Empowerment at a Pop-Up

This morning I attended my first ever Association of Fundraising Professionals event, a “pop-up” about Women’s Leadership. And while I’m not a professional fundraiser, though it must be clear to you by now that development is something I’m passionate about and give much thought to, I knew that going to an event led by powerful non-profit women could only lead to good things. I came to the event pretty much just to hear from Sarah Durham, founder of the inspiring and innovative Big Duck, but came out of the pop-up inspired by nearly every woman at the table.

With all of the noise about women in the workplace, it can be difficult to focus on the issues that matter most to me. As a 20 something with no familial commitments (unless you count my slightly hefty pitbull), I don’t need to listen to another woman preach about how hard I’ll have to work to “have it all.” Thankfully, this morning’s pop-up delivered, as the three well-accomplished panelists hardly mentioned the challenges of being a mom, and focused on the challenges and advantages of being a woman in the non-profit space, allowing the many of us young and single girls to meaningfully engage in the conversation.

The panel included three seasoned professionals: Sarah Durham of Big Duck, Adrienne Prassas from the American Heart Association, and Stephanie Thomas, founder of Stetwin Consulting. Though each woman clearly has a distinct voice and area of expertise, the one thing I noticed all three of the panelists have in common is their passion for what they do. They each told such personal stories about facing adversity, taking risks, and chasing goals, that my own dreams of having a career in the non-profit space were only that much more reaffirmed.

Sarah anchored the session in several activities that forced us to share, network, and most importantly, reflect. How often do you come away from professional seminars feeling frustrated by the lack of networking opportunities, or feeling like you could have just as easily had the same experience from watching the seminar online? That didn’t happen here. It was refreshing, to say the least, to be at a professional event where I felt like I was in exactly the right place at the right time, with all the right people. Here was a group of smart, assertive women of all stages in their careers, and everyone was happy to share their knowledge
I can’t say I left the pop-up ready to “Lean In”, Sheryl Sandberg style, but I left more empowered than I have been in a long time. No one today told me I’m “too young” or simply naïve. I left with practical advice to take back to not only my professional life, but also my personal life and even my MBA applications.

It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we stop shooting each other down and choose to build each other up. In that short two hours I saw Beyonce’s “run the world” prophecy within reach.

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