The importance of mentorship: women who have led me


Karen DeTemple


Mentors are, and will continue to be, a powerful network that have supported me as I have built my fundraising career. They have also been invaluable to growing The Art of Change. Throughout my career experiences, my most important mentors have been women, and these leaders have guided me in four different ways.

Leading arts institutions
My earliest mentors were development directors at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. These leaders taught me how to be a proper fundraiser. Correspond with proper grammar, and hand address a gala invitation; take time to build an authentic relationship with a prospective donor and never rush ‘the ask’; always pick up the check with a thank you (and say thank you when declined). I learned that being a successful fundraiser is about being a gifted relationship builder—the foundation upon which I’ve built my career.

The next generation
My current mentors fall into three different categories and one of those are millennials. While I am technically mentoring them they are also mentoring me and teaching me the ways of their generation. I am learning how they spend time socializing, how they their spend money, how they communicate, what events they get excited about, and what goes into their decision making process around the organisations they choose to support. For example, there are more millennial millionaires in Asia than anywhere else in the world. That makes this group especially important to be able to build relationships with in the international work that I do. Millennials are the next generation of donors and understanding this group is key in being able to successfully engage them on behalf of my clients.

Keep going
One of my favourite quotes is from fashion icon CoCo Chanel who said, ‘Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.’ Another category of female mentors who lead me are those from my own generation, entrepreneurial thinkers and leaders, but from different fields. They keep me focused and motivated to continue to raise money on behalf of my clients even after I received multiple ‘no thank yous’. These ladies keep me on track to success in all areas of my life even after I have failed.

Social studies
One of my current mentors, who I haven’t actually met besides through her compelling social media presence is Bozoma (Badass Boz) St. John, Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavour. Her story as a widow and single mom is truly inspirational. She travels the world, as I do in my business, and is a strong voice for diversity and inclusion. The #metoo movement and other activist groups have reiterated that it’s more important than ever that we support one another. Sadly, one in four female fundraisers has faced sexual harassment on the job. This means that not only do we female fundraisers need to be aware of diversity—in our staff, on our boards, and among our donors, but we also need to stand up for each other when harassment happens. With mentorship we have the power to do this and be heard, with the added benefit of becoming even more successful in our work.

Karen DeTemple is co-Founder of The Art of Change

Tagged in: #IWD2019

Comments (3)


Mentorship is essential to career success. This year, I was chosen as the “mentor of the year” for my agency, where I work as a part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mentoring is a relationship that is formed over time, and it can be guided by either formal or informal structures. The mentor can be someone outside your current role, like a former boss or a professor, or can be someone internal, like a former coworker or an employee in another department.


The mentor shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of the mentee. The focus is on developing the mentee personally and professionally, through active listening, powerful questioning, providing honest feedback when needed and offering guidance. The mentor helps the mentee set goals and make plans for achieving them.


Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *