AFP Emerging Leaders: A Q&A With Andre Dowell
In this interview, AFP talks with emerging leader Andre Dowell, MAE, development and alumni relations engagement officer in the Office of Development at The University of Georgia, about his start in fundraising, current challenges he’s facing, accomplishments and much more.
How did you start your career in the fundraising profession, and what lead you there?
Being actively involved and engaged during my undergraduate journey, I knew I wanted to be a higher education professional. I stumbled into a career in fundraising during my graduate school journey at Western Kentucky University. I learned quickly that it is a rewarding and dynamic field with the potential to make an enormous impact. I have a passion for institutional advancement, and I strive to make institutions stronger. I want to contribute to the current and future developments within institutional advancement that strengthens educational access and opportunity. I enjoy organizing and implementing creative strategies and ideas to engage community members and leaders as fundraising partners.
I thrive on developing and maintaining strong and active relationships with donors and being involved in transformational moments that truly impact lives. This amazing profession opens doors and provides opportunities for individuals to strive for excellence in their personal, professional, and educational pursuits. I value being able to cultivate creativity in fundraising. The creative component is my true calling because I enjoy identifying opportunities or assisting in establishing opportunities. Excellent fundraisers can utilize their creative talent to see possibilities, connect the dots, and bring ideas, resources, and individuals together—both within the organization and outside the group—to assist in achieving the organization's mission.
What is a current challenge you or your peers are facing in regards to your professional fundraising career?
A challenge emerging diverse professionals face in regards to their professional fundraising career was perfectly captured during Birgit Smith Burton’s recent President Perspective Blog; Birgit is the Founder of the African American Development Officer (AADO) Network, Executive Director of foundation relations for the Georgia Institute of Technology Office of Development in Atlanta and the chair-elect of AFP Global, Birgit wrote: “Today, we are suffering from a shortage of fundraisers of color at a time when the future of the profession as a whole is in trouble. The profession is at risk of not having the fundraisers needed to meet the growing challenges nonprofits will face over the next decade. According to AFP’s 2019 report on membership demographics, only 9% (approximately) are people of color." We must strive to strengthen IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and access) in the profession. Fundraising organizations must build and retain diverse boards, leadership teams, development units, and create inclusive fundraising practices and policies. Birgit also wrote, "To advance true equity, I encourage us to commit to inspiring and educating a new generation of diverse fundraising professionals and motivating them to join the industry." Emerging diverse fundraising professionals seeing representation at all levels inspires and motivates them to continue building a fundraising career. Young professionals in fundraising have to see themselves living, growing, and thriving within the organization and not feel like a guest. Supporting and advocating for diverse fundraising professionals is imperative and will move organizations from awareness to action in IDEA.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I was the visionary behind the University of Georgia (UGA) mentor program advancement initiative. I am a high performer and have exceeded my outreach and visit goals while also closing my fundraising career's first major gift during year one of my role. As the engagement officer for regional development at UGA, I continually endeavor to develop and maintain diverse donor engagement. Even though I am early in my fundraising career, I am fortunate to have worked with a major gift donor to provide opportunities to the Division of Student Affairs to combat student hunger.
I've also worked with another major gift donors to provide opportunities to the Georgia 4-H Foundation. I enjoyed working with a major gift donor who strived to strengthen IDEA by establishing a unique study abroad scholarship for underrepresented students for the Office of Global Engagement. Maintaining and graduating with a 4.0 GPA during my graduate journey, I was presented with the Outstanding Student Affairs Program Graduate Student Recipient and Recognition at Western Kentucky University in May 2019. I had the pleasure to be selected to be a Distinguished Minority Fellow in graduate school. I am honored to have been named one of the Black History Month Salute Series recipients at my alma mater in February of 2018.
Talk a little bit about a mentor/coach/boss you’ve had that has helped you in your career.
Mentorship has exposed me to diverse experiences and involvements, which has prepared me to be more knowledgeable in a wide range of Fundraising and Philanthropy. Earlier in my career, in my 20s, I gained the most effective and efficient knowledge, resources, and skills that I will have readily available in my toolbox of success. I have learned so much about myself, which genuinely forced me to step outside of my usual comfort zone and truly grow. I have had many opportunities to share my passion and love for fundraising and Philanthropy through mentorship, and that is what I cherish. Authentic mentorship has ensured I am developing as one of the sharpest tacks in the box. Intentional mentorship cultivates the most elite leaders, and I am truly appreciative to have the honor to be a part of this high-achieving industry.
