Tycely Williams, Liz LeClair & The Importance of Making Space for Feminist Fundraising
Updated: Aug 25
A frank discussion with AFP-Global's Women's Impact Initiative's inaugural and current chair about the importance of bringing feminist ideals to work.
It is no secret that fundraising is more than just a job. The vast majority of us choose this field because we couldn't imagine ourselves doing anything differently with our time. Many of us view this work as a personal calling and I am certainly no exception.
I've always known that I was committed to a life of work in the nonprofit sector. I’ve been intentional about each career pivot I make, ensuring that I’ll continue to diversify my skill set and that I have a strong affinity for the missions I serve. Eleven years into my career and I have served primarily at queer and feminist organizations: this is certainly no coincidence. After all, working in the nonprofit sector is deeply personal to me.
Focusing my career in this way has allowed me to not only serve organizations with genuine and stalwart commitment, but it also has granted me the freedom to serve my greater community with the same ideals. Through my time volunteering with AFP, I have had the pleasure of working to ensure their IDEA values are woven into each initiative we take. To further this commitment, I also have the pleasure of serving on AFP Global's Women's Impact Initiative (WII). This is where I met two powerhouse women who would grow into mentors: Tycely Williams and Liz LeClair.
Through my time serving under their leadership, I have had the pleasure of witnessing feminist leadership in action. Tycely, the committee's inaugural chair, laid the foundation and Liz, the current committee chair, serves with the same intention. Our work is purposeful, provocative, and critical to the bettering of our sector. I could not be more proud to serve with such dignified leaders and I'd like to share a glimpse into our work with you.
Tycely and Liz were gracious enough to sit down with me recently and our conversation can be found below.
Juliana: Thank you for your time, Tycely. Before we dive in, I am curious, what inspired you to serve as inaugural chair of the AFP-Global’s Women’s Impact Initiative? Were there specific events that inspired you to assemble this committee?
Tycely: I agreed to this unique leadership opportunity,
because it was necessary. As charitable fundraisers, we are wired and inspired to meet unmet needs. I also agreed to lead the committee because it was personal. I have been paid less than male colleagues with less education and less experience. I have been subjected to repeated incidents of sexual harassment from male donors. I have moved from opportunity to opportunity because upward mobility wasn’t in reach within certain organizations. I am every statistic we seek to rightset. The heaviness and harshness of my lived experiences motivate me to lighten the load for other women.
Juliana: Liz, I know you share that motivation and lead with a similar intention. As WII's current chair, what goals is the Initiative working towards and what you are most looking forward to accomplishing in the future?
Liz: Thanks and I certainly do! The Initiative is currently focused on four key themes: advocacy around women’s issues in the sector; education of our peers around these issues; providing the tools and training needed for women in our sector to thrive; and building the next generation of women leaders through mentorship programming. I look forward to breaking down the systemic barriers holding women back. These barriers are endemic in our profession like in many other sectors, and we need to keep talking about them to ensure that we don’t slip back into a state of complacency.
Juliana: The Women’s Impact Initiative is currently working to ensure that all AFP chapters disclose salary information for positions posted to their local job boards. What inspired this initiative and what do you hope will result from this campaign?
Liz: I am really excited about this concept. This was driven by our committee members and our goal is to ensure 100% of the AFP Chapter job boards disclose salary ranges. This may seem like a very simple idea, but the consequences for women and underrepresented groups in the sector are significant. The number one way we can reduce the wage gap is through salary transparency. AFP can demonstrate a commitment to the principles of IDEA by ensuring we do not perpetuate harmful practices like asking job candidates for their salary range.
Juliana: There is certainly a lot to look forward to! This next question is for both of you. What has been your proudest accomplishment while serving on the Women’s Impact Initiative?
Tycely: I’ve taken immense pride in every moment. Our volunteer leaders work tirelessly to create a profession that fairly compensates women, adequately advances women, and fosters work environments free from harassment and mistreatment. Our accomplishments reflect the troubling reality that the need is even greater for Black, Indigenous, and women of color. As a Black woman who is a descendant of slaves, I took a great deal of personal pride in facilitating last year’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day panel which featured the talented Ofronama Biu, author of Race to Lead: Women of Color in the Nonprofit Sector and the inspiring Paulette Senior, CEO and president of Canadian Women’s Foundation. It is very important for people to fully understand the adverse magnitude of intersectional inequities.
Liz: Wow. That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many wonderful parts of being a part of WII. For me, it has been keeping the initiative alive and flourishing in spite of a global pandemic. For that I credit our keen volunteers and the support of the AFP Global team - in particular Taryn Gold (AVP of Chapter Engagement). Over the last 16 months I have chaired the committee through COVID-19, a global economic downturn, and social movements such as #BlackLivesMatter. Throughout it all I have seen the resilience and tenacity of every single one of our members to make it through. We have also done our best to support one-another as a community, and lift one another up.
Juliana: Tycely, I often like to share various professional development opportunities with my readers. I see that you have a Certificate in Philanthropic Psychology from the Institute for Sustainable Psychology. How has this credential impacted your career and what was your key takeaway from completing this program?
