Member Story

AFP Member Spotlight: Kerri Hill-Johnson, M.S.

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Kerri Hill Johnson

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 afpmarcom@afpglobal.org

In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Kerri Hill-Johnson, M.S., individual giving officer at The Henry Ford. She shared with us how she went from thinking of fundraising as selling girl scout cookies, to becoming a passionate development professional, dedicated to building authentic relationships. 

Q: How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there? 
A: Funny story, I met the creator of the Benevon Model of fundraising about five years ago during an event in Detroit. She mentioned that I would be great at fundraising. I did not have a clue what fundraising was, so I assumed she was talking about pizza kits and Girl Scout cookies. I was not at all interested. Fast forward years later, I applied for a marketing position with a nonprofit. The CAO at the time stated that she thought I would be great in development. I took a chance and tried it out. That's when I realized the woman was right and that I finally found the right fit for me.
 
Q: What are you doing in your current role?
A: I am the individual giving officer at The Henry Ford, a cultural institution in the heart of Dearborn, MI that provides unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America's tradition of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and innovation.  

Q: What do you enjoy most about the fundraising field?
A: The most enjoyable part about fundraising is relationship building. I am a collector of stories, and when you are fundraising you are collecting the values and interests of your donors. You are collecting what they believe in and the value they place on what your organization is doing.  

Q: When and why did you decide to become an AFP member?
A: I became a member in 2022, looking to learn more about fundraising (I am a research nerd), and to connect and learn from others in the field. 

Q: How has AFP helped you in your career?
A: AFP has helped me in my career by providing valuable webinars and workshops, including events through my local Greater Detroit Chapter. Joining committees has allowed me to lean into my leadership skills, which has helped me become more confident in my job. 

Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: I am most proud of obtaining my master's degree in communications specializing in public relations. I am looking forward to starting a PhD program in the future and being a fellow in the Marjorie S. Fisher Fellows Program.  

Q: What has been your experience with IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access) in the fundraising profession?
A: Fundraising can feel exclusive, like only a particular type of person can be a fundraiser. Being a part of AFP, I have learned that you can break barriers and have an impact on people. My chapter placed an emphasis on having programs that promote inclusion, diversity, equity and access. The AFP Global affinity groups have been a tremendous help also, because you speak with other fundraisers in a safe space sharing your stories, having your experiences affirmed and validated.  

Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?
A: Your background does not matter. You can bring your authentic self to fundraising and someone will enjoy meeting with you. Be an active listener. If you don't like listening, then this isn't the profession for you. Fundraising is about getting to the heart of the matter and that is what I've learned makes people tick. Feeling seen and heard. Be authentic. Have fun. Do what YOU do and do it well! Show up as yourself because people want to get to know you too. Having amazing and supportive colleagues makes it easier to be yourself too.  

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