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Voices of Emerging Leaders: Naqib Sarwary

Naqib Sarwary

Voices of Emerging Leaders is a series that highlights the voices, accomplishments and commitment of young professionals in the fundraising sector.



Naqib Sarwary1. How did you start your career in the fundraising profession, and what led you here?

In 2017, I started my first professional career in fundraising with an internship at the Human Rights Watch (HRW) headquarters in New York City. I worked for the outreach and development team and helped organize HRW’s Annual Summit in NYC. This experience has broadened my understanding of the fundraising sector and all the fantastic opportunities I can use to help others.

I came to New York City from my home, Afghanistan, on a full scholarship to do a postgraduate degree with Bard College Globalization and International Affairs. Since BGIA was an evening program, I could intern during the day. My passion for defending human rights took me to HRW, where I started my fundraising career.

2. What is a current challenge you or your peers face in regards to your professional fundraising career?

The two main challenges that young professionals new to fundraising face are the lack of opportunities to learn and be mentored. Not all employers can or are willing to pay for their staff to attend courses and participate in learning programs. Having scholarship opportunities or free mentorship programs can help build a strong foundation for those who are new to the fundraising world.

A challenge that organizations may face is that employees move around a lot. This reduces effectiveness, especially in programs that require relationship building with donors, such as major gifts and legacy programs. Employers and professional associations should find out why fundraisers wish to move around and help create workplaces where employees want to stay longer.

3. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am proud and privileged to do a meaningful job - something I believe in dearly. I take pride in being part of Amnesty International, an amazing organization that defends human rights in the face of injustices and the politics of hate, fear, and racism around the globe. I am proud to raise funds for the children’s rights to education, women’s rights to choice, and everyone’s rights to respect and dignity.

4. Talk a little bit about a mentor/coach/boss you’ve had that has helped you in your career.

I am thankful to all my mentors, managers and employers who have helped me grow in my career. I am particularly grateful to Rosemary Oliver, the fundraising director of Amnesty Canada, who saw the potential in me and gave me a chance to build a career. Rosemary encourages learning, not just by supporting me as an employee, but also by serving as a role model. She is a hardworking, respectful, empathetic, and understanding colleague.

5. How has AFP and the community (AFP Global or your chapter) helped you with your success?

I was amazed by the power of the fundraising profession in 2018 when I attended AFP Congress in Toronto. Since then, I have been a member of AFP, and it has benefited me immensely – from the learning opportunities to the resources to the network it provides to connect the fundraising professionals.

6. What is your dream job?

Regardless of the role, my dream job involves an opportunity to serve and help. Fundraising not only helps me do this, but it also provides me with the opportunity to develop essential skills, such as relationship building, planning, time management and collaborating with various teams.

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