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Celebrating Women’s History Month: Q&A with Birgit Smith Burton and AADO

To celebrate Women’s History Month, AFP is highlighting leaders among the charitable sector, along with supporters and sponsors of the AFP Women’s Impact Initiative (WII) and the AFP Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA): Alford Group Mentoring and Leadership Development Program.

Today, we’re talking with Birgit Smith Burton, fundraiser, community leader, AFP’s vice chair for member and chapter engagement, and founder of African American Development Officers (AADO) Network, a generous sponsor of the AFP IDEA: Alford Group Mentoring and Leadership Development Program.

AFP: Why did your organization choose to support the Women’s Impact Initiative?

birgitBirgit: AADO is committed to supporting a leadership pipeline in the fundraising profession, and this priority includes women. Women can become successful leaders when they have a chance to connect with other women and learn. One of the best ways to learn is through having a role model. And this can often be successfully accomplished through mentoring. AFPs Women’s Impact Initiative is the ideal opportunity for AADO to support a leadership pipeline of women through an established mentoring program.

AFP: Why is the initiative important to the fundraising profession?

Birgit: Plain and simple, because there is a gender gap among women in nonprofit leadership roles, and WII is shining a spotlight on this inequity and creating programing to help bring women up.

AFP: What are you most proud of contributing to?

Birgit: For over 22 years the African American Development Officers (AADO) Network has successfully supported diversity in the fundraising profession. This includes helping to grow a pipeline of professionals of color and educating organizations on how to recruit and retain diverse professionals for their nonprofit organizations.

AFP: How does the work of your organization help support the work of the initiative?

Birgit: Gender equity is an important focus of WII. The mission of AADO is diversity and equity in the fundraising profession with an emphasis on having all the voices at the table in order to be successful.  AADO, through educational programming, conferences, and conversations, helps professionals to be aware of their own biases and stereotypes and how they impact the environment in which all people work, including women. It’s important for everyone to be welcomed and have the opportunity to be successful so our nonprofit organizations will thrive. 

AFP: Give us an example of what you are doing in your workplace to support women?

Birgit: One of the things that AADO is doing is supporting an initiative for women of color in the fundraising profession. The Rooted Collaborative is a global community focused on the growth and development of women leaders of color in the social impact sector. This initiative gives a voice to those women who are traditionally excluded.

AFP: What’s the most important challenge you see in ensuring equity for women in the profession?

Birgit: The perception gap. This constant promotion of gender stereotypes must be dispelled for women to be successful.  It’s not just about preparing women for leadership roles—it’s also about a change in how men and women see the role of women in leadership. There is a need for a change in culture. Organizations must promote a culture that is based on accountability and equality.

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