Once a team member has been on board for at least 6 months, there’s an opportunity to go into the field. This year, 26 people, including me, went to Ethiopia. The trip included the tech team and even our receptionist. We met the people we are bringing water to directly. It’s hard to do development work if you have never been to a developing country – sharing that experience with other people has been one of the blessings of this job.
Location: New York, New York
Profession: Key Relationships Officer, charity: water
Tell us about your role.
I started as one of the only people whose job was 100 percent fundraising. When I came on last June, we were fundraising millions with a few staff focused upon that goal. I can tell a donor that their gift is making a difference and changing the life of one person in a community.
We work in quarters. Every 3 months, there’s a new cycle of projects. We’re not an organization that is dropping down into Africa, building wells and leaving. We’re implementing partnerships and capacity building for these organizations. We’re the fundraisers – connecting the U.S. to these communities. We consider the sustainability of our projects. In 20 years, we can tell donors in an honest and integral way that what we promised them would happen actually did!
We’re constantly changing our model. I’m inspired that it’s not traditional fundraising. We rework when we need to do so. I’m talking to philanthropists. I’m meeting with tons of nonprofits each day. Impact and integrity have defined my career and what brought me to charity: water and what I really value here. In the past 6 months, I have learned more from my peers than I learned from two years in a silo using Excel.
Tell me about your path to charity: water?
I’m a first generation immigrant. I grew up in the South. I knew I wanted to do something with impact. I’m from a Southeast Asian family of doctors. I wasn’t so great at science. I studied Politics at NYU. I wanted to do grassroots work and I wanted to see impact in my lifetime.
I had volunteered on Human Rights campaigns. I knew I needed to live in the Middle East to take action. I lived in Egypt and focused on education reform. From there, I shifted into philanthropic consulting. In order to do that, I wanted to pursue a business degree to talk to philanthropists – speaking about the impact of their gift and what that meant in a language that they would understand.
Yale has one of the top nonprofit management programs so it was my first choice. I became a Consultant with CCS where I focused on fundraising consulting for nonprofits. I developed strategy, but I was on Excel all day with clients for 6-12 months. I learned a lot in 2 years, but I wanted to see impact – I was working on projects and not feeling connected to them. The opportunity at charity: water was fortuitous. I had been checking their website every day for several years. Then, the perfect role opened.
What do you enjoy most about working at charity : water?
It functions like a tech start-up environment. The culture is based around a list of values -the first thing they sent to me is that list that the organization prides itself on – that really shows who they are!
We want to honor the people who we serve and our donors. We have pictures up across the office. Water has empowered people. It’s unreal to learn what it is like for communities before they receive water.
Once a team member has been on board for at least 6 months, there’s an opportunity to go into the field. This year, 26 people, including me, went to Ethiopia. The trip included the tech team and even our receptionist. We met the people we are bringing water to directly. It’s hard to do development work if you have never been to a developing country – sharing that experience with other people has been one of the blessings of this job. We actually are able to go talk to the community, hear their struggles and go back to talk to donors in an authentic way.
What advice would you have for others considering a career in the nonprofit field?
Preserve – there’s going to be a lot of discouraging experiences, people will say no. Stay vigilant. Definitely have a lot of coffee chats with people in the field – meet with someone who is a long time philanthropist or have conversations with people who work at nonprofits who aren’t in the role that you are interested in working. I talk to the people who code for our website. It’s cool to learn what they do! Don’t think too much about job title, instead find a job that fits you.
Who is a mentor for you?
A manager that I had at a job in Egypt. She was incredibly hard on me, she didn’t spoon feed me, but instead pushed me to always have expectations of myself. She taught me to understand that you have more in you than you think you do.
I like to follow the rules. I’m boundary oriented. It’s been good for me to learn beyond what I see. I look at founders of organizations like Endeavor and Acumen Fund. I follow their careers and consider what they think about when they want to hire someone or partner with another organization.
What’s the hardest part of what you do?
Not getting distracted by other people’s jobs. Don’t get pigeon holed into doing one thing. I still want to be in field of philanthropy. I’ve been on the programmatic side. I know my path and I admire other’s work, but don’t need to be a Water Programs Officer. I’m so inspired by what everyone else does and want to be a part of it. Their projects are exciting, but I have to remember why you were hired and what you are good at.