These experiences have pushed me further to create a foundation for a successful fundraising career and one-day presidential career. I have a passion for higher education and philanthropy; having mentors in the institutional and nonprofit spaces provides the necessary means to further my personal and professional growth. My mentors cherish the impacts of philanthropy and strive to make our world a better place. The mentors in my corner exhibit the personal attributes it takes to succeed in this profession. Showing myself what it takes to be productive and successful in the industry and demonstrating the positive behaviors and actions necessary to succeed in the field. They provide intentional guidance and constructive feedback throughout my mentoring journey.
How has AFP and the community (AFP Global and/or your chapter) helped you with your success?
I enjoyed attending AFP national, regional, and local events and programming. AFP allows development professionals to enhance their expertise through engaging and relevant programming. The impact that this professional association provides its members, industry, and the world is truly unique, and I love being a part of those diverse and transformational experiences and change. I am thankful for AFP hosting a remarkable Black Men in Development Panel Discussion. This powerhouse panel of Black male development professionals discussed the challenges they have experienced and the successes they have achieved in the profession. Super thankful for industry leaders like Dr. Juan A. McGruder, CFRE, and Ken Miller, CFRE, who invest in young men of color’s professional development and value mentorship in the profession.
I am super thankful and honored to have been nominated by Birgit Smith Burton, the founder of the African American Development Officer (AADO) Network and the chair-elect of AFP Global, for the Emerging Leaders of Impact award and affording me the opportunity to attend the 2020 AFP LEAD virtual annual leadership conference. This remarkable experience allowed development professionals the opportunity to enhance their expertise through fantastic keynote speakers and rewarding educational sessions. AFP LEAD provided conference attendees with the trends and tools to be a more effective leader in our organization and the fundraising community
The Greater Atlanta Chapter hosted an inspiring National Philanthropy Day luncheon at the Georgia Aquarium. It was an honor to witness the motivating honoree’s recognized for their outstanding contributions in their many philanthropic endeavors.
I enjoyed attending the African American Development Officer Network (AADO), Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP-Global) New Jersey Chapter, and CCS Fundraising for hosting the Recruiting to Empower Diversity webinar. The presenters did a great job showcasing how to apply an IDEA lens to recruiting and retaining development staff. I appreciate being able to gain insights on how organizations can embrace inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) in our fundraising practices and respected organizations. Birgit Smith Burton, Keatley Scroggins, CFRE, Angelique Grant, Ph.D., Yolanda, Jethro Miller, and Sayaka did a great job sharing how inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) provides an organization with access to new communities and supporters and providing the organization with unique perspectives and visions.
AFP Global featured me in their recent President's Perspective Blog for Black History Month. I enjoyed being able to share why I appreciate this month, the impacts of African Americans and leaders in our society, and the importance of inclusive fundraising. I hope other fundraising professionals could utilize this perspective as a source of inspiration and continue bringing change and impact to the profession. I am truly thankful for organizations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals who invest in young professionals and ensure we are effectively developing as emerging fundraising professionals.
What is your dream job?
I have a passion for higher education, and I strive to make institutions stronger. I want to be known as an authentic and genuine fundraiser who is also a servant leader. I want to be known for the passion I have for philanthropy and hope to be able to bring change and have an impact on our profession. Philanthropic fundraising ensures innovation and excellence within the Institutional setting, which provides opportunities to enable our students to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, visionaries, and leaders who will re-imagine and transform the world.
The support from institutional fundraising assists students throughout their entire collegiate journey, and the impacts of authentic fundraising still find ways to provide support during these unprecedented times. I aspire to become a university president. As an active member of the higher education profession, I have been an advocate and a leader for change. The president's role is vital to student life, growth, development, and allowing students greater opportunities. This role is the champion in providing effective guidance and support for an academic program that is consistent with the university's mission and vision while efficiently ensuring leadership and support for a student experience that complements the educational component and appreciates the diverse interests and needs of the student body.
College prepares students for different aspects of their professional and personal life. I want to continue contributing to the current and future developments within higher education that will further benefit the overall student.