Laura Deaton: Transparent and Curious Leadership for a Better World

Editor’s Note: This edition of our Feminist Giving IRL series features Laura Deaton, Executive Director of Multiplier, a nonprofit working to accelerate impact for initiatives focused on health, sustainability, resilience, and equality.

  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I landed my first leadership role in the nonprofit sector in my early 30s and still had much to learn. I wish I had known from the start about the immense role that transparency and curiosity would play in helping me lead effectively. The power of those traits helped me design and better chart a course for impact.

Laura Deaton, Executive Director, Multiplier

First and foremost, transparent communication—executed well and with compassion—is a fundamental leadership skill that is integral to earning respect and trust. Curiosity and inquiry open doors and dialogues about truly discovering the best path forward by learning more about people, perspectives and processes before advocating for change. 

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Sara Monteabaro’s Mission for Women & Girls with MIT Solve

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sara Monteabaro, newly appointed Director of Strategic & Partner Programs at MIT Solve.

Sara Monteabaro is the newly appointed Director of Strategic & Partner programs at MIT Solve. (Image Credit: MIT Solve)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

Being a perfectionist is a strength masked as a weakness. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist myself, I’ve learned over the course of my career that perfectionist tendencies—when controlled—are something to lean into. It’s a matter of striving to do one’s best, while also accepting that failures along the way are learning opportunities, not signs of weakness or inadequacy. 

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Kinga Wisniewska on Collaboration over Competition

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Kinga Wisniewska, the Resource Mobilization Manager at FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, a youth-led feminist fund working to support grassroots organizers in over 120 countries in the Global South.

Kinga Wisniewska is a feminist and a sexual and reproductive health and rights activist from Warsaw, Poland, now serving as the Resource Mobilization Manager at FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund. (Image Credit: FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

The fundraising field is quite secretive, as organizations fear that sharing their donor experiences would have repercussions on their relationships, or that they would have to compete for funds if they disclosed what opportunities they are working on. It’s so weighty to work in silos, feel isolated and overwhelmed with the “I have to do it all on my own” mentality. That makes fundraising burnout very real, with lasting effects on our well-being and health, and affects so many of us in philanthropy, especially those working in resource mobilization.

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Catherine Berman: Together, We Can Move Mountains

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Catherine Berman, CEO and Co-founder of impact investment platform CNote.

Catherine Berman, courtesy of Catherine Berman

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

Question what others deem impossible.

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Education. We see values-based investing as a game-changer for both investing and creating a more sustainable, equitable world.  We spend a lot of time helping investors and donors learn about the measurable difference they can make with their investments without sacrificing returns or operational ease. Many of us grew up learning the only way to support the causes and communities we care about was through grants. That is no longer the case. We see impact investing as an important opportunity to double-down on the causes you care about and a way to authentically represent your values with every dollar; where you spend, where you donate, and where you invest.

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Jenny Xia Spradling on Financial Well-Being with a Mission

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Jenny Xia Spradling, Co-CEO of FreeWill, a digital estate planning company that has helped more than 150,000 people make wills. Before FreeWill, Jenny worked at McKinsey and Bain Capital, where she helped launched the firm’s first impact investment fund. She is also a cofounder of Paribus, later acquired by Capital One.

Jenny Xia Spradling is the Co-CEO of FreeWill, a digital estate planning company that has helped more than 150,000 people make wills. (Image Credit: FreeWill)

What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

You can have a job where you believe in the mission and have really fast career growth. I always felt like this was a trade-off in choosing a career – you could have growth or mission, but not both. The movement of social enterprises has really grown even over the past 10 years, and I think there will be more and more opportunities for people to have financial well-being while also achieving impact they are passionate about.

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Deb Nelson of RSF Social Finance on Activating Money for Good

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Deb Nelson, Vice President of Client and Community Engagement at RSF Social Finance.

Deb Nelson, courtesy of Deb Nelson.

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I’d known what a powerful tool money can be, and how important it is to understand the way people think about and deal with money. Through my previous work at Social Venture Network, I grew to understand and leverage social capital, but I resisted working with financial capital until I understood how to use it to effect positive change. Women have been socialized to believe we don’t know enough about money and we should just leave it to the experts. But you don’t have to be an expert to use money well. You just need to question assumptions about money, understand what it can do and activate it for good. Now, I love working with money and collaborating with investors and donors.

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Rachelle Suissa on Increasing Women in Public Office

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Rachelle Suissa, Founder and President of Dare to Run. Dare to Run is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and empower women with the skills necessary to run for public office at the local, state and national level of government. The organization offers female college graduates the chance to participate in a one-year certificate program in pursuit of a career path in public service. Dare to Run gives women the opportunity to be a voice for their communities by committing to run campaigns in search of elected office within two years of graduation from the program.

Rachelle Suissa is the Founder and CEO of Dare to Run, an organization that provides women the leadership skills and training they need to run for office in New York State. (Image Credit: Dare to Run/Rachelle Suisa)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

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Funding the World We Want to See: Sonal Sachdev Patel

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sonal Sachdev Patel, writer, activist and CEO of GMSP Foundation.

sonal sachdev patel
Sonal Sachdev Patel, CEO of God My Silent Partner Foundation (GMSP) Foundation. (Photo courtesy Sonal Sachdev Patel)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

So much. I wish I had known to go straight to the grassroots. The civil society leaders on the frontlines know what their communities need and know how to deliver it. But they’re constrained by a funding environment that is too often inflexible, impatient and imperialistic in terms of who drives the agenda. When we started in 2006, we were giving project-based funds. After listening to our local partners, we shifted to unrestricted funding.

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Lucina Di Meco: Why We Need More Women Making Decisions

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Lucina Di Meco, Senior Director of Gender Equality and Girls’ Education at Room to Read and author of #ShePersisted. Women, Politics & Power in the New Media World

lucina di meco
Lucina Di Meco (Image Credit: Lucina Di Meco)
  1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

It’s more important to do what you truly believe in and makes you happy and excited, than what you think might look good on your resume. To a young woman in my field I would say: do the meaningful work that you enjoy doing, and trust that something good will come out of it.

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

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Measurable Pathways to Equity: UNICEF USA’s Cristina Shapiro

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features the President of UNICEF USA’s Impact Fund for Children, Cristina Shapiro.

pathways to equity
Cristina Shapiro (Photo courtesy of Cristina Shapiro)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

Don’t make perfect the enemy of good — or great. Research shows that women feel like they need to be perfect and fully knowledgeable before they contribute or apply to new opportunities — I certainly did, and it likely held me back at the beginning of my career. 

Another thing I wish I realized was that equality and equity are not the same. Though women may have equal rights in many parts of the world, that doesn’t mean they have the same access to opportunities, resulting in significant inequity. As a Hispanic woman in finance, there were very few role models that looked like me. Now, I know it is up to me to help change that dynamic.

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