Member Story

AFP Member Spotlight: Skyelar Andrews

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Skyelar Andrews

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 Skyelar Andrews, donor relations assistant at The New York Community Trust. We discussed how the profession can overcome historical biases to be more inclusive of BIPOC philanthropy, and she shared with us how her mentors and the AFP community have shown her there is no set mold for what a fundraiser needs to be. 

Q: How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what led you there? 
A: I started my career in fundraising over a year and a half ago, fresh out of my undergraduate degree. Growing up and seeing my parents engage in philanthropy through their support of various environmental groups instilled altruism in me from a young age. I always knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to give back to the community and help others. Throughout college, I was involved with several local nonprofits, working on various teams such as volunteer management, membership services, and special projects. However, I didn’t know much about the development field as a whole and starting my position at the Trust introduced me to the more technical aspects of fundraising. 

Similar to others who I’ve spoken to in the field, fundraising wasn’t initially on my career road map. However, after being offered an opportunity to work with the donor services and development team at the Trust, I knew I had to take a leap of faith and try something new. After integrating more into the fundraising profession, I’ve not only found joy in getting to know our donor base and assisting them with their philanthropy, but I’ve also enjoyed the team-based effort required for effective fundraising.  

Q: When and why did you decide to become an AFP member? 
A: At the Trust, our development team is small, but mighty and we consistently push both ourselves and our colleagues to grow. Part of this growth mindset includes professional development, such as AFP membership. My colleagues, both long-time AFP members, encouraged me to join the organization as they found great value in the group’s professional development opportunities. Excited to engage in new opportunities and grow in the field, I decided to become a member and I haven’t looked back since!

Q: Are you doing anything innovative at your organization (or a past organization) that you think other fundraisers could benefit from?
A: With all the new technology and services claiming to help increase engagement and boost contributions, I think it’s easy to forget about the small, personalized gestures that can make a huge difference in relationship building. However, in the past year or so, the Trust has focused on putting in the time to create a more personalized donor experience. While it’s not always the easiest to maintain personal relationships with a large donor base and small fundraising staff, continual engagement through actions as little as a phone call have proven to be effective for our team. Not only is it rewarding to learn about the eccentricities of our donor base, but it’s also proven to be effective in ensuring our donors feel heard and recognized. 

Q: What is your favorite word? (only one word) How has this word influenced or inspired your career?
A: My favorite word is love because I believe it’s an essential part of our existence as humans. For me, love isn’t bound to romantic relationships. Instead, I believe that love is a driving force which pushes us to support and uplift one another. In my career, I proactively choose to embrace love in order to better engage in empathy with both my colleagues, as well as the communities we serve.    

Q: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
A: When I started at the Trust, I was intimidated by in-person events as I felt out of place and feared saying the “wrong” thing to a guest. However, after attending multiple events, ranging from more intimate gatherings to larger cocktail parties, I’ve found my stride and have begun to really enjoy learning more about our community of donors and professional advisors. As annoying as cliches can be, I often find them true, and this case is no different. Pushing myself to work outside my comfort zone and attend events reflects the idea that practice makes (almost) perfect. 

Q: How has being an AFP member and participating in the AFP affinity groups benefited you in your career? 
A: Through AFP, I’ve had the honor of participating in both the NYC Chapter Mentorship Program as well as the Asian Pacific Islander affinity group, both of which have connected me to wonderful, like-minded professionals. I first got involved in my chapter’s mentorship program on a whim. While I knew that the mentorship program would help me to better navigate my career journey, I procrastinated on applying as I worried that I wasn’t cut out for the program. However, these insecurities quelled as I began to meet with my mentor, Mindee Barham. Getting to know Mindee and learning more about the fundraising landscape through her depth of experience has been one of my favorite professional development experiences thus far. Not only did I gain a better sense of what I wanted for my professional career, but I also made a genuine connection with a lovely person. 

After dipping my toes into AFP engagement via the mentorship, I decided to sign up for the Asian Pacific Island affinity group meeting. As soon as I entered the Zoom meeting room, I was met with laughter and joy, creating a safe space in which I knew I would be welcome. As the conversation vacillated from silly to serious, members remained engaged and receptive to new topics or issues raised. While I’ve only had the chance to join one meeting thus far, I look forward to future gatherings as it helped me to feel like I’m part of a community in the fundraising world. 

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
A: As we strive to serve historically marginalized communities and create a more diverse, equitable society, one of the largest challenges facing the nonprofit fundraising profession is creating the space for BIPOC communities to feel welcome in philanthropy. Historically, white Americans controlled a vast majority of the wealth in the United States; this has led to philanthropy being associated with whiteness. However, as wealth is spread and BIPOC communities rise in affluence and giving capacity, it’s necessary for the fundraising world to embrace the new philanthropists. Meaningful inclusion requires a concentrated effort to make BIPOC communities feel heard and seen and I believe it’s imperative for organizations to put in the work to create a safe space for these communities. 

Q: What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field? 
A: My best piece of advice for people interested in getting into fundraising is that there’s not a set mold to be a fundraiser. Initially, I assumed that you had to be an extravert to succeed at fundraising, as it seemed as though everyone around me had a never-ending social battery. However, after speaking with my mentor about my social anxiety at donor events, she reminded me that it’s not just about being extraverted. Instead, she pointed out that these social interactions require background research as well as a game plan. Her advice emphasized how fundraising is a skill, rather than an innate talent, that must be developed over time through practice. Remembering this has helped me to enter donor events with less anxiety as I recognize how I can apply my thoughtful, thorough nature to conversations to effectively pitch my organization without requiring me to be the center of attention. 

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