Member Story

AFP Member Spotlight: Molly Donahue, MPA

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Molly Donahue

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 AFP member spotlight we interviewed Molly Donahue, MPA, development strategist at Bloodworks Northwest. She shared with us how she fell into fundraising because of a deep belief in the mission of her organization and how she is creating a culture there of IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access) by starting employee resource groups for various cultures and identities.

How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there? 
I already volunteered at Bloodworks before I was an employee. A deep, resonating connection to the work drew me to the organization. We provide 95% of the hospitals in the Pacific Northwest with a safe, lifesaving blood supply. Our Research Institute has transformed patient care with breakthroughs in transfusion medicine, blood biology, blood storage, cancer therapies, organ transplantation, and treatment of clotting disorders.

Fundraising wasn’t on my radar until I got my position at Bloodworks Northwest, but I applied for a job, because of the mission. I think that might be true for a lot of people that work in this field. I speak to colleagues across organizations who say variations of, “I didn’t go to school with the aim to end up where I am, but I’m glad I did.”

When and why did you decide to become an AFP member? 
I found AFP through a colleague about a year ago, who forwarded a free webinar. The depth and breadth of the resources available, particularly for fundraisers in all stages of their careers, is the biggest draw. It was an easy decision to become a member, not only to have access to content that applies in a broader sense, but to also connect with fundraisers in my region and through affinity groups.

How has being an AFP member and participating in the AFP affinity groups benefited you in your career? 
I am in the early stages of my career compared to many of the AFP members I’ve had the honor of learning from. With 5 years of experience in the field, I feel like a sponge; I need to soak up not only development institutional knowledge, but also stay current on the latest industry trends. AFP has been crucial to both. I recently attended AFP ICON in Toronto, which was the largest fundraising event I’ve ever been a part of. The sessions challenged, changed, and strengthened my fundraising practices, and I left the event feeling buoyed by the connections I’d made with professionals in my field. And, ICON 2025 will be held in Seattle, WA – my hometown. AFP Advancement Northwest, my local chapter, looks forward to hosting fundraisers from all over the world next year.

Joining the affinity groups is recent, and I’m glad that I’ve gotten involved. I have served previously as co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Council at Bloodworks Northwest and am currently the chair of our LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group. Peer to peer connection is such an essential asset in any profession. Understanding and openly discussing how identity is impacting other colleagues who do this work is vital to my continued development as both a professional fundraiser and a queer professional fundraiser.

Are you doing anything innovative at your organization (or a past organization) that you think other fundraisers could benefit from?
We have exceptional storytelling. Converting intricate scientific work into compelling reasons to contribute has been the single most important piece of our fundraising strategy. I am so proud of the content we produce, all of which has been written ourselves for years.

That being said, we are wading slowly (ever so slowly) into the pool of A.I. Understanding our capacity – we are a very small department of 3 employees – we do not have the time to spend on individualized content anymore. It’s a scary place to be, utilizing a tool that for the most part has been scorned by many professions, but we are starting to see the benefits of opportunity cost in our day-to-day operations. Anything written by A.I. will always need to be fine-tuned and better personalized, and our storytelling will continue to be the unique cornerstone of our campaigns, but the bulk of the work can be passed off, opening us up to larger projects and strategy.

What is your favorite word? (only one word) How has this word influenced or inspired your career?
I return again and again to the word curiosity. Closing yourself off to any learning opportunity is a mistake. Understanding the ‘why’ of something can unlock so many avenues for development. A big part of my role at the organization is strategy work, and that can only be done with the implementation of curiosity.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
In late 2022 when I stepped into the role of co-chair of the D&I committee, I began working on a project to start affinity groups at Bloodworks Northwest. I studied groups at other organizations and collected nationwide data for workplace satisfaction. After finding an executive sponsor, I was able to submit a proposal to launch the first Employe Resource Group – the LGBTQIA+ group – and create the building blocks for other groups to start. Since then, three additional groups have been created and are all thriving. Funding has been allocated to support these ERGs moving forward, as well as to assist any additional groups that may arise. The ERGs are now a piece of the diversity & inclusion platform at the organization.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
The method and environment of fundraising is changing right in front of us. We are witnessing the decline of cash (credit card, cash, check, pay pal, etc) giving at a faster rate than ever before. Organizations who are not built to pursue or receive non-cash gifts, like donor advised funds, qualified charitable distributions, stock transfers, or cryptocurrency will need to adapt quickly to maintain and develop major donors during the era of wealth transfer.

What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?
Find mentors; even though there’s so much changing in the fundraising world, the one constant is always relationship building. Find someone whose relationship building you respect and ask to learn from them.  

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