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Mentoring – A two-way street to building a culture of sharing and learning

By Pinky Vincent, Police Athletic League

As a member since July 2016, I learned that one of the ways to grow and quickly make a difference within AFP is to volunteer hands-on with my fundraising peers. Thanks to the support of fellow members, you make an impact by speaking up for diversity and inclusiveness within the profession, promoting the good work of our peers, as well as advocating for fundraisers working in smaller nonprofits.

But what if you can only commit an hour a month and still want to make an impact? How is it possible, you ask?

I spoke with Regina Cialone of Orr Group and Tad Shull, grant consultant, on mentoring – a little-known benefit of AFP membership. Regina and Tad took part in a formal mentoring relationship once a month from September 2018 to January this year – and they have continued to be in touch since then.

(In a New York minute – you don’t need to be an AFP member to serve as mentor. If you are or know of an experienced fundraising professional who can be a great mentor encourage them to sign up today!)

Pinky Vincent: Tad, you are an experienced grants professional, why did you seek out a mentor?

Tad Shull: I joined AFP last year to expand my skills and given an opportunity, I would rather learn from a person than a book. So I explored AFP’s website and it turns out one of my membership benefits is mentoring.

Pinky: I wish I had thought of signing up right away as well. Cathy J. Sharp, who co-chairs the AFP Mentoring Committee, is the matchmaker but potential mentors like you, Regina, get the final say on who will be their mentee. Regina, why did you choose Tad?

Regina Cialone: To tell you the truth, my rule is if someone asks me for career advice, I say yes.

Tad: I knew I was special!

Regina: You are! A mentee need not be someone right out of school. You can be someone like Tad who has a broad knowledge in one area but wants to learn more in other fundraising areas. Tad was reflective and smart about mentoring. He gave questions in advance as preparation. Tad would illustrate the problem with real world examples. There was an interesting lens given his expertise in grant writing.

Tad: It was good to open a dialogue on the problems with Regina. The questions I asked were pressure points for me, real-life issues my clients and I were struggling with.

Pinky: Regina, you have been mentoring nonprofit professionals for the past nine years. Tad is your second mentee at AFP. I mentor because it is my way to build a professional legacy and it’s my way to give back to my mentors. What drives you?

Regina: A great question – there is definitely giving back and broadening my comfort zone. It also builds your leadership skills.

Tad: That’s a great selling point for mentoring.

Regina: And let’s not underestimate the potential for networking.

Tad: Yes, one-on-one mentoring has the potential to build trust even more deeply. If you are looking to hire someone, you are building a referral system based on trust.

Regina: It’s a reciprocal relationship for both parties. If someone is looking for a grant writer, I am OK with being Tad’s reference. And I work for a consulting firm – if an organization that Tad works with is looking for a campaign consultant, Tad can refer us.

Tad: I would be thrilled! It’s a satisfying way to give back.

Pinky: Regina, you continue to mentor despite a busy work schedule. We all appear to be starved for time but mentors like you, Regina, find the time to make a difference.

Regina: Mentoring is like a muscle you exercise – the more you do it, the better you get at it. You can get a lot done within an hour – the impact you make in an hour is a lifelong investment.

Pinky: What advice do you have for first-time mentors?

Regina: If you are not sure about mentoring, dip your toes at Fundraising Day New York – that’s a great way to explore mentoring for half an hour.

Pinky: You can still apply for mentoring for this year’s FRDNY. It will be a great time to learn, make connections and give back – all within a day! Tad, your final thoughts on your mentoring experience with Regina.

Tad: Regina’s attitude confirmed for me that there is a strong culture of sharing in the fundraising field. There are risks and uncertainties when you make career transitions. And to have someone with Regina’s experience see where you are going and say you can do it is a real boost emotionally. Thank you, Regina.

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