Member Story

AFP Member Spotlight: Elizabeth Lopez, M.S.

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Elizabeth Lopez

AFP Member Spotlights are a recurring series of interviews with AFP members, highlighting the unique individuals and career paths that exist within the fundraising profession. If you know an inspiring fundraising professional who deserves to be featured, please email

In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Elizabeth Lopez, a nonprofit leader and board member who recently started developing her skills in fundraising after recognizing the role that fundraising plays in the bigger picture of carrying out a nonprofit’s mission. She has immersed herself in the AFP community, attending AFP ICON 2024 in Toronto and joining the Latinx affinity group, to make connections and further her fundraising education. 

Q: How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there?

A: While my professional background primarily lies in leadership roles within nonprofit organizations, my experience in fundraising has been more of a recent development. As a board member of Northeast Senior Assistance and in a previous executive leadership role, I found myself facing new challenges, particularly in fundraising efforts. I held a VP role that collaborated with the development team to raise funds for programs. This involved cultivating relationships with donors. It was something I had never done previously, and while it was a challenge for me, I found it to be rewarding, not only for the organization’s mission, but for my personal growth as it allowed me to share a compelling narrative of the organization’s impact on the clients we served. As a board member, I’m currently developing my fundraising skills to further help the organization’s cause. 

Q: When and why did you decide to become an AFP member?

A: I became a member of AFP in 2023. In working with a leadership coach, I knew I needed to enhance my fundraising skills. He recommended I become a member as a way to gain resources, training, and networking opportunities to help further develop my skills and stay updated on best practices in the field. AFP has provided me with a platform for professional connections to peers, mentors, and potential collaborators within the fundraising community. AFP has also provided access to a variety of resources including webinars and conferences that support my professional growth as a nonprofit board member and for future roles. In January, I was awarded a Diverse Communities Scholarship through the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy to attend AFP ICON 2024 in Toronto, Canada. As a first-time attendee, it was an enriching experience filled with valuable insights and networking opportunities through social and affinity events. I met so many fundraising professionals and had the opportunity to meet with Paul Dunne, who sponsored the scholarship for my attendance. My favorite part of the conference, besides the vast variety of learning opportunities, was the opening keynote, Nikole Hannah-Jones. Overall, I had a fantastic experience and can’t wait to attend another AFP ICON conference.

Q: Are you doing anything innovative at your organization (or a past organization) that you think other fundraisers could benefit from?

A: Currently, I am working on my Ph.D. at Our Lady of the Lake University. My dissertation focuses on power bases and authentic Leadership within 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. I plan to utilize some of my current research for a future research project on how authentic leadership may contribute to donor relationships and organizational sustainability in the nonprofit sector. My goal is to provide valuable insights for fundraisers and nonprofit leadership to enhance their practices.

Q: What is your favorite word? (only one word) How has this word influenced or inspired your career?

A: The one word that comes to mind that has inspired my career and influenced me is “authenticity”. Being true to myself and being self-aware of who I am, not only as a leader, but as a person, has helped me in my career and building relationships. I’m a firm believer that authenticity in any role allows a person to build trust and credibility, which is crucial in the fundraising profession. 

Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: Stepping out of the box and moving away from roles that I am most comfortable with. I have been in leadership roles for more than a decade. I love leadership and mentoring future generations of leaders. I have been pursuing my educational goals of obtaining a master’s degree in organizational leadership and am now currently a Ph.D. candidate in leadership studies for that exact reason. My comfort zone is within leadership, and it wasn’t until I became a board member of a nonprofit, and a previous leadership role, that I was challenged to get into fundraising. Working within the nonprofit sector is a challenge when you are limited by funding resources. Fundraising was an area that I never really focused on, but it became apparent if I wanted to focus on the bigger picture of any organization’s mission that I needed to become familiar with the basic skills. And because I am a lifelong learner, I took the challenge to heart and have been developing my skills in fundraising since then. 

Q: How has being an AFP member and participating in the AFP affinity groups benefited you in your career?

A: I recently joined an AFP affinity group, Latinx. The AFP affinity group allows me to connect with peers who share similar interests, experiences, or identities. I joined the affinity group to gain knowledge and insights from other members who can share their experiences, successes, and challenges. It gives me, and others like me, a space to exchange ideas, best practices, and innovative approaches. It’s an advocacy and support system for members of the group. 

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?

A: One of the significant challenges facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today is adapting to changing donor preferences and behaviors. Building relationships beyond transactions is critical for donor engagement and retention. With the abundance of causes and organizations vying for donor attention, nonprofits face challenges in maintaining donor engagement and fostering long-term relationships. Building personalized and meaningful interactions with donors, demonstrating impact, and communicating transparently about how funds are used are essential for donor retention.

Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?

A: For fundraising professionals and those interested in getting into the field, I would say build strong relationships. Fundraising is fundamentally about building relationships with donors, supporters, and stakeholders. Focus on cultivating authentic connections, listen to donors' needs and interests, and demonstrate the impact of their contributions.

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