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The Importance of Mentorship: Women Who Have Led Me

April 9, 2018

by Deanna Codner

The woman I am today has a lot to do with the women I’ve met throughout my life.

I come from a single-mother home. I have tons of outspoken, brave, hilarious aunties. I went to a university that largely had a student body of women, and work in a sector that is largely made up of women. I am an intersectional feminist. I love being surrounded by inspiring women and have been so lucky in my short career to be mentored by some of the most incredible women out there. I’d like to take some time to recognize how they’ve shaped me.

When I began my first professional fundraising job, I had a boss with whom  I immediately bonded: a single mother, a feminist and an amazing and creative fundraiser. She encouraged my ideas and pushed me to dream. Her leadership transformed me into a confident fundraiser. It is because of her encouragement that I no longer believe there is a ceiling to what I can accomplish in my career. She became one of my best friends and continues to help shape and guide both who I am as a person and who I am striving to be professionally.

My professional association (Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Toronto Chapter) has a great mentorship program (check if your work or chapter has one and, if so, take advantage of it). When I joined, I was matched with an incredible woman who has been in the sector for over 30 years. She is a phenomenal writer and direct mail genius. Her depth of knowledge is never-ending, and she is a shining example of a woman who has paved her own way, runs a successful business, and just generally kills it. 

When I was getting run down and stuck in a job I no longer loved, she helped me to revise my resume and search for jobs. She actually found me the job I am currently in (and loving!). She taught me how to sell not just a cause, but myself. She taught me style and grace in dealing with difficult people and how to present myself for success in all things. 

I am also constantly being led by women who have no idea that I am their protégé. I follow as many female leaders in my sector as I can on social media, attend as many workshops as possible and take in as many drops of their wisdom as I can. The nonprofit sector certainly has a long way to go when it comes to getting women into positions of power and adopting a more inclusive vision for our work. But at the same time, there is so much knowledge we can glean from those who have paved the way for us. I am inspired by the women in this sector who have fought for their dreams and for the betterment of the world. 

Calling all young women 

Get a mentor. Get as many mentors as you can. Learn as much as you can. And then let’s get to work.

Calling all women who are established in their sector

Be a mentor. Pull up the women who are behind you. Lend your wisdom and your experience. Remember that we are your legacy. And, above all: if you have privilege, use it! Help open doors for other women and do your part to bring those opportunities forward. The women around you may be facing more challenges than you, and it’s your responsibility to lift-up women of colour, trans women, and other marginalized groups. Remember – we’ve only truly reached equality if we all get there together.

Who has helped to shape who you are at home and at work? Take some time today to email, call or text them and let them know how impactful they’ve been for you. 

The post was originally published on both the Canadian Women’s Foundation blog and AFP Greater Toronto Chapter blog.

Deanna Codner is a creative and passionate fundraising professional. She is energized when bringing donors, new and old, alongside the nonprofit sector’s mission to solve our society’s greatest systemic issues and prioritizes inclusion in her day-to-day work.



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