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A love letter to mentors

publication date: Oct 2, 2013
author/source: Laura Champion

Mistakes will be made. I have to keep reminding myself of that as I enter this new career. The fear that Gen Ys have of making mistakes seems to permeate the way that we do things, or in some cases, avoid doing things. My goal is to learn from others’ mistakes as much as possible so that I can avoid the more common pitfalls and find my own new and interesting mistakes to make. One way that I am collecting these stories of others’ mistakes is by cultivating a network of people, whom I trust, around me, especially the right mentor.

At Humber College we were encouraged to join the Association of Fundraising Professionals for a variety of reasons. I ignored many of them a bit too long due to the cost of joining. But I bit the bullet and am glad for it, as I immediately applied to the mentor program and was matched not long after.

Sharing the good and the bad

I have met a large number of people in my short time as a fundraiser. Many of them have given me great guidance and advice, but I had not established formal mentor/mentee relations with them. This opportunity, knowing what the expectation was for both parties, allowed me to open up to my mentor and, I think, allowed the same for them. In one session I learned about my mentor’s career path and goals, their biggest mistake and greatest achievement and what their philosophy on fundraising was – all invaluable information.

I was also given the opportunity to bounce ideas and issues off someone with decades more experience than me, something that isn’t always possible in the hustle and bustle of a busy office internship. To speak with someone who has an entirely outside viewpoint but enough background knowledge to give an informed answer is more than just good luck. I have already avoided at least one pitfall thanks to my mentor’s frankness about their greatest mistake.

Yes we can – take advice

Millennials are often viewed as unable to take advice and dismissive of those who came before them, but I am here to proclaim that we aren’t all the same, and to inform those who dismiss the benefits of listening. We have a lot to learn as new fundraisers, and yes, there are a whole lot of new techniques and technologies that are emerging – but if we don’t learn the basics of face-to-face and the fundamentals of moves management, the technology will not be able to help us.

We need to open ourselves to these mentors and drink in every bit of information they have for us, their ups and downs, and their advice for the future. My mentor was a wealth of information that I can only hope my brain properly recorded and stored forever. Yes, mentors are sources of advice and opinion but mentors are so much more: they are the oral history of our profession. Find someone or many someones that you connect with, my fellow new fundraisers. It will change who you are professionally for the better.

And for the mentors out there reading this, thank you. Without you we’d be lost, making many more mistakes and not raising any money for all those causes we love so much.

Laura Champion (@charitablelaura) is a recent graduate of Humber College’s Fundraising and Volunteer Management program. Having completed her internship at Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada, she has just joined West Park Healthcare Centre as Development Specialist on the WE CAN campaign. Her goals in life include obtaining her CFRE, becoming a published author and being successful enough on Jeopardy to be brought back for the Tournament of Champions.

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