Jerry Cournoyer and Kate Neville


When Gerald “Jerry” Cournoyer moved to Seattle in 2016 to take a position at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, he had three years at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire and several CASE conferences under his belt. What he didn’t yet have were fundraising colleagues in the Pacific Northwest.


To build his network and expand his knowledge beyond higher ed, he signed up for the Advancement Northwest Annual Conference and, in a moment of providence, took a seat next to Carol Borgmann, a veteran fundraiser with a passion for connecting colleagues (and the 2019 Advancement Northwest Professional Achievement Award recipient).


Two days later, Carol introduced Jerry to his new mentor Kate Neville, currently the Institutional Partnership Director at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Kate had once been mentored by Carol and was understood the value of building a close and trusting relationship with a colleague.


“We started more formally,” says Kate. “We had an agenda, specific goals, and a rigor to our meetings.” When agreeing to pair for the Mentoring Program , mentors and protégés commit to meet one-on-one for 12 months. They choose their method of communicating: in-person meetings, video or phone calls, or email. Jerry created the agendas for their early meetings based on topics he wanted to explore and the two of them met in person monthly.

As Kate and Jerry talked through his professional goals, they found they held a similar approach to team and donor relationship-building, and also bonded over their shared love of the outdoors and stewarding our natural environment.


Over time their mentor-protégé relationship evolved and now two-and-a-half years in, “It’s a collegial atmosphere. We help each other out,” says Kate.


When both went through job transitions, “we supported each other through,” says Jerry, who now serves as Associate Director of Philanthropy at the Nature Conservancy. Instead of meeting monthly, they get together quarterly to talk shop.


“Advancement Northwest provides a platform for convening and finding people,” says Kate. “Access to the community is important. What if you didn’t grow up here or go to school here? Advancement Northwest creates a professional family that helps those people connect.”


“That’s why I got involved!” says Jerry. “This is a big city, but fundraising is a small world – and in that small world, Advancement Northwest is a big presence. Being a member has been really useful.” Recognizing the tangible value of mentorship, Jerry became a mentor himself to a colleague seeking to learn more about major donor strategies.

At a time when the nonprofit community is working harder than ever to provide services and fulfill their missions, staying connected is as vital to our individual wellbeing as it is to the health of our organizations. As you look to the upcoming months, consider if partnering as a mentor or protégé will be helpful as we all navigate the new territory ahead. Step by step, conversation by conversation, we will work it all out together.


If you interested in joining our Mentoring Program as a mentor or protégé, we invite you to  learn more about the program and how to apply on our website .