This post is the first of a new series aimed at exploring the partnerships between our mentees and their mentors. To kick things off we have a very special twosome – Faneva and Esther.
As the founder of Miralenta, Madagascar’s first social cooperative, Faneva’s application stood out. Although her impressive CV did not tick the conventional mentee box, her incredible drive to succeed with Miralenta, compelled us to make it work. So, we paired her with Esther – an equally impressive force within the fundraising world, the founder of The Nerve Network and a mentee of Tony Elischer.
Faneva is the founder and CEO of Miralenta, Madagascar’s first social cooperative aimed at promoting inclusive education for children, youth employability and the empowerment of women. Alongside this role, she works as the National Coordinator for the youth employment platform YouthCan! and as the Regional Manager for DHL’s educational program, GoTeach.
Why did you apply to join the TEF program?
Although I’ve been fundraising since 2009 I never received any formal training to become a professional fundraiser. I applied for TEF because I wanted more experience in fundraising as well as project management, I wanted to learn from professionals in other countries and to share experiences. I knew this would help me to realise my goal of setting up Miralenta.
Tell us a bit about your mentor and how you connect.
Esther is the founder and CEO of The Nerve Network, a charity that empowers people on low incomes living in remote locations in Uganda. She is a very dynamic, enthusiastic and open-minded person – I’m very pleased to have her as my mentor. The fact that we have both founded our own organisations makes us quite similar and makes her advice even more relevant.
We have at least one call every two months via Skype but depending on my needs, we may speak more regularly. Because of the distance between us it is difficult for us to meet in person, but we are planning to meet somewhere in Africa in August.
How would you describe Esther’s approach to mentoring?
Esther guides me and pushes me to have powerful ideas and to make decisions for myself. She never gives me the solution, she leads me to find the solution myself. Sometimes she will give me references and examples to inspire me but ultimately the solution must come from me.
Esther often draws on her own experience of setting up The Nerve Network. I’ll take topics to discuss and she’ll offer advice based on her experience – we talk not only about fundraising but also about IT, finances, communications and creating social networks.
How are the mentoring sessions affecting your work?
In terms of setting up Miralenta, Esther’s mentoring has come at the perfect time for me. It was daunting setting up Madagascar’s first social cooperative, I had some experience in communications and fundraising but I wasn’t experienced in project management. Esther has given me confidence to draw on the experience of professionals around me and to get in touch with contacts who I would ordinarily be reluctant to approach. I find our mentoring sessions quite challenging but ultimately, they are helping me to develop and overcome my limits. For example, before I met Esther I would tell myself I was bad at finance and that I would never be able to work in this area but now I recognise this as a limit I put on myself – there is always the opportunity to learn.
Esther is the Founder and CEO of The Nerve Network, a platform helping people living in remote places and on very low incomes to start and grow their own businesses. She has been in fundraising for about 18 years and has previously worked for a range of organisations including Children in Crisis, ADD and The Resource Alliance. As a former mentee of Tony, we feel privileged to have her on board.
Why did you want to become a mentor for TEF?
Very simply to honour Tony and what he unlocked in me. Tony taught me to step out into the unknown, be brave and bold and find my ‘thing’. Those things have stayed with me and I wanted to pass that on to someone else.
Could you tell us a bit about Faneva and how the partnership is working?
Faneva blows me away, she has a real self-starter attitude and she inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing. We were paired together by TEF because of our professional similarities and as a result we learn a lot from each other. Some people may think that being a mentor is about telling people what to do. It’s not about that at all in my opinion – Faneva already knows what to do, my only job here is to unlock her confidence and strength, as Tony did for me. It’s about providing her with a sounding board and someone she can confide in about the things she feels unsure about.
How do you ensure the sessions are as valuable as possible for your mentee?
It’s important to me that Faneva feels comfortable in asking whatever she needs to so I aim to create a safe space in which she can raise any issues she may not be able to with other people. I often think that some of the issues we face as fundraisers within an organisation are because people are not saying what’s really going on. How do you really feel about things? What are the real issues? I tend to drill down into them – there is always something beneath the surface which links to your core beliefs and values about the work you’re trying to do.
I also share my experiences and my vulnerabilities with Faneva along with things that inspire me, interesting ideas and tools that she can utilise. I give her the space to talk about not only the social cooperative but also what’s going on in other aspects of her professional life as it all forms part of her landscape. And if something isn’t my area of expertise, I tell her, I don’t try to be an expert in all areas for her, it’s important to say when something isn’t your bag but then point that person in the right direction.
What do you get from being a mentor?
It makes me feel fulfilled to watch someone progress and to know that I can help them unlock the power that lies within them already. It also helps me to affirm my own values. Just knowing her and knowing there are changemakers out there who want to achieve amazing impact within their countries – it makes me think ‘who else is out there?’
If Faneva and Esther have inspired you to think of getting a mentor, applications are open for our next programme with a closing date of 8th October. Full details of how to apply can be found on our website.