Fellows Spotlight

Getting to Know 2020 AFP Chicago Fellows

Ryan Jameson, MetroSquash

Ryan Jameson serves as the head of the Development Department of MetroSquash, a holistic youth development/college success nonprofit serving over 400 youth in Woodlawn and Evanston with an annual budget of $2.7M.  His current responsibilities include leading the successful execution of multiple components of the development and communications plan and strategy to ensure growing financial support for MetroSquash.  Before becoming the Development Manager, Ryan was the Manager of Fundraising Events, Mentors, and Volunteers for two years in MetroSquash’s development department.

Prior to working in development, Ryan was MetroSquash’s Middle School Math Director for four years working directly with over 250 students and 100 families.  Ryan appreciates the opportunity to have viewed the MetroSquash program through two different lenses which has helped him cultivate a diverse range of skills for nonprofit sustainability.  As a first-generation college graduate and a Chicago Public School Alum who was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Ryan is passionate about providing access to opportunities and education for city youth.

Ryan earned his Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011.  Ryan is also a proud Chicago Posse Alum.  He currently lives in Crestwood, IL with his two cats.

Ryan, when and how did your interest in development begin?
I worked in direct service for MetroSquash for four years. In 2017, the development director recruited me to the development department, and my position was the Events, Volunteer, and Mentor Manager. At first, I was a little hesitant because I loved working directly with youth; however, I saw this as a great opportunity to contribute to MetroSquash differently. I have hopes to be a nonprofit CEO in the future, so transitioning to development allowed me to see the organization through two different lenses.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at MetroSquash?
I lead the development department at MetroSquash, so I am responsible for overseeing all the revenue streams and ensuring that we reach our $2.2M revenue goal.  A lot of my time goes towards event preparation since that component accounts for over half of our revenue budget.  I work closely with the Board of Directors and Auxiliary Board to strengthen our solicitation process.  Lastly, I oversee our organization's communications and marketing, which includes our website, annual report, tabling materials, and much more.

What have been some of the challenges and opportunities you’ve faced since the onset of COVID-19?
Adjusting to working from home has definitely been the biggest challenge. Although I can complete all my work responsibilities remotely, I just love working in the MetroSquash center. I love hearing our students in the hallway, and I could always take a break from my computer and walk through programming, so I miss that right now. In regards to opportunities, I appreciate that the lock-down has given my team more time to focus on some new initiatives that we couldn’t explore in the past. In addition, I’m really excited that our gala will be virtual because we can reach more people while keeping expenses low.

What’s one new thing you’ve learned in the last few months, either related or not related to fundraising?
The AFP Fellows had a great session with Michelle Bibbs from Alford Group on major gift-giving.  I really want to strengthen MetroSquash’s solicitation process when managing a portfolio of donors, so it was really helpful to learn the seven I’s of fundraising, which are: Identity, Invite, Inform, Interest, Involve, Invest, and Inspire.  It was informative to learn about each of these stages and how we ultimately increase individual giving.

What’s keeping you healthy and resilient during the pandemic?
Honestly, my two cats are keeping my well-being strong.  They bring me so much joy and always can make me smile.  One of my cats loves to just lay in front of my computer while I’m working and periodically likes to video-bomb in Zoom meetings.  In addition, I am staying social with my close friends with weekly video calls, and my boyfriend spoils me with delicious meals.

What are you reading or listening to this year? Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?
I am currently reading two books relating to racial identity: White Fragility by Robin Diangelo and So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, which I definitely advocate for everyone to read, especially non-POC folks. For podcasts, I am a big RuPaul fan, so I listen to his podcast ‘What’s The Tee?’ which has many motivating stories and always makes me laugh.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
First and foremost, I hope to gain a strong network of fundraising professionals that I can connect with if I ever had a question or need input from. I also hope to increase my knowledge, specifically in managing a donor portfolio and cultivating donor relationships. Lastly, I hope to gain more confidence in my abilities of leading a team in the development field.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful.  What motivates you?
It is our vision at MetroSquash to empower students to become healthy adults with economic and social stability.  That is what motivates me – our city youth.  As someone who grew up on the south side of Chicago, went to a Chicago Public High School, and then went to college as a First-Generation College Student, I saw first-hand the inequalities in education based on socio-economic status.  I am so grateful that I was a Posse Scholar which was incredibly instrumental in securing a college degree.  I believe that education non-profits can really have an impact on the achievement gap, and that is what keeps me motivated.

Ashley Lugo, Tree House Humane Society

Ashley is a dedicated bilingual professional with extensive growth in nonprofit marketing and development strategy through community outreach, direct public service, campaign development, and program support. She has a degree in Vocal Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University and was a recipient of their 2016 Social Justice Seed Grant - the impetus of her career in Development.

Through CCPA's Social Justice Seed Grant, Ashley co-founded Classical Inclusion (CI): a Ground-Up Initiative with her business partner Kameron Locke. CI was a community music program designed to partner with local neighborhood libraries to provide free access to after-school art activities. Target neighborhoods were those where art education funding has been cut. The pilot launched in the Rudy Lozano Library of the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago and was a four-week exploration of the disciplines found in Art Song. The program provided access to under-resourced communities and hired faculty and staff representatives of those communities, decreasing the need for diversity in this field.

Although Classical Inclusion was a short-lived venture, through the experience, Ashley nurtured a true affinity for relationship building and fundraising. As a fundraiser, she has become empowered to reinforce her life mission: to highlight and support marginalized cultures, either because of race, gender, sexual affiliation, or disability. The purpose of this mission is to challenge classical notions of society by supporting those that are silenced, share their stories, and ultimately create a holistic global experience.

Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, to first-generation Mexican immigrants, Ashley was later raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2012 she moved to Chicago, Illinois. During her career, Ashley has met and been mentored by people from all corners of the world. She has worked for the Chicago Sinfonietta, Merit School of Music, Chicago Public Library, the Latin American Language Center, and currently acts as the Development Manager for the Tree House Humane Society.

Ashley, when and how did your interest in development begin? I was a Chicago Sinfonietta Project Inclusion Administration Fellow for the 17-18 season. At the time, I didn’t consider a job in development. Honestly, I didn’t know what development did! After my fellowship, I took a position at Chicago Sinfonietta, truthfully, because I needed a job. As their full-time Development Associate, I gained much experience in grant writing. The first time we received funding from grants I crafted, I was ecstatic! And, I saw the potential of BIPOC doing this type of work. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Tree House Humane Society?  As their Development Manager, I oversee our grants portfolio, which includes management of the current list of funders as well as research for new potential funders. I manage our annual mailing campaigns and our annual fundraising gala. I work alongside my team to research Major Donor prospects and set individual fundraising goals. At Tree House, the members of the Development team wear many hats - not unfamiliar to other DEVO teams - so I’ll assist with our additional fundraising events and shelter tasks when needed. 

What have been some of the challenges and opportunities you’ve faced since the onset of COVID-19?  I’ve been trying to view all of what has happened since COVID-19 as an opportunity. Everything is so new and different. So, our responses have had to be unique and diverse as well. What may seem like a challenge is an opportunity for us to learn how to do something in a way we may have never done before.  

What’s one new thing you’ve learned in the last few months, either related or not related to fundraising?  One thing I’ve learned that’s quite motivating is that other Development professionals in the world are just as frustrated as I am with the current way Non-Profits function. Although I enjoy this work and feel passionate about it, it can be disheartening to think about why the sector exists in the first place. 

What’s keeping you healthy and resilient during the pandemic?  Daily virtual yoga sessions with my best friend, baths, tending to my plants and hanging out with my newly adopted cat, Morena. 

How have you been passing the time during these last few months? Reading or listening? Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?  I am cooking, watching prime content on TV such as 90 Day Fiance (lol!), and listening to many podcasts. My weekly feed consists of Best Friends with Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata, Scam Goddess by Laci Mosely, and Unhappy Hour with Matt Bellassai - anything that will make me laugh during these wild times. 

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?  Community. It’s been difficult with COVID-19, and now we pretty much can only see each other virtually. But, the year isn’t over, I hope my cohort and I will become good friends. 

Development and non-profit work can be stressful. What motivates you?  The future. The work is hard, and functions in harmful ways - rooted in colonialism and white supremacy. But, my generation is the future, and I find motivation knowing that we’re working to change the Non-Profit Industrial Complex to be more humane. 


Gabe Pachter, Cara

Gabriel Pachter has nearly 15 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector. He began his career working in supplemental Jewish education, before a brief stint as a middle school social studies teacher. After a year working on community inclusion efforts for JARC in Farmington Hills, MI, Gabriel served nearly three years as the Director of Youth and Family Programming for New City Jewish Center in New City, NY. In this role, he helped cultivate a community of school-age children and their families through regular social and cultural programs. Gabriel left New York to return to his Midwest roots and attend two graduate programs through Indiana University.

While enrolled in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Gabriel worked for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Indiana as the Development Fellow. It was through this role that he fell in love with fundraising and pledged to help socially impactful organizations secure the resources they need to thrive. This pledge led Gabriel to Cara, where he now works as the Individual Giving Manager. In this role, he oversees the organization’s annual giving campaigns and manages a portion of the organization’s growing major gifts portfolio.

Gabriel is a native Michigander and proud alumnus of the University of Michigan and Indiana University. He has only lived in Chicago for six months and is enjoying getting to know the city through culinary exploration, spectator sports, and adventures in neighborhoods near and far. Gabriel is humbled to follow in the footsteps of two Cara colleagues, Jessica Harris and Lauren Birchlove, who have previously served as AFP Chicago Fellows. He hopes to live up to their example as gifted relationship builders and stewards of mission-driven work.

Gabe, when and how did your interest in development begin?  About five years ago, I was directing youth and family programming at a synagogue and sought to learn more about nonprofit management. Every person I spoke with on this journey suggested development as a great path to learn and grow as a nonprofit leader. Through graduate school and a development fellowship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, this work became more than the means to an end; it became a passion.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Cara? What is your favorite part about working for the organization? As the Individual Giving Manager, I oversee our annual giving program and maintain a portfolio of major gift donors. I love the opportunity to share Cara’s story with donors and partners. This place is truly special. In addition to sharing our story and getting to build relationships with donors, I genuinely enjoy working with each and every one of my colleagues across departments and campuses. Each member of the team brings their full self to our work, and I am grateful to be able to do the same freely.

What have been some of the challenges and opportunities you’ve faced since the onset of COVID-19? While I had worked remotely on occasion, adjusting to daily remote work was a challenge early on. Our team was resilient, and we quickly figured out the kinks and began to operate like a machine. Both at Cara and in previous roles, I had been involved in a number of planned campaigns. COVID-19 presented Cara and other organizations with a unique opportunity to engage in rapid response. There was a bit of a thrill to quickly building a campaign without being able to meet with colleagues face-to-face. In a matter of days, our finance, data/technology, development and marketing teams launched a robust emergency fund campaign. This successful campaign allowed Cara to increase direct assistance to participants and alumni impacted most significantly by the pandemic.

What’s one new thing you’ve learned in the last month either related or not related to fundraising? Like many fellow millennials, I have spent more time in the kitchen since the pandemic began. I have doubled down on some old recipes and tried some new ones. Shabbat dinner has always been a highlight of the week. After many years enjoying challah bread and chicken soup prepared by others, I have begun experimenting with both from scratch. I look forward to perfecting my own recipes in the weeks and months to come!

What’s keeping you healthy and resilient during the stay at home order? On the physical health side, I have been playing golf regularly and connecting with individual friends or relatives for spatially distanced walks. The start of the summer has been beautiful, and it has been great to take advantage of this by maximizing time outside.

In terms of mental health and resilience, I strive to stay regularly connected with my family, friends, and colleagues. I spent a couple months back home in Michigan with my parents, and that was really special. I have also enjoyed regular virtual happy hours and other such gatherings with our development team, friends from graduate school, and all of my first cousins on both sides of the family.

How have you been passing the time during these last few months? Reading or listening?  Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?  In addition to the golf, I have been a frequent podcast listener. My favorite is “Fake Doctors, Real Friends” with Zach Braff and Donald Faison, a Scrubs rewatch podcast. I also keep up with the latest sports and political happenings and have played a bunch of online card games with family and friends.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience? This is a strange time for everyone. I am grateful to have this opportunity to be a part of the AFP Fellows community. I hope to learn best practices across different areas of fundraising, expand my network, and gain a better understanding of Chicago’s philanthropic landscape. 

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful.  What motivates you? I am motivated daily by Cara’s mission to unlock power and purpose within our communities and ourselves. I believe in the work we do and feel that we have an important role to play in recovery efforts. I am also motivated by our dedicated team, each individual bringing their unique experience and perspective in pursuit of a vision to eradicate financial and relational poverty. These north stars give me confidence to continue doing my part by maximizing individual donor investment in Cara’s work. 

Nina Iliza, CommunityHealth

Nina is a Rwandan American born in Kigali, a place she will always call home. In recent years she focused on a passion project she founded called Heart Of a Thousand Hills, a nonprofit geared to creating educational opportunities for young Rwandan students. Currently, she is the Corporate Relations and Special Events Manager at CommunityHealth. She enjoys using her experiences and expertise to curate engaging fundraising events for the organization as well as taking on new daily challenges. After spending a few years traveling in South America and running her nonprofit in Rwanda, she is ecstatic to be back in Chicago, her other home. 

Nina, when and how did your interest in development begin?
I served as a City Year Corps Members for two years and then transitioned into working for the development team in Chicago. Although initially interested in nonprofit programming, development has given me the opportunity to utilize and enhance my fundraising and event planning skills in the benefit of a diverse array of successful nonprofit projects I am passionate about.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at CommunityHealth? 
Although still fairly new to CommunityHealth, I am so excited to be in this development role. I work to curate a thought leadership series that is hosted throughout Chicago. The series features different topics presented in various formats with the hopes of encouraging everyone to be all in and advocate for inclusivity when addressing ways to achieve health equity for our city

Tell us about your project the Heart of a Thousand Hills.
Heart of a Thousand Hills is a very personal passion project, that I dared to live out loud. I began the project as a healing process and a way to embrace my narrative of being a genocide survivor. Our mission was to simply provide educational opportunities to underprivileged children in Rwanda. It has been quite an interesting journey, one that has taken me back home where I worked and lived in the community and had a first-hand look at how to appropriately contribute and allowed me opportunities to speak to families about their actual needs. I found that living in the community I was trying to serve was an essential part to being more of an asset than adding to the obstacles. It's a process but I am learning to become a more intentional ally in order to help make a bigger impact.  

What have been some of the challenges and opportunities you’ve faced since the onset of COVID-19?
Being the Corporate Relations and Events Manager for CommunityHealth, with events being a major part of the job, every single thing about my job, and on a larger scale -  the industry has been challenged since COVID-19. I am very fortunate that our events are not scheduled until the fall so I have been able to take this time to learn as much as I can about pivoting to a virtual event series. I took everything that was presented as a challenge and turned it into an opportunity, and I am pretty excited to see the results.  

What’s one new thing you’ve learned in the last month either related or not related to fundraising?
Well, as I write this there is so much going on around me that I find this a difficult question to answer. As our city is in an uprise due to the murder of George Floyd I find myself in a numb and helpless space, and if I reflect on the last month my mind directly goes to the very obvious difficulties of being black in America. From this reflection has risen the motivation to use whatever platform I have to unapologetically bring awareness to not only what is an issue today, but an overarching problem in our society. If there is any way I can use my voice in my personal life or career life to invoke this conversation, I will. 

From your travels (Africa, South America), how have these experiences affected your career in the non-profit field?
Traveling aboard has opened my eyes to what giving and growing a community looks like in other countries. I can personally speak about my own country; Rwanda. While there is a lot of international aide in the country, whenever I saw the community give back, it was directly to their own. I found it more likely for someone to give to their family, close relatives, or even friends before donating to a nonprofit, or attending an extravagant gala. Having this point of view has affected and changed the role I want to take and how I want to shape my career in order to help push forward long term impact. 

What’s keeping you healthy and resilient during the stay at home order?
I have been trying to be kinder to myself. In the beginning, I was racing to stay productive and busy, but I have found some peace acknowledging that this is an incredibly difficult time, and I can be kinder to myself especially in the days I don't feel too admirable. I am also tremendously blessed beyond measure to have stayed healthy, kept working, and stayed sane. Recognizing this has given me resilience.

How have you been passing the time during these last few months? Reading or listening? Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.? 
Journaling, it's my saving grace. I journal and take time to work on or work out some goals I want to achieve in the future. I finally allowed myself to relax and work on creating my home into a space I don’t want to leave. The more I can mentally find peace in my own home, the more comfortable I am with the fact that I might be here for a while! 

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
This fellowship has been such a great experience so far and I look forward to more one on one with the special breakfast speakers. I am already so appreciative of the support I get from my co-fellows, and I look forward to continuing to grow my network and learn how to be a better agent of change.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful. What motivates you?
Working in the nonprofit world helps me feel like I am doing something greater than myself. When things get stressful, I can take a step back and take a good look at what matters. The bigger picture keeps me motivated.


