10 Questions with Elizabeth Byrum - Development Associate, Foundation & Community Relations; Autism Society of North Carolina

What does a typical day look like for you?

My typical day starts off with checking in with email and other team members about any agenda items for the day. I work with an eight-person development team (six in Raleigh, one in Charlotte, one in Asheville) and I work most closely with my Raleigh and Charlotte colleagues. My main duty is to manage the grants calendar, write and/or edit all grants, keep track of reporting, and facilitate communication between the organization and grantors. Each day and each week centers around the following, in order of importance: impending grant deadlines (sometimes as many as four or five in a week); impending grant report deadlines (staggered, usually six to 12 months after receiving funding); editing development materials aside from grants (appeals, emails, newsletters, etc.); grant brainstorming/researching (finding new funding avenues); and budget drafting/review for grants. In addition, my days usually consist of at least one meeting focused on a specific upcoming grant, general fund development, or a special project such as program outcome tracking or fundraising events.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, we are in the throes of Camp Royall summer program preparation. Camp Royall, located in Moncure, NC, is our residential/day camp program that provides year around camp opportunities specifically for people of all ages with autism, including 10 weeks of overnight summer camp. The cost per camper for this amazing experience is pretty steep, so I help extensively with raising funding for the scholarships we award to families (on average, we have a collective need of about $200,000 each year). To help with gearing up for the summer and supporting our families, I reach out to corporations, local community foundations, women’s groups, etc. for possible grant funding.

In addition, we just finished our second jam-packed event season of the year. Starting in March each year, we have 15 events that the development department is either leading or helping with through June. These include some run/walks in the eastern part of the state, a pair of fashion shows to support Camp Royall, a golf tournament, and an annual conference! While I don’t have to really plan any logistics for these events, I provide important (wo)manpower and enjoy the opportunity to connect with the donors, families, and individuals we serve!

What was your path to get where you are today?

I originally went to UNC to become a star journalist (music journalist more specifically), however realized about halfway through that I didn’t necessarily want the newsroom life. I did, however, want to interact with diverse populations and tell important stories. I had a second major in Global Studies and that gave me an opportunity to explore more service-minded work with various nonprofits.

After graduating in 2013, I landed an internship with the AJ Fletcher Foundation, doing digital strategy and brand work for the organization. I also helped with various grantees’ communications needs. During this internship, I also found YNPN Triangle NC via the listserv, which was immensely helpful in my full time job search. I started at the Autism Society a week after my internship ended and have been with the organization for two and a half great years!

After more than two and a half years with ASNC, I will actually be moving on to my next chapter as a graduate student pursuing a master’s in social work at UNC-Chapel Hill (double Tar Heel)! The work I’ve been a part of at the Autism Society has been a huge part of the decision-making process that has led me to a career in social work and while I am sad to be leaving, I am excited about the future and the work I will have a chance to be a part of in the nonprofit sector, where I intend to remain.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

Addressing capacity needs within the organization, balancing current programming with new, innovative programming, and addressing how these will help ensure future organizational sustainability are the most challenging big picture aspects. My organization is more than 45 years old, provides an immense amount of important programming statewide, has more than 1,000 dedicated staff, yet we are challenged constantly by funding cuts out of our control and and an ever increasing funder emphasis on innovation. A lot of my work directly relates to how can we increase funding for what we are already doing, while adding in innovative solutions. It’s a challenge to always get full buy in from all the organization’s moving parts (for understandable reasons), but these are the important, stirring conversations that I enjoy being a part of each day.

How do you effectively balance your time?

I am a life-long, self-admitting procrastinator by nature, so learning to effectively balance my time is an ongoing task. I’ve usually got several to-do lists going at any given time, and many of them overlap. I find I am most successful if I set aside time for specific tasks or projects, HOWEVER, I want to mention that I have specifically focused on balancing my time in a way that gives me increased opportunities for scheduled self-care. During a relatively tough period at the end of 2015, I regularly began integrating self-care into both my professional and personal worlds. I know that fixing a mid-afternoon tea, eating lunch in the Rose Garden with my partner or a friend, committing to no more than two nights a week of after work activities, making time for a regular yoga practice each week, or even just getting more than eight hours of sleep a night helped and will continue to help me be productive and successful.

What are five tools you use on a regular basis?

Microsoft Office Suite, my Passion Planner (!), Asana, Raiser’s Edge, various grant subscription services (GrantStation, CD Publications)

What is the best career advice you have been given?

Keep learning and always continue to challenge yourself professionally. Find true joy in your work, but learn to set boundaries. And leave your (personal) baggage at the door each day when you begin work.

Who or what inspires you?

At all of the organizations I’ve worked with or been a part of, I remain most inspired by both the individuals we work with in the community as well as the fellow staff and volunteers I have the privilege to serve with. At the Autism Society, I am inspired by the families I have built relationships with, many whom I have known since before coming to the organization. Their outlook and strength given such a challenging circumstance reminds me of the important work I’ve chosen to be a part of my organization.

I also grew up in the YMCA of the Triangle and have played many roles including camper, counselor-in-training, volunteer, counselor, and most recently donor and campaigner. Many of my role models and mentors were my YMCA supervisors or peers, and many are still working for the organization in leadership roles. Without their encouragement and mentorship, I don’t think I would have found my passion for the work I do every day as naturally.

Why do you do what you do?

Ever since a young age, I’ve been drawn to service and community-minded work and the enriching opportunities it provides for all involved. Now, even after 12-hour long days or 60-hour work weeks, I do what I do because I know how important it is for those being impacted, and in my current job that is individuals and families dealing with the daily challenges of autism. Previously, I have worked directly with individuals with autism at summer camp and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to know and learn about their gifts, talents, and dreams. Now, I am passionate about doing the behind the scenes the work that continues to

Generally speaking, I am committed to being a dedicated member of nonprofit sector not only because of the individuals being served in the community, but also because my fellow nonprofiteers. It is refreshing and encouraging to be able to sit among similarly-minded, intentional, and dedicated individuals and organizations, and to work together to improve the communities, states, countries, and ultimately the world in which we live.

Who should we interview next?

  • Emily Callen, Senior Director of Field Operations, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic
  • Damon Circosta, Executive Director, AJ Fletcher Foundation
  • Shannon Ritchie, Director of Digital Strategy, AJ Fletcher Foundation

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