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Each month, we shine a spotlight on one of our chapter members with a series of questions. We hope you enjoy learning more about our spotlight nominee this month.

EstherJULY 2020

Esther Landau
Director of Development & Corporate Communications, Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center
Board Member, AFP Golden Gate


How long have you been involved in the nonprofit sector?
I've been employed by nonprofits since 1990, starting out in music.

Tell us about your current position. What are your responsibilities?
I'm the Director of Development & Corporate Communications at the Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center, where we serve children and adults with disabilities. I oversee a crackerjack team of four, covering a volunteer program, core fundraising, grant writing, event production, and all aspects of internal and external communications. When we aren't sheltered in place, Pomeroy is a bustling, dynamic and quirky environment where you are as likely to get a marriage proposal or have someone ask how many hairs you have on your head as you are to hear about the latest Warriors game.

What has your career progression been like so far?
I started out as a professional musician and teacher, teaching flute lessons privately and at the Pre-College Division of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I fell into fundraising for my wind quintet, securing grants so we could commission living composers and present unconventional programs. From there I took the plunge to be Development Director for The Walden School, a summer program for creative young musicians. I stayed there 9 years and then, almost 7 years ago, moved on to my current position at Pomeroy. Moving from the arts to social services called for a huge learning curve, but I really like it. 

What are you most proud of in your career to this point?
I'm really proud of the relationships I've built with donors. It's not easy for me as an introvert, but I feel like these connections can be as powerful as a regular friendship. We are truly all rowing in the same direction and it makes me feel a great sense of purpose when we accomplish something together on behalf of the people we serve.

What advice would you give to other AFP members who are consider becoming a chapter Board member?
The AFP Board is such a great resource for me. I have found a sounding board, friendships, creative ideas, and a network during such a challenging time for all of us. It's been gratifying to be part of supporting this community and this field that has given so much meaning to my life.

Any secrets or just tried-and-true pieces of wisdom you want to share about what has worked for you?
Admit your mistakes. Don't put on airs. Be a human being and be open if you don't understand something. I think donors, colleagues, and the people you are serving deserve honesty. They will trust you more and your candor will give them permission to be themselves, too.

What is the biggest challenge facing the profession right now?
Certainly COVID is a huge current challenge, for everything from changing how we do our day to day work and when/whether our supporters will want to gather with us in person again, to how much we can ask from a community stressed by job loss and business closures. Longer term, our biggest challenge is a systemic one - the injustice that has created philanthropy in the first place. It is a rare philanthropist who did not come by their wealth at least partially through either privilege or exploitation of others. As fundraisers, we are trained to look the other way, but it eats away a little at our souls, I think. It is admirable for philanthropists to want to use their wealth to build a better world and to relieve suffering, but if the world were really "better" we wouldn't have philanthropists at all. Am I sounding Marxist? Oops.

How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life? What do you like to do to relax?
I sometimes have trouble with that balance, honestly, particularly because I have to wear my communications hat all the time, just in case something big happens. If someone goes off on us on Facebook, say, or we hear from the media on the weekend, I have to be ready to drop everything. The fundraising side of things I have an easier time compartmentalizing. To relax I play pennywhistle, bake, knit, or take a walk with our dog

Last book you read (or show you’re watching or binge-watching).
I just started rereading Essentialism, which I HIGHLY recommend if you're someone who tends to say "yes" to things at the expense of your actual job. We are watching the last season of Schitt's Creek - so good. I'm also crushed that the new season of Better Call Saul hasn't made it to Netflix yet.

What do you want to do in life that you haven’t yet?
Vote for a woman for president and to see her take office.