Getting to Know 2019 AFP Chicago Fellow Diana Olivares, Zonta

Diana is a Development Coordinator for Zonta Inter-national Foundation, an international organization dedicated to empowering women through service and advocacy. In her role on Zonta's development team, Diana is responsible for donor stewardship, processing gifts, as well as collaborating on a variety of fundraising campaigns and initiatives. Over her career, Diana has held multiple positions in the development area with organizations such as Chicago Youth Centers, the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities and FEDECMI/ Casa Michoacán.

Diana first joined the non-profit sector as a grant writer for a grassroots nonprofit in the south west side of Chicago. That experience solidified her career choice of working towards advocating for women’s rights and improving the quality of life for disadvantaged communities.

Diana received a B.A. Degree in Political Science/Public Policy Administration from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. Diana is a Chicago native and looks forward to going to Chicago White Sox games this summer with her family and volunteering in her community.

Diana, when and how did your interest in development begin?
In all honesty it didn’t start off as an interest, it was a need for funding for an organization that I strongly believed in the mission for that began my career in development. I think many can relate when I say that in the nonprofit sector, one person can have many different roles and for me when it came to donor stewardship, seeking grants and promoting the work of the organization, that was the role that I enjoyed doing most and I began to focus all of my efforts more towards that.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Zonta International Foundation?
As the Development Coordinator for Zonta International Foundation, most of my time is spent in supporting the fundraising efforts of the organization through a number of tasks. Donor stewardship is my primary task and responsibility. I also process and code the majority of the contributions the organization receives, and I ensure that donor acknowledgement letters and tribute letters. I am also primarily responsible for my foundation’s general email inbox and assist donors with any questions that they have about their giving or of the organization’s scholarships, grants and programs.

Zonta International Foundation (ZIF) has a two-year fundraising goal of US$5 million to support projects to end violence against women, as well as international service projects in Madagascar that create opportunities for girls to have a complete their formal education in safe and sanitary conditions. In addition to supporting girls’ education, Zonta also strives to improve Syrian refugee women’s access to sustainable and decent employment in Jordan and provide scholarship opportunities for women in technology; aerospace applied sciences; post graduate business degrees, and women for the volunteer leadership achievements.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
Working in development isn’t something you can specifically prepare for in school. There isn’t a Donor Cultivation 101 course you can take in college or Digital Donor Trends seminar that is tangible for young professionals entering the nonprofit sector for the first time. Which is why the educational sessions, resources and the Chicago nonprofit community that AFP provides are so beneficial.

What are you reading or listening to this year?  Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?
I just started reading The Givers by Dave Callahan, I listen to NPR and am a fan of their Curious City series. But when I’m stuck in traffic (which is often) and need to laugh, old podcast episodes of 2 Dope Queens always delivers.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
As a fellow I’ve already gained more than I hoped for and I am grateful to have this opportunity to learn and connect with other professionals in the nonprofit field. The educational breakfasts seminars and the fellow sessions that we’ve had have really been a valuable part of my professional development.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful.  What motivates you?
What motivates me when things get stressful is not focusing on the stressful task at hand but rather focusing on the bigger picture of the organization, and how by completing the task will lead to the overall success of the organization.

Getting to Know 2019 AFP Chicago Fellow Ashley N. Leonard, The To&Through Project

As the Founding Associate Director of the To&Through Middle Grades Network, Ashley N. Leonard  leads the development of all aspects of the network, working closely with schools, partners, and the To&Through team. Most recently, Ashley served as the Executive Director of Spark,a career exploration and self-discovery program that helps middle school students understand, experience and pursue what's possible. In her role, she leads operations for Spark in Chicago while helping foundations, corporations, and individuals realize the unique role they each have to play in creating opportunities for students to build the skills and networks for success.

Ashley also served as manager of special projects at The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund).  At The Fund, she used the expertise developed in various special projects roles at Chicago Public Schools to manage the publication of reports on The Fund’s principal quality work and to create pitch materials to support fundraising efforts for the organization’s next fund. Ashley began her career in sales in a management development program at Kraft Foods before deciding to pursue a full-time career in education in 2012.

Ashley holds a Masters of Education in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Vassar College. She is an alumna of the 2017 Surge Institute Fellowship and the inaugural Education Pioneers Yearlong Fellowship. Ashley also enjoys all things dance and exploring Chicago restaurants with her husband.

Ashley, when and how did your interest in development begin?
My interest in development began was solidified when I began supporting my former CEO in fundraising work. Between my natural affinity towards building relationships and my desire to become an executive director one day, she started bringing me along to pitch meetings with board members and supporters to show me the ropes. I quickly realized that my background in sales was also helpful and that fundraising had a lot of facets.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Spark Program?
As executive director, I’m charged with ensuring Spark has the resources to implement our career exploration and self-discovery programming for middle schoolers across Chicago. The majority of my time is spent working with my board to determine strategies for growth and new funding relationships, cultivating partnerships with corporations who host our students, and stewarding our many foundation partners. I especially enjoy the opportunities to share stories of Spark’s impact with current and future donors. I am truly passionate about our mission to help students understand, experience, and pursue what’s possible and relish the moments when others recognize the important role they can plan in a middle schooler’s life.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
The professional is so varied and dynamic that it can be challenging to keep up. As someone leading development work at a small non-profit, I often find myself and my development staff must wear multiple hats. While that has been rewarding and led to a tremendous of amount of learning, it can often be overwhelming. It’s made me ensure that I not only prioritize for myself but also for my team so that we can focus on what we do best and not try to do it all.

What are you reading or listening to this year? Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?
I’ve been reading a lot of great novels by black female authors this year. A few of my favorites have been American Spy: A Novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted: A Novel for Grown Ups, and Patsy.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
I hope to gain a network of other development professionals I can lean on as I continue to grow and learn. I’m also excited about the opportunity to gain the foundational skills to be a successful development professional now and well into the future.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful. What motivates you?
It’s all about the students and the chance to make sure they have every opportunity to experience new possibilities.

Getting to Know 2019 AFP Chicago Fellow Anthony Vasquez, John G. Shedd Aquarium

Anthony Vasquez is the Manager of Membership at John G. Shedd Aquarium. In his role at Shedd, Anthony is tasked with assisting to raise $4 million dollars annually from donors who give anywhere between $75-$1000 each. Originally joining Shedd’s development staff as a development officer on the Individual Giving team 4 years ago, Anthony has taken the same skills used to build personal relationships and develop affinity for the institution in individual donors and applied them to his work with the wider membership base. This has informed various aspects of the member experience ranging from a shift to more mission-based member communications and events to establishing ongoing training for staff on the member check-in process to foster a sense of personal connection and belonging in Shedd’s members at every opportunity.

A lifelong Chicago resident, Anthony has long held a deep respect for both the animal kingdom and conservation efforts toward a more sustainable world for all of us, inspired in part by childhood visits to Shedd. It is a dream come true for him to be able to work in a role that connects him to things that have been important to him since childhood, and he hopes that many of the young faces he sees visit Shedd on a daily basis will be equally inspired to grow up and make a difference. Plus, he thinks being able to go visit an Octopus on his breaks is pretty cool.

When not finding excuses to sneak away from his desk to check out animals, Anthony enjoys attempting to satiate his voracious reading appetite, watching movies, serving on the auxiliary board of the National Museum of Mexican Art and being a fairly mediocre practitioner of Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Anthony, when and how did your interest in development begin?
Like a lot of us in development, I kind of stumbled into it.  I found myself working at a development firm that helped do fundraising for various non-profits in the U.S. and found that I had a knack for making successful asks. When I came across an opening at Shedd, which had been a childhood favorite of mine, I leapt at the opportunity to join their individual giving team.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Shedd Aquarium?
I’ve since moved over to the membership side of things at Shedd.  Membership oversees $4.6m, with the onsite team I manage being responsible for $1.1m of that.  Seen as something of an attraction, we have a built-in audience to deliver development messaging to, but it’s my job to ensure that messaging is properly communicated to the subset of our visitors that would be the most responsive.  People also join as members through other channels, but whatever channel acquisition occurs through, my onsite team works hard to help coordinate engaging programs and events and to make the overall member experience a top-notch one to increase the likelihood of renewal.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
I think it’s hard to narrow down, but some common things colleagues and I have discussed as challenging include asking for the salary you need and deserve without coming across as greedy, ensuring a steady and appropriate increase in challenge and responsibility for career growth, and setting realistic standards for a good work-life balance.  It can be tough and I don’t know that anyone has it all figured out at this stage. 

What are you reading or listening to this year?  Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?
I’m currently making my way through Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America which details some of the atrocities of European colonialization and predatory exploitation of the Americas which led to many of the conditions that modern nations in those lands now face.  You know, just some light reading for kicks.  John Leguizamo released a reading curriculum as a companion to his very funny Latin History for Morons and Open Veins was among the selections there. My favorite book I’ve read so far this year was a volume of poetry called Zaatar Diva by Suheir Hammad. 

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
It’s a great opportunity to be able to attend AFP workshops but also have more exclusive face time with the presenters to ask follow up questions and advice from leaders in the field.  It’s really a wonderful professional development opportunity and it’s nice to have access to mentors with more seasoned careers who have a wealth of experience to draw from. I’m really hoping to round out my knowledge of development and strengthen my abilities as a leader with this experience.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful.  What motivates you?
I think all work can be stressful.  Even if you love something, work is still work. I’m sure it’s much harder if you don’t love it, but I’m privileged in that I genuinely believe in the work I’m doing.  Conservation is important to me.  I love animals.  I love seeing kids experience awe when they walk through our galleries.  I pop in to things like the Teen Learning Lab or come across other participants of different Learning Programs here and meet these brilliant and truly remarkable kids who are interested in doing conservation research or working in marine biology, and I’m just blown away.  Spend 10 minutes with one of these enthusiastic and hard-working kids and it’s hard to not find yourself both humbled and motivated.

Getting to Know 2019 AFP Chicago Fellow Nina Gagnon, National Immigrant Justice Center

Nina Gagnon is the Development Associate at Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. In her role on NIJC’s development team, Nina fosters relationships with funders of all types and coordinates NIJC’s fundraising events. Prior to joining NIJC, Nina worked in external relations at the Taproot Foundation. Nina is originally from Southern New Hampshire and found her way to Chicago through a college internship. While in college, Nina worked with Cathedral in the Night, an outdoor community group for the local homeless population. At CITN, Nina had her first taste of development and volunteer management work. She was responsible for coordinating online giving campaigns, stewarding in-kind donations, and sorting out volunteer schedules. In her junior year of college, she spent a semester at International Bridges to Justice assisting with grant writing and partnership building. After graduation, Nina moved back out to Chicago and began working at the Taproot Foundation, an organization that leverages corporate talent to support non-profit capacity building.

Nina holds a BA in French and Religion from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Nina, when and how did your interest in development begin?
I spent three years in undergrad working with a small non-profit wearing a variety of different hats. I coordinated all of our in-kind donations and giving campaigns and loved it! After graduating, I started at the Taproot Foundation and was exposed to larger scale fundraising and have continued doing similar work at NIJC.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the National Immigrant Justice Center?
I do a little bit of everything at NIJC. We just had our annual luncheon which was the only thing I’d been able to think about for the past 6 months or so. Now that I’m back up for air, I’m doing a lot of grant support, donor communications, and beginning work for next year’s luncheon!

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
I think the biggest challenge facing young development professionals is learning to negotiate the ways in which technology will change the way that fundraising happens. With social media being a relatively new way of reaching potential donors, the next few years are likely to be turbulent while new best practices are determined and I think young development professionals will be crucial to these next steps.

What are you reading or listening to this year? Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?
I’m currently re-reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series! I’m also listening to the Stuff You Should Know podcast in the hopes of learning some stuff I should know.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
I love the breakfast sessions – it’s been great to learn from seasoned development professionals and to hear their thoughts on current issues, trends, and other topics within development. It’s also been amazing to connect with other young development professionals – we all work at very different organizations, so it’s an excellent mix of perspectives.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful. What motivates you?
My favorite part of development is that it gives people a way to help move the needle on issues that matter to them. The work can absolutely be stressful, but when development works the way it is supposed to, everybody wins: organizations receive crucial funding and donors get to be a meaningful part of a mission they care about. 

Getting to Know 2019 AFP Chicago Fellow Laura Aguilar, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

Laura Aguilar is the Manager of Data and Donor Relations at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.  A native Chicagoan from La Villita, or the Little Village area, who first developed a strong passion for the nonprofit sector as a beneficiary of local nonprofit services and youth development programs. These experiences gave her a deep appreciation for how nonprofits improve the quality of life in our city and neighborhood and inspired her to share in their important work.   

Laura began her career in the non-profit sector as a Program Coordinator for the D.C. Schools Project at Georgetown University, which provides English language tutoring and support for people of immigrant backgrounds in Washington, DC. Upon graduation, Laura returned home to Chicago and joined the Cristo Rey Advancement team – an opportunity she cherishes as a proud alumna of Cristo Rey. In her current role, Laura is responsible for donor data management and relations, including a focus on employing data strategy, architecture and maintenance as important tools to assist the develop team in their work.

Laura holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology, with a minor in Spanish from Georgetown University. She is currently seeking Certificates in Nonprofit Leadership and Nonprofit Fund Development from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

Laura, when and how did your interest in development begin?
My interest in development flourished during my first job out of college as the Advancement Coordinator and Assistant to the President at Cristo Rey. I had previously worked in the programming side of non-profits, but this was my first time learning about the importance of development teams and the crucial role they play in the advancement of our missions. Another important realization I had during my first job was that I wanted to have a seat at the table. I began to aspire to become part of the leadership team of a non-profit and wanted to follow the development path to get there.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School?
As a member of the Cristo Rey advancement team, I have responsibilities in its data management and donor relations sides. I am responsible for the management of the donor database, which means I process all donations and generate acknowledgement letters, manage and maintain contribution pages, prepare reports, donor segmentation and coding, mailing lists, among other tasks. The second part of my role focuses on donor relations. I will be working with our Vice President for Advancement to launch and manage a planned giving program and societies for Cristo Rey. Management will include stewarding donors and hosting cultivation, acknowledgement, and educational events for members periodically. I am excited to learn more about the second part of my role since it will be new to me.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
I believe one of the biggest challenges for young professionals is attempting to find balance between the work they love to do and their quality of life. Unfortunately, non-profits expect young professionals to give a lot of their time and energy to help advance their missions, which I believe many young professionals want to help advance, but they are also aware of wanting to find balance and not burnout. Organizations have to see the passion of young development professionals and invest in their professional development as well as create strong teams where everyone can flourish.

What are you reading or listening to this year?  Favorite book(s), podcasts, etc.?
A couple of the books I have read this year are Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, Bad Blood, White Fragility, and An American Marriage. This weekend I just picked up With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. I saw Elizabeth perform some of her poetry a few years ago and when I saw her book on the shelf, I knew I had to read it. 

My all-time favorite book is Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) by Laura Esquivel. A forbidden love story told through the power of food and recipes. Being able to get lost in the story and letting the author transport you to a familiar place is both relaxing and energizing.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What do you hope to gain from your experience?
As mentioned previously, I aspire to continue working in the non-profit sector and hope to one day become part of the leadership team or the executive director of a non-profit. As a fellow, I hope to connect with individuals who are as passionate as I am to make a difference and learn as much as I can from the workshops, the speakers, the other fellows, and AFP members. The opportunity to be part of a space where individuals who are in the early stages of their fundraising careers can share and exchange their ideas and concerns makes this experience unique and very valuable for our professional development.

Development and nonprofit work can be stressful.  What motivates you?
I have experienced the impact of non-profits in my life and community and I want to ensure the opportunities provided by them continue to exist. At Cristo Rey specifically, the students and their families motivate me to continue my work because they are a reminder of my family – both our achievements and struggles. I know I have a unique voice and I want that voice to be represented at the leadership levels in non-profits. 

2019 AFP Chicago Chamberlain Scholar, Reports on the AFP International Conference on Fundraising - AFPICON

Ishan Johnson,

Manager of Auxiliary Relations,
Chicago History Museum
2019 Chamberlain Scholar

“The Energy in the Room was Infectious”

As our chapter’s Chamberlain Scholar, I had the privilege to attend AFPICON in San Antonio last month. I arrived in Texas on a somewhat cold Saturday morning, and almost thought Chicago’s weather came with me. I intentionally stayed a little “off campus” so I could have a nice walk through the city each morning. Taking a different route to the convention center each day meant I got to see the entire downtown, which I was grateful for.

My first event at the conference was the African American Affinity Group, where I sat next to the Senior Managing Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. We quickly connected over our mutual love for Classical Music, and she shared what it’s like to work at the top of a major performing arts organization. Simply put, I want her job someday, and her advice for me was some of the most relevant and thought-provoking I received during the entire conference. The energy in the room was infectious, and there couldn’t have been a better way to kick-off ICON.

I thoroughly enjoyed our opening speaker, Spencer West. He shared his story of perseverance and vulnerability, encouraging us to never be afraid to ask for help. As the project manager for a gala just a few days after the conference, I found the sessions on special events very relevant and timely. I realized that I don’t spend enough time with my guests during events, and I need to mobilize my team to assist with evening-of stewardship opportunities. During the Chamberlain Scholars session on Sunday morning, we wrote thank you cards to those who donated to the scholarship fund. One of my notes was to AFP President, Mike Geiger. No pressure at all!

Soledad O’Brien was our closing speaker, and she mentioned that although our work can be taxing on the mind and body, it’s through our combined effort that the world is inspired to give. It was an appropriate conclusion to AFPICON.

