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Graduate Certificate Students Tackle Real Fundraising Challenges, Explore Solutions in Mastermind Group

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Members of the Fundraising Mastermind group in a Zoom meeting.

During the spring 2021 semester, five Nonprofit Management and Leadership Graduate Certificate students were selected to participate in the collaborative Fundraising Mastermind group facilitated by Barbara O'Reilly, the immediate-past president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ D.C. chapter and the founder and principal at Windmill Hill Consulting. The Mastermind group was created to support nonprofit professionals and social impact leaders through peer-to-peer discussions, exchanging ideas, and tackling challenges collaboratively. 

Over the course of the semester, group members attended five virtual meetings, during which each student presented a fundraising challenge that they and their organization were facing. The small group discussed these issues in depth, formulating comprehensive solutions and expanding their fundraising knowledge from peers with similar challenges and a facilitator with decades of experience.

The selection process for group members was highly selective. Only students with positions that heavily involved fundraising were considered, and applicants had to commit to attending all five meetings. Some of the challenges and scenarios that members tackled included cultivating a network of high-net-worth donors, shaping a Board of Directors with profitability in mind, increasing event profitability, establishing recurring revenue streams, and strategizing for large grant acquisition.

Students played an active role in problem solving and brainstorming, and Professor O’Reilly, who co-taught PLCY689Y Nonprofit Fundraising Theory and Practice during the spring semester, helped guide the meetings and offered additional insights from her 25+ years of nonprofit fundraising work. 

Professor O’Reilly’s outstanding career includes fundraising leadership positions at Harvard University, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oxford University in England, and the American Red Cross. She is a Certified Fundraising Executive and Association of Fundraising Professionals Master Trainer. Her consulting firm, Windmill Hill Consulting, devises fundraising strategies for nonprofits of all sizes that bolster donor relations and maximize revenue. 

The students selected to participate in the spring 2021 Fundraising Mastermind group brought a range of experience, challenges, and ideas to the group. The first Fundraising Mastermind group members include:

  • Jon Apfelbaum, Legacy Giving Associate, African Wildlife Foundation
  • Leslie Jefferson, Federal Grants and Community Engagement Manager, The SEED School of Maryland
  • Armani McMillan, Executive Director, IMPACTdmv Inc. & Talent Acquisition Director, Employ Prince George’s Inc.
  • Cedric Nwafor, Founder and Executive Director, ROOTS Africa
  • Samantha Sisisky, Senior Director of Community Engagement, BBYO

Given the immense success and positive reviews of the spring 2021 cohort, Professor O’Reilly will be leading another Fundraising Mastermind group during the fall 2021 semester. Additionally, Nekeya O'Connor will be facilitating a Nonprofit Finance Mastermind group in the fall that will center around financial planning for program expansion.

To learn more about the graduate certificate program, click here.


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Megan Campbell
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