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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.

SEPTEMBER 2020

Paul Blaney
Development Manager at Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Board Member, AFP Golden Gate

How long have you been involved in the nonprofit sector?
Since 1994

Tell us about your current position. What are your responsibilities?
Manager of Individual Giving for LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, working with a five-person Development team, responsible for acquisition, cultivation and stewardship of a broad-based portfolio of major donors. LightHouse provides education, training, advocacy, and community for blind individuals in California and around the world. Founded and based in San Francisco since 1902, LightHouse is one of the largest and most established comprehensive blindness organizations in North America.

What has your career progression been like so far?
I have held leadership positions in the nonprofit sector for over 20 year but I came to development after working in several nonprofit leadership positions centered on human and social services. Before I relocated to Northern California in Fall 2000 from my native state of Maine, I worked for seven years with the management team for an agency that provides progressive support services to those living with mental illness. In 2001, I began working with Larkin Street Youth Services in a direct service role. In 2005, I was invited to join Larkin Street’s small but mighty development team as a Donor Relations Coordinator. I “took” to Development with enthusiasm and worked my way towards providing support directly to Board members and individual donors. Since 2007, I have had the good fortune of working in several, well respected Development “shops” in the Bay Area, including: Glide, Habitat for Humanity and Girl Scouts of Northern California.

What are you most proud of in your career to this point?
I made the leap from a career focused on direct service to a career supporting the efforts of the Development office. Initially, I did not have sights set on a fundraising career – I wanted to “serve the people.” Only now, having spent almost half my social service career in Development, do I see the “full picture” – how nonprofit organizations operate as a community ecosystem: direct service providers, students, donors, advocates, ambassadors, businesses, volunteers and board members.

I remain committed to community service, volunteering and supporting the efforts local, national and International organizations: Human Rights Watch, Shanti Project, Black Lives Matter, Victory Programs – Boston, Islamic Relief Fund, Shanti SF, Charity Water and PETA.

What advice would you give to other AFP members who are consider becoming a chapter Board member?
AFP Board leadership will expand your network, help fortify your values and afford you the opportunity to learn more about of fundraising in the modern world. You will form meaningful and engaging alliances with a community of professionals from across the Bay Area that you may otherwise not meet. AFP workshops and webinars will broaden your knowledge base and grant you opportunities to learn from extraordinary fundraisers and mentors. The experience is enriching, engaging and enjoyable.

Any secrets or just tried-and-true pieces of wisdom you want to share about what has worked for you?
Call your donors and supporters! In our shop we call a list of donors each week. Nothing compares to talking with your constituents and learning about their motivation for supporting your work.

What is the biggest challenge facing the profession right now?
From the development desk, I have seen how technology and communication has narrowed the window of opportunity to pique and maintain someone’s attention and engagement. The ability to assess and capture the essence of what’s needed to bolster your organization’s case for support and removing all barriers to access are essential. No longer do we have a guarantee that donors will read the entirety of every message received. We are now responsible for delivering bullet point messages that resonate with donors in the flash of a few moments. We have less time to make a lasting impression.

How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life? What do you like to do to relax?
I write poems, shoot/curate photographs, travel (my last trip was Brazil) and go to the cinema. I also have a “side hustle” working as a professional voiceover actor and audio describer.

Last book you read (or show you’re watching or binge-watching).
Just finished 500 pages of: The Witches – Suspicion, Betrayal and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by PPWA, Stacy Schiff. Just watched three MUST SEE documentaries available on Netflix: The Social Dilemma, Stink and Saving Capitalism.

What do you want to do in life that you haven’t yet?
I will build a house near the Maine Coast. I will travel to all seven continents – I have only four left. I will have my own horse and name him Truman.