3 min read
Hi Nayeli! Could you please tell us a bit about your background and what you were doing prior to coming to work at Union?
I’ve been in development shops since 2002 and have focused on all aspects of development including major and planned giving, donor relations, stewardship, programming, operations, and special initiatives, so really I’ve been integral in not just the external aspects of development, but also a lot of work that’s done behind the scenes. I’m a data-driven professional and think often about how we are organizing and tracking our work and responsibilities.
At the end of the day, we are trusted advisors and storytellers. We honor donors’ philanthropic interests and their generosity and however possible express our utmost gratitude. Our generous community are the ones who transform campuses, who make dreams possible. Ultimately, I have had the distinct pleasure of partnering with kind humans and their communities to change people’s lives. Philanthropy exponentially changes the course of people’s lives—it is a privilege to be a part of that transformation.
Before that I was in customer service, and that set me up for the development world. I learned about taking care of people, and making sure that not only do they have a good entry point, but also that they have a good experience along the whole continuum.
You’ve been with Union now for a couple of years, and recently became the Senior Director of Development & Planned Giving. How has your time been so far?
I started consulting with Union right before the pandemic [and began my full time role in August 2022]. I’ve been working with the development team to think about strategic planning and how we are talking to our donors in ways that align with what they are supporting. It involves a lot of background work, infrastructure work, and systems thinking to ensure that the donor’s and the seminary’s needs are reflected. We want to understand all of our donors, and it can take a little bit of time to pull all of the pieces together. Consulting for the past two and a half years has allowed me to really go in deeply.
As a community advocate myself, I am working towards educating leaders who are fighting for the betterment of the world, whether in environmental, racial, or social justice, and that brings me so much joy. I am speechless with the admiration that I have for Union.
When Waste by Catherine Coleman Flowers was announced as the Community Read of Spring 2021, I immediately purchased and devoured the book. I attended the author conversation and was inspired to share her work with many others. It fed so many aspects of what I am passionate about—the environment, equity, and poverty. I served on the Open Society-Baltimore Leadership Council for a number of years and follow the work of the Equal Justice Center, of which Catherine Flowers is a part. One could see that my path to Union was paved by my activism and shared mission of making the world a better place.
What is something you would like Union donors, or those considering becoming donors, to know?
The goal that we have, given the needs of Union’s future, is a hefty one. Union is a place where we can invest in leaders who are going to push forward important change work.
When you’re not working as Senior Director of Development & Planned Giving, what do you like doing outside of the office?
My family—my husband, my ten year old, and I—have our mantra, “leave where you are better than how you found it.” If we’re going to the river, we make sure to bring a plastic bag! While we’re having fun, we’re looking to see how we can make wherever we are a better place.
I’m also a gardener so I’ve been tending to lots of baby vegetables that nurture my family. Having homegrown food—I love that. I’m a plant enthusiast. Being in the garden and being a part of nature brings me serenity.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself or about your work here at Union?
I am a Mexican-American so having a connection to my culture is very important. We create an altar for the Day of the Dead every year, and we add not only our immediate family but friends and neighbors who have had an impact on our lives. I’m working toward my son being bilingual.
In terms of my work at Union, I want to share with everyone who reads this that August is National Make-A-Will Month. This month is more than a time to create important documents for the future — it is also the opportunity to join the movement of individuals who are using their estate plans to intentionally care for the people, communities, and causes they love.
Thanks to Union’s partnership with FreeWill, members of our community can use this free estate planning tool to write their legal will and establish a lasting legacy with Union. Learn more here or by reaching out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am thrilled to be a part of the Union Theological Seminary community and look forward to meeting as many community members as possible during my time here.