After the election

“they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit”
~ William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (Random House, 1936)
~ Senator Tim Kaine, Nov. 9, 2016

How can we move forward from the 2016 U.S. presidential election? The pundits and pollsters may have gotten this one wrong, and, like many people, I have my own ideas why, but I will leave it to them to explore. Meanwhile, here are some random thoughts inspired by the events of Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

In his endorsement last June, President Obama described Hillary Clinton as the most qualified person to ever run for president. And yet. A recent study found that women only apply for jobs for which they are 100% qualified, compared to 60% for men. A Harvard Business Review analysis of this study went on to note that the reason for this was not a simply a lack of confidence; less than 10% of women feared they would not be able to do the job if they did not meet all the qualifications. The most gendered reasons given for not applying for jobs had to do with the application process itself, with women much more likely than men to report being afraid of failure or breaking the rules. The HBR report goes on to cite a McKinsey & Company study which noted that “women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on performance, while men are often promoted on potential.” Taking this one step further, Vu Lee has written about how nonprofit job descriptions mask biases which not only lead to employers filtering out applicants, but also to job-seekers disqualifying themselves; either way, the result is a less diverse job force. In the correlation of qualification to hiring, promotion, and diversity, this U.S. election has lessons for both workers and employers.

On election day, I attended the National Philanthropy Day events at my local AFP Chapter. In the afternoon panel discussion, a Community Dialogue, philanthropists and leaders from local corporations, foundations, and nonprofits talked about how to move our city forward. Key priorities, brought forward by major donors and organizations alike, were addressing income inequality and gaps in opportunity and achievement. They spoke at length about the Milwaukee neighborhoods located in 53206, “America’s most incarcerated zip code.” They discussed scalability, sustainability, collaboration, place-based giving, “halo” benefits, and whole-system thinking. The conversation wasn’t political, but it was both strategic and caring. It was philanthropic, and it gives me hope.

I won’t pretend my hopes and dreams survived wholly intact after the early hours of November 9th. As a woman, a feminist, and the daughter and mother of strong women, electing a female president mattered deeply to me. Statements made by our president-elect have reawakened painful memories from my own life. And, with two LGBTQ daughters, I worry even more now for their future opportunities, freedoms, and safety.

But now it’s time to get back up again, and get back to work. It’s more important now than ever.

3 Ways Being a Mentor Can Help You*

A simple internet search on the word “mentor” will find the above image, from Homer’s Odyssey. When Odysseus did not return home after the Trojan War, his son, Telemachus, searched for him, accompanied by the goddess Athena disguised as his childhood teacher and guardian, Mentor (you can read more here). The same internet search will also find a ton of how-to articles and websites. But here is what mentoring means to me, and why I think you should give it a try:

Paying it forward: yes, absolutely, mentoring is a feel-good. You are paying it forward by freely sharing your expertise and your time. When I was president of APRA Wisconsin, I wrote a whole column in our newsletter about the philanthropy inherent in sharing and teaching. I still feel strongly that a passion for working in the philanthropic sector must include service. (I feel just as strongly that it doesn’t mean working for poverty wages, but that’s a soap-box I won’t climb onto here.)

Seeing through new eyes: when I taught high school in the last millennium, discussing literature (yes – that included the Odyssey) through ever-changing points of view was one of my greatest joys. Something similar happens in a great mentoring relationship, one which crosses skill sets and generations. The give and take of the best mentoring relationships should give you the opportunity to re-examine how you’ve always done things. A new generation brings new ideas, and together, with your different skills, points of view, and assumptions, you may just come up with a new and better way of doing something. The problems they need solving may be ones you haven’t thought about for years, or they may be ones you never would have foreseen. You may just head down a path neither of you could have found on your own.

Polishing your skills: there is nothing like teaching someone else to help you sharpen your own skills. Obviously, you will want to be at the top of your game for the sake of your “mentee” (and, oh, how I hate that word – but I don’t like protégé either), and for the sake of your own personal pride. However, as you and your mentee work through the challenges they’ve identified, you are likely to learn new skills and relearn dormant ones. You are also likely to need to say “I don’t know” more than once, and then head back to your office to figure things out before you meet again. But beyond the honing of specific technical skills, mentoring also gives you the opportunity to work on your “soft” skills in a friendly room: leadership, presenting, training, project management, as well as eye-contact, modulating your voice, and learning which clichés fall flat.

So when you think about mentoring, give yourself permission to be a little selfish in your approach to service. Because you will get back so much more than you give.

*I’ve heard (most recently from Josh Birkholz at the APRA Illinois data analytics conference at Loyola on Oct. 3rd), that one of the ways to attract readers to your content is to lead with a number. I thought I’d give it a shot.

 

“Membership has its Privileges”

This isn’t a how-to, but a why.

When I first joined APRA it was for the same reason as a lot of people: I was attending the International Conference. It was 2000, and I was adding prospect research to my other responsibilities as database manager. The conference was my seminar series and the people I met became my alumni network. Fourteen years later, I have just completed two consecutive terms as the president of my state APRA chapter.

For my first nine years as an APRA member, prospect research continued to occupy just a small part of my day; it ebbed and flowed with the other, more predictable aspects of my job. Research may not have always been a priority back then, although it would become so later, but even as my career focus changed, my APRA membership retained consistent value.

Learning – most of what I know about prospect research I have either learned in some way via APRA, or from the people I have met through APRA. At that first conference, titled – appropriately, for me – California Gold Rush 2000: A New Generation of Prospectors, I attended sessions on SEC documents, IPOs, integrating strategy into research and ratings, and researching corporations, foundations and individuals. Yes – I still have the program, but I don’t have any of the PowerPoints or my notes. I also learned about APRA International, and about two other important resource networks – PRSPCT-L and the Wisconsin Chapter. All three continue my education in prospect research to this day, which is further enhanced these days by blogs and Twitter.

Networking – on the first full day of my first conference, there was a “Lunch by State.” At the Wisconsin table I met people who would become my mentors, colleagues and friends, and who introduced me to the APRA Wisconsin Chapter. In earlier careers, I had belonged to user groups and unions, but I never made the kind of long-lasting relationships I have been able to make via APRA. Being an APRA member brought me in contact with people who valued the work I did, and who understood and could help me with the obstacles I encountered. When my own organization’s internet connection couldn’t download a particularly large Form 990 (remember the early 2000s?), a friend at another organization with a more robust broadband connection opened the document and found what I needed. Indeed, whenever research, or technology, stumped me, I had people to turn to, and, in my own turn, I eventually became a mentor myself. Over the years, we have been there for each other as jobs were found and lost, as children were born and as parents passed on.

Serving and Leading – APRA and my chapter have offered me countless opportunities to volunteer, and to explore leadership through board service. I volunteered at my second APRA conference, and, a year after joining the chapter, I hosted my first chapter meeting (which, in those days, also involved securing a speaker). Many years later, I became both leader and steward, as a chapter president in a time when APRA itself was pondering the nature of the relationships between members, chapters and the organization as a whole. Being a leader within my chapter has given me a platform to speak, write, teach and mentor; to become a philanthropist with prospect research as I called it in one of my chapter newsletter columns.

So, what has my APRA membership given me? If not certification, then validation, knowledge, commiseration and, most of all, community.