In this interview, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Guirlaine Belizaire traces her career from a high school biology classroom to fundraising at a variety of nonprofits to joining Development Guild in 2021 and the lessons she learned along the way. Watch the video for a few of Guirlaine’s answers and find the rest of the interview in the transcript below.
Tell me about your career path. How did you start out?
My career path started in a classroom. I was a high school math and science teacher. Biology was my favorite. It continues to be my favorite just because I love opening the eyes of students to the wonders of nature and really reminding them that they are part of this cycle of life. It always elicits such wonderment.
So after about seven of the hardest years of my life, I decided that I wanted a bigger impact than I could have in a classroom with 25 to 30 students. And that began my journey into the nonprofit sector.
My first position was with a nonprofit that focused on giving parents the choice as to where their children went to school. And that felt very apropos at the time. I didn’t know what development was, didn’t know what fundraising was, it wasn’t an established career path. But I applied and got the job and that began my work and commitment to the nonprofit sector that ultimately led me to Development Guild, now consulting to the nonprofits – the sector that I was birthed in, if you will.
What lessons did you take from seven years teaching into the rest of your career?
To this day, I still use the principles that I used in the classroom for fundraising. I think the biggest lesson I learned is that people learn in different ways. People hear in different ways. People take in information in different ways. And so whenever I speak to clients and/or donors, I’m always mindful of how best to communicate with them in a way that they can hear and not necessarily assume that what worked for one person, client, donor, or candidate is going to work for another.
So being a teacher really attuned me to paying attention to people and what they need.
Do you have any advice for the candidates you help place at nonprofits?
It’s almost a mantra. Any candidate who’s ever worked with me well can attest to this. Be yourself. Really, really present as you really are. You don’t want to be in a situation where you pretend to be something you’re not. You get into a situation and realize this is not a good fit.
And also, as much as you are being interviewed, you are also interviewing the client or the organization as well. It’s a two way conversation, and so be yourself so that you can truly assess, Do I want to be here? Can I contribute to this organization? Can I get something back from this organization? What is it that I even want to get back? So really know yourself and present accordingly.
What keeps you going at Development Guild?
We are really, I think, at Development Guild at a bit of an inflection point. We’re really doing a lot of internal work here – that, if you will, soul-searching process of where it is that we want to be. I think that we’re going to grow in size and I will do all I can to help in that process. I think that we’re going to have the privilege to work with organizations that are making dramatic and transformative change in the world.
Development Guild has a deep, rich and long relationship and understanding and involvement in the nonprofit sector. This is an organization that truly values and admires what the nonprofit sector is doing. And our goal is to be a partner with the nonprofit sector, and that is wherever you are. There are certain fundamentals to fundraising, and that speaks across states or even countries. And we have those foundations and we continue to learn and grow. We’re consultants and we’re partners and we are excited to learn from you as well.