Well-known fundraising coach to introduce FIA National Mentoring Program

Robin Cabral MA MFIA CFRE

January might be National Mentoring Month in the United States, but fundraising coach Robin Cabral says mentoring should be a year-round activity because it brings incredible satisfaction to both mentors and mentees. 

As part of the 2020-21 FIA National Mentoring Program, Cabral, an experienced consultant and strategist who works in both America and Australia, will provide the introduction on two FIA webinars on the benefits of mentoring – one for mentors and the other for mentees. 

Tune in! Robin Cabral is providing the welcome to the mentor/mentee webinars for the 2020-21 FIA National Mentoring Program.  

The webinars take place Wednesday, 16 September (mentors) and Thursday, 17 September (mentees) at 11am (AEST). 

Cabral thinks everyone should have the opportunity to access mentoring if they want it. 

“Over my 25 years of working, I’ve been lucky to have had three or four people I could turn to for support at different stages of my career. It’s vital to have someone you can confide in and who will give you excellent advice,” she says. 

The well-respected American fundraiser Simone Joyaux has been Cabral’s principal mentor since the 1990s. 

“As I was starting a new job at the Sisters of Mercy Northeast (US), I had the challenge to take multiple different local offices and merge them into one central fundraising office. I realised that I needed someone who could be a sounding board as I proceeded, so I reached out to Simone,” she explains. 

Cabral lives in Massachusetts when she’s not in Australia, and Joyaux is practically next door in Rhode Island, so the two have met regularly over the years, and Cabral has richly benefited from her mentor’s experience. 

“Simone urged me to pursue my Masters in Philanthropy and Fund Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and she helped me to restructure a regional fundraising office. Later, she helped me to pursue an interim-focused consulting business,” recalls Cabral. 

Promotion more likely   

She says studies show employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than people who didn’t have mentors. Meanwhile, mentors fared even better: they were six times more likely to have been tapped for a bigger job. 

When Sun Microsystems compared the career progress of 1,000 employees over five years, it turned out that those in the company’s mentoring program were much more likely to get promoted. Retention rates were also much higher for mentees (72 per cent) and mentors (69 per cent) than for people not involved in mentoring programs (49 per cent). 

Cabral believes mentoring is still massively undervalued in the fundraising workplace. 

“Some workplaces, particularly in the United States, still don’t allow staff to have the time to develop supportive relationships away from the office. But it’s a valuable form of professional development,” she says.  

She thinks mentoring can be used successfully to onboard junior staff and those new to the fundraising profession, and to develop mid-level and senior fundraisers into leaders.  

Mutual benefit  

Cabral says the benefits of participating in a mentoring program like FIA’s are many. 

“For a mentee, it’s a chance to have an interested party hear about your successes and failures. Mentoring increases confidence in one’s abilities through supportive engagement, accountability and networks. It often results in improved management and leadership skills,” she says.  

“You can discover new ways to hone your skills and learn about other aspects of fundraising. Importantly, you get honest feedback. A mentee can also learn about different roles and higher-level jobs from someone who’s already been there,” she adds.  

Cabral believes mentors can also help fundraisers navigate tougher workplace cultures where they may not feel supported.  

“It helps to have a sympathetic person outside they can turn to for advice,” she says. 

For the mentors, it’s also surprisingly beneficial.  

“You gain personal satisfaction in helping someone grow professionally, and you develop skills as a manager, leader, teacher and adviser while you help your mentee find their strengths and weaknesses. Mentors also develop better interpersonal skills in coaching and listening. And this may surprise some people: you can learn from your mentee as well, and you might be surprised at the value you get in return,” she says. 

Mentoring could arrest fundraising’s revolving door 

Cabral feels mentoring could potentially halt the high turnover in the fundraising profession. She notes that fundraisers typically last 12 to 16 months in a role in America, while it’s closer to 18 months in Australia. 

“Allowing a mentee to participate in the FIA National Mentoring Program may help up-and-coming fundraisers to feel more valued at work and prevent them from jumping ship,” she says. 

Cabral says that fundraisers could also look outside the sector for mentors after they participate in the institute’s mentoring program.  

“You may not always need a senior fundraiser to help you. Various stages in your career call for different kinds of mentors. For example, you might look at the business community for a corporate leader to mentor you if you want to sharpen your business skills.” 

She says good chemistry is critical to the relationship, and both parties need to have goals and objectives in place to ensure they get the most of out of the program. 

“It’s our goal as mentors to nurture those who come after us so we can build up the profession and leave it healthy for the future,” she adds. 

Applications for the FIA National Mentoring Program are now open and close 31 July 2020. Potential mentees and mentors fill out an application form and from there will be matched with a partner who complements their skills and experience. They also get to network with other participants in the program. Email training@fia.org.au for the form. 

The program runs for eight months from 1 September 2020 until 30 April 2021 and is available to FIA members only. Members must be FIA Code compliant and have taken the  FIA Code Course by 31 August 2020 to be eligible.  

About Robin Cabral 

With over 25 years of experience, Robin Cabral has raised millions of dollars for small to mid-sized organisations, and she focuses her coaching experiences on the GROWing people, performance and purpose model used by Performance Consultants International. 

Cabral serves as a sounding board, change agent and extra staff person for those new to fundraising, wanting to excel in their fundraising job or role, or advance in their career. She assists both fundraising professionals and executive directors alike. 

Of her many awards and accolades, Cabral was recently named one of the Top 10 LinkedIn  Top Voices 2018: Philanthropy and Global Development. She is also one of the Top 100 Charity Influencers by Onalytica (2019).