Mentor, Guru, Sage. Mentor, Guru, Sage.
The words evoke images of elders dropping gems into the palms of callow protégés.
But for all their well-earned honors and scars, you won’t find Women in Development/NY’s mentors on a mountaintop; they’re in a meeting. “Whether you’ve just started or you’re an experienced professional in search of support, having a mentor is crucial for any woman working in development,” says Carol Ausubel Blumenfeld, CFRE. She and fellow Board member, Heidi Ihrig, co-chair WiD’sCareer Advancement and Coaching Committee.
Terry Billie, WiD member and mentor, agrees. When she graduated, she stepped into a world where “Men far out-numbered women as professional fundraisers. We were all volunteers. You heard a lot of, ‘We can give you an internship, but we can’t pay you.’”
That’s changed. Blumenfeld is a Senior Major & Planned Giving Officer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Ihrig is Associate Director of Development at Parsons The New School for Design; and Billie is Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations at Goodwill of New York & New Jersey. They and a dozen other women form WiD’s mentoring program—one of the many benefits of membership. Volunteercoaches do this for fun and for free.
“Guidance on job challenges is significant at any time of life, but when you’re new to the field, it’s vital,” says Blumenfeld. Ihrig adds that member requests for coaching rose by one third last year. This growth was partly due to the increased ease of on-line registration, but also because “Our members are exploring a market that’s more competitive than ever.” That intense influx of interest makes networking matter, according to Billie, whose coaching recently helped a mentee land two clients.
"Let's face it. Women still make less than men and fall behind in holding top business, government, and nonprofit leadership positions,” says fellow WiD member and coach, Kelly Brennan. “Having a woman ahead of me on the journey breaks the glass ceiling, so to speak.” Brennan, the Associate Vice President of College Advancement for The College of New Rochelle, says unbiased peer perspective is worth more than gold; it’s worth grants. “We hold the fate of millions of dollars in our hands. It’s critically important to have this program.”
These pros won’t be lingering on a mountaintop any time soon, so sustained inspiration matters. Billie finds it in her own “brilliant and wacky, fun and successful coach. She’s doing what I want to do, when I’m almost ready to retire.” But even an excuse is proof that mentoring works.
In the words of one WiD member who couldn’t attend an event: “I have new clients. I’m so busy! Blame it on my mentor.”