Updated: Jan 28
When I think back over the last five years, one of the best things that I have ever done for my career was to find and solidify a mentorship relationship. And, for me, this meant three.
My first job in my fundraising career was as an assistant to a development director with a wealth of knowledge. I made it very clear that I wanted to learn from her, and she took a chance and taught me. I virtually knew very little about fundraising or development, and I credit much of what I know to her. Now, this job is the definition of a small shop. There was 1.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions dedicated to raising $750,000. This mentorship taught me the basis of my future career. Every day, we discussed annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, grant writing. She went above and beyond to teach me everything she knew.
When I think about the second mentor that I had, I am not even entirely sure that she even knows that I consider her to be a mentor. She is everything that I have ever aspired to be in a fundraiser. Her career highlights include hundreds of multi-million dollar major gift requests. She was born to be a teacher, and she happens to be an even better manager and fundraiser. We would meet, before work started for the day, and she would teach me how to ask for a major gift, board relations, and so much more.
For my third mentor story, as you may know from my other blog posts, I am a first-time executive director and when I was asked to take this position, I made sure that I had an executive mentor on board to help me. My executive mentor taught me how to be tough and taught me what it means to be a manager. It is invaluable to have a mentor who has a career and/or life that is complementary to your own. Your mentor must be personally invested in your success, and it is this professional mentor relationship that has helped grow my career. She has given me brutal honesty since day one, and has never let me stop pushing.
I consider myself lucky to have known three amazing women, dedicated to teaching me. I understand that many people do not get this lucky. But, I want to empower you to reach out to those that can help you grow. Did a certain person come to mind, as you read through this post? Maybe, someone that you have always wanted to learn from? Someone who has the job or career that you aspire to obtain? Schedule a meeting, and start asking them questions. But first, mentorship is all about sincerity. Make sure you are sincere in your intention to learn. Because, sincere mentorship means that you do not have to go into anything alone again.
Shelby Moore - MPA, CFRE