Tycely: The Certificate in Philanthropic Psychology has greatly impacted my career. I cherish it because it is the last directive Simone Joyaux sent my way. Last year, a few months after the pandemic, I started having targeted conversations with her and another mentor to crystalize my thinking for my first book. She urged me to study under Dr. Jen Shang and I loved every minute. My greatest takeaway is around the importance of a moral identity. As a relationship builder, I am very intentional about creating a community of donors who share a noble moral identity. I recognize that solicitations are an invitation for compassionate people to align their principles with a meaningful mission.
Juliana: I can't wait to read your book! Relatedly, you have presented on the topic of impostor syndrome, a ‘diagnosis’ that is often over-attributed to women. What are your thoughts about this phenomenon? What would you say to a fundraiser, specifically to those who are commonly underrepresented in our sector, who may experience feelings of inadequacy?
Tycely: Imposter syndrome is powerful and can lead to self-doubt and detrimental career stagnation. Statistics show that negative external voices and obstructive conditioning constantly tell and show women we are less than. Soon, our internal voice echoes the same sentiment and before long, we deflate our potential and block our possibilities. The success of fundraisers are often measured by metrics that we cannot fully control. Many externalities such as the economy and internal organizational factors such as programmatic success directly influence our abilities. Yet, none of these factors are discussed in performance reviews or salary negotiations. Inputs and outputs matter. Although very few organizations proactively ask fundraisers what is needed to succeed, we must correlate our success, and directly express what we need in order to meet and exceed expectations. This is especially true for underrepresented identities, as organizational norms, will likely be created and reinforced by the dominant culture.
"Although very few organizations proactively ask fundraisers what is needed to succeed, we must correlate our success, and directly express what we need in order to meet and exceed expectations." - Tycely Williams
Juliana: That has certainly been my experience! Speaking of outputs, congratulations on recently being featured on the cover of the April 2021 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy! Here you write about the ways that nonprofits are creating more inclusive workplaces for fundraisers of color. In your opinion, what are the top three things a Development shop can do to ensure their team is an inclusive environment?
Tycely: Thank you, it was a high honor and I remain very grateful for the feature. In my opinion, every development shop should:
1. establish equitable policies and procedures.
2. expect fair practices and hold people accountable when discrimination occurs. 3. Recruit, retain, and reward leaders who empower underrepresented identities.
Juliana: Liz, you too have proven yourself to be a community leader and I respect how you continuously advocate towards the bettering of our sector. In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing our industry today?
Liz: I believe that all of the major issues facing our sector stem from a desire to support the status quo and a fear of change. When I look at the friction in our sector it is between those who believe that the way we “have always done things” needs to be protected. There are interesting discussions and debates being had around how fundraising perpetuates inequity, how it contributes to systemic racism and oppression, how it upholds white privilege and the patriarchy, and what we must do to change that. I personally welcome these discussions and would encourage our members to do the same. There is a quote from Peter Drucker that states “The greatest danger in turbulent times is not turbulence. It is to act with yesterday’s logic.” We cannot continue to respond to current and future problems with the same logic we always have.
"I believe that all of the major issues facing our sector stem from a desire to support the status quo and a fear of change." - Liz LeClair
Juliana: Great point! Thank you to you both for sharing such important information today. In closing, if you had one piece of advice to share with women entering the fundraising sector, what would it be?
Tycely: Obligate yourself to take care of you.
Liz: Know that you are surrounded by a community of women and male allies who want you to succeed. And not just succeed in what the traditional perception of success may be, but succeed in whatever way brings you joy. This path is different for everyone.
Liz LeClair, CFRE is proud to call herself a fundraiser and a feminist. She brings more than 15 years of experience to her role as the Director of Major Gifts at the QEII Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Liz is a director with Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), and is the current Chair of the AFP Women’s Impact Initiative. In 2019, Liz published an op-ed with CBC on her experience being sexually harassed by a donor. She is a co-founder of the National Day of Conversation, a day dedicated to raising awareness on sexual harassment of fundraisers.
Tycely Williams, CFRE, As Chief Development Officer for America’s Promise Alliance, Tycely leads contributed and earned income strategies for the largest alliance of youth-serving organizations in the United States. Over the past 23 years, Tycely has advanced philanthropy as vice president of development of YWCA USA, as the chief development officer for the American Red Cross National Capital Region, an association director of major gifts for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, a director of development for two health and human services organizations, the artistic director of two community-based dance studios, and the executive director for a nonprofit organization founded by a Fortune 500 company.
Juliana M. Weissbein, CFRE is a respected leader and decision influencer in regard to fundraising operations best practices. With over a decade of experience, Juliana thrives on professional growth, team success, measurable results, and inspiring fundraisers to utilize data-based strategies. Juliana currently serves as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is an AFP Global Board Member, AFP Global's 2019 Outstanding Young Professional Fundraiser and is a member of the AFP Global Women's Impact Initiative. Juliana is immediate past chair of the AFP New York City chapter’s Emerging Leaders Committee and currently serves on the chapter’s board chairing their mentorship program. She resides in Houston, TX and never turns down a good kombucha.