I’m ActionAid USA’s new Individual Giving Officer! My main role here is to manage our fundraising stream for donations ranging from $25 all the way up to $1,000 and build personal relationships with our supporters.
I joined the team a couple of weeks ago, and when I was asked to contribute to the staff blog, my initial reaction was…panic! My internal dialogue split off into different directions about relevant topics I could speak to or issues that ActionAid covers with which I feel a particular connection. What did I want our supporters’ first impression of me to be? Oof, the pressure!
I’m very expressive (I learned quickly as a kid that lying was not a viable option to get out of trouble), so this panic was very apparent to the rest of the team. To help me along, a teammate suggested I use this opportunity to introduce myself to you. Panic spiral averted!
When I explain who I am to people, I often rely on the places I’ve lived to make sense of it all. I grew up in Connecticut with two brothers and my mom and dad, wearing patterned turtlenecks from L.L. Bean and overalls spending lots of time playing in deciduous forests and looking for frogs in nearby wetlands.
I also learned about the world around me through literature or ecology textbooks we read in class. I remember being preoccupied with this feeling of “there has to be more than this,”- which still (in equally inspiring and exhausting ways) – sits with me today. A curiosity to learn more about the world and a desire to “do good” has led me to live and work in Colorado, Equatorial Guinea, Florida, Montana, and Botswana. In these places, I worked in conservation science and education, but it was through a close friendship with a young Motswana woman, Unity, that led me to become curious about fundraising and how to do it in an ethical and meaningful way that doesn’t just transfer resources but also transfers power.
Ultimately, I found ActionAid USA, and what struck me initially about it was the expression of our mission: to build a just, equitable, and sustainable world in solidarity with communities on the frontlines of poverty and injustice. Coming from a background in international conservation and development research, which can sometimes prioritize the interests of the institutions funding the work at the expense of “partnering” communities, ActionAid USA’s immediate and clear commitment to working in solidarity with communities resonated with me.
I was delighted to discover that this commitment to collaboration and power-sharing extended beyond our mission statement and external deliverables. We practice a type of leadership that seeks to generate new ideas and resolve conflict through sharing power, consensus-building, and adopting a willingness to learn, reflect, and educate. I’m also learning how ActionAid transitioned from a British-owned organization in 2002 to a democratic federation, where each member country has equal representation in high-level decision-making and greater accountability towards one another. This new structure better embodies the kinds of power shifts we seek to catalyze on a global scale.
I’ll put the old plug in the jug to avoid reader fatigue about the many reasons I’m excited about being a part of this team. All in all, it’s dreamy to work at an organization that “walks the talk” and aligns with my values so well. Nothing is perfect, and there’s much work to be done, but I’m enjoying what feels like the mountaintop view before we have to go back down and climb the next one!