To Pam Williams and the selection committee, I thank you immensely for this golden opportunity. Marian Alexander DeBerry, Jackie Bonavia, and the fellows cohort, I miss our sessions and am still your greatest fan. John Huebler, I appreciated your advice on how to navigate the many offerings available to me at the conference. Morgan Collier, our chapter is in amazing hands, and I enjoyed getting to know you during the weekend. Channing Lenert, I’m so proud of you and was honored to see you recognized internationally for your contributions to our profession. Finally, to AFP Chicago, thank you for being a part of my professional journey. It was an honor to represent you.


Getting to Know 2018 AFP Chicago Fellow Erica Eckhardt, Development Associate, Public Allies

Erica has always had a passion for working with youth and organizations that understand and invest in their assets and talents.  She graduated from Loyola University Chicago and went right into working in the nonprofit sector, in direct service with youth in several different positions. As the demands for money and resources became apparent, she was often tasked with working to secure extra supplies, money, and talent in order to ensure that the programs she was working with were successful. Like all non-profit jobs, she also wore many hats including marketing and data reporting. Over the course of a few years, it became apparent that working on the development side and helping to tell the unique stories of the program participants was the place she was meant to be. In 2012, she transitioned to a full time development position at a youth serving community organization and gained invaluable experience from her coworkers and larger organization.

Erica has been working at Public Allies Chicago as the Development Associate for over two year. Their mission, to create a just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it, was what drew her to Public Allies, and the program participants keep her energized every day. She also enjoys the flexibility to work in different areas such as event planning, donor relations, and grant writing. It truly makes every week unique and keep her on her toes. She looks forward to a long career in the nonprofit sector, working to make the world a better place.

AFPC: Erica, when and how did your interest in development begin?
EE: I had been working two jobs, both of them at youth serving nonprofits in direct service. One of the jobs was an afterschool program where we were tasked to get groups of young girls active, while at the same time teach them about self-esteem and healthy relationships. There was a very small budget, so we often has to rely on in-kind donations and donated space to achieve this. It really made me get creative and search out people and locations that were willing to donate their time and space for this amazing program. It was really great because I could see first-hand the fruits of my very long labors in the girl’s attitudes and gratitude.  It was in working with these girls and seeing the impact, that I discovered that this was my passion. While I dearly loved working directly with participants, I saw that if I could put all of my efforts to secure the necessary resources that I could make a bigger impact. From there I tried to learn everything about the Development field and would volunteer to help draft grants and marketing materials to gain more experience. Later my transition to a full-time development associate just made sense. I love the unique perspective that I gotten working in both programming and development and feel that I can understand both sides of the field.  I am able to relate to the demands of the programming world, while at the same time explain what I need without burdening them.

AFPC: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Public Allies Chicago?
EE: Public Allies is a national organization that serves in 25 communities, including Chicago.  Being one of the largest, and oldest sites, it has been great learning about the history of our organization both locally and nationally. In my role, I support the development efforts of our local Chicago site, and at the same time work with our national office.  It is very interesting to work in our local office that only has six full time employees and our participants come into the office every week.  I am able to interact with them, and actually be involved in the programming. I am responsible for all grant writing and reporting for Chicago, as well as local donor cultivation and stewardship.  I also really enjoy working with our local advisory board and building relationships with local funders. On the other hand, I find it interesting and challenging to help write and research much larger national grants. I also help other sites write grants and research funding.  In one week I could be researching funding for our new site in New Orleans, planning a local alumni engagement event, and helping to run mock interviews for our participants. It is also really great to meet fellow coworkers in different communities and learn from their experience. I really love the fast paced environment here and the values that we display in every aspect of our work.

AFPC: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
EE: It’s been my experience that there aren’t enough people on the development teams to accomplish everything that needs to be done. For example, I am one of two development professionals in my organization, and I came from another team of two in my last job. Funders don’t especially want to fund non-program related expenses, so it is often times hard to find the money to be able to keep a large team in smaller organizations. It can be frustrating that you have a lot of ambition and great ideas that you want to accomplish, but don’t always have the manpower to get everything done. It can also be hard to make time for things like professional development, when you do not have a team large enough to support that effort. I am lucky in that in my current position, one of our values is continuous learning.

AFPC: What is your favorite quote or your motto?
EE: “People are capable at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”  - Paul Coelho

AFPC: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?
EE: My experience has been invaluable so far. I really enjoy connecting with other development professionals and being able to discuss things relevant to our work. My direct supervisor works remotely from another site, so I am finding that just being able to discuss issues that development professionals face and get an outside perspective has been great. I also enjoy networking with the other fellows and professionals and learning new techniques and ways to solve problems.

AFPC: What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?
EE: I am looking forward to learning more about my profession and working together to solve some of the issues that we face. I also really loved hearing from season professionals about their pathways, as I’m also interested in their personal journeys.

Getting to Know 2018 AFP Chicago Fellow Lubna Saleh, Regional Development Specialist – Europe, Lions Club International Foundation 

Lubna serves as a Development Specialist for the European region of Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF). In her current role, she manages a volunteer fundraising operation. Prior to working at LCIF, Lubna managed the Corner Store Intervention Project at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), which included increasing healthy food options in Chicago’s under-resourced inner city corner stores while also providing nutrition education to the local community residents. Lubna has a background in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University, IL. She has pursued her passion for service, fighting poverty, and addressing health disparities through her various roles in the service/nonprofit sector. In addition to her role at LCIF, she is an AmeriCorps (Greater Chicago Food Depository Placement) and Global Youth Connect (Rwanda Placement) alum. Lubna was born in Jordan and is a nature lover and explorer. Her favorite fruits are figs.

AFPC: Lubna, when and how did your interest in development begin?
LS:  I fell into my current development role about two years ago. I received a call from an old boss of mine, and he presented me with the opportunity to work in development. From the job description, I was hesitant to take the opportunity. I did not think I could do it. After thinking about it, I decided that it would be a disservice to myself not to try. I interviewed, and I got the job! I always try to align my career path with the work that activates and enriches my soul. For me, activation of the soul is through the service of others. I am happy that the service mission of the organization aligns with that of my heart. Since LCIF’s founding (exactly 50 years ago) more than 13,000 grants have been awarded totaling over US $1 billion to support humanitarian service projects worldwide.

AFPC: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Lions Club International Foundation?
LS: In my current role, I manage a volunteer fundraising operation of about 160 coordinators throughout Europe. I work through the volunteer coordinator structure to activate fundraising through the Lions volunteers, Lions Clubs, and the general public. A good percentage of time is spent on both training and working collaboratively with the various (grants, donors assistance, marketing, and translation) departments. Other duties include general communication correspondences and administrative duties. My favorite part of my work is building relationships with the Lion volunteers. Some of the Lions members have served as a Lion for over 40 years! Listening to their stories is very enriching. One of my Lion volunteers travels from Norway to Lebanon several times a year. He spends most of his time in a Syrian Refugee camp building schools and bringing school supplies and toys to Syrian refugee children. Lions are committed and passionate about the service work they do, and they each have their own story.

AFPC: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?
LS: The cultural of giving has changed in comparison to that of older generations. Living in digitalized world means we have the ability to share impactful stories, metrics, and pictures in real time. I think young development professionals need to learn how to navigate the digitalized platform of philanthropic giving to attract millennial markets while still maintaining the principals of the “old school way” of asking for money. I think this is what young development professionals may be tasked with.

AFPC: What is your favorite quote or your motto?
LS: An old Yiddish proverb, “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”

AFPC: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?
LS: It’s been great! The taxes talk has been my favorite workshop so far. I had the opportunity to hear from thought leaders Tim Bresnahan and Suzanne L. Shier. I learned about how tax law drives behavior. Some of the takeaways from the gift and wealth planning executives:

  • If tax benefit is not an option, focus on the non-tax benefit- the joy factor is essential.
  • If you have a tactic or strategy, research it.
  • Working through a volunteer structure is both a blessing and a curse, and that you need some emotional intelligence to navigate this structure.
  • We need to provide our volunteers with easy access to information, networking opportunity, and data visibility. We need to give them the tools that will make charitable giving more meaningful to them and others.
  • Praise people in public, criticize in private, and always offer perspective.

AFPC: What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?
LS:  I am excited to learn from experienced executives around the Chicagoland area. I am also grateful to learn from and connect with my fellows’18 cohort. I feel blessed for this incredible growth opportunity.

Betsy Rubinstein, 2018 AFP Chicago Chamberlain Scholar, Reports on the AFP International Fundraising Conference in NOLA!

It was a pleasure to be a Chamberlain Scholar for the AFP Chicago Chapter this month at the 2018 International Fundraising Conference, April 15 - 17 in New Orleans. The conference was three days long and was full of meaningful opportunities to learn, network, be inspired, and receive support from experts in the fundraising field.

I also had an opportunity to participate in the conference’s LGBTQ affinity group, through which I met some incredible people and built new friendships. At the conference, I learned about a variety of critical fundraising topics, such as annual campaigns, storytelling, cultivating corporate partnerships, monthly giving programs, promoting board diversity, donor segmentation, and fundraising appeal writing. The appeal writing session was particularly meaningful to me, because I will be leading the development of our annual appeals this year, and the best practices that I learned will be directly applicable to my work. I intend to also train my fundraising and marketing/communications team on the learnings from this session, as I think the whole team could benefit from this knowledge.

The Closing General Session of the conference was a definite highlight. Bryan Stevenson – Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative – and an acclaimed public interest lawyer gave an incredibly powerful talk about the criminalization and mass incarceration of men and boys of color in our country, and his work to support these individuals who otherwise have nowhere and no one to turn to. He reminded us about how we are all stewards of social justice, and that “hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” He definitely made us all hopeful.

I hope I will have an opportunity to attend the International Fundraising Conference next year; it was certainly an experience that I will not forget.

Betsy E. Rubinstein, MA, LSW  |  Development Project Manager

Getting to Know AFP Chicago Fellow Jessica Young, Manager of Corporate Partnerships,
City Year Chicago

Jessica Young is the Manager of Corporate Partnerships for City Year Chicago. In her role on City Year Chicago's development team, Jessica stewards relationships with companies that support the organization;s work through team and program corporate sponsorships. Prior to joining City Year, Jessica worked in the Advancement Office at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where she supported fundraising efforts for the Colleges of Education, Social Work, Applied Health Sciences, and Urban Planning and Public Affairs.

Jessica began her career in the nonprofit sector as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Washington, DC, where she completed one year of service with DC LEARNs (DC Literacy Education, Advocacy, & Resource Network). She went on to manage various education programs operated out of DC LEARNs, before taking a position with Jumpstart, a national early education nonprofit focused on promoting kindergarten readiness for low-income preschoolers. Jessica managed the Jumpstart programs at UC-Berkeley and then Loyola University Chicago, before joining the Advancement team at UIC and eventually arriving at City Year.

Jessica holds a Bachelors in Education from Northern Illinois University and a Masters in Public Administration & Nonprofit Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

AFPC: Jessica, when and how did your interest in development begin?

JY: I first became interested in development work during my year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I served with a small nonprofit, and was focused primarily on capacity building, which is of course what development, at its foundation, is really all about! Seeking out new grant opportunities, doing outreach in the community, and searching for ways to tell our story in a creative and compelling way allowed me to see the exciting yet always challenging world of fundraising.

While my next few positions in the nonprofit sector were directly focused on program administration, my work continued to intersect with the development side of things, primarily as I hosted donor visits at the schools and within the communities my program was operating. Once I began my Master’s program at UIC, and had the opportunity to do coursework focused on topics of fundraising and development, combined with my previous exposure to areas in the field, my interest expanded and I was inspired to finally make the move from program to development.

AFPC: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at City Year Chicago?

JY: At City Year Chicago, I proudly serve as the Manager of Corporate Partnerships. In this role, I work closely with our team and program sponsors who are funding the amazing service of our corps in the schools in which City Year serves. There are several opportunities for our team and program sponsors to interact with our corps and engage in the work that we do, and it is my responsibility to ensure that they are taking advantage of those opportunities throughout the school year.

I really enjoy being able to steward these important relationships. It’s fun to show our corporate partners the incredible work our talented corps is doing throughout the community; it’s also rewarding to help companies see the impact they can have when they choose to invest in the communities in which they live and do business. Through school visits, corporate service days, and professional development events hosted by corporate partners for our corps members, I am able to directly engage with several aspects of corporate social responsibility within the nonprofit education space. I feel very fortunate to be doing this type of development work with City Year Chicago!

AFPC: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

JY: I think that development professionals, as with most positions in the nonprofit sector, are often expected to wear many hats. It’s likely you will be expected to step outside of your initial “job description” and take on additional duties and responsibilities to support the rest of the team and the greater good of the organization and its mission. Therefore, it can be quite challenging to maintain any sort of focus on intentional and strategic professional development for yourself, while you are in that space. Oftentimes, your professional development becomes very much a product of on-the-job learning through unexpected exposure to these opportunities that fall outside of your bucket. As a young development professional, it’s important to be aware of these growth opportunities—even when they might not initially seem like it at the time!

AFPC: What is your favorite quote or your motto?

JY: You must do the things you think cannot do—Eleanor Roosevelt

AFPC: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?

JY: I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to participate as an AFP Fellow this year! Just the chance alone to focus so intentionally on the field of development and my own growth within it has been hugely beneficial. I have enjoyed getting to know my peers and learn about their organizations, as well as hearing about their own challenges and successes—they represent the fantastic work being done here in Chicago, and I have so much to learn from my time spent with all of them.

AFPC: What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

JY:  Having started my career in development just three years ago, I am most looking forward to the continuing education I am receiving and the relationships I am building with our mentors and my fellow Fellows ;-) This work is all about relationships—the more (people) you know, the more you can grow! I am excited to learn from my peers and mentors, and to share resources and ideas and strategies with each other. I am also really looking forward to participating in inspiring events like the “Faces of Philanthropy Awards Luncheon” this month, as well as Development Day in the fall. 

Getting to Know AFP Chicago Fellow Docia Buffington, Development Director, Enlace Chicago

Docia Buffington has served for four years as Development Director for Enlace Chicago, a Community Based Organization in the Little Village community. Before coming to Enlace Chicago, Docia Buffington worked for nearly seven years as a labor, youth and community organizer, traveling across the country to support campaigns focused on economic and social justice.

Docia has worked with Enlace since 2009. Her first role with the organization was to coordinate the placement of over 300 community members and youth in jobs and internships. Later, Docia was instrumental in the creation of postsecondary programs and a college scholarship fund for undocumented students. In 2013, Docia served as organizer and principal writer of the Little Village Quality of Life Plan; the Plan won the prestigious Outstanding Community Plan Award from The Chicago Community Trust at the LISC Chicago Community Neighborhood Development Awards in 2015. As Development Director, Docia now coordinates fundraising and marketing for the organization. In her role, she is responsible for soliciting and securing over four million dollars in philanthropic investment supporting Enlace’s mission. In 2017, Docia was named one of Chicago Scholar’s 35 under 35. In 2018, Docia is overseeing the construction and grand opening of a new office and community center for the organization. Docia lives in Little Village with her husband and two young children.

AFPC: Docia, when and how did your interest in development begin?

DB: I never think of myself as some who was interested in development, but when I look back at my career, I have always had fundraising and communications interwoven in my work. Very early in my career I worked and then ran a door-to-door fundraising canvas in support of a campaign to raise the minimum wage in New York State. It is far from being my favorite work experience, but it was hard fast fundraising and it made me unafraid of asking for money to support important work. Whether in organizing or programmatic work, leveraging resources was always one of my strengths. However, it really was others that saw this path for me, when I didn’t see it for myself. To be honest, it took some convincing for me to apply for a position in development, but when I broke it down in terms of the actual work I realized that writing, designing, marketing, researching, strategizing, and building/stewarding relationships was exactly the kind of work that I liked to do. I have always been a builder and that is what continues to excite me about the work.

AFPC: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Enlace Chicago?

DB: At Enlace, I oversee fundraising and communications. When I first started I was charged with, (1) diversifying and increasing revenue, (2) improving the quality and reach of external communications, (3) developing internal systems for grant management, (4) launching an upcoming Capital Campaign, and (5) building a development team. My work over the near 4 years since has stayed focused on these objectives.

The year before I started we were 73% government funded and our total private revenue was only 27%. We had healthy total revenue over four million, but had a small operating deficit. My work has largely been about diversifying our private foundation grants portfolio to increase our flexibility and to create more sustainability across the organization. Our revenue last year was just under five million, but more importantly, our portfolio was 64% private funding and our surplus was substantial. This diversification has protected us as grants fluctuate, and during a State budget impasse- we continued to thrive. You don’t do this kind of work alone. We built strong processes in development, program management, and finance in order to build a more stable and sustainable organization.

I love the communications side of my work. It has taken time to build up our platforms, grow our lists, move from a logo to a brand, and then work and re-work language to reflect our growing organization, but I have always been passionate about getting all of those pieces together and then wrapping it all up in beautiful, clean materials. There is something very satisfying about that final product.

We are in midst of constructing our new office and community space, and that project has been a huge undertaking for our organization. I have had to learn Capital Campaigns quickly, within a difficult fundraising climate in our State, and on a deadline. I have had to learn about construction as well!

