Erika Chen, Vice President of Equitable Policies, AFP Advancement Northwest

How We Do This Work

A few weeks ago, our new Advancement NW President and my good friend, Shannon Wong, wrote about Why We Do This Work. I’m continually inspired by her perseverance, and her article continues to demonstrate her strength and optimism.

Me, on the other hand, I’ve had multiple ‘final straw’ moments with nonprofit and fundraising work. Now, all of my efforts go toward changing the sector for the better. I work from the outside as a consultant. Many of the reasons I left the sector were because of the cognitive dissonance I felt from what organizations said their missions were and how they were doing that work.

So, while I think the why we do this work is so important, so is the how.

One of the reasons I am excited about the year ahead is that as President, Shannon is not concerned with maintaining precedent with how things have been done in the past. And that’s what we need in leaders right now! Many of us have been advocating for change for years but only with the support of leaders who want to learn from past mistakes can we move forward.

During the past two years, I have served on the board as the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA). As a board and an organization, we have struggled with a lot of things — we’ve made mistakes, and that’s okay. Failures are important because that is how we have learned and how we have been able to make some change within our organization and hopefully our sector as well. This year, I know we want to continue learning and growing, possibly even taking more risks and making more mistakes.

When Shannon asked me to write this article and we were talking about our hopes for this year, including being more transparent and being a leader organization in this field by sharing publicly our mistakes and how we’ve learned from them, Shannon said “But that is not exactly how nonprofits have operated in the past.”

Exactly!

We have to do things in a different way if we want to improve our sector. If we want fundraising to be more grounded in social justice and DEIA values, we can’t continue how things have always been done. We have to chart our own new way. (And we need to have some fun doing it!)

For example, I made up my own title this year! Is that weird? Is that allowed? I don’t know. But I am no longer as concerned with doing things the way they have always been done, or doing only things that are “normal” or “allowed.” It’s fun, I like it, and it reflects the work that I plan to do this year as a board member for Advancement Northwest — shouldn’t that be what matters?

What we are aiming for — a more just and equitable fundraising community — has never existed before, so we can’t keep going with the same roles and titles and way of doing things that have always existed. As Vice President of Equitable Policies this year, I will do my best to make sure that how Advancement Northwest is operating internally and in our communities best reflects our values.

I invite you to please let me/us know if you have any thoughts or ideas, and if/when we make mistakes, let’s talk about those too!

Thank you!