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Connecting Not Competing

I have to admit, there is something of a competitive streak in me. It shows up when I’m doing language lessons on DuoLingo and I just have to make it to the Diamond League. Or maybe it’s the elusive next level of the game app I’m playing on my phone for “relaxation.” Working in the development field, I naturally always want to write a winning grant proposal, or out-perform last year’s event numbers, or hit stretch goals for the current fundraising campaign.

Yet the motivation to achieve goes so much deeper than hitting a number for a personal win. What really drives me is a wholehearted commitment to the mission I am working to support. I think it’s equally true for most of us in the development field. We are fueled by a passion for the causes that our organizations represent.

While in one of the breakout sessions at Inspire Inclusion, the International Women’s Day Conference hosted by Prime Time for Women, I recognized this passion to inspire generosity in another attendee’s comment and was immediately drawn to her. “Could we get together sometime to continue this conversation?”, I asked. Later, another attendee mentioned to me that she also wanted in on that! It turns out that all three of us are development professionals, and we decided to schedule a meet-up to share tips of the trade and learn from each other’s experience.

What a wonderful connection was made that day! When we were able to sit together and get to know each other better, we enjoyed the range of experience we each had. Ellen Oppenheimer has a long history of developing resources for various nonprofits in Florida such as PBS Miami, the University of Miami, and the American Cancer Society. Now retired and living near family in Maryland, she shared about one of her first personal meetings with a potential major donor. She recalled being nervous, but the donor encouraged her by saying he appreciated her passion for the cause and her approach of inviting him to join her in supporting it. His words in that early career experience rang true throughout her fundraising career and Amanda and I benefited from them as well. Ellen said, “It was great to get to know you both. We have so much in common with our Development backgrounds and I believe we all learned new strategies to try. I hope we will get together often, not just at Prime Time For Women events.”

As the Grant Writer and Donor Relations Manager at Star Community, Amanda Rossen is newer to the development field. She enjoys using her strengths in networking and relationship building to contribute to Star Community’s mission of supporting people with disabilities in achieving their goals and living a meaningful life filled with opportunity. Amanda expressed her appreciation of our gathering by saying, “Making connections is empowering!! I love to learn and meeting amazing women like Elisa and Ellen, really adds to my toolbox for professional growth. It lets my wheels turn for what I can bring to the table at Star Community.”

As for me, this investment of time to connect, share professional challenges, learn from each other and even celebrate good results, was time very well spent. The support of these women is fuel to continue my ongoing effort to make a difference for children and families at San Mar Family and Community Services. And the best part? There’s no competition here. Only inspiration.

Elisa Mabina, CFRE is Director of Development at San Mar Family and Community Services. She has supported many worthy nonprofits in her years as a fundraiser, but none more meaningful to her as the work she is currently doing for San Mar. “The mission and vision of this 140-year-old organization never ceases to inspire me, and I love sharing the powerful impact of our hope-giving programs with others desiring to make a difference for vulnerable children and families in our community.”

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