The most critical objective for me was to build a development team at the organization. This is still a work in progress, but I have an amazing grant writer and communications assistant. This year, I am working to develop a staffing plan for my department to build the kind of team structure that can maintain growth long term.

AFPC: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

DB: I think some of our hardest working development professionals are carrying huge weights at small agencies, and for those professionals it is hard to make time for mentorship and professional development. I think there is also an “earn your keep” mentality about development staff that isn’t reflective of what it truly takes to build an organization. Foundationally: development, programmatic, external, and financial work need to be aligned and strong. You can’t raise money and keep money when the other pieces are not working, and young development professionals need to know how to address these kinds of organizational concerns. They also need to know when to leave. I have been very lucky to be at an organization where program quality, external visibility, and financial management are strong. This environment has had everything to do with my team’s successes. In more challenging environments development staff are not able to shine, even when their work has been exemplary. A perfect proposal won’t save you if your attachments say something else.  

AFPC: What is your favorite quote or your motto?

DB: Palante, siempre palante. Forward, always forward.

AFPC: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?

DB: I have really enjoyed meeting others in my field and having access to a talented group of mentors. The discussions so far have pushed me to think about my own strengths and weaknesses, and have allowed me to compare structures and priorities of the other development teams and professionals that have presented. This perspective has helped me already in thinking through how to strengthen my own work. So much of my work is structured around grant based fundraising and so learning more about fundraising focused on major gifts, Board stewardship, etc. has deepened my knowledge of what it takes to develop those areas of work.  

AFPC: What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

DB: I look forward to learning more about my fellow Fellows, and build community.  I also look forward to building relationships and learning more from the many development professionals we have met and will meet in the program.

 Getting to Know AFP Chicago Fellow Ishan Johnson, Manager of Auxiliary Relations, Chicago History Museum

Ishan Johnson serves as Manager of Auxiliary Relations for the Chicago History Museum. In his current role, he is responsible for overseeing the museum’s Auxiliary Groups: the Guild and the Costume Council. Since joining CHM in 2016, Ishan has managed more than 30 programs and events that have broadened the mission and values of the institution. Notable fundraisers Ishan has implemented include, the opening night gala for Making Mainbocher: the First American Couturier, An Evening of Intrigue: with special guest Valerie Plame, and the Designer of Excellence Award dinner honoring Carolina Herrera. Prior to CHM, Ishan served as the Development Assistant at the Marwen Foundation, and began his fundraising career with Snow City Arts.

A former opera singer, Ishan holds a Vocal Performance degree from Boston University, and is a graduate of the James Collier Apprentice Program of the Des Moines Metro Opera. He sang as a company member of Opera Boston for seven seasons, appearing in their award-winning productions of Madame White Snake, and The Nose. A native of Long Island, New York, he has been recognized as a Coca-Cola Scholar, Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholar, and the winner of the Lewis D. Apsley Scholarship of Boston University.

AFP CHICAGO: Ishan, when and how did your interest in development begin?

IJ: It was December 23, 2011, and I was forwarded an article from the Boston Herald with the headline “Opera Boston Closes.” I had been a company member for nearly seven years, and no idea my beloved company was even in trouble. Little did I know that the company was operating with a $500,000 deficit, and highly publicized major sponsorship request that was not fulfilled. This news two days before Christmas was devastating, but it ignited a new passion. I started to self-learn what fundraising was, how organizations of different sizes manage their fiscal responsibilities, and who was responsible for maintaining them. Thus, in the fall of 2012 I chose to undertake this field, move across the country, and become a development professional.

AFP CHICAGO: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at the Chicago History Museum? What is your favorite part about working for the organization? 

IJ: My role at CHM is to oversee our Auxiliary Groups: the Guild Women’s Board and the Costume Council. My main focus over the next two fiscal years is raising funds to fulfill each group’s capital campaign pledge commitment. I work with resources both in and out of the museum to plan exhibit galas, member programming, and signature events that seek to engage all 450 of my constituents, while promoting the mission and values of the museum.

My favorite part of working for CHM is my exposure to the history that surrounds me everyday. I recently had the opportunity to touch Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, his moccasins, and the sheets he took his last breath in. Such an awe-inspiring experience that only an insider would get to experience. Since working with the Costume Council includes the preservation and documentation of the museum’s 50,000-piece fashion and textiles collection, I’ve also seen everything from Revolutionary War uniforms, to hats from last year’s Women’s March.

AFP Chicago:  What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

IJ: In the era in which social media reigns supreme, I feel we are being challenged to revamp fundraising as something that’s “cool,” and made readily available on our smartphones.

AFP Chicago: What is your favorite quote or your motto?

IJ: I have always connected with Robert Frost’s prose from North of Boston:

The best way out is always through.

AFP Chicago: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?

IJ: So we just had our orientation session, and I enjoyed hearing the life stories of our current class, co-chairs, and AFP Chicago staff. I have tons of questions for everyone, and that’s a good thing!

AFP Chicago: What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

IJ: I’m looking forward to learning from our experienced colleagues within the Greater Chicago philanthropic community. We’re such mighty forces and advocates for our organizations, and it’s exciting to know that I get to connect with the best and brightest in our industry. I also hope the fellows program will help me grow professionally, and become a catalyst for positive change.

 Getting to Know AFP Chicago Fellow Lauren Birchlove, Institutional Giving Associate, Cara

Earning a certificate in the first grade for “Caring Deeply About Causes,” Lauren started her social justice career at an early age. Sticking with it years later, she graduated from Arizona State University in 2014, with a B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Upon moving to Chicago shortly thereafter, Lauren served as Citizens Program Manager for Best Buddies Illinois, where she paired adults with and without disabilities in one-to-one friendships, distributed monthly e-newsletters, and planned quarterly events. She then jumped into a Development Coordinator role at Moneythink, a nonprofit focusing on financial coaching for college-bound youth. At Moneythink, she wore many hats, from writing acknowledgement letters to establishing new moves management processes.                              

Lauren is now the Institutional Giving Associate at Cara, a workforce development and job placement agency whose mission is to unlock the power and purpose within our communities and ourselves to achieve real and lasting success. At Cara, Lauren is charged with managing, cultivating and stewarding a portfolio of foundation and corporate grant-making organizations, as well as conducting prospect research to grow Cara’s philanthropy pipeline. She works in collaboration with her Development team to identify strategic communication opportunities with existing and prospective funders, as well as engaging multiple departments across the organization to develop thorough and compelling proposal and report materials.

Her favorite part of her job at Cara is that she has the privilege to advocate a phenomenal mission, and works alongside some of the most compassionate and talented change-makers in Chicago’s social purpose sector. When she’s not at the office, she’s usually rocking out on the drums, or hanging out with her two cats!

AFP CHICAGO: Lauren, when and how did your interest in development begin?

LM: When I explored a career in the social purpose sector, I thought I wanted to go into direct service. It didn’t really occur to me that there were other options until I took a fundraising and resource development course at Arizona State University, in 2013. My Instructor’s name was Torrie Taj, CFRE. She is an electric personality, and sold me on the art of fundraising from day one. She encouraged that sharing the need and asking for help is successful when done with boldness, hammering into us that people do want to give, but they have to be given the chance. That resonated with me.

AFP CHICAGO: Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Cara?

LM: It’s an exciting time to be in my position at Cara. The organization has served the city of Chicago for 27 years, and over the past few years we have evolved into a new “era” through a rebrand, service delivery model expansion, and more. As Institutional Giving Associate, I have a direct hand in guiding our narrative within LOI’s, proposals, report materials, etc. I’ve been granted a great deal of creative liberty in that regard, and I’m honored to have been given this responsibility. I get to share our work with institutional donors who have been supporters for many years, and those who are new to the organization entirely. In both cases, I field questions that keep me on my toes and engage in dialogue that fuels my ideas. It’s inspiring to hear about an institution’s philanthropic vision, and I love being part of conversations that identify how mutual goals can be achieved.

At its core, I also really enjoy the grant writing process. It’s like a puzzle, but instead of 1000 pieces, you’re working with 1000 characters. Including spaces.

AFP CHICAGO: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

LM: Donors, particularly on the institutional side, are increasingly metrics-focused. I feel that as a development professional, you have to be prepared to make a case for the return a philanthropic investment will see, and success stories alone aren’t enough to prove tangible, positive outcomes over the long-term. We have to be balanced in our skill-set, adept at appealing to donors’ emotional needs while addressing their interests as financial stakeholders. We need to be really good people-persons, but we also need to be experts in our area of service to confidently articulate how we are making a measurable difference – or “moving the needle,” as we so often say.

AFP CHICAGO: What is your favorite quote or your motto?

  “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

AFP CHICAGO: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?

LM: It hasn’t been long, but I already know this is a group that will not be passive in this experience. These Fellows are bringing widely diverse perspectives and excellent questions to the table. Nobody seems hesitant to share their thoughts or respectfully push back. We’ve all jumped in head first. That’s what I was hoping to get from my cohort, and it should make all of our sessions and workshops that much more enriching.

AFP CHICAGO: What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

LM: I look forward to sharing time with people who are changing the world. I’m excited to learn from leaders who have different experiences and backgrounds, personally and professionally. I’m hoping that through this experience, I am exposed to aspects of fundraising – and the social purpose sector in general – that will shake up and broaden how I see this work, and my role in it. I’m looking forward to this practice – we are all better for learning together.


Getting to Know 2017 AFP Chicago Fellow Marty Makowski, Development Officer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois

Marty, when and how did your interest in development begin?

The Boys & Girls Club welcomed me to their ranks after an AmeriCorps term through Campus Compact at the age of 22. I lasted about a year before moving back into the programmatic side of non-profit work with the American Red Cross. The hiatus ended about two and half years ago when a colleague convinced me to return to development and support an organization I love.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois? What is your favorite part about working for the organization?

The American Red Cross is a great blend of a traditional human services organizations and one that values innovation locally, nationally and globally. I have the ability to partner with donors across disaster preparedness/response , blood services, the armed forces and even international disaster relief. It’s that diversity of work that motivates me.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

Finding an workplace that is willing to let young professionals take risks.

What is your favorite quote or your motto?

"In thought, faith / In word, wisdom / In deed, courage/ In life, service."

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?

I have the benefit of reflecting towards the end of the fellowship experience…and it has been eye-opening to become a part of a philanthropic community so generous with its time. Rarely do we have the opportunity to learn from so many experts in a short period of time and I would be remiss to not mention the other fellows as a source of inspiration.

What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

It’s such a logical next step to fold in the mentorship program and I’m looking for to that opportunity this spring and continuing to be engaged in the AFP community in Chicago. 

 Getting to Know 2017 AFP Chicago Fellow Kimberly Vann, Director of Development, Safer Foundation

Kimberly Vann has more than 25 years of professional experience, including three years in fundraising. As Director of Development at the Safer Foundation, she oversees the grant seeking process including prospect research, proposal writing and reporting requirements for government, corporate and private grants. Kimberly directs Safer’s annual fundraising drives and has recently launched its Planned Giving Program. Safer is a Social Impact agency providing social services and operating social enterprises focused on the reentry population (people with criminal records). Kimberly is committed to building relationships beneficial to organizations by creating an environment of trust and collaboration among staff, leadership and external stakeholders.

Prior to joining to Safer, she served as Associate Director, Communications and Education, at the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), where she implemented marketing campaigns and developed continuing education programs. Before INA, Kimberly served as Communications Coordinator in the American Bar Association Division for Bar Services, where she created print and online communications, managed award programs and was a staff liaison for communications, diversity and sponsorship committees.

Kimberly received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Communications from Columbia College Chicago. She is a past recipient of the Association Forum of Chicagoland Workforce Diversity Scholarship and was a protégé in the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Peer Mentoring Program. Kimberly is currently a member of AFP’s 2017 Fellows class. An avid music lover, she is the author of a music blog, Sounding Off: Musical Reflections and Recollections, currently posted on WordPress.com.

Kimberly, when and how did your interest in development begin?

I landed in development completely by accident. In September 2013, I interviewed for a Communications position at Safer. The VP chose another candidate, but said she liked my enthusiasm and “had to find a way to get me on her team.” She asked if I would consider working in Development. I read the job description, agreed to interview for the job and was hired three months later. Almost four years later, I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Safer Foundation? What is your favorite part  about working for the organization?

I’ve been described as the traffic cop in charge, but I think I’m more like a utility infielder. I coordinate our team’s efforts in working with other departments—accounting, programs, client services, policy/advocacy and others—to prepare funding proposals. I draft funding synopses, assign deadlines, write and edit narratives, then help pull all the pieces together for proposal submission. 

What I like best about working at Safer is being part of a team of professionals who creatively find ways to help people society often ignores--people with arrest and conviction records. We provide skills training, employment opportunities and supportive services for these returning citizens. Our policy and advocacy team drafts and proposes legislation that eliminates barriers to employment. When returning citizens get hired and stay employed, it reduces the likelihood of re-incarceration. It also allows them to provide for their families and become productive members of their communities. Our work changes lives, families and communities.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that development professionals face today?

Many of us rely heavily on government grants, so the challenge is to diversify funding sources. We have to build relationships with more corporate and private funders, collaborate with different organizations, demonstrate the impact of our programs and services and do all those things better than other applicants.

What is your favorite quote or your motto? My favorite quote is byMaya Angelou and itsummarizes how I feel about my personal and professional life, “When you learn, teach; when you get, give.” Development professionals are able to enjoy all those experiences everyday.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What has your experience been like so far?

As someone still relatively new to the world of philanthropy and fundraising, the experience has been extremely valuable. The educational programs I’ve attended have given me practical tools I can use immediately. I appreciate being able to contact one of the Fellows or Co-Chairs, if I have a question about planned giving programs, donor renewal rates or other development-related questions. This program has connected me to people I hope will remain part of my professional network.

What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

I’m excited about attending more educational sessions that will help me continue growing in my current position. I also look forward to connecting with other seasoned development professionals and planning a career path that involves development and communications. 

Getting to Know 2017 AFP Chicago Fellow Stefanie Skaggs, Development and Communications Manager, All Chicago Making Homelessness History 

Stefanie Skaggs joined All Chicago Making Homelessness History in 2014 and is the Development and Communications Manager.  Her current responsibilities include leading the successful execution of multiple components of the development and communications plan and strategy to ensure growing financial support for All Chicago.

Prior to joining All Chicago in 2014, Stefanie was a programs consultant at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  She has also served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Governor's Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach, where she focused primarily on planning, communications, grant writing and development for a statewide women's summit.

Stefanie received a BA in Political Science and English from Ohio University and her MBA from Regent’s College based in United Kingdom.

Stefanie, when and how did your interest in development begin?

I was drawn to development because I am able to work with individuals, businesses, and foundations to raise awareness around causes I am passionate about.  I love that I must think strategically about how to increase the contributions of those individuals and groups by building relationships and exploring new fundraising techniques and ideas. Every day is different, exciting, and challenging.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at All Chicago Making Homelessness History? What is your favorite part about working for the organization?

On any given night, nearly 6,000 Chicagoans don’t have a place to call home. Tens of thousands more are just one unexpected setback away from joining them. Together, we can ensure that all our neighbors have stable homes. All Chicago Making Homelessness History collaboratively addresses the complex issue of homelessness through our four signature approaches: Emergency Financial Assistance, Community Partnerships, Data Analysis, and Training and Research.

My role is to manage our special events, annual appeal, mid-level donors, and several grants. I love working collaboratively for a cause that I truly believe is solvable.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I believe that the biggest challenge is that there is no broad formal training for development professionals. It can be hard to figure out how to grow professionally and what opportunities are available. Also, many organizations don’t have the resources for many professional development opportunities, which means you need to be proactive. It takes a lot of effort to explore ways to grow, network, and learn new skills on your own. This program has been a great way to meet to seasoned professionals who are the experts on so many different topics.

What is your favorite quote or your motto?

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” ― Benjamin Franklin

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

There are many things that excite me about being an AFP Fellow. It is so fulfilling to be working with my peers and have learn from our great mentors and AFP members. Our special sessions have also proved to be invaluable, it is wonderful to receive feedback from experts in an interactive way. I am already thinking and planning how to these strategies with our donor base.


Getting to Know 2017 AFP Chicago Fellow Lauren Sheely,  Development Assistant, Court Theatre 

Lauren brings a broad-based knowledge of theater administration and production to her role as Development Assistant at Court Theatre, where she primarily handles Annual Fund appeals and special event planning. She believes in the value of art and performance as a tool of education and empathy, and her work in fundraising helps support the continued production of theater that challenges and moves audiences. Lauren is particularly proud of Court’s education programs in high schools across the South Side. Lauren previously served as the Director of Development for The Poor Theatre.

Beyond her work in Development, Lauren has served as a director, dramaturg, and artistic consultant for a number of Chicago theater companies, including TimeLine Theatre, The Poor Theatre, and The Commission Theatre Co. Lauren received her B.A. with Honors in Theatre and Dance from Grinnell College. Besides this four-year detour to Iowa, she is a lifelong Chicagoan. Most weekends she can be found on the lakefront (weather permitting), at Wrigley Field, or in a theater. 

Lauren, when and how did your interest in development begin?

