Channeling Wisdom: Dave Paek, Associate Director of Development Operations at Pathfinder International

Dave Paek, Associate Director of Development Operations, supervises a team of coordinators, oversees the fundraising database, produces analytical reports on fundraising performance, and manages all development operations at Pathfinder International.

About Dave: Dave Paek started his nonprofit career when he interned at a local nonprofit organization in 2005. He was introduced to the world of fundraising working as the Development Coordinator for Tenacity, an after-school organization serving Boston’s at-risk youth.

Two years later, he became the Database Administrator for Citizens Schools, a national nonprofit organization helping to expand the Expanded Learning Day through partnerships with local public and charter schools. During his three years there, he gained valuable experience and skills in managing a fundraising database and in operations. He then served as a consultant for six years at private consulting firm Nonprofit Management Systems, which helps nonprofit clients better utilize their fundraising databases and improve development operations.

Dave currently works as the Associate Director of Development Operations at Pathfinder International, an international nonprofit advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. In this role, Dave supervises a team of coordinators, oversees the fundraising database, produces analytical reports on fundraising performance, and manages all development operations.

Dave is a former YNPN Boston board member. In his free time, he is an avid skier, a hiker, a drummer, a guitarist, and an aspiring photographer. He also plays soccer once a week. Dave lives in Wakefield with his wife.

We asked Dave to share the nonprofit leadership wisdom he has gained over his career.

What is your leadership style?

I see myself as a laid-back mentor. My direct reports are mostly young 20-somethings who are just beginning their careers. I see myself in them and I know exactly what they're experiencing, because I've been there. I've also worked for micro-managers in the past, so I do my best to avoid being that, while teaching valuable skills and experience to my direct reports through hands-on learning. I also try to ensure work/life balance for my team, because I appreciate that from my own supervisor as well. It keeps everyone satisfied and happy despite the huge volume of work and daily stress.

Can you share an example of a time when you successfully led a team through a challenging time or scenario?

One year, one of our coordinators failed to send out letters to our donors. There were over 400 letters and it was already a month late. I needed all-hands-on-deck, rounding up my team to ensure the letters got out immediately. We've followed up with the donors with a mea culpa letter as well. It took my team a few overtime hours and weekend hours to accomplish this, but we got it done.e've made sure that this incident will never happen again in the future by implementing backup plans and preemptive measurements to be alerted in advance.

How did your experience volunteering with YNPN Boston prepare you for your current leadership role?

As a former YNPN Boston board member, I was able to form not just a professional network with the board and other members, but build life-time friendships with some of them. And through these friendships, we’re able to see how each of us are moving up within our own professional life and learn from one another in ways you can't do only as professionals. The names of the folks I served on the YNPN Boston board with have appeared a lot during job solicitations, job recommendations, job references. YNPN Boston has helped me improve my self image as a professional.

What leadership resources have you found useful?

Conferences where you can meet other leaders in the industry and network are useful, along with YNPN Boston and social media forums where you can participate with questions and/or comments and be noticed.

How has the nonprofit landscape changed since you started working in it? What skills will emerging leaders need that weren't in demand when you first started?

Most of the folks in the middle to upper management are the folks in my demographics: 30-somethings and 40-somethings with similar backgrounds in education and work history; we have a common understanding and work style. We don't mind that people want to work from home, because we know that as long as you have internet, laptop, and phone, you can do most of the work you need to do from anywhere. In-person meetings are important still, but it's not as important as it used to be thanks to webinars and video conferencing.

It's okay to use social media to pose questions and gain answers that may help with your work project. Many people bike to work and stay active during the day, and it’s okay to hit the gym during the work day. Automation is the future and most nonprofit operates like for-profit businesses. It's important to gain skills that matter to this automation future, such as database and analysis skills; understanding and analyzing data is critical,and flexibility is key.

What advice do you have for nonprofit professionals trying to build their leadership?

Get involved internally and externally to expand your network, improve skills, and gain experience. Ask lots of questions, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Always think a few steps ahead of your supervisor. Think through options for resolving a problem first.. Be professional. Dress right. Have a sense of humor, but don't go overboard. Take advantage of any resources at work that can help you gain skills, especially technical skills like database and writing.

About Pathfinder International

Pathfinder is driven by the conviction that all people, regardless of where they live, have the right to decide whether and when to have children, to exist free from fear and stigma, and to lead the lives they choose.

Since 1957, they have partnered with local governments, communities, and health systems to remove barriers to critical sexual and reproductive health services. Together, they expand access to contraception, promote healthy pregnancies, save women’s lives, and stop the spread of new HIV infections, wherever the need is most urgent. Their work ensures millions of women, men, and young people are able to choose their own paths forward. Learn more here.


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