AFP Member Spotlight: Quinton Jefferson
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Quinton Jefferson, research and grants administrator at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He shared with us how he is using the skills he developed throughout his varied career path, now in his development role.
Q: Can you start off by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about how you got into fundraising?
A: My route is a bit circuitous. I didn’t necessarily follow the same path some of my colleagues did that are in fundraising or grant writing. Basically, I graduated high school, went to college for a semester, and then decided to go a different path. I worked in warehouses, then returned to college and became a teacher, and then made my way into development. How those are connected, as I reflect, is that the warehouse is all about logistics, moving items, supporting others. Education was also a bit logistical, but instead of products it was individuals’ minds, teaching new skills, helping young people grow into themselves. What I find in development is that I'm linking my passions, those skills of helping others, moving products… now I'm helping to deliver funding. So, I'm still doing some of that logistical stuff, teaching people new skills. But I'm more of a conduit for that work to happen, by finding those resources via donors or funders that can help us fulfill our mission.
Q: How did you get involved with AFP?
A: Really it was through a colleague. I landed at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and one of the first things that one of my colleagues mentioned was becoming a member of AFP. This wasn’t my first grants role, but I didn’t have that contact in my previous role, so it was a happy accident, but it was fortuitous. She advised me to look into AFP, and I decided it seemed like a great organization that could help me professionally.
Q: What has been your experience participating in AFP’s affinity groups?
A: I'm involved in the African American Affinity Group, and I find that rewarding because I don't have a lot of experience in the development world, but in that experience, I haven't met too many individuals that look like myself. Being part of that affinity group and having men and women that look like me all over the United States chiming in, was very uplifting. It helps me feel like I’m part of a community, part of a team, that is mission driven.
Q: Are you doing anything innovative at your organization or a past organization that you think other fundraisers could benefit from?
A: I think everything is innovative, how I define it. Every moment is an innovative experience because no two events are necessarily alike. And I think that's where the innovation lies. It's not necessarily the big win or the latest and greatest program initiative, but it's seeing the variety in the process and the gifts coming in. It could be a chance meeting with a donor, writing a grant a certain way, or helping a colleague ask for the next gift.
Q: Do you have a professional accomplishment that you're most proud of?
A: I think what I'm most proud of is just becoming part of this fundraising community. AFP and other organizations have helped me really learn about all things philanthropy, all things development. So, I think it's just learning about all the different facets of fundraising that I’m the proudest of.
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing nonprofit fundraising professionals today?
A: I'm not really seeing a challenge. I'm seeing a lot of opportunity because we can learn from bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and different generations, be they fundraising professionals or donors from other walks of life and just having people come together… you never know what great things can come out of it. That's my experience. You put all these heads together, all types of opinions, and next thing you know, you've got some new way, some new direction that you didn't even consider going a year ago or six months ago.
Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals or people who are interested in getting into the field?
A: I'm fortunate to be at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra because we are considered a large shop. But I've met others that are in the smaller shops, and they're wearing many hats. And so, I would say to that person that's just getting in the field, don't be afraid of it, get your feet wet. See where you can go. Maybe you want to stay in the shallow end for a while and just concentrate on grant writing or individual donors. Then once you're feeling comfortable, go out to the deeper water. Deal with corporate sponsors or government funders. Don't be afraid to move around in the field.