Why We Ms.Rupt

I want to tell you about a project that Rory Green and I have been working on for about a year.

When we get together and talk – about fundraising, about the state of our profession – there were times we agreed that there is something paradoxical about working at a non-profit organization.

Our causes seek to be change agents, yet we deal with archaic systems, power dynamics and bureaucracy.

Our causes fight for human dignity, yet we find ourselves degraded by peers or leaders.

Our causes support women, yet we often do little to support one another as female fundraisers.

Our causes advocate for a better world, yet we experience abuse and harassment in our workplaces.

We uncovered these truths over cups of tea and glasses of wine. We discussed quietly, looking to the root of the paradox. We questioned, we challenged each other. We wanted to go deeper into these issues.

We wanted to be agents of change in our organizations – and to empower others to be the same.

We needed to speak truth to power.

We sought to question, to cage rattle. To change, resist, surprise, challenge, heal. To disrupt. Together as women.

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What Now?

I want to thank all of you who read my recent post and especially those who left a comment, sent a private message mentioning feelings and experiences, or simply shared by retelling, retweeting, or reblogging. I believe sharing my story was the right thing to do and I appreciated the supportive and moving responses.

It seems that each reader found something that she or he needed – some saw a story of harassment and exploitation, others saw it as echos of their experiences, a few saw workplace bullying, several found a new perspective, and a couple of readers used it as a call for better nonprofit workplace policies. Lots of you sent apologies and hugs.

Writing about my experience was deeply personal – I had removed the episode from my career narrative and even my husband didn’t know it had happened until I asked his opinion about posting it. The post had a lot of power because it was born at the nexus of the fear, pain, anger, misogyny, shame and disbelief expressed by #YesAllWomen.

WhatNowAnd not a few of you shouted, “OK, but now what?!”

Is there a culture of rape in the US and other countries? (Find a good definition from Marshall University.) Or is it simply abuse of power and privilege with another name? Isn’t it all just oppression by another name?

And if all this is woven into the fabric of our society, what can we do? How do we change a culture, the status quo?

The easiest thing is to do nothing. Inertia is the natural tendency of objects to resist changes in their state of motion. People can be very comfortable with inertia.

But I would argue that fundraisers are not comfortable with inertia; our nature is to fight oppression in any and all of its many forms. We raise awareness, we raise funds so that our nonprofits will eliminate oppression, injustice, destruction, disease, poverty, ignorance, mistreatment, hate and more. We raise a flag, we rally the troops, we fund the fight.

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Finding Your Mentor

Finding Your Mentor

A few months ago, Brock Warner set up a mentoring tweet chat. (See the #NFPmentors from August recapped here.) I joined in on that one-hour wild keyboard ride because I believe that having a mentor is a great help in one’s career path. I had such a great first boss (I didn’t know how good I had), someone who allowed me to try, but who also guided me both as a fundraiser and about the politics of the institution. But I never really had another fundraiser who I could turn to who could help me sift through the challenging parts of my professional journey. I did try to connect through a program through the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy when I lived in Washington DC, but the connection just didn’t seem to be there.

Andrea McManus - I can't believe I don't have a pic of the two of us!

Andrea McManus – I can’t believe I don’t have a pic of the two of us!

But now, I think I’ve finally found my mentor! During my career I often the person I reported to if she or he would be my mentor. But it never worked that way. I think your boss can mentor you, but isn’t your mentor. And anyway, I’ve had friends who have been sounding boards, and colleagues who have been generous with fundraising experience and expertise. But I believe a mentor is someone who helps you become a better fundraiser and who may help you navigate the challenges of career and, perhaps, life? There are programs such as one at the Vancouver chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). That might be a great way to go, or through another professional organization to which you belong. Honestly, there are many ways to find a mentor for yourself. It may be as easy as making your interest known. Continue reading

AFP Congress 2013

AFP Congress 2013

Ligia, Leah and me

I got inspired, recharged and schooled at the 2013 Association of Fundraising Professionals conference in Toronto, the official Congress of the Toronto chapter of AFP.

Holy smokes it was good!

The opening session was led by Ken Burnett and Alan Clayton (ClaytonBurnett) and spoke about emotional fundraising. “Let your emotional experiences you feel when seeing your mission at work fuel your fundraising.” “Fundraising is not about money, it is about giving donors more time with the people they love.” “Brilliant fundraising is always about change!  After all nonprofits are offering to change some current or future state. ” How do donors feel when they give, when they feel that they are going to change the world? Something like the end of this video Canada v USA 2010 Olympic Hockey Finals. Fundraising Femmes FatalesThe conference is also about connecting with people you know, people you admire, people you cannot wait to meet. Follow them on Twitter: Alan and Ken.

Here I’m hanging with Leah Eustace, Ligia Pena, Amy Sept, Rory Green, Dani Mailing, Sarah Lyon, and Claire Kerr. Lots of knowledge, experience and energy with this group!!

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Interview with Fundraising Yoda

If you are a fundraiser and have been active on twitter, you likely have come across the new master fundraiser, FundraisingYoda. He has a CFRJ (Certified Fund Raising Jedi) and lots of wisdom to share.

I asked Fundraising Yoda for his time so I might seek answers to questions I had. He graciously obliged. 

Below is excellent advice for fundraisers – or anyone working professionally and building relationships.


FundraiserBethPeople come to a fundraising career from different paths… how did you move from training Jedi to becoming a fundraiser?



FundraisingYoda: Too commercialized, training Jedi, was becoming, and no longer meaningful for Yoda. Had become all about the glory and money, it did. Self-aware, Yoda is, and knew change was needed. Ran charity gala on Sullust for victims of volcanic activity, and renewed sense of purpose, Yoda felt.

Beth: What skills do you think are most transferable from Jedi to Fundraiser?

Yoda: Patience. Determination. Strength. Vulnerability. Courage. Passion. Vision. Justice. Integrity. Being helpful. All traits of great Jedi and fundraisers alike, these are.

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