Q&A with Nicole Bailey
February 7, 2017
In every issue of Young Professionals, we’ll be talking to...young professionals! Our first member spotlight focuses on Nicole Bailey, who’s already a consultant in Gaithersburg, Md. (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) and committed to working on her CFRE.
Q: Tell us a little about your upbringing? Did you want to be a fundraiser growing up, or be involved in the philanthropic sector?
A: I was raised primarily in Norfolk, Virginia. My father is in the military, so we lived up and down the Eastern seaboard. I have two younger brothers, and my mother founded and youth service organization. Growing up, I didn’t want to be a fundraiser, but I did know that I wanted to help others. I had a very strong idea of what that looked like—lawyer, doctor, nurse, those sorts of careers. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for my fundraising career, freshman chemistry made me explore different options.
Q: How did you get your first job in the fundraising profession/philanthropic sector? Was it difficult?
A: My first nonprofit job was as a recruiter for a yearlong service program. I applied before I graduated and started that summer. I’ve pretty much only been in the nonprofit sector since earning my undergraduate degree. I got the job through a college colleague—networking is very important!
Q: What did you find most surprising in your first job? What was most challenging?
A: I was surprised at how close organization can operate to the margin. I think this was also the most challenging part: how do you bring all these dynamic, intelligent, idealistic people to change the world with no resources?
Q: What excited you the most? What didn’t you realize that turned out to be very important, as you look back, or maybe something you wish you had known?
A: I was truly excited to be a part of an industry that touches the lives of every person. Nonprofits do what government doesn’t and what an individual can’t do alone. That thought kept growing with me and made me think beyond my current job responsibilities. That idea helped me take on bigger challenges to work collaboratively for the greater good.
In terms of what I wish I had known, it’s still amazing to me how data driven fundraising is and continues to be. I would recommend that all young professionals build their technical skills, database management, and reporting and projecting in order to monitor their own success and support senior leaders.
Q: How did you come to be a consultant?
A: I began consulting when an organization I worked for decided to restructure. I was retained as a consultant to help ease the transition of my department into the larger department it was joining. I also helped to train the incoming staff. And I found that I really enjoyed it.
Q: What’s been the most challenging aspect for you of being a consultant?
A: One of the most challenging aspects is often ageism. Although I have done a lot of work in this field, been mainly located in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, and have strong community ties, sometimes organizations aren’t comfortable taking the risk on innovation. I love companies that are looking for ways to do things differently and focus on the continuously changing landscape of fundraising.
Q: What would you say to young professionals looking for their first job in fundraising?
A: Join AFP—the networking alone makes the membership worth it. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities you find. Volunteer! It’s a great way to get into the community and actually meet organizations who need people like you. Don’t give up!
Q: Has it been easy to find and network with other young professionals? What do you do?
A: I tend to meet other young professionals at conferences and other industry events. It’s not always easy, but it’s worthwhile to introduce yourself and get to know them. Fundraising is a close net community, and you always need support. I also always pack business cards, practice my elevator speech and bring a smile!
Q: What has your experience with AFP been like?
A: AFP is a must join organization for professionals. I have benefited from the continuing education sessions, meeting other professionals that face the same challenges as I do, job opportunities, mentorships, etc. In addition, AFP’s role in supporting credentialing in fundraising is helping set international standards.
Q: You’re working on getting your CFRE. Why is that important to you?
A: Fundraising is becoming recognized as a pertinent professional skill. I think credentials are important to show your commitment to the industry, standardize the evaluation of professional experience and skills, and continue to improve the professionalism in the nonprofit sector.
I also think it is personally important as an African American woman. We make up less than 5% of CFREs world-wide. I feel representation is important, and I want to show that it is attainable and beneficial to women and fundraisers of color.
Q: When you’re not helping people or organizations, what do you do in your spare time?
A: I am very close to my family so I visit home often. DC doesn’t have beaches so I like to escape to the sea as often as possible. I love traveling, reading, cooking, and binge-watching Netflix, mostly recently The OA, 30 Rock, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black and my personal favorite Wentworth (Hail Bea Arthur!).
Q: What was the last movie you saw? What do you want to see next?
A: Hidden Figures. I would like to see The Lego Batman Movie (my boys are going to flip!).
Q: What do you like most about living where you are?
A: I love the convenience of being near the city, yet far from the hustle and bustle. DC has one of the strongest markets for nonprofit job opportunities. It’s also amazing to see so many national associations based here; it gives a real feel of their work.
Q: What charity or nonprofit has a special place in your heart, and why?
A: The Association of Women’s Healthcare, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. They were the first company to take a big leap and believe in me, and allowed me so much room to try new ideas, understanding the spirit of fundraising as a team. Working with the association also introduced me to my fundraising fairy godmother, Maureen Calloway Carnevale, who has remained a close mentor since I’ve transitioned to other organizations. She always encourages me to continuously develop as the best fundraiser I can be.