I’ve worked for and with nonprofits since my career began. I started with the Illinois State Senate, learning about education and social justice issues and how nonprofits and legislators worked together (or didn’t) to improve things in our communities. In 1995, I took a chance on an unknown local official running for mayor in Stamford, Connecticut. When he won, I went to work for him; unrelated (I’m sure), Dan Malloy is now governor of that fine state. While working with Dan, I learned a ton about nonprofits, young people, and education. It was working for him that I met the great people of Domus, a Stamford nonprofit where I would work from 1999 to 2016.
What I’ve learned:
I know what a high-quality, solid nonprofit looks like. I know who’s parroting the latest jargon from a Chronicle of Philanthropy article on impact and who’s been staring at data every weekend until they understand the story it’s telling. I know who’s on track to take their model from promising to evidence-supported and who is floundering. I know who’s BSing you when they talk about results and evaluation. I know who has or is building a committed board of directors and who is just sending them emails hoping for a response. I can listen in on a development team meeting and tell you when staffers are uninspired, defeated, or desperate for leadership.
I know about strong fundraising practices. At the suggestion of our largest funder, I was appointed the first development officer at Domus back in 2001 after working for Domus for two years doing grants and managing the creation of the organization’s first school. That funder also paid for me to be coached by a savvy, experienced development professional, and I learned a lot. I created and led a fundraising team, then co-lead our team after 2008 when I took a sabbatical to France. Private fundraising went from $0 in 1999 to $6M+ in 2016.
I know about healthy organizational cultures: what’s good for teams, how to deliver the type of coaching each employee needs so she can excel, and what leadership training will help you build the skills you and your team need to increase your cohesiveness and effectiveness. I’ve been in workplaces with strong cultures and weak ones…healthy ones and unhealthy ones. I can tell you what you need to do to get better, and I can help you do it…if you’re willing to put in the work.
I know about strong leadership. I was on Domus’ senior leadership team since its inception, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a leadership role in all my positions. I attribute it to being a good listener, being empathetic, being willing to disagree with people, and possessing experiences and a background different from many other people, which means I look at things in a different way. I also know what bad leadership looks like and have seen what it does to individuals and teams. I’ve seen poor leaders get better with coaching and support, and I’ve seen others who refuse to examine their practices and end up driving away committed, talented team members.
Am I any good?
Some people think so. I was fortunate to receive the award for Outstanding Fundraising Professional at the 2016 Connecticut AFP National Philanthropy Day. The AFP Outstanding Fundraising Professional honors an outstanding individual fundraising professional who works full-time for a nonprofit, charitable organization and practices his/her profession in an exemplary manner.
2016 Connecticut AFP National Philanthropy Day “Best of the State” Awards: “The AFP Connecticut and Fairfield County Chapters honored those who have helped change lives in our community through their fundraising and philanthropic efforts at the “Best of the State” Connecticut Philanthropy Awards Breakfast at the Trumbull Marriott Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, CT on November 4, 2016.” Five state-wide awards were given for fundraising excellence at this event, hosted by two chapters (CT Statewide Chapter and Fairfield County, CT Chapter) of the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP).