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Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy Program

August 30, 2015

By Sahar Vermezyari

sahar VA few short months ago the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada launched a first-of-its-kind program in Ontario: the "Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy" program.  This program was developed as a result of some pointed questions being asked in regards to the fundraising profession and cultural diversity: Who is missing from the picture?  What would enrich the work further? A series of conferences held with several communities told AFP that the fundraising profession needs to better reflect the communities we serve; to create more opportunities for underrepresented groups, and to expand our understanding of fundraising best practices.

These principles have formed the cornerstones of the new Fellowship program.  With funding from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s Partnership Project Office, the Fellowship program will offer inclusion-oriented education, specialized training, networking activities and one-on-one mentorship for 35 Ontario-based emerging and mid-level nonprofit professionals representing a wide range of diverse identities and interests.

A team effort

I am very proud to be the Program Manager for this new ground-breaking program. I work with a group of dedicated senior volunteers as well as a supportive AFP staff team to lead this exciting program.  The response we have received from our funding supporter, Ontario Chapters, senior AFP volunteers, and the general fundraising sector has been incredible. 

When I attended "Fundraising Day" in Toronto last May, I was lucky enough to meet many people who shared their experiences with me and echoed what we had been thinking and hearing all along: a program such as the "Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy" program is much needed, and will make a great impact in the social profit sector.  

Meet the Fellows

Throughout the spring of this year, we were able to widely promote the program, and we received an incredible 48 applications! The applicants came from diverse backgrounds but they all shared a passion for philanthropy and a desire to further their understanding of diversity and gain strategies for improving inclusion. Through a very competitive process, and with the help of a volunteer selection committee we selected 35 Fellows, and have extended the Fellowship to those individuals. 

This program offers many opportunities, to which the Fellows might otherwise not have access.  Over the course of eight months, each Fellow will receive the following:

  • Complimentary 1 year membership from AFP
  • Full scholarships to 6 AFP professional development and education opportunities, including the Fundraising Day conference, 3-day fundraising Congress, Fundamentals of Fundraising and 3 webinars.
  • Full scholarship to customized diversity and inclusion sessions
  • One-on-one senior level mentorship
  • Opportunity to develop organizational policies and practices on diversity and inclusion
  • Support from the Program Manager throughout the Fellowship
  • A Certificate of Inclusive Leadership from AFP upon completion of the program

The individuals who will trail-blaze this new program are passionate, thoughtful, determined, and community-minded. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome the 2015 Inclusion and Philanthropy Fellows:

Alana Liberman 
Alisha Pawa 
Andrea Thompson 
Angela Severight 
Charlie Andrews 
Cheryl Blackman 
Deona D'sa 
Dolly Singh
Dulaa Osman 
Elizabeta Liguric 
Eugenia Duodu 
Frankie Chow 
Hope Lovell 
Irshad Osman 
Jacqui Terry 
Jessica Bolduc 
Kalpana Srinarayanadas 
Lorena Munez 
Lucia Ly 
Malika Salih 
Mam Joof 
Melodie Gabriel 
Mimosa Kabir 
Mohit Pramanik 
Muneeb Syed 
Rebecca Abotossaway 
Salomeh Ahmadi 
Sara Lebensold 
Sarah Midanik 
Shehzad Qureshi 
Tania Cheng 
Tania Hossain 
Toni Francis 
Uma Venkataramaiah 
Winsome Smith

Please click here for pictures and to read more about each Fellow.

This program is AFP Foundation for Philanthropy Canada’s leadership initiative, and we are confident that it will help to further develop the fundraising landscape by building a pipeline of leaders that reflects the diversity of our communities in Ontario.

We are excited to see where this program takes us, the lessons we will learn, and the impact it will have on the social profit sector.  This program will run for two consecutive years and will give another 35 Fellows this same opportunity.  We will be accepting applications for the second cohort in early Spring/2016.  Please follow our journey and become a part of the program by visiting our webpage: and signing up for our e-mail updates.  You can also follow us on social media.  Like us (Inclusive Giving) on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @InclusiveGiving. 

To become a mentor to a program Fellow, or for further information, please contact me at

Sahar Vermezyari oversees the development and execution of all aspects of the Inclusion and Philanthropy program. She holds a Master’s in Social Work from University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Social Work from Ryerson University. She has worked for over 10 years in the not-for-profit sector in a variety of settings and positions.

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