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Chapter Leadership Brief 6.05.19

Chapter Leadership Brief 6.05.19

By Craig Shelley, CFRE, Chapter Treasurer & Managing Director, Orr Group

This week’s edition of New York City Fundraising Matters features a great interview my friend Pinky Vincent conducted about the chapter’s mentorship program.  It was thought provoking not least because the interviewed featured another friend, my colleague Regina Cialone, but because it allowed me to ruminate a bit on my own mentors.

I’ve never been part of a formal mentorship program, but like Regina suggests in the interview I’ve never refused to provide career advice when asked and have never hesitated to ask when needed.  Several years ago, I went through a large career transition leaving an organization I’d served for 16 years in various capacities and transitioning to Orr Group.  Throughout that process I was reminded just how many wonderful mentors I had in my career.  Their advice was plentiful and helpful just as it has been at various crossroads throughout my career.  Inadvertently I’d built a network of friends who cared about me, were invested in my success and each of whom I trusted and respected implicitly.

I’ve got a varied list of relatively pithy “career advice” I give people (“pick your job based on who you’ll work for and who you’ll work with”; “be curious”; “always be the hardest worker on the team”) but I think I might need to add, “build a network of mentors” to the list.  The advice, example and connections these mentors provide are valuable.  I’ve built some of my network by luck as I’ve had some terrific bosses invest in me through the years.  But I do think you can be deliberate in maintaining and nurturing those relationships.  My longest standing mentor, who I’d also consider one of my closest friends, was my boss when I was 18-years old.  Over the following more than 20-years we’ve worked together in various capacities across 4 different organizations.  Yes, I was lucky he was my first boss.  I didn’t pick him; I didn’t even know him before I started the job (though ironically the person who interviewed me also remains a friend and mentor).  But maintaining that relationship for 20 years, knowing when to seek and follow advice and understanding what examples of leadership of his to incorporate and ignore has been deliberate.  It takes time.  In those 20 years I’d doubt we’ve ever gone more than a few months without having a meal together and that includes long periods of time living across the country from each other.  You make the time to spend time with people who make you better.

Identify the people you respect and build that relationship.  It is unlikely you’ll build a deep friendship and working relationship that endures 20-years, but it’s certainly not impossible and I am certain you will learn and grow no matter how deep or long the relationship goes.  I’ve benefited from mentors of all shapes and sizes from CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world to mid-level managers I shared cubicles with early in my career.  It’s been time well spent not just for the lessons I’ve learned and networks they’ve allowed me to build, but because I’ve met interesting people and made great friends.  It starts by being open to building relationships, then identifying the best people to invest your time in and investing it.  You’ll benefit and so will they.  The chapter’s formal mentorship program is a great way to start to try and meet some of the right people and build the relationships that will make a difference in your future.

If you have ideas or suggestions for our AFP chapter please always feel free to contact me directly at  If you’re interested in my thoughts on fundraising and news in the sector, sprinkled with the occasional picture of my kids, please follow me on Twitter @craigshelley.

Thank you for everything you do. 

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