new chapter, same book
Growing up, I was always a helper. My brother is only twenty-one months younger than me, but even as a toddler, I wanted to help care for him. I eventually earned the nickname “little mommy,” and to my mother’s delight (and frustration at times), I was the one he turned to for anything. In elementary school, a teacher started calling me “the judge” as my classmates sought me out for help settling their disputes. I continued my helper role in middle and high school, serving my friends as a coach, mediator and advocate.
When I entered my freshman year at NC State (LET’S GO PACK!), I wanted to teach high school Spanish. After two days of student teaching, I realized this was NOT my calling and I mentally thanked (and apologized to) every high school teacher I ever had. I ended up graduating with a Spanish Language and Literature degree and clueless how to use it. Throughout college, I honed my helper role for friends and family through their highs and lows. I moved back home to Richmond after school and was lucky to have parents that gave me space to figure out my next steps.
Thanks to a relative, I was able to start exploring the world of nonprofits and saw how my helper nature might be a perfect fit for the industry. I landed a development job with a veterans organization that taught me so much, invested in my professional growth and gave me a purpose larger than myself. I knew I had found my calling. Working together for the common good requires everyone to wear multiple hats – and I thrived with the new expansive wardrobe. I found so much joy in collaborating with my peers, the clients we served and the organization’s leadership. The only thing missing was my community I left behind in Raleigh.
After the loss of my dad, personal challenges and some soul searching, I landed back in Raleigh to accept a development job for a nonprofit that serves individuals struggling with substance use disorder. This was a phenomenal experience that allowed me to witness the power of transformation daily. I loved seeing how my role as a fundraiser impacted the lives of hundreds of men and women – even if I wasn’t able to help them on the front lines. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss, more personal and professional support, or a more compelling mission. But, I knew that long-term I wanted the ability to work with multiple nonprofits at once so I could help as many people as possible.
In the middle of a global pandemic, I started a business doing development consulting. I treasured the opportunity to work with dozens of clients and got to know so many amazing missions. Through this lens, I also realized how interconnected our nonprofit community is and the lengths they go to in support of each other. Most people don’t enter this field to become millionaires. Nonprofits are typically staffed by selfless, dedicated and empathetic helpers that go above and beyond the call of duty. My experiences reaffirmed my passion for nonprofits, but I also learned that owning a business and working alone is tough. I knew I needed to make a change, and kept my eyes open for new opportunities.
After months of searching, an opportunity fell into my lap. In my various development roles, I had been a client of Angel Oak Creative, co-presented with them and even worked alongside them on several projects. When I found out they were looking to make a full-time hire, I couldn’t believe it. Shortly, I joined the Angel Oak Creative family and hit the ground running with the angels to serve hundreds of nonprofits in our community. Fundraising and marketing go hand in hand, so I’m looking forward to offering my expertise to those we serve.
There are many chapters left to write that I can’t even begin to imagine. What I do know is that I have a new family and an opportunity to help in a world that sometimes feels overwhelming. And, most of all, thanks to everyone who has been a part of my story so far – I would not be here without you!
Lauren Williams, Client Success Executive