work and – I think – make me a better fundraiser! 

What professional knowledge would you impart to other nonprofit fundraisers?
The mission of your organization can be your “why,” but your team is your “how.” Whatever your position, prioritize joining, building, or hiring teams that are collaborative, motivated, and supportive. Your team will make the inevitable challenges that you face manageable and inspire you to be and do your best for the communities you serve! 

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
Probably, fatigue. As fundraisers, the work never ends; there’s always something more you can be doing to try to break through the noise. The shift to working from home blurs the line between home and work life, for many of us. So shutting off can be difficult, especially when we are so passionate about our work. 

What advice would you give to other AFP members who are considering becoming an AFP board member?
As I’ve only just joined, ask me in a year! 

How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life?
With my large, desk calendar! I’ve managed to achieve a semblance of “balance” by tracking all of my personal and professional appointments and to-do’s together in one place. Seeing the entire month laid out allows me to plan when I need to and gives me permission to relax, once I know I haven’t missed anything! 

What are some activities you enjoy outside of work?
I take a Cuban Rueda salsa class in Oakland that I absolutely love, as well as OrangeTheory Fitness classes. On a good week I’m dancing, taking my fitness class, and fitting in a hike on the weekend!

What is the last book you read or movie you watched?
Right now, I’m really enjoying reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. 

What career goals do you still want to pursue or accomplish?
I’m currently in a phase of my career of professional growth, and am less focused on outcomes. That’s included taking advantage of training and mentorship opportunities, both internally and outside of my organization, and pushing myself to be bolder at work. Shout out to my AFP Golden Gate IDEA Fellowship Cohort, who have played a significant role in my recent development!