Member Story

AFP Member Spotlight: Kevin Chi, CFRE

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Kevin Chi


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 Kevin Chi, CFRE, development officer, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine. He shared with us his experiences with mentorship and how his involvement with the Asian Pacific Islander Affinity Group has expanded his definition of community within the fundraising profession. 

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

A: I think many of us say we “fell into” fundraising because we didn’t think it was a career option. I had ambitions of going to medical school and pursuing a career in healthcare. So, to build my volunteer experience I started volunteering at my local hospital foundation when I was in high school, helping out at fundraising events and in the office making thank you calls. It was a different way of helping and connecting with people, and I was inspired by the mission and the work we were doing to make positive changes to the hospital and patient outcomes. It really opened my eyes to what a career in fundraising and the nonprofit sector could look like. Once I graduated university and after seven years of volunteering, the hospital foundation offered me a staff position which I gladly accepted.

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

A: I have to give a shout out to two people who introduced AFP to me: Carleen Pauliuk, vice president, western Canada, Arthritis Society Canada and Sofia Janmohamed, executive director, development, Simon Fraser University Advancement & Alumni Engagement. These two amazing mentors helped open doors, gave me a chance to ask about the CFRE certification, and candidly discussed the value (and cost) of being part of a professional association. They both helped me explore the importance of relationship building and being part of the fundraising community. We were so lucky to have Sofia’s leadership as the president of the AFP Greater Vancouver Chapter as well. I signed up to become an AFP member shortly after.

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

A: Impact - the ‘why’ behind our work. I think it is an overused word in the industry in the best of ways. People are inspired by different motivations, but I personally find myself to be quite mission driven. Impact is the foundation that frames the work that we do, activating positive change and making a difference in lives. It’s what drives our mission and goals, how we measure and define success, and gives us purpose. When I’m reminded of the big-picture impact we are making, and the stories we hear from our community members and donors, it creates some of the most meaningful interactions and continues to inspire my career and to do better.

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

A: Being an AFP member has made me feel much more part of a community. I think early on, I thought a professional association was just an opportunity to network and expand my own personal connections, which was great for opening up new opportunities. I’ve since evolved that thinking and see AFP as a place to build community and help create spaces for belonging where we can all connect with one another, where people can connect with me too and it’s not a one-sided relationship. I’ve also recently joined the Asian Pacific Islander Affinity Group with AFP Global and it has really strengthened that feeling of community with my fellow fundraisers around the world.

There’s the idea that all are welcome, “regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.” But these aspects of my identity are important to me. I want you to take into regard who I am, where I come from, to care about my culture and worldview, and see it as strengths. It’s been liberating to be in conversations without having to defend or fight for aspects of my identity to be heard and valued. There are also numerous socio-cultural differences within the terms Asian-American and Pacific Islander, including Native Hawaiian, and it’s been meaningful practice to be able to come together, find solidarity and similarities in our experiences and values, and share stories.

Being in a room with fundraisers who get what it feels like to feel hyper-visible, to challenge the model minority myth, navigate racism, all while balancing how to not jeopardize our careers by speaking up - it’s been an invaluable experience realizing you are not alone in this experience. I’m incredibly grateful to Jennifer Li Dotson and Teresa Chan for facilitating the Asian Pacific Islander Affinity Group, leading the conversation, and cultivating an environment where I feel I can show up and be more wholeheartedly authentic and true to myself.  
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?

A: The burnout is real. Being a professional fundraiser and working in the nonprofit sector can be incredibly rewarding yet extremely challenging. Navigating ethics and excellence, developing insight and self-reflective courage and the emotional resilience to handle rejection, strategically seeking larger revenue goals year after year, while also constantly learning and adapting to changing trends and embracing innovations like AI - all of it takes a toll. Especially when we’re still having to talk about overhead expenses and having access to the resources to invest in our fundraisers, staff, and internal infrastructure. The frustration and exhaustion are growing, and we have to advocate for the talented people working in our organizations. We are worth investing in, to be the best version of ourselves to advance our mission.

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

A: I would say reach out and connect. This can be your introduction to relationship-building! To build on that, I would also say find a mentor. Mentorship was not something that was culturally inherent to me and I still have a hard time describing this relationship to my parents. It’s not a master-apprentice, teacher-student pairing. It’s a two-way street in communication and a commitment to reciprocity and learning together. And there’s this wonderful openness in the fundraising profession that I’m not sure exists in other industries. In my experience with most professional fundraisers, it requires skills and resources but there are no trade secrets. We love connecting with new people, sharing impact stories, staying curious, talking strategies, and are here to support and uplift each other in our endeavours to address some of the most complex social issues and shape a better future together.

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