I became interested in development through my experiences working in theatre administration. I’ve always really loved theatre, and have been active in Chicago’s scene since high school. By happenstance I ended up doing some appeal writing and event planning for a very small company, and realized that my passion for the art made me a good advocate. Development to me is another form of storytelling, one where I can connect the work an organization does to the donors who can make that work possible. It appeals to both my artistic and organizational sensibilities.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Court Theatre? What is your favorite part about working for the organization?

As the Development Assistant at Court, I’m a little bit of a Girl Friday, taking on lots of different tasks for the Development Department. I primarily manage the Annual Fund and handle the accounting for the department, and then assist the other three staff members with miscellaneous tasks. For the past season I also coordinated about 15 meetings and donor events.

My favorite part of working at Court is the variety of work that I get to do. One day I might be drafting articles for our donor newsletter, the next I might be reviewing catering contracts and reaching out artists to coordinate a performance at a donor dinner. Every day is a little bit different, and I get to work with so many different members of our staff to help connect our donors with the art and artists onstage. It’s a place where the art, the outreach, and the fundraising all feel intimately connected, and that’s a really special environment to be in.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I think the role of development professionals isn’t widely understood by most people in my generation, and that causes a lot of misconceptions about the field, and also can make it hard for a young professional to find the proper mentorship and educational opportunities to grow in the field. I didn’t really have any concept of what a development professional did until I inadvertently stumbled across the field through other avenues, and I’m really grateful to have landed at Court where my boss pointed me in the direction of AFP. It’s taught me a lot about the art of fundraising and development, which goes beyond the commonly held assumption that development is just asking people for money.

What is your favorite quote or your motto?

“I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”- Tom Stoppard

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

I’m really excited to be surrounded by a cohort of peers and mentors who all have experience in the field. Having access to so many educational opportunities and resources is such a great opportunity to learn, to gain more skills, and to create relationships with peers that will serve me well as I continue to grow in the position.


Getting to Know 2017 AFP Chicago Fellow, Anna Villarreal, Donor Relations & Development Director, Boy Scouts of America, Pathway to Adventure Council

Anna Villarreal is a highly self-motivated and results-driven non-profit management professional with entrepreneurial passion, drive and vision. Anna earned her Bachelors of Science in Psychology at Northeastern Illinois University. She began her career working with students with behavioral and learning disabilities in Chicago Public Schools. Working in Chicago Public Schools, Anna discovered her passion for building stronger families and communities. She realized that more needed to be done outside of school to carry out her mission. She began working for the local Boy Scouts of America chapter five years ago. As a result of her successful efforts in leadership and fundraising she was promoted to Development Director. As Scouting evolved in the Chicagoland area, Anna was tasked to develop a major gifts strategy and guide its execution. The long-term plan will allow Scouting supporters to play a larger role to grow the movement. In this role she has worked diligently in managing and securing half a million dollars in major gifts annually.

Anna strives to do her part to carry out a larger goal for humanity. She intends to gain the necessary tools and knowledge base presented by the fellowship program to ensure the success in her personal career growth and the growth of Scouting. In her spare time Anna enjoys spending time with her husband and her two dogs on the north side of Chicago.

Anna, when and how did your interest in development begin?

Working in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) directly with youth, I got to know firsthand the problems youth faced in their communities and home. Many of the scholars I worked with had difficulty focusing for a myriad of reasons, one being not having a stable home and environment to grow in. I wanted to do more for the kids that are growing up in Chicago the way that I did. I was unsure of how I could make a bigger impact until I was approached by Scouting. I was hesitant at first to walk away from CPS, but when I learned what kind of impact I could be making I fell in love with the program.

My interest in development began when I realized early on that funding was a necessary component to carrying out vital programs for youth. I learned that there are endless possibilities of raising funds if you just start a conversation with the right person.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Boy Scouts of America? What is your favorite part about working for the organization?

My favorite part has been meeting families that are extremely dedicated to Scouting. There is a passion for Scouting that I have not yet seen in another organization. When you think of Scouting, you think of the young boy that will help your grandmother cross the street. There is so much more to the organization that not many know about. I know that my work in development impacts the lives of the 26,000+ Scouts and families we serve, which is very rewarding.

Currently, I am working to expand our work force development programs. This co-ed program is known as Exploring and serves young people 12 to 20 years old. One of the pilot programs I oversee is for middle school girls in 6th-8th grade. They will focus on honing their leadership and outdoor skills to bring them up to the same level as a Boy Scout the same age. If the program catches on it has the potential to be adopted nationally. This is just one example of the type of work that I truly enjoy and am passionate about.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I feel that the biggest challenge young development professional’s face is not gaining the needed experience or skills that employers seek. It is difficult to break into this field without enough experience and in turn you are not sought out by potential employers because of the lack of experience. Which is why the fellowship program that AFP Chicago provides is extremely important for young development professionals.

What is your favorite quote or your motto?

We cannot become what we want by remaining who we are. –Max Depree

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

I am looking forward to meeting the talented professionals that work in my field. Together we can learn from each other and be a support system for one another. If you want to go far, work collaboratively if you want to go fast, work alone. I am a huge believer in team work for that reason. Development skills are gained through learning from people who are successful in their careers. AFP is offering that to us and I am very grateful for the opportunity.


Getting to Know 2017 AFP Chicago Fellow, Betsy Rubinstein, Associate Director of Strategic Development for Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS)

Betsy Rubinstein, MA, LSW
is a Licensed Social Worker and the Associate Director of Strategic Development for Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS). Over the past eight years in the non-profit sector, Betsy has developed and pursued her passion for philanthropy, women’s health, LGBTQ issues, and social justice. In her role as Associate Director, she provides leadership in program development, grant writing, strategic planning and quality management. Prior to working at HHCS, Betsy managed the Lesbian Community Care Project at Howard Brown Health, which included overseeing the organization’s women’s health department. In addition to her role at HHCS, she serves as Board Chair for Chicago Women’s Health Center, and is a former member of the LBTQ Giving Council of Chicago Foundation for Women.

Betsy holds an MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a BA in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis. Betsy was recognized by The L Stop as one of the “Top Ten Chicago Lesbians to Look Out For” in 2012, and by the Windy City Times as a “30 Under 30” awardee in 2013. Betsy lives with her wife and daughter in Evanston, Illinois.

Betsy, when and how did your interest in development begin?

My interest in development began when I sat on the LBTQ Giving Council of Chicago Foundation for Women between 2010 and 2014. The Council was a giving circle of women who were dedicated to fundraising and grant-making for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, as well as transgender people. With this group, I was proud to collaboratively raise around $12,000 each year to give out small grants that really made a difference for these grassroots organizations. It was at this time that I learned about the power of development and philanthropy, and recognized that even the best conceived programs cannot operate if they don’t have the resources to accomplish it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at Heartland Human Care Services? What is your favorite part about working for the organization?

My role at HHCS is the Associate Director of Strategic Development, which means that I work together with our program team to develop and design new social service programs, and create the concept and content for grant proposals. I also produce grant proposals for existing programming to ensure that we can continue doing our impactful work. My grant proposals focus on a variety of program areas including workforce development, refugee and immigrant services, supportive services for public housing residents, asset building, domestic and sexual violence recovery, freedom from trafficking, and vulnerable youth. My role also includes conducting prospect research on new and existing funding sources to make recommendations for future cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies.

My favorite part about working for HHCS, and Heartland Alliance as a whole, is the plethora of services that we offer our participants. Our anti-poverty programs include everything from safety, health, housing, education, economic opportunity, and justice, so there is never a dull moment with program development.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I think the biggest challenge is that there isn’t necessarily a clear educational path to the development field. When I was in school for social service administration, I think there was one class on grant writing, but I don’t remember there being anything else focused on development. If there are other areas of study that direct people to the development field, I’m not aware of them. Then, once someone has landed in the development field, there is a tendency to get siloed in a specific area. Grant writing is a good example of this. Once someone develops their skills in grant writing, it is difficult to move into other parts of development (e.g., individual giving, appeal-writing, campaigns, major gifts, special events, etc.). I feel lucky that I work at a place like Heartland Alliance, where the development and marketing/communications team is made up of almost 20 people, because I get an opportunity to try out and develop my skills in other areas of development.

What is your favorite quote or your motto?

“Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” – Euripides.

This brings me back to my Philosophy days, but it still rings true today. Essentially, for me, this means that it is important to always be a life-long learner.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do some hands-on workshops focused on a variety of development skills. For example, over the summer, we will be participating in a workshop focused on major gifts, and we’ll have an opportunity to role-play and practice the skill of soliciting major gifts. The development field, to me, is something that you learn by doing. So, the opportunity to practice these skills is very exciting. I feel grateful to be a part of the AFP Chicago Fellows program this year.

Getting to Know AFP Chicago Board Member, Crystal Williams, CNP, Assistant Director at the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University

Crystal Williams is assistant director at the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University. Founded in 1999, the Axelson Center is a resource for nonprofit staff and volunteers in the Chicago region. Professional, non-credit educational programs are offered throughout the year including in-person workshops, a three-day intensive BootCamp for New Nonprofit CEOs program and customized trainings. In her role, Crystal oversees execution of all programs and is the lead for content development. She has more than 10 years of nonprofit experience and started her career in fundraising. Prior to joining North Park University in 2013, she served as development associate at Horizons for Youth and development director at Our Lady of Tepeyac High School.

Crystal has a Bachelor of Arts from Dominican University and a Master of Nonprofit Administration from North Park University. She received her Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance in 2014. Crystal is a board member with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Chicago Chapter and was recently elected to serve in 2017 as board secretary, an officer position on the executive committee.

Crystal, when and how did your interest in development begin?

As a child, I was a Girl Scout. I sold quite a few cookies (with the help of my parents) and learned how important it is to make the ask because you never know who will say yes. As I entered middle school, I gave fundraising a rest then in my sophomore year of college, I was a phonathon caller. I discovered I had a real knack for developing a rapport with donors and prospects. After a couple semesters, I was promoted to phonathon manager and have been passionate about fundraising ever since.

What is your favorite part about working for North Park?

North Park is a joyful place where community abounds and Swedish traditions like fika, to connect with others over coffee, are cherished. I have wonderful colleagues at North Park and it is a pleasure working alongside them as we serve those who come to learn and study at our institution.

What is your motto or favorite quote?

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

What do you enjoy doing in your time away from your development work?

I enjoy cooking, trying new restaurants and connecting with friends. This year, I also became a runner and completed the Chicago Marathon. It was incredible!

You joined the AFP board this year. What are a couple of highlights?

I was excited to have my first experience as a board member with AFP Chicago. I served on the committee on directorship and strategic planning committee. I’m looking forward to several initiatives in the strategic plan including greater collaboration with the broader philanthropic community, enhancing leadership development at the board and committee level, and a renewed focus on engagement with our members.


Getting to Know 2016 AFP Chicago Membership Committee Co-Chair, Teresa Battaglia, Donor Relations Coordinator, Archdiocese of Chicago

Teresa Battaglia is the Donor Relations Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Chicago. She earned a bachelor's degree in history from DePaul University.  Teresa specializes in donor relations, event planning, and volunteer management.  In her free time, she enjoys strength and conditioning training, cheering on her Chicago Blackhawks, and dining out with friends. 

Teresa, when and how did your interest in development begin?
My interest in development began my junior year of college while interning at Big Shoulders Fund. Up to that point, I had only really known charitable giving as canned food or clothing drives, giving your loose change to charity, or scholarships for school.  I didn't realize there was strategic planning involved or the importance of the relationships that acted as the base for giving. It was very eye-opening to see that someone could do this for a living. I always tell people that everyone says you can be a lawyer, a teacher or a doctor, but no one tells you that you can a fundraiser. 

What is your favorite part about working for the Archdiocese of Chicago?
A majority of the projects I handle benefit scholarships and programming for the Office of Catholic Schools. The Archdiocese of Chicago's Catholic Schools is the largest private school system in the country.  We have many families who struggle with tuition payments, yet still send their children to our schools because they understand the importance of students receiving individualized attention in caring environments. I firmly believe every student deserves access to the best possible education, regardless of their family's socioeconomic standing.  I received scholarship support to attend my Chicago Catholic high school, so I'm happy the process has gone full circle, and has allowed me to help others. 

What is your motto or favorite quote?
"Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes." 

What do you enjoy doing in your time away from your development work?
When I'm not working, I enjoy strength and conditioning training and trying new restaurants. I'm a lifelong Chicago Blackhawks fan and I am that person on your Facebook feed who shares ALL the Panda Bear videos. Sorry I'm not sorry. 

You’re Co-Chair of the AFP Chicago Membership committee. Can you tell us what your committee experience has been like so far? What are you looking forward to?
Sitting on the membership committee has given me the opportunity to interact with a large number of AFP Chicago members. Whether I interacted with them at one of our happy hour events, or I spoke to them on our outreach phone calls, it's always been about building relationships. In development, the relationships we build with our donors are key to our success, but so are the relationships with build with others in our field.  The best thing I have received from AFP is access to others in development who have experienced the triumphs and failures that I have experienced. I now have a group of people I can turn to and ask advice or brainstorm with, who know what I'm talking about when I say "direct mail" or "major gift solicitation".  I think in any field, you need those types of checks and balances. It's crucial to your professional development and if you don't grow professionally, you're wasting your time and your talent. 


Getting to Know 2016 AFP Chicago Fellow Robin Knox, Assistant Director of Development, Family Rescue

Robin Knox is the Assistant Director of Development at Family Rescue, one of Illinois’ largest and most comprehensive domestic violence agencies dedicated to eliminating domestic violence by providing support services, shelter, advocacy and prevention through community education.  Previously, Robin worked as the foundation manager for The Heartland Institute, a think tank promoting public policy. She has over eight years of experience in the non-profit sector, and approximately three years as a major gifts officer. She graduated from Chicago State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is currently, attending North Park University to complete a graduate certificate in fundraising management.  She has been a member of AFP Chicago Chapter for the past three years.  

Robin, when and how did your interest in development begin?

My interest in development stemmed from a traumatic event that happened on Thanksgiving 2011, a member of my graduating class in high school was murdered. A close friend asked for my help in planning an alumni basketball game to raise funds for his two children and to establish a scholarship in his honor. The event was a huge success and we received an enormous amount of support from the school, alumni, and community. As luck should have it or perhaps it was God’s plan, a month later I was offered an opportunity to join the development department at my previous place of employment and the rest is history.

What is the best part about working for Family Rescue?

The best part about working for Family Rescue is also one of the most challenging parts of working for Family Rescue and that’s serving the victims of domestic violence. It has been a rewarding experience see victims escape abusive situations and go on to lead, normal, violence-free, independent lives. Yet, it is also difficult to hear some of the survivor stories. These women and children experience things that you would only see in a horror movie, but seeing their courage and strength motivates me to work harder for them. I know that Family Rescue is making a difference in the community.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I think the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today is being taken seriously. As the age old adage states, “with age comes wisdom” and although this statement is very true, there are a lot of young development professionals making strides in the fundraising community. There are a lot of us young dedicated professionals just waiting to make our mark on the world.

What is your motto or favorite quote?

“The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.” -- Ayn Rand

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program? What have you enjoyed so far?

I am always looking forward to the educational breakfast. As fellows we get an opportunity to meet with presenters in a one-on-one session after presentations. It gives us a chance to ask any questions, get feedback and most importantly gives us direct access to seasoned professionals.


Getting to Know 2016 AFP Chicago Fellow Ashli Owens, Development Coordinator, Spark Chicago

Ashli Owens is a Development Coordinator for Spark Chicago, an organization that motivates students through workplace-based mentoring opportunities. Ashli's eagerness to close the achievement and opportunity gap for students began early as a college student through research and volunteering. A native of Michigan, Ashli served as a mentor and tutor providing ACT preparation and college access guidance to high school students in the Metro Detroit area.  After completing her undergraduate studies, Ashli served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for a nonprofit organization where she wrote grants for academic enrichment programs and provided program support.  Ashli is excited to be a part of Spark Chicago as Development Coordinator and enthusiastic to continue motivating students through workplace-based mentoring opportunities.  Ashli graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW). 

Ashli, when and how did your interest in development begin?

My interest in development began in 2012 when I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at ACCESS, a social service nonprofit in Dearborn, Michigan. There I built capacity in their Youth and Education department through grant writing and program development. This was one of my first introductions to an alternative to direct service where I could create social change around issues I am passionate about. I love that as a fundraising professional I am able to contribute to my organization’s mission while raising awareness among others.

What is your favorite part about working for Spark?

One of my favorite parts about working for Spark is the culture of the organization and staff. When applying to Spark, I was introduced to their values statement, which is something I had not seen at other organizations. Once joining the team it was clear that these values were key in driving in driving program implementation and employee engagement. “Be a student and a mentor.” This value in particular is what Spark is all about. As an expanded learning program that engages youth through mentoring, Spark also encourages its staff to embrace curiosity and to teach others. This has held true for me through the support Spark provided throughout my journey as an AFP Chicago Fellow promoting professional development and providing space for me to share and apply what I’ve learned.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I think one of the biggest challenges facing young development professionals is the lack of professional development resources. With many organizations having development teams small in size, it becomes more important to ensure effective and time efficient practices that will yield the greatest return. Professional development and mentor opportunities such as those offered through AFP go a long way in equipping young development professionals with the tools to be successful.

