A Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 2008, Robin Cabral is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), adhering to the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice. With AFP, Cabral is a current Master Faculty Trainer, serves on the Research Council’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), the emerging FEP-ABM (Activity Based Management) Task Force, and is a Northern New England Mentor in the professional fundraising mentorship program. Previous AFP roles include an International Education and Training Committee member, Rhode Island Chapter board member, and RI Conference Planning Committee Co-Chair.
In addition to her work as one of Network for Good’s Personal Fundraising Coaches, Cabral has also served on the National Catholic Development Conference Planning Committee and the Professional Development Committee; and is an active conference presenter, workshop leader, roundtable leader, moderator, facilitator, and webinar speaker. She has served on numerous boards and committees of organizations, including past-president of her local Rotary Club, and other professional associations.
Q&A with Robin Cabral
What’s involved with your coaching process?
My personal approach to coaching is based on the assumption or framing of “possibility.” I work with clients both in Network for Good and in my own practice. Whether it is about fundraising strategy or career questioning or development, I always work with the client to determine what their vision is in very real and concrete ways and then help them to work through and select the best steps towards getting to their goals.
I call it “Possibility Coaching” because anything is possible if you believe in it. It all starts with mindset and vision. If you lack either of those, then you limit your potential. This style of coaching has evolved due to my own work with my life coach, who has helped me completely transform my life and business as a fundraising consultant.
I can only be a coach from direct experience!
How long have you been a fundraising consultant?
I have been a fundraising consultant since 2012, when I “leapt” and quit my job to follow this dream. What a ride it has been. While I started out as a traditional fundraising consultant providing development audits and assessments, I listened to the groups who were inviting me to the table to learn that they didn’t need someone else to tell them what they needed to do, they needed someone to do the work for them. So, my practice has morphed into providing “Interim Fund Development Services” both in-resident and remote. I found a niche and business blossomed, so much so that I now have three Associates who are working on client projects, one project assistant, and a graphic designer.
How did you get started in nonprofit work?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and a Master of Arts in Philanthropy and Fund Development from Saint Mary’s of Minnesota. After completing my undergraduate degree, I worked as a social justice community organizer in South Providence. What they didn’t tell me when I was hired was that I needed to raise my own salary. That’s how I began in the nonprofit world—going door to door, canvassing. Since then, I have overseen all aspects of fund development, from annual funds to capital campaigns to donor communications. I’ve worked as a director of development and marketing throughout the Northeast, including as a regional and worldwide director of development.
What keeps you in the nonprofit sector?
Ensuring that organization’s missions are met is what keeps me in the sector. So many groups are doing such important work. Fundraising is the vehicle to ensure that this work happens. I was once told that it is important to spend time practicing in the field, educating and mentoring others, and conducting research. In my consultative practice, I do all three. It is extremely rewarding to give back and help develop others.
What do you enjoy most about fundraising?
I enjoy connecting donors with the causes that are near to their heart and help them fulfill their own passions and purpose in life. There is nothing more important and noble than serving as this philanthropic facilitator.
What advice would you give to a small nonprofit just starting out?
There are so many smaller nonprofits who are in need of building capacity. Many of these groups would never have the resources to be able to access traditional capacity-building and consultative services. This is an essential component of the growing nonprofit fabric.
I tell most of my smaller nonprofits just starting out that they truly need to focus on building the strongest organization as possible and to invest in the time to do board development correctly. Far too many, rely on the “warm body” approach to finding board members. They’re not being strategic around who is needed to move their organization’s mission and vision forward.
I would also note that many of these groups need to create a plan for development that is focusing on ramping up their development program over a three-year period through integration and diversification, not just relying on special events and grants.
Women in Philanthropy is an ongoing blog series in celebration of Women’s History Month, featuring some of the incredible women Network for Good has the pleasure to work with.