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Meet Michelle, Partnerships Committee Co-Chair

Michelle Sewell
Fund Development Manager, PHS Community Services Society
Co-Chair, Partnerships Committee

I never knew I wanted to be a fundraiser until I became one.  My path started out with hopes of becoming a famous radio host in Vancouver (seriously), but while pursuing my then dream job, I somehow stumbled into a fundraising career and never looked back.  I had given up the radio dream and had been working as an executive assistant with Canadian Blood Services when it clicked that I had more to give and I knew it was somewhere in the world of non-profits.  I was fortunate to actually be laid off as it gave me the push and opportunity to spin all of my admin skills into landing a job as an administrative assistant with Emily Carr University in Advancement and Alumni Engagement. Working there laid the foundation and really helped me develop my skills and learn so much about fundraising and communications.  I found my love for annual giving and a happiness connecting with donors. I was encouraged to attend events, webinars, lunch & learns and soak up all I could about everything fundraising.  It was during this time that I attended my first AFP National Philanthropy Day luncheon.  It was such a welcoming environment, and I was both inspired and motivated from that event and the people I met.

Choosing the job at Emily Carr lead me to an even better place than I had once imagined.  I’ve had some fantastic jobs in the industry within various sectors and am currently the Fund Development Manager for PHS Community Services Society (PHS), a not for profit in housing and harm reduction.  I’m passionate about the work I get to do, committed to social justice causes and raising awareness about the Downtown Eastside community.

I have now been a fundraiser for the past 13 years in Vancouver and a member of the AFP GV chapter for 6 of those years.  I started out volunteering by checking coats at NPD luncheon just so I could be a part of the fundraising industry even if I couldn’t afford a ticket to the event.  Volunteer opportunities like this can be a game changer for your career.  I was introduced to incredible people (like Lucy Isham-Turner!), made valuable connections and had the chance to learn and ask questions from experienced fundraisers.  I always felt a part of the community even when my career was just starting out.

Throughout my fundraising journey, I have always maintained my involvement with AFP.  I was honoured to be a mentor for 2 years in the AFP Mentorship Program, which is a fabulous way to connect with those starting out their career.  In fact, it was a great way for me to continue to learn from others while sharing my own experiences.  This past year I have been the Co-Chair for the Partnerships Committee and what a great team they are!  The level of passion and engagement they give is inspiring. I fully credit the AFP for my career growth and close-knit relationships to other fundraisers in the sector. Finally I’m super excited for what’s ahead and I’m so looking forward to re-connecting in person this year at mingler’s and National Philanthropy Day!

My advice to new fundraisers and even experienced ones, is to jump in and join us as a volunteer on a committee or maybe try your hand at the coat check like I did! Either way you’ll be a welcome addition to the AFP Greater Vancouver Chapter.

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