What is your motto or favorite quote?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

I often think of this quote when building professional and personal relationships. Relationships are essential in various aspects of life and it is important to remember the impact and influence your words and actions can have.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

The AFP Chicago Fellows Program has been instrumental in my success thus far as a young professional new to development and new to the city of Chicago. In addition to learning from inspiring leaders, I have learned by listening to and sharing with my peers and have begun to build those personal and professional networks I spoke about before. The Fellows program provides a unique opportunity to share best practices, experiences, and more. I am excited to continue building the foundation for my career as a development professional.


Getting to know 2016 AFP Chicago Fellow Caryn Turgeon, Manager of Individual Giving and Special Events, Umoja Student Development Corporation

Caryn Turgeon
 is the Manager of Individual Giving and Special Events at Umoja Student Development Corporation, an education nonprofit preparing Chicago high school students for postsecondary success. She joined Umoja in April 2014 as an Education Projects Specialist. In her current role, Caryn wears many hats. She works closely with Umoja’s individual donors, plans the organization’s various events, and takes great pride in managing Umoja’s new Associates Board.

Prior to joining Umoja, Caryn managed early childhood and elementary arts education programming at Telfair Art Museums in Savannah, GA. Caryn believes that education is the ultimate equalizer. She believes that all students deserve education equity and access. Caryn received her M.A. in Arts Administration with a focus in Arts Education and Nonprofit Management from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). If not at work, you can find Caryn at the gym, in her kitchen, or out on an adventure with her wife.

Caryn, when and how did your interest in development begin?

It actually started when I was working at the Telfair in Savannah, GA. I worked in the education department and because of that, became very familiar with the museum’s grants and evaluation process. The majority of the museum budget would go towards art acquisition, exhibits, and special events. The education department would seek additional funding for programming and I would assist in writing about our programs and their impact on our visitors.

You wear many hats at Umoja. What’s your favorite part (or the best part) about working for the organization?

My favorite part of working for Umoja is the opportunity to share Umoja’s story with the public. We have grown so much in the last 18 years and it’s a real joy to engage with our donors through correspondence and social media, volunteer opportunities, and special events. What’s the best part? I work with an incredibly committed, talented, and passionate group of people. They inspire me every single day.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I think our biggest challenge is our fear of choice. When I first moved to Chicago and first started working in development, I felt like a very small fish in a very large pond. How would anyone hear my ideas? Who could I talk to about my goals? Where could I learn more about fundraising best practices? Was it in my best interest to join a Board? I had no idea how to operate within the pond. I knew I needed support, but I didn’t know where to start looking. I believe a lot of this has to do with accessibility to professional development opportunities/mentoring for those of us just starting out in the field. These opportunities exist; we just become paralyzed when faced with the decision of choosing what we want to do and how we want to do it. What if we pick the wrong opportunity? What if we don’t meet the right people? What will happen to our careers? How will we learn? It’s our millennial dilemma. It’s the constant case of FOMO (fear of missing out). This is why the AFP Chicago Fellows program is so important. I am thrilled that I have access to these resources, these people, and these programs. I’ve learned that we must take our professional growth into our own hands. It’s important to take the time to learn from your field, talk to others within the profession, and how your place of employment can be a part of the process. That knowledge and those opportunities ultimately make us, as young development professionals, stronger.  

What’s the latest adventure you’ve been on with your wife?

My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Kauai. We hiked, kayaked, went for runs along the coast, tried all sorts of incredible food, and soaked in the beauty of that island (if you haven’t been, I HIGHLY recommend it). Kauai is an adventurer’s paradise and a relaxation dream come true. There is this incredible balance of physical challenge and mental calmness and clarity. We can’t wait to go back.

What is your motto or favorite quote?

I’m personally drawn to Neil Barringham’s “The Grass Is Greener Where You Water It”. I’m a good mix of realist and idealist. I think most positive, beautiful, noteworthy things in my life happen because I put in the work to make them happen. I’m very aware of my role in my life, my happiness, and my purpose. I rarely leave things up to fate.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

You know what’s crazy? I’ve learned so much in this fellowship and it’s only July. There’s still half a year and one-on-one mentoring on the horizon! This is an incredible opportunity. I’ve already begun crafting how I can incorporate what I’ve learned in my day-to-day work at Umoja and in what ways I can share my knowledge with the organization (our staff, our Boards).


Getting to know 2016 AFP Chicago Fellow Sabina Wee, Donor Care Manager, Marillac St. Vincent Family Services

Sabina Wee is the Donor Care Manager at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services, a social service agency serving the working poor of Chicago for over 100 years. She joined Marillac St. Vincent in December 2014 as a Development Coordinator, a role in which she created and grew the mid-level donor program. In her current role as the Donor Care Manager, she is fortifying the major gifts program by focusing on stewardship and building strong relationships with donors.

Prior to joining Marillac St. Vincent, Sabina coordinated and conducted autism research at a neuroscience lab at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). In San Diego she volunteered her time organizing events and coordinating volunteers for local organizations, activities in which she discovered her passion for social justice. Sabina received her B.A. in Human Development with a minor in Psychology from UCSD. When she’s not working or volunteering, you can find her exploring the next best restaurant in Chicago.

Sabina, when and how did your interest in development begin?

My interest in development began when my husband and I moved to Chicago from San Diego 2 years ago. I was given a unique chance to reassess my career path and after talking with a friend who works in development, I followed her suggestion to schedule informational interviews with other development professionals. After meeting with a few development professionals in Chicago, I was excited and determined to work at an organization that I’m passionate about and with other individuals who share my same values.

You found your passion for social justice through your work as a volunteer in San Diego. Can you tell us a little bit about your volunteer experiences?

My passion for social justice solidified when I started to organize monthly trips to a local teen homeless shelter in San Diego. I would recruit volunteers every month and come up with a menu, and we all brought home cooked meals to teens in the shelter and shared the meals with them. I always looked forward to those visits because we always learned something from the teens. I also coordinated public lectures and events for Awareness and Action for Autism at UCSD, in which I learned the importance of advocating for those who need help having their voices heard. It was a unique experience in that I was able to bring the research community of San Diego, undergraduate students, and families who are affected by Autism together to learn about the most recent research and what we can all do together to raise awareness.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

I think one of the biggest challenges that young development professionals face is a clearly defined career path. The nature of working in nonprofits with limited resources forces us to be flexible and take on many roles at our organizations. Although it’s a great learning opportunity, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos and often lose sight of what your main focus should be. I’m fortunate to have a great boss and a supportive team to navigate through everything, but I often hear of other colleagues who are getting burnt out from doing so much. Because of this, I think having a great culture within your organization and having a mentor you can rely on is critical.

What’s the best restaurant you’ve explored in Chicago so far?

There are so many great restaurants in Chicago but the one that my husband and I always go back to is Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood. Although they don’t serve the traditional deep-dish Chicago pizza (which I also love), their fluffy pizza crusts that melt in your mouth cannot be beat!

What is your motto or favorite quote?

“Never mess with happy” is something I have written on a post-it note on my desk. It’s from a great blog by Rob Cummings, “The Weekend Briefing” (everyone should subscribe) in which he talks about defining success as being passionate about your work as well as working with passionate people. It might be tempting to consider a bigger salary or role from another organization, but it’s not worth it if your heart is not there. It’s always a great reminder to not stray away from what’s important to you.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

I’m looking forward to making more connections in the Chicago philanthropic world as well as learning more about development that I can take back to my organization and apply it to what we’re doing. I’ve already met great people and learned a lot and can’t wait for more. I’m also looking forward to making a deeper connection with my fellow fellows and staying in touch even after the program is over!


Getting to Know 2016 AFP Chicago Fellow Jamie Boban, Grants Manager, Erie Neighborhood House

Viewing herself as a global citizen, Jamie Boban has a deep passion for human rights. She is a non-profit and community development professional with seven years of experience in the field. Jamie is committed to empowering others to improve their quality of life and currently works as the Grants Manager for Erie Neighborhood House serving Chicago’s low-income and immigrant community. Jamie previously served as a volunteer grant writer and researcher in Kigali, Rwanda, where she built organizational capacity for Uyisenga N’Manzi, a local NGO supporting survivors of genocide and HIV/AIDS. She also served an as AmeriCorps VISTA in rural northern California.

Jamie was an ACED Fellow at the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development at Illinois State University earning her MS in Political Science and Applied Community Development in 2013. She earned a BS in Political Science and African Studies from ISU in 2009. Jamie is a newlywed and enjoys experiencing new cultures through travel, food, and dance, and she loves summertime in Chicago.

AFP Chicago: Jamie, when and how did your interest in development begin?

Jamie BobanI have always enjoyed writing, which I think helped grow my interest in grant writing and development work. In college I did a lot of volunteer work with Alterative Spring Breaks and a local after-school program. Once I was in graduate school, I was exposed to grant writing as a part of my assistantship. I also took a course in Project Management where we focused on grant writing skills. As part of my AmeriCorps VISTA position, I took on some fundraising responsibilities including grant writing and special events.  Once you have any experience in grant writing I think people recognize it as a special skill and continue to give you opportunities in that area.  I know that funds directly dictate the work you are able to achieve in the nonprofit world, which is why development work is so crucial.

AFP Chicago: You previously served as a volunteer grant writer and researcher in Kigali, Rwanda and as AmeriCorps VISTA in rural northern California. Can you share some personal insights from your experience?

Jamie Boban: Throughout my travels and work, I have learned that most people want the same things out of life – their basic needs met and a comfortable, safe, happy life. We all have a lot more in common than we typically acknowledge.  I’ve also learned that local solutions are always the answer to local problems. Amazing ideas and innovations happen everywhere, but the biggest challenge is resource capacity. Building organizational capacity is needed most to implement local solutions. 

AFP Chicago: What do you think is the biggest challenge that young development professionals face today?

Jamie Boban: For the nonprofit world, I think the current economic climate is the biggest challenge to young development professionals. It is becoming more challenging and highly competitive to secure resources. Additionally, professional development opportunities are severely lacking. I know that this challenge is a direct result of the tough economic climate, which is why opportunities like the AFP Chicago Fellowship are so important to help young professionals grow in their careers.

AFP Chicago: What is your favorite quote or your motto? And, why?

Jamie Boban: "Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." -Desmond Tutu

Doing the best you can with what you have is so important. I think having a positive impact on your community is essential to social justice.

AFP Chicago: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year. What are you looking forward to as you participate in this program?

Jamie Boban: I am looking forward to growing a network of supportive, likeminded individuals who share a passion for social justice and nonprofit work. Being part of a group that can provide guidance and expertise in my specific career field is an amazing resource. I also look forward to the valuable professional development opportunities to which I would otherwise not have access.



Conversation with Edith Falk, Co-Founder of Campbell & Company, Principal of Falk Consulting 

Edith Falk is the co-founder and former Chair of Campbell & Company, the Chicago based consulting company that provides fundraising, executive search, communications and strategic information services to a wide range of non-profit organizations across the country.  Earlier this year, Edith stepped down from her role at Campbell & Company.  As principal of Falk Consulting, she continues to provide fundraising, board governance and strategic planning counsel to area nonprofits seeking to strengthen their organization’s capacity and philanthropic support. 

AFP CHICAGO: Edith, when did you get involved with AFP/AFP Chicago?

Edith Falk: I first became involved with AFP’s predecessor organization very early in my career.  The group was called the Chicago Society of Fund-Raisers (CSFR) and it had maybe 50 or so members at the time.  We were one of only a few similar organizations across the country.  A quick bit of history:  As more communities developed similar groups and as membership grew across the country, the National Society of Fund-Raisers, was established, and CSFR became a chapter of that organization, and changed its name to match, eventually becoming AFP Chicago, when the national organization changed its name.

AFP CHICAGO: Why did you get involved?

Edith Falk: CSFR was a great way to meet other professionals in our field, to hear about trends affecting philanthropy in our community, and to share information about best practices and interesting developments in our industry.  Many of the people I met in those early years remained as colleagues and friends throughout my career.

AFP CHICAGO: How did AFP Chicago help your career?

Edith Falk: From the beginning, the Chicago chapter has had the reputation for putting on strong educational programs, and I learned so much from these and from the many talented professionals who have been involved with the organization over the years.  I had the privilege of serving as Board chair during the early 90’s, which gave me a “learn by doing” opportunity to hone my leadership skills and build consensus around issues around which there were often multiple points of view….skills which I was able to carry over into my consulting work.

AFP CHICAGO: Is there any particular person you credit to introducing you to AFP and/or the nonprofit field?

Edith FalkIn all honesty, I sort of “stumbled into” development work.  I knew from the time I was in college that I wanted to be involved in the nonprofit community, and I started my career as a grant writer for an international exchange organization.  At that time, we were all called “fundraisers”; the word “development” hadn’t yet entered the lexicon, at least not in this context.

Don Campbell was actually responsible for my becoming involved with our professional organization.  He was an active participant, an early Board member and Board chair, and a leading force behind the creation of NSFR and our chapter becoming a member.

AFP CHICAGO: How did the nonprofit field shift for professionals over the course of your tenure, and how has AFP been involved in this shift?

Edith FalkOh my…there isn’t time nor space enough to talk about the changes in our profession since I first started work in our field.  Back then, what we called donor segmentation meant separating our lists into donors, non-donors and lapsed donors.  Today, we have access to incredibly rich data that enable us to address our donors and prospects based on their relationships, interests and giving history with our organization.   Previously, there was very little in the way of coursework, research or publications in our field.  AFP and its predecessor were real leaders in providing strong education programming and publications that addressed the needs of our profession.  Today, our colleagues have access to certificate and degree programs that can give meaningful boosts to their careers and a plethora of publications and other resources.  And, while we still have a ways to go, AFP’s membership increasingly reflects the diversity of our community, which is vital to our collective ability to be agents of change within our organizations and the larger nonprofit community.

AFP CHICAGO: Any additional information you want to provide about your career and current work and how AFP has been a part of it.

Edith Falk:I feel fortunate to be part of a community of practitioners who truly care about our community and who are committed to making a difference.  Through its educational programming, mentorship programs, advocacy work and so much more, AFP and AFP/Chicago have been leaders in giving all of us a forum through which our voices can be heard and our work can have a stronger impact.

Conversation with Shawn Gavin, Director of Development, Alumni Relations & Development, Northwestern School of Law and AFP Chicago Treasurer 

Shawn Gavin is the Director of Development, Alumni Relations & Development at the Northwestern School of Law. He is also the 2015 AFP Chicago Treasurer. We caught up with Shawn recently to discuss changes in the fundraising profession, why he initially got involved with AFP Chicago, and how AFP Chicago has helped fuel his professional advancement. 

AFP CHICAGO: Shawn, when did you get involved with AFP/AFP Chicago?

Shawn Gavin: I joined AFP in 2004 and started actively volunteering a few years after that.

AFP CHICAGO: Why did you get involved?

Shawn Gavin: Mostly it was to meet other fundraisers. At the time I was working at a small not-for-profit as the only fundraiser and I really wanted to connect with other people who understood what I did and the challenges I faced. Also, I have always seen being part of AFP as a sign of commitment – not just to the individual organizations we serve, but to the profession.

AFP CHICAGO: How has AFP Chicago helped your career?

Shawn Gavin: There’s no doubt that my involvement with AFP has helped fuel my professional advancement. Attending the Midwest Conference and educational programs has helped me keep abreast of trends and learn new skills.  But the volunteer service has been even more impactful because it has given me another important arena in which to grow my leadership abilities.  Finally, I wouldn’t have obtained my CFRE if it were not for AFP. Having that credential has proven beneficial with employers and even with with donors because it’s a clear sign of commitment to excellent and ethical practice.

AFP CHICAGO: Is there any particular person you credit to introducing you to AFP and/or the nonprofit field?

Shawn Gavin: Heather Eddy was my supervisor and mentor when I first came to Chicago and joined the Alford Group. She took me to my first AFP events and instilled an appreciation for the importance of professional development in our field. Karen Sims is the person who encouraged me to take on more in a volunteer capacity, initially on our chapter’s wonderful Peer Mentoring Committee, and I would credit her with paving the way for my greater involvement and joining the board.  

AFP CHICAGO: How has the nonprofit field shifted for professionals over the course of your career, and has AFP been instrumental in this shift?

Shawn Gavin: There seems to have been a trend towards greater professionalization in the field, at least in fundraising.  We hold ourselves to a higher standard as practitioners and the infrastructure available to help us do that – degree programs, trainings, resource organizations (e.g., the Donor’s Forum) – seems to have expanded dramatically.  AFP has led the way for these changes by helping fundraisers to see themselves as part of a profession, continually promoting skilled and ethical practice, and offering top-notch training opportunities.


Gettting to Know 2015 AFP Chicago Fellow Rosa Yadira Ortiz, Development Director at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH)

Rosa Yadira Ortiz is the Development Director at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), an organization committed to supporting the sexual health, identities, and rights of youth.  Most recently, Rosa served as the Development and Communication Manager at Western States Center working to achieve racial, gender, and environmental justice through individual fundraising, grants management, and communications strategies. Rosa previously served as the Midwest Community Educator for Lambda Legal, where she provided trainings and engaged community members and organizations throughout the Midwest on LGBTQ justice. In this work, she focused particularly on the intersections of LGBTQ, people of color, and immigrant communities. Rosa’s deep commitment to social justice is evident in her current volunteer work with Crossroads Fund (Chicago) in their inaugural Given Project program, past participation in the volunteer Grant Makers Committee of the McKenzie River Gathering (MRG) Foundation (Portland, OR), and as past Board President and Member of Amigas Latinas. She holds a Master of Arts in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University and a Bachelor of Art from DePaul University in Spanish and Latin American/Latino Studies.

