Alicia N. Smith, CFRE
Alicia Smith serves as a Senior Program Officer with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Based in the Atlanta office, she works with the REALITY team to develop initiatives and partnerships that create opportunities for returning participants to stay connected with Israel and the REALITY network, following their journey in Israel. Prior to joining Schusterman, Alicia served as AIPAC’s Southeast Regional Outreach Director, expanding the base of AIPAC’s pro-Israel activists beyond the Jewish community in the Southeast. Through her work at AIPAC, she became a passionate advocate for leadership development and the way a peer-oriented Israel journey can be a transformative personal leadership experience. She has over 20 years of experience in fundraising and management for nonprofits and universities throughout the Southeast. Alicia is a native of Charlottesville, Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from George Mason University. She has been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 2007.
What motivated you to become a development professional?
I began my career in development by accident and it was the best thing to happen to me. What I thought would be a year working in the nonprofit sector before going to law school turned into working with some amazing organizations and institutions and most of all meeting incredible colleagues, donors and alumni that want to make an impact on the lives of others. The relationships became my motivation.
What inspires you about the development profession?
It was the opportunity to match people with missions. The magic that happens when it’s a good fit is the definition of philanthropy. Also mentoring and helping to grow new development colleagues. I found great joy in being a resource. It was like passing on the wisdom of Charles Stephens, who was a mentor to so many including me.
What is the one quality every fundraiser should have?
Flexibility…in building relationships with donors and prospects, working with colleagues, ever changing strategies and building your career. No gift, no campaign or career looks alike. And we must remember that no, often means not right now.
What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?
That we can be and do anything. I want this profession to break down the barriers that exist in many professions for African Americans.
What is the best advice that you have received related to your career?
Immediately asses what value you can bring to the organization. Be a solution, be objective and seek to be a resource.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a fundraiser?
Exemplify by giving to your alma mater and causes you’re passionate about. Ask them about their development hiring and strategies. Network and let those in the profession know who you are and you’re looking. Find a local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and of course seek out members of AADO.
Do you have any advice for AADO members?
Get involved! If you want to connect and grow, take full advantage of the AADO Power Hours and the Conferences. We need you to help the profession grow.
Should more people of color be engaged in the profession? Why?
Yes! Development is a rewarding career that people of color should consider. Helping people to engage philanthropically has always been fulfilling and has become even more noble. Those who are skilled are sought after and it often opens the door for other career opportunities. As more development professionals of color experience, the impact, value and opportunities available in this field, our organizations and communities become stronger. That’s why it’s necessary for experienced development professionals of color to offer opportunities for networking, mentorship and professional development.