Get yourself some mentors
Chapter Leadership Brief 9.24.2021
By Craig Shelley, CFRE, AFP-NYC Treasurer
Managing Director, Orr Group
I’ve got a job that I love. Work that feels meaningful and that I’m proud of. My kids look at me with some modicum of respect. I’ll often tell myself I’ve worked hard, and I “deserve” it (whatever “it” is). There’s probably some truth to that but if I’m being honest, what I have achieved I’ve achieved because I’ve benefitted from the leadership, tutelage, and camaraderie of some great mentors.
Gary Laermer was kind enough to answer a million questions a day about why we were doing things when all he was doing was paying me to stuff envelopes; a day does not pass that I don’t consider the things I learned when all I was supposed to be doing was folding papers. Gary taught me a profession when all he needed to do was tell me how he took his coffee. Bruce DeSandre instilled a need to strive for excellence that drives most of my coworkers nuts to this day. Bill Sullivan helped me see fundraising was an art and how I connect the dots across the canvas ensures I end up with the painting I want. Diego Aviles taught me the value of infectious energy and how the people you infect with that energy will make or break any undertaking. Steve Orr gave me a business mindset and a worldview I’d never even had access to, he redefines “entrepreneurial” for me daily. The list goes on. I stand on the shoulders of great men or some other such cliché.
I was lucky, or better yet privileged, to be in the positions I was in to access the mentors and friends I have. I recognize, because I’ve had a few myself, that you won’t always end up with a great boss who will invest in you personally and professionally for the long term. I think a lot about the role of the Association of Fundraising Professionals New York City Chapter. It’s value proposition and the things we can bring to fundraisers in this City. The chapter has a unique opportunity and an obligation to bring things to professionals that we know they should have but that they may not be getting in their current roles. We can contribute to the holistic development of all of us via networking, professional development, and mentoring. Formal mentorship programs are hard, but they are necessary because you may not work for Gary or Bruce or any of those I’ve been fortunate enough to intersect with.
The chapter has put together a great mentorship program (more info here). It’s an intensive, cohort model that will match you with the right fit for you via a customized matching process, recognizes institutionalized racism permeates every corner of our industry and factors that into the whole program, and provides opportunities not just for professional development but building your brand. We’re accepting applicants now. I’d encourage you to apply. The program and the mentor it will bring into your career will be an experience you’ll never forget and that will stay with you.
Oh, and thank you to EVERYONE who has been a part of my journey. I’ve valued your friendship and mentorship and will continue to do so.