AFP CHICAGO: Rosa, you have nearly ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector in the areas of student affairs, community engagement and trainings, and development and communications.  When and how did your interest in development begin? 

It was always engrained in me that investing in your community is important. My mom role modeled this behavior when she donated to church weekly and was an active participant in our local park district. However, I became more engaged in development when I attended my first GIFT (Grassroots Institute for Fundraising and Training) conference. I was in awe to be in a space with so many community activists, organizers, and advocates—many of whom were people of color—that genuinely believed we can fund our own movement. The power of organizing transferred to organizing around money was contagious!

AFP CHICAGO: Can you share some of your personal insights from your work with Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH)?

Rosa Yadira Ortiz: It’s been remarkable to work at an organization that is so deeply committed to reproductive justice from a multidimensional lens. In the wake of heightened criminalization of Black and Brown communities, we realized that when speaking about reproductive justice we also needed to bring to the forefront the connections with racial justice. While the conversations are hard and uncomfortable, and so deeply personal, I am appreciative of being at an organization that knows it’s important that we talk about the current racial climate in the U.S. And that these conversations are indeed an issue of reproductive justice as it impacts the way we create, sustain, and keep our families safe. 

AFP CHICAGO: Can you share some details on your interest in social justice as well as your role as a volunteer with Crossroads Fund (Chicago)?

Rosa Yadira Ortiz: I recently moved back to my hometown after living in Portland, OR for a few years. I volunteered at the McKenzie River Gathering (MRG) Foundation, a state based community foundation, and was riveted with the process and the opportunity to use all my skill sets in supporting social justice work in Oregon. When I came back home, I knew that I wanted to continue to be involved in supporting local movements. I have long admired Crossroads for their courageous work to be at the forefront of grassroots organizing and activism. Their commitment to supporting what is deemed radical is inspiring and something I wanted to support with my time and money. The Giving Project was the perfect place as it was a pilot project to fundraise $100,000 in six months with a group of 20 people. We not only met our goal, but we surpassed it! Thanks to these funds, organizations throughout Chicago who are at the forefront of the movements are able to continue to do the necessary and important work.

AFP CHICAGO: What do you think is the biggest challenge young development professionals face today? 

Rosa Yadira Ortiz: Scarcity and competition. Often we believe, or buy into the belief, that there aren’t enough funds, that donors are tired of giving, that our new pitch isn’t “fancy” enough and people won’t give. I just don’t believe that because like many other people, I still give to the organizations I care most about. This is not to say that individual giving and private foundation support hasn’t been difficult to receive particularly during the economic crisis and for organizations like mine that do multi-issue work; but I do believe that people genuinely want to give back.

Another issue is the constant feeling that people/organizations are competing for that dollar from the donor or the foundation and thus, don’t want to share contacts, information, resources, or even make referrals for fear that they won’t get funded or that they will get less money. Perhaps it goes back to the scarcity model, but this competition, I believe, harms the field. We are greater when we work together, when we support one another, and bring the opportunity to fund a larger movement to a donor or foundation and in doing so, make a greater impact. 

AFP CHICAGO: You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year.  What have you enjoyed or learned thus far? What are you looking forward to the most as you continue to participate in this program?

Rosa Yadira Ortiz: I am incredibly appreciative to AFP Chicago for this opportunity! I so happened to look at AFP’s website and saw the fellowship opportunity a day or two before the deadline and jumped on the chance to be part of the Fellows program. The conversations we are able to have with seasoned development professionals have been the most rewarding. AFP Chicago has allowed young professionals to ask the uncomfortable and vulnerable questions and the advice and input has been invaluable.


Gettting to Know 2015 AFP Chicago Fellow Christine Holt, Director of Development for The Boulevard

Christine Holt
is Director of Development for The Boulevard (formerly Interfaith House). She has over 15 years of experience in healthcare-related social services and nonprofit development. While earning a B.A. in International Service at Moody Bible Institute, she began working with both local and overseas organizations that served people exiting poverty and homelessness. She served as the Donor Relations Manager at New Moms Inc. in the Austin neighborhood, has been a nonprofit program manager specializing in youth programs, and has worked as a freelancer in development/communications at the Donors Forum. Christine joined The Boulevard in 2013.                                                                                                                                      
Christine, you have a B.A. in International Service and extensive experience in health-care related social services and nonprofit development.  When and how did your interest in development begin? 

When I was at New Moms I learned that a large part of development is communications, and I really appreciate purposeful, effective storytelling. I became interested in development when I realized I could use messaging to serve organizations that help people build stronger lives.    

Can you share some of your personal insights from your work with The Boulevard (formerly Interfaith House)?

I’m seeing that there are certainly important development concepts that each of us must absorb and utilize, but that there is no one magical “cookie-cutter” method of successful development work. We all have to work within our own opportunities and strengths. Likewise, each agency is distinct. Every organization must adapt to the needs, strengths, challenges and opportunities of their own situation, as time allows and as changes dictate. Ongoing, thoughtful evaluation is key. That is why I’m excited that The Boulevard Board of Directors is currently taking our agency through high-level assessment and strategic planning. When they are done, our Development team will be making adjustments to help implement whatever exciting plans are to come. We want to make the most effective, most lasting impact on homelessness in Chicago that we possibly can. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge young development professionals face today? 

This is a tough field. It’s definitely worth the effort! But there’s nothing easy about development, especially when there is so much competition for donor attention, and when terms like “fundraising” and “charity” tend to get so much negative press and when priorities seem to conflict. It’s important to avoid being discouraged by setbacks, feedback or a lack of support. Happily, newer development professionals can cultivate supportive professional relationships (like AFP); and they need to find their own personal way to “do development”, defining and using their own specific skills and experience. That can be a lengthy process…and of course, we all keep adding proficiencies as we continue!

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year.  What have you enjoyed or learned thus far? What are you looking forward to the most as you continue to participate in this program?

The Fellows program has helped me deliberately play to my strengths while surrounding me with peers and more experienced leaders who can help fill in the gaps of knowledge, or experience. It’s been really valuable: I look forward to furthering some great new professional friendships that will help me serve and build up my organization. 

Getting to Know 2015 AFP Chicago Fellow Becky Panter, Development Manager for A Better Chicago

Becky Panter is the Development Manager for A Better Chicago.  She joined the organization in 2014 and is a member of the advancement team.  Prior to joining A Better Chicago, Becky spent two years at Fiedler Hillel at Northwestern University, where she was a development associate. Earlier in her career, Becky was an elementary school teacher in Memphis for two years with Teach For America. She has also worked at the Chicago History Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Becky holds a BA in history from Boston University.

Becky, you’ve been an elementary school teacher with Teach for America and have a degree in history.  When and how did your interest in development begin? 

I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of great internship and volunteer experiences throughout college, while teaching and after my time in the classroom that gave me unique perspectives into the nonprofit world. I’ve come to understand development largely as a form of storytelling. I’ve always loved storytelling, it was one of my favorite parts of being a teacher and it’s why I studied history in college. Development allows me to continue my love for storytelling, only with great potential impact on causes for which I care deeply. I think the stories shared by development professionals have the power to inspire and empower others and to give a voice to people or issues that may have otherwise been forgotten or unheard.

Has your experience in education influenced your work in development?  If so, how?

After two years of teaching, I left the classroom armed with stories of educational inequity and a passion to close the opportunity gap that I saw firsthand. I think my experience in education has made my work in development feel much more personal because I’m not just promoting education on behalf of A Better Chicago or on behalf of the thousands of students served by Chicago Public Schools, but also for my second and third grade students from my classroom. I feel a deep commitment to the cause and I think that passion drives my work in development.

What do you think is the biggest challenge young development professionals face today? 

I think young development professionals face similar challenges to professionals in other fields: proving your credibility, learning the dynamics of the space, challenging established systems. I think for development specifically, so much of the work is based on personal relationships. As younger or new development professionals we may still be building our personal and professional brands and so there is a lot of trust still to be earned.

A Better Chicago drives social change “through smart philanthropy that strengthens organizations and accelerates change.”  Tell us more about how that works. 

A Better Chicago works to create greater educational opportunity for Chicago’s low-income students. We believe everyone deserves a great education. Not just an ok education, but the type of education that empowers people, ignites economies and elevates communities. We also believe in the power of philanthropy to drive social change. Not through charity as usual but through well-researched investments into high performing nonprofits that have the potential to grow and reach even more students if given the right financial resources and project management support. By investing heavily in solutions that work, and by holding ourselves accountable to results, we believe that we can dramatically improve educational prospects for Chicago’s youth.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year.  What are you looking forward to the most as you participate in this program?

I’ve loved being an AFP Chicago Fellow! It is a great honor to be grouped with really talented development professionals and to share best practices and lessons learned together. I’m most looking forward to continuing to have the space to discuss and get insights and advice from other young development professionals and industry experts.

Visit the AFP Chicago Fellows Alumni page for more Fellows news!


Getting to Know 2015 AFP Chicago Fellow Chanta Williams, Development Manager for Cabrini Green Legal Aid  

Chanta Williams
is the Development Manager at Cabrini Green Legal Aid where she is responsible for donor relations and external communications. She honed many of her development talents serving as a volunteer for many of her favorite Chicago area charities. Chanta graduated cum laude from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2010. She loves studying trends in charitable giving and is particularly fascinated by the philanthropic behaviors of the millennial generation.

Chanta, when and how did your interest in development begin?  I became interested in development, working in the Office of Alumnae Affairs at Spelman College. I didn’t even understand what development was at the time. Members of the Institutional Advancement team thought I would be a great ambassador for Spelman so I began speaking at donor events across the city and southern region. I was completing task related to appeals, campaigns, cultivation and stewardship events. I worked with individuals in the Annual Giving, Major Gifts, Planned Giving, Special Events, and Corporate and Foundation Relations departments.  I was learning about all of the major components of development and had no clue. I thought it was fun. I felt accomplished when we reached goals. I thought, what better place than Spelman to raise money and cultivate my philanthropy.

You have a special interest in the philanthropic behaviors of the millennial generation.  What trends are you seeing, and how do you think that will impact the profession in the future?  Millennials certainly make development professionals work harder. They are a demanding bunch requiring more transparency from organization and real-time social media interaction.  They are interested in investing in non-profits rather than just donating. They are the generation of the “servant leader. ” They want to be involved and hands-on before offering monetary support to causes they care about. It has and will continue to greatly impact the cultivation and communication strategies employed by development professionals. It will also force non-profits to be intentional about it selection and use of technology.

What do you think is the biggest challenge young development professionals face today?  I think we face issues that are pretty common in out-come driven industries. We are always fighting for the “good territories”  --usually responsibilities related to major gifts or corporate or foundation relations. Sometimes Board of Directors are uncomfortable with putting high level fundraising strategies in the hands of a young professional although we may put forth some of the most innovative ideas.  Who was that wise person that said with great risk comes great reward?

Chanta, your Bachelor of Arts degree is in Political Science.  How has your poli-sci background influenced your work as a development professional?   During my first day of Intro to Political Science I learned that “Politics is who gets what, when, how.” (Harold Lasswell) I never forgot those words and I always wanted to ensure that those who needed “got.”  Raising money for a non-profit organization is a real reflection of that principle. Implementing fundraising strategies often require proverbial politicking with donors to meet the needs of our constituency.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year.  What are you looking forward to the most as you participate in this program? I am excited to attend the Midwest Conference.  I am a real sponge, so I look forward to all of the learning opportunities that awaits. I have enjoyed all of the morning workshops thus far so I can only imagine how great the conference will be. 

Visit the AFP Chicago Fellows Alumni page for more Fellows news!

Conversation with AFP Chicago Benjamin Franklin Honoree Diane McKeever

Diane McKeever
2015 Honoree and
 Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Chief Development Officer at Rush University Medical Center talked with AFP Chicago recently about continuous learningmaking connectionsgiving back to the profession, and what it meant to her to receive the Benjamin Franklin honor

Diane, when did you get involved with AFP/AFP Chicago?

I got involved with AFP early on when I joined the profession in the 1980s.  One of the first projects I did with Joan Sunseri was a market analysis of the membership, which resulted in the Chapter developing affinity groups.   I served on the board from 1998 – 2001.  I was one of the founding co-chairs of the annual conference.  I have been involved over the years on a number of committees – awards committee etc.  

Why did you get involved with the Chapter? 

I got involved originally in order to learn more about the profession. I am a firm believer in continuous learning and AFP programs were a wonderful resource.  Learning from our peers and colleagues is invaluable.  I have always found the networking aspect of AFP.  I’ve made lifelong friends from my involvement in AFP.  Everyone is so generous with their time and advice when I call, and in turn we all try to pay it forward.  It’s also very helpful to meet people in the field who might ultimately want to come work at Rush. 

What advice would you give to emerging and mid-career nonprofit development professionals?

My advice to emerging development professionals is to always be open to new ideas and to learn – from conferences, seminars and programs, but also from getting involved in the Chapter.  You make connections that are very helpful for developing your professional knowledge base and skills, and invaluable contacts and friends.  The Chapter is especially valuable for people in smaller shops to get connected with others in the field who can not only share your experiences, but can help problem solve as colleagues. Getting involved in the Chapter is a great way for mid-career people to become leaders in the community for themselves and for their institution.  It’s an important way to give back to this profession which gives so much to us. 

What has it meant to you as the recipient of the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Award?

Receiving the award from my colleagues in AFP Chicago is such an honor.  I do feel that I stand on the shoulders of so many people in our profession, many of whom have received the Ben Franklin Award.  It was an opportunity to reflect on my career and realize that all the little things you do over the years add up and become part of your story.   I saw so many people at the luncheon who I have worked with at Rush, through AFP, from informational interviews I have given over the years etc.  Being with that distinguished group of volunteers and philanthropists on the stage was humbling.    We only succeed as development professionals if we are good partners – with our donors, board members, volunteers and each other.   

Getting to Know 2015 AFP Chicago Fellow Kate Later, Special Events and Communications Manager for High Jump

Kate Later
is the Special Events and Communications Manager for High Jump, an education non-profit celebrating 25 years in Chicago. High Jump provides intensive academic enrichment to middle school students of limited financial means to help them gain admission to college preparatory high schools. Kate manages communications, trustee relations, individual giving, and special events and is a member of the 2015 Class of AFP Chicago Fellows.  Prior to High Jump, Kate worked at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum where she managed their signature fundraiser, the Butterfly Ball, and worked on trustee relations, individual giving, and membership. After college, Kate interned in the education department at Chicago Shakespeare Theater for six months. She has a BA in linguistics and psychology from Smith College. 

Kate, when and how did your interest in development begin? 

I've always been involved with nonprofits — beginning in high school and continuing through college and my early post-graduate career — but I was originally working solely on the program side of things.  Then I realized that I'd been taking for granted the funding that makes programming possible in the first place.  I decided to take a step back to appreciate those behind-the-scenes fundraising efforts and to dive into learning about what goes into the development process.  The more I learned about development, the more I became fascinated with that side of the nonprofit world and I haven’t looked back since!

You have a degree in linguistics and psychology.  How has that helped you as a development professional? 

In a lot of ways, development comes down to being able to read people and forge genuine, mutually productive relationships with them, so my psychology and linguistics background has certainly helped me understand people and what they're looking for in their relationships to nonprofits. It’s also helped me articulate the value of supporting something clearly and effectively.

What do you think is the biggest challenge young development professionals face today? 

I think that young professionals are really facing the same challenge as everyone in the development world, even seasoned professionals, which is the need to navigate the changing landscape of philanthropy.  Millennials tend to give very differently than previous generations, and they want to have a very different relationship with the organizations they support. Development professionals have to constantly reinvent the way they communicate with and relate to potential donors in order to adapt to the ever-changing face of philanthropy.

Kate, you have a lot of professional experience in special events.  Any words of advice or special insights to offer those who may be planning their first gala or major event? 

I love events because they are both a great low-pressure way to introduce potential donors to an organization and a way to let current donors celebrate their involvement and the organization’s successes! I think the keys to a successful event lie in attention to detail and lots of planning!  Every event is different, but even less-experienced planners can pull off a fantastic evening if they're willing to consider and prepare for— well in advance — everything that will happen, everything that might happen, and even everything they can hardly imagine happening. Once the planning is done, you can step back and let everyone shine-- the organization, the mission, and the donors who make it all possible.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year.  What are you looking forward to the most as you participate in this program?

I've been fortunate to be able to learn a lot of my fundraising skills on the job.  That being said, I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to now receive some more formal instruction, guidance, and mentorship.  I'm also excited for the chance to be learning and finessing my skills alongside this impressive group of peers.  I'm honored to be selected as a Fellow and I can't wait to continue to develop my network, learn lots, and contribute my ideas and experiences to our discussions over the coming year.

Visit the AFP Chicago Fellows Alumni page for more Fellows news!

