AFP Member Spotlight: Taylor Sanchez Guzman
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 email@example.com.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Taylor Sanchez Guzman, development officer at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. New to the profession, and to AFP, she found her career in fundraising through her lifelong passion for community. In this interview, she shares her experience with inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in the fundraising profession, and her work breaking down cultural barriers to inspire deeper relationships between her organization and its donors.
How did you start your career in the fundraising profession and what lead you there?
The opportunity to become a fundraiser fell into my lap while searching for a path back to the cause I was most passionate about — community.
I was a general manager at a restaurant and felt like I had no time to connect with the people around me. I wasn’t looking for a fundraising position, but I knew I wanted a career change and was interested in nonprofits.
I had begun working in the restaurant industry while in undergrad, studying film and media theories. During that time, I was writing about identity fortification, social narratives, and relational power. Fundraising was a natural fit for me, utilizing the skills I had learned at the restaurant, and the skills I had utilized academically.
My work as a fundraiser has allowed me to continue writing in a non-academic capacity, coupling theory with the community-level action of securing resources for social change.
What are you doing in your current role?
Currently, I am a development officer at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, my first position in the fundraising field.
It’s functionally a major gifts role, with a large part of my work focused on deepening the relationships that current donors have with our organization, as we pursue hunger prevention efforts. Oklahoma has some of the highest rates of hunger in the U.S., so our work goes beyond feeding, addressing the reasons why hunger happens in the first place.
I am also working to bridge the gap between communities who receive our services and those who invest in, and support, our work. It’s critical to ensure that communities of color are not seen one-dimensionally as recipients of support. I have learned that everything is about relationships in fundraising and sometimes cultural barriers need to be made a priority so that everyone who is a stakeholder in our work can engage fully. Organizational donors can support these efforts in ways that are unique to their own relationship with the community.
What do you enjoy most about the fundraising field?
I love being able to connect with others over passions that we share and helping them uncover the ways that they can engage in that passion. I believe whole-heartedly that no one should go hungry and sharing in that with donors who also believe in our work, for whatever reasons they believe in it, is such a fulfilling experience.
One of my love languages is acts of service and it’s great to be the connector. Fundraisers help others help others. I love getting the call that someone wants to get involved and I am the one that helps them do it. I am so fortunate to experience the level of creativity and flexibility that I have in my role.
When and why did you decide to become an AFP member?
I became an AFP member through my organization, right after starting in this role in early summer 2022. Everyone on my team is an AFP member and I have witnessed the value that having the membership provides.
How has AFP helped you in your career?
I have attended as many AFP Oklahoma Chapter luncheons as I can, both virtually and in-person, because I am a sponge, soaking up knowledge about fundraising. I have also attended many AFP webinars and the AFP IDEA: Emerging Leaders Virtual Conference. These sessions have educated me on things that I knew absolutely nothing about and have helped me gain perspective on things that I do know a bit about.
Overall, AFP has helped support my career with community. It’s one thing to provide educational meetings, but one experience that I thoroughly enjoyed was the Latinx Affinity Group meeting. As a Chicana fundraiser, my success depends on seeing others like me who have done it and are doing it and continuing to make a way for those to come.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m proud to be close to completing my first year as a fundraiser. I’ve had great successes in this first year, yes, but with high turnover rates in fundraising, I’m glad to continue to see a future for myself in this profession.
What has been your experience with IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access) in the fundraising profession?
The data is very clear on this — the profession needs more IDEA. At a very fundamental level, my experience supports the claim that more Black, Indigenous, and people of color are needed in the fundraising profession, and they need to be paid equally.
Even more, fundraising needs the ideas of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. As professionals who secure resources and create cashflow to some of our community’s most necessary needs, such as water, food, housing, education, and health, we must work in a way that does not contribute to cycles of exploitation and in-access. Breaking cycles requires new perspectives and rethinking best practices, if those practices aren’t closing gaps and breaking down barriers.
Those of us who come from the communities most impacted globally have a unique perspective. I would like to see our profession continue to elevate those perspectives, even if they don’t come from decades of fundraising experience, or with credentials.
What advice do you have for other fundraising professionals, or people interested in getting into the field?
Put yourself out there, always. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.