Member Insights: A Conversation With Recently Named AFP Outstanding Young Professional, Juliana M. Weissbein
By Nicole Carrea, Senior Director of Development, National Kidney Foundation
Juliana M. Weissbein, Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and AFP-NYC Emerging Leaders Committee Chair, was recently named AFP's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional and will accept her award at AFP ICON later this month. We sat down with her to learn more about her career in the fundraising industry.
By Nicole Carrea, Senior Director of Development, National Kidney Foundation
New York, NY
Nicole: Congratulations on your recognition, what an exciting accomplishment! First off, what attracted you to the nonprofit sector and, more specifically, the fundraising profession?
Juliana: I’ve always known that I was committed to a life of work in the nonprofit sector, though I have not always known how I could best use my skills to serve my community. Whether I was volunteering at my local youth group, serving on student government, leading extra-curricular clubs, or on the front lines of a demonstration, I knew that I was destined to give back. To help refine my strengths, in my sophomore year of college I completed The Center for Progressive Leadership’s New Leader Fellowship. I spent my summer in our nation’s capital attending professional development trainings, interning at a national nonprofit, brainstorming with political leaders, and working with a mentor to lay the foundation for a life-long career in public interest. Here, I was provided with tools and techniques which I’m still using in my career today. I credit my time in this program for truly jumpstarting my nonprofit career.
Nicole: Your career path is quite impressive and I see that you have experience in both frontline fundraising and development operations. How has exposure to both job functions helped you be a stronger fundraiser overall?
Juliana: Thank you! I’ve been very intentional about each career pivot I make, ensuring that I’ll continue to diversify my skillset each time I move. My first position was within a larger organization where I was able to focus exclusively on development operations. When assessing my next move, I specifically sought out a smaller organization where I could cross-collaborate and learn more about the other aspects of a successful fundraising shop. This shift allowed me to more holistically understand why a gift is made and not just the how. In this role, I was able to gain an understanding of the lifecycle of a gift from the donor’s perspective. Building off this exposure, in my next role I served as a frontline fundraiser and interacted with donors directly. Now, at Planned Parenthood, I am back to focusing on development operations. Having experience with frontline work helps me to strategically implement processes that not only ensure our staff is working effectively, but that a donor will be satisfied with our operations as well.
Nicole: I really respect the strategic approach you’ve taken in your career. What do you consider when making a career change?
Juliana: First and foremost, I have to have a strong affinity for the mission. Working in the nonprofit sector is deeply personal to me. The other unifying thread in all my roles has been serving at organizations which recognize the value of using data and analytics to grow its bottom line. Understanding the trends and patterns of your constituency is key to raising more dollars to support the crucial work our organizations conduct.
Nicole: About half way through your time at the Ms. Foundation for Women you shifted roles within the organization and moved from operations to frontline work. Can you tell me more about that?
Juliana: I was initially hired to focus on optimizing and streamlining their donor database. Eventually, I was able to put systems in place and automated many of their processes. I was eager to take on additional projects to help push the foundation forward. I spoke to my supervisor about the possibility of creating and managing a new mid-level donor program based on the metrics we were uncovering in our analytics. It was because we focused on data that we were able to predict the true value of creating a new donor program. I am proud to report it is a very successful program and outperformed goal in its first year!
Nicole: How did you get involved in working with young professionals?
Juliana: One of the aspects of my frontline role at the Ms. Foundation for Women included overseeing the activities of our Young Professional Advisory Committee (YPAC). It was a new initiative for the foundation and I had the pleasure of working with an enthusiastic group of volunteer fundraisers. Working with YPAC fueled me to get more involved with young professional efforts and I’m now serving as Chair of AFP-NYC’s newly rebranded Emerging Leaders Committee.
Nicole: Would you say AFP has served as a spring board for your career?
Juliana: Absolutely! Working with AFP-NYC has been paramount to my professional development and they truly are setting the gold standard for fundraisers in New York City. It’s an honor to support the chapter as the Emerging Leaders Committee Chair. I’ve been fortunate enough to seek support through their mentor portal and am now giving back by serving as a mentor myself. I am also excited to see their recently revamped Career Center. This is an invaluable resource for job seekers and employers alike. AFP-NYC has it all!
Nicole: You were instrumental in the recent rebrand of our chapter’s young professionals committee. What was the main motivation behind renaming the committee from the ‘Young Professionals Committee’ to the ‘Emerging Leaders Committee’ and what do you hope to convey with the new name?
Juliana: We constantly got questions from AFP members about age criteria to attend our events. Of course, all AFP-NYC events are open to everyone and we never have any types of attendance requirements. Nonetheless, we understood the confusion. Simply put, including ‘Young Professional’ in our committee name was confounding. ‘Young Professionals’ signifies a very specific type of fundraiser. We commonly heard feedback from people that using this term causes our network to think that serving on the YP Committee or attending our events are only possibilities for folks who are ‘young’. Additionally, this term does not include fundraisers who may be older in age but new to the industry. While our committee constantly communicates that we want to attract fundraisers of all ages and stages in their career, we felt keeping our YP name caused an unnecessary battle that would be eradicated with a name change. Additionally, we hope this name change will increase membership at our programming and attract a more diverse crowd. Heads up, The Emerging Leaders is hosting our Spring Happy Hour on April 4th. I hope to see you there!
Nicole: In hopes of inspiring other young professionals in our industry, is there one theme for success that you want to highlight?
Juliana: The north star to my career has always been mentorship. Nothing in my career would have been possible without the mentorship I have received from my colleagues, for whom I have the deepest appreciation, and from whom I have derived the ambition to challenge myself at each stage of my career. My mentors have helped me realize the true potential of our profession to make a difference and I’m grateful to be reaching a place in my career where I can pay it forward to the next generation.
Nicole: Congratulations again on being named the 2019 AFP Outstanding Young Professional! What are you most looking forward to at ICON?
Juliana: Thank you so much! I’m humbled to have been nominated by Jethro Miller, Planned Parenthood’s Chief Development Officer, and am thankful to AFP for the recognition. I’m excited to have the opportunity to network with colleagues and friends from across the country and the track of workshops is terrific! It will be my first time attending the conference and I’m looking forward to bringing knowledge back to our local AFP chapter.