Getting to Know 2015 AFP Chicago Fellow Channing Lenert, Development & Operations Manager for Working in the Schools (WITS)

Channing Lenert is Development & Operations Manager for Working in the Schools (WITS), where he is responsible for the management, stewardship, and cultivation of primarily corporate, foundation, and government giving.  He is a member of the 2015 Class of AFP Chicago Fellows.  Channing received an MS in Nonprofit Management, concentrating in Fundraising Management, from the Spertus Institute in 2014 and a BA in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands in 2011.

Channing, when and how did your interest in development begin? 

My interest in development began during my two years with City Year. Throughout their rigorous Basic Training Academy, City Year’s AmeriCorps members are given a comprehensive presentation on how a development department functions within a large national nonprofit. This was fascinating to me, as I had no real knowledge of what ‘development’ was at that point. I certainly wanted to learn more. Later in my first year of service with City Year at a school on Chicago’s West Side, I was able to sit in on a site visit from the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and the McCormick Foundation. I later decided to serve a second year with City Year, on the Civic Engagement Team; the team responsible for working with the development department to plan and implement corporate service projects. Throughout the year, our team was able to complete transformative school beautification projects with companies like Comcast, Barclays, and the Chicago White Sox, to name a few. Having the opportunity to discuss our service and engage with individuals from these organizations provided me with an insight as to just how dynamic the Chicago philanthropic community was. Through these experiences I was able to view firsthand how development can truly build community throughout the sectors, and unites so many to serve a cause greater than self.

Today, working in the development office at WITS continues to excite me. I’m consistently energized because the funds we’re able to raise support programs that promote literacy and inspire a love of learning for thousands of students throughout Chicago.  

You served two terms with Americorps in Chicago prior to joining WITS.  Can you share some personal insights from your Americorps experience?

Like many in my generation, I graduated college in a time of economic uncertainty. As my commencement date became nearer and nearer, I wasn’t sure where life would take me. I kept viewing disheartening news coming from Chicago, regarding the state of youth in the city. I decided I wanted to do whatever I could do to help the situation. I knew of AmeriCorps’ deep commitment to serving those in need so I investigated possibilities within their Illinois portfolio. City Year’s intensive ten month tutoring and mentoring program in high-need schools seemed to be the best avenue for this. In City Year I was placed on a diverse team of seven other 19-24 year old idealists at a school in North Lawndale. At the school I was responsible for mentoring three focus lists of students in attendance, behavior, and course performance (in 6-8th grade social studies). The year of service also afforded me the opportunity to coach wrestling at the school (by far the most fun part of the experience). In my second year with AmeriCorps I was able to get a sense of nonprofit corporate relations, leading service projects at various schools. Using my two Segall Education Awards for my service at City Year, AmeriCorps also provided me the opportunity to continue to pursue my interests in nonprofits by pursuing a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. Concentrating in Fundraising Management, I was able to participate in in-depth courses on development such as the history/infrastructure of philanthropy, individual/institutional donor cultivation, entrepreneurial/earned income, and grant writing. The program I completed at the Spertus Institute has greatly assisted in my career at WITS, and I have largely AmeriCorps to thank for that.

AmeriCorps helped me to understand the immense challenges that students in Chicago face and how crucial it is for all to be civically engaged. Chicago students continue to inspire me every day. It was during my two years of service that I decided I’d like to dedicate my career to making change in these students’ lives by working for a high-impact organization like WITS, where the resources our team produces can benefit so many CPS students through literacy mentorship.

What do you think is the biggest challenge young development professionals face today? 

As baby boomers retire and millennials continue to enter the workforce, it will be the task of younger development professionals to determine how their generation wants to be asked and segmented philanthropically. Numerous publications have suggested that Generation Y has a high interest in championing causes, and the Wall Street Journal reports that this generation is poised to receive $30 trillion in intergenerational wealth; a promising situation for philanthropy. Social media and the internet will likely play a prominent role. Coming of age during the Great Recession, this generation is also likely a group to show more scrutiny regarding outcomes and where donated dollars are being spent. These are all things my devo team at WITS are currently looking into.

Determining effective stewardship strategies that create a lasting affinity from millennials, the largest generation in American history, towards nonprofit causes will be the biggest challenge facing young development professionals both now and in the foreseeable future.

You’re an AFP Chicago Fellow this year.  What are you looking forward to the most as you participate in this program?

I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the AFP Chicago Fellows Program! What I’m looking forward to the most is learning from my peers and leaders within the AFP community about their experiences, ideas, and best practices. Fundraising is a unique and rewarding, yet challenging, career. Having so many talented individuals available for advice and mentoring will surely put me in a position to improve upon my professional abilities and continue to grow in the work that I love.  

Congratulations, Carlos Trejo! 

Trejo has been named AFP Chicago's 2015 Chamberlain Scholar. He spoke with AFP Chicago recently about why he's excited about this honor & tells us about his experience as a 2014 Fellow.  

1. When did you get involved with AFP Chicago?

I joined AFP as a member on June 1, 2012. I was a few months into my first fundraising position.

2. Why did you get involved?

I was new in the field and recognized that I could benefit from some external resources and networking to help me grow professionally. I googled “fundraising chicago,” and fortunately for me the first result was AFP Chicago’s website. As soon as I signed up, I registered for a webinar and went to a networking event. After the first educational workshop, I knew I had made the right decision.

3. How has AFP Chicago helped your professional fundraising career?

If I’ve learned anything as a fundraiser, it’s that you always have something new to learn. The programming is always spectacular, but the greatest resource has been the membership of the chapter itself. AFP Chicago is composed of some great people doing wonderful work at a number of diverse organizations. Everyone I have met inspires me to do better, and their support has been outstanding. The wisdom they share always encourages me to try new and exciting things. 

4. Tell us about your experience as a Chicago Fellow...

My experience as a Fellow has been a privilege. The access to events, the opportunity to converse with speakers, and the chance to spend dedicated time with our mentors have all been instrumental in my continuing formation as a fundraiser. As a Fellow, you are placed on a pedestal that allows you to meet new people you may not have otherwise met. I have learned so much this past year from the people around me, and it has made all the difference in my career. I am especially grateful to have met and worked with my fellow Fellows. The opportunity to share and exchange ideas with others who are also in the early stages of their fundraising careers makes the experience that much more fulfilling. We had a great group this year, and I look forward to seeing each of them continue to grow and succeed at what they do.

5. You’ve been named the AFP Chicago's 2015 Chamberlain Scholar. What does that mean to you?

I am beyond honored to be named a Chamberlain Scholar. This chapter is offering me a wonderful opportunity once again, and I am so humbled and grateful. After attending the Midwest Conference on Philanthropy, I knew the International Fundraising Conference was the next step. I look forward to learning new things and meeting new people, all in a setting with fundraising professionals from around the country and world. I am even more excited to bring those experiences back with me to share with my colleagues and friends.


Catching Up with New Member K. Zaheerah Sultan, Director of Development, The Lupe Fiasco Foundation

1. When did you get involved with AFP/AFP Chicago?

I am a new member of AFP Chicago, I joined in February 2014.

2. Why did you get involved?

I joined the Membership Committee because I wanted to network with people in my field of choice. I transitioned to a new position at the Lupe Fiasco Foundation. When you work with such a high profile public figure you recognize importance in being connected to skilled professionals. The only way to increase my own “skill set” is to be in the company of people who are learned and mentally sharp. The old cliché of “steal sharpening steal” is still true today.

3. How has AFP Chicago helped your professional fundraising career?

I want to be the best development professional I can be and joining this organization has proven to be one of the best investments I have ever made. I saw the benefits of being a membership of AFP from the time I hit the join button. The online library and educational resources are PHENOMENAL.  

 The first introductory meeting offered information as to how navigate the website and experience the greatest benefits for my investment. One of the instructors was Morgan Henington; she is a true gem at the AFP. She shared information on how to become involved with AFP committees to make an impact on issues I feel strongly about.    

4. Comments on the Midwest Conference; was this your first AFP Conference?

Yes, this was my first conference. My organization development shop is very small and I wondered if I should ask them to pay for the conference. It was such a worthwhile investment! I feel like I have received so much information to add to my toolkit and skillset in development. I’ve had the opportunity to network and with many thought leaders that are friendly and approachable.

5. Any additional information you want to provide about your career and how AFP has impacted it.

I mentioned how I received a benefit when I first joined, my other one of many is, I was interested in receiving my certificate as a  Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), my AFP membership has allowed me to receive professional training for the certification test. This organization is AMAZING!! 


Q & A with Stephanie Borash, Associate Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations at  Ravinia Festival, Member of Our Board of Directors and 2014 Midwest Conference Co-Chair

1. When did you get involved with AFP/AFP Chicago?

I have been a member of AFP Chicago since 1997, back when it was called NSFRE.

2. Why did you get involved?

I was new to the career and at a new job at OMNI Youth Services and my supervisor, Mary Feldsein, was the Treasurer on the NSFRE board. She “strongly” suggested I get involved and serve on a committee immediately. It was the best “push” I’ve ever gotten and has been one of the best actions I have taken both professionally and personally.

3. How has AFP Chicago helped your professional fundraising career?

Between the wide variety of educational workshops and programs that are available throughout the year including the AFP Midwest Conference and International Conference and the vast networking opportunities, being involved with AFP truly changed the course of my profession. In addition to the great advice and ideas that I have learned at so many workshops over the years, which has greatly enhanced my professional life, my last two positions - at my current job at Ravinia Festival and WBEZ Chicago Public Radio prior - came through networking, being at the right place at the right time, and being able to call on my AFP contacts to gather additional information.

4. Tell us about the upcoming Midwest Conference.

We are very excited about the upcoming 19th Annual Midwest Conference on Philanthropy coming up on November 5th, which is unlike any we’ve organized in the past. We truly worked to take the conference to a whole new level this year with the theme: Go Big or Go Home: Practice not Theory. This year we have chosen timely topics and notable speakers to lead workshops that are focused on presenting sessions that highlight tangible takeaways and actionable items that each person could do the next day at their office.

For the first time in many years, we are presenting a fabulous Leadership Track with two of the most respected names in the business, Karen Osborne, President of the Osborne Group and Travis Carley, Corporate Vice President of CCS. Recognizing that senior-level fundraisers require a different set of tools as they move up in the field, we’ve designed a track specifically for fundraisers who occupy management positions.

Finally, we have two world class speakers for our Plenary sessions – opening with Adam Braun, best-selling author and Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise who will recount his inspiring story of a boy, a pencil, and the chance he took early on in his entrepreneurial journey that catalyzed a movement, and closing with Joshua D. Hale, President and CEO of the Big Shoulder’s Fund, which recently broke fundraising records with more than $10.5M raised at its recent Joseph Cardinal Bernadin Humanitarian Award Dinner in May.

5. Advice for budding fundraising professionals?

I really can’t stress this enough – get involved with a committee at AFP Chicago. We are all busy at our jobs and with our personal lives, but it really is worth it to find a little extra time to serve on a committee and give back to the profession. The time commitment is usually not overwhelming and you can make what you want out of it, but it is the best way to meet other committed people in the profession and develop long lasting relationships. 


Q & A with Judy Lindsey, CFRE, Vice President of Philanthropy at Chicago Public Media, WBEZ,  Member of our Board of Directors, and Fundamentals of Fundraising Faculty 

1. When did you get involved with AFP/AFP Chicago?
I recently received a letter from AFP International informing me that I’d been a member for more than 25 years, equal to my years as an AFP-Chicago member. It gave me reason to pause and reflect because I just hadn’t realized how long I’d been benefiting from all that AFP has to offer. AFP’s impact on my professional development and career trajectory has been significant.

2. Why did you get involved?
When I entered the profession, I was fortunate to work for a firm where membership in AFP was expected. Most important, active involvement on committees and in other ways was strongly encouraged. Based on that positive experience, as a department head today I advocate for my organization to support AFP membership for my staff.

3. How has AFP Chicago helped your professional fundraising career?
There are multiple ways in which AFP-Chicago has helped my fund raising career; however, a few stand out. Over the years, communicating with colleagues about their organizations certainly broadened my understanding of and appreciation for the many, diverse ways the third sector contributes to the well-being of society. Hearing firsthand about my colleagues’ work to advance their organizations’ missions, and the operational infrastructures needed for such, has been most helpful. Finally, I value the numerous professional and personal friendships that have grown out of my AFP Chicago experience.

4. Tell us about the Fundamentals in Fundraising course...
The Fundamentals in Fundraising Course provides an overview of those core elements that are central to our work. The fundamentals that participants will learn about will inspire more inquiry. The profession is changing so rapidly, none of us should stop learning.

5. Advice for budding fundraising professionals?
Remain true to the missions of the organizations for which they choose to work; learn from disappointments and use those lessons to plan for and reach their next level of success; always remain open to learning; and have fun.


June Program panelist, Jennifer Hendrick - When it comes to AFP Chicago..."You never know what connections you can make."

Jennifer Hendrick, Director of Development at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Advocate Charitable Foundation, looks to AFP  to help extend her nonprofit circle and network. 

Hendrick is interested in hearing from peers on topics all nonprofit professionals face in the work world and has found this support through AFP Chicago.

She also praises her employer for encouraging her to get involved. "Advocate Health Care has always supported their employees becoming involved in AFP. Our leaders have served in various roles on AFP and are always encouraging others as well."

Hendrick also believes AFP Chicago always offers new and unique opportunities and always keeps her thinking on her toes. "Change is constant and learning about new tactics and trends has been helpful," she says.

For young professionals pursuing work in the nonprofit sector, Hendrick says to seek out new learning opportunities and network at the various AFP events. "You never know what connections you can make." 

Chris Jabin, 2014 Benjamin Franklin Award Honoree, discusses relationship with the AFP Chicago Community

Christopher Jabin, the recipient of the 2014 Benjamin Franklin award, is also a 20-plus year member of the AFP Chicago chapter. He believes that AFP Chicago provides a great sense of community and camaraderie. In addition to continuing education and professional development opportunities, the network of professionals he has found within AFP has been an important resource and support network throughout his career. 

Jabin became involved in AFP for educational purposes very early in his development career while an Assistant Director of Development at Lyric Opera Chicago. 

"Since I was young and inexperienced, I found the workshops and conferences tremendously informative and helpful in understanding the development process along with specific tools used in the profession," Jabin explained. 

After his initial involvement, Jabin began to meet other professionals both new to the field as well as experienced veterans.  These colleagues provided him a tremendous sense of community, and several of the more senior professionals became important mentors to Jabin. 

Now a senior professional who can inspire others, Jabin's advice to budding young development officers as well as seasoned professionals is still to never forget that our business is about relationships. 

"While we now have extensive resource materials and technical capabilities, nothing can or should ever take the place of personal contact and face-to-face communications.  If we focus on friendraising the fundraising will follow." 


2013 Fellow Shares Chicago Chapter Experiences and "WOW" Moments From the 2014 AFP International Conference

By Amy Cheng, 2014 Chamerlain Scholar and AFP Chicago Fellows Alum

I was first introduced to AFP Chicago by my previous supervisor Dan Winter. As a newbie in the field of fundraising he encouraged me to apply for the AFP Fellowship Program.  At first, I was a little apprehensive and anxious if I would fit the culture of AFP coming from a non-fundraising background.

However, that uncertainty was eased when Alex Pope called to congratulate me on being selected as a 2013 AFP Chicago Fellow. During my Fellowship year, I attended numerous education and network events. But what was most valuable was the support of Alex Pope and Judy Lindsey, Co-Chairs AFP Fellows Program.  Even during their hectic schedule, Alex and Judy always provided genuine feedback, words of encouragements, and connected me to their professional network.

AFP Chicago Chapter consists of many welcoming fundraising professionals who are always ready to share their knowledge and expertise. I encourage you to attend AFP’s educational workshops, apply for the Fellows Program, and become an AFP member!

In addition to the many educational and professional resources  available through AFP Chicago, last week I finally had the opportunity to attend AFP International Conference! This was only made possible through the generous AFP Chamberlain Scholarship. Below are a few of the WOW moments that I experienced during my three days at the 2014 AFP International Conference in San Antonio, Texas.


Hung out with “AFPeeps” at AFPeeps Nest while eating “Peeps” and learned useful social media tools such as Buffer, Feedburner, HootSuite and how to manage your social media in less than 10 minutes.


Marketplace Madness: Numberous sponsors, vendors, and technology firms featured their latest products.  With so many booths, the exhibitors finds creative ways such as oxygen station, caricature artist and free giveaways to attract you to their booth. 

Rio San Antonio River Boat Tour: I enjoyed a relaxing boat tour along San Antonio River Walk. It is lined with numerous hotels, business, and of course delicious restaurants. 


Resource Galore: So many books but not enough space in my suitcase. Authors such as Linda Lysakowski, Darian Rodriquez Heyman, Beth Kanter attended book signing event. 


Favorite session:  Creating Transformational Corporate Engagement-Lessons from Cultivating a $27.1M Gift. The room was packed. People squatted on the floor and listened attentively on how Tammy Zonker from United Way was able to align their mission with GM on serving the people in Detroit. A corporation who was going through bankruptcy and was quick to say “no” ended up donating $27.1M. Not only did Tammy offer a powerful cultivating story but she provided templates, handouts and questions for us to utilize with our nonprofit organization.  

I look forward attending 2015 AFP International Conference in Baltimore, MD. But in the meantime, I will continue to “Shift the way I think about fundraising!”