As we enter into a season of giving and gratitude, Miami Moms Blog is excited to shine a light on local organizations that are making an impact in the lives of women, children, and families in The Magic City. We recently launched our Local Nonprofits Guide featuring a list of outstanding organizations that serve families in the city we love. Our hope is that we can encourage, equip, and empower local Moms to give back.
The nonprofit organizations in our area are led by individuals who have a passion to give back. These individuals are often humbly serving behind the scenes. We are excited to spotlight a local Mom who is making waves of impact in our city through her leadership and continued support of local nonprofits. Not only is she an executive level leader in a local nonprofit, she is also helping to create opportunities for a ripple effect of giving throughout our city.
Meet Rebecca Mandelman
We are thrilled to introduce you to Rebecca Mandelman, Miami Mom of 2 and Vice President for Strategy and Engagement with The Miami Foundation.
Rebecca wears many hats in her role with The Miami Foundation, where she has been on staff since 2014. She not only directs development efforts, manages internal and external engagement strategies but also helps to guide the public affairs and communications efforts for The Miami Foundation. She works hard behind the scenes while also developing relationships with partners across multiple sectors. All of this in a effort to serve organizations throughout Miami.
Rebecca, tell us more about your work at The Miami Foundation.
I am in the business of making Miami more vibrant, inclusive, and resilient for everyone who calls the city we all love home. At The Miami Foundation, we do this by helping others to better understand the community’s needs and opportunities for them to make a charitable impact and to invest in Miami’s future. My specific role entails managing our development and donor relations, communications and community engagement, and public affairs departments.
With more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit management, what inspired you to pursue this career path?
Growing up, there was never a question of whether service and career could be intertwined; it was just a given. My parents pursued careers in medicine serving communities largely ignored by the broader medical system.
My mother is a nurse who treats HIV+ individuals, a role she has had since the early years of the AIDS crisis in the mid-80s when most medical establishments closed the door in such patients’ faces. My father ran women’s health for a public health clinic with a patient population comprised of parents living substantially below the poverty line. These were mothers with addiction problems and others who struggled to find the care, treatment and respect they deserved. My stepmother, very much a third parent, cared for babies hanging onto life by a thread as a NICU nurse at a large public hospital.
When it came time to build my career, this spirit of giving back that my parents exemplified was deeply ingrained in me.
As an executive leader at The Miami Foundation I imagine there are many opportunities to draw inspiration from the work that you do. Can you share with us where specifically you find inspiration and ideas?
The team at The Miami Foundation – 27 professionals from a beautiful array of backgrounds who dedicate their days to the mission of improving quality of life for all Miamians – is a constant source of inspiration and ideas, both professionally and personally.
Similarly, Miami’s nonprofit and public sectors boast some of the most inspirational, intelligent and determined individuals out there. I am fortunate to have a strong circle of peers in partner organizations whom I call friends and colleagues. We collaborate, bring ideas to one another, and hold each other accountable.
I have a voracious appetite for information and am incessantly reading about sector trends, stories of impact from other industries and innovative ways cities and communities are tackling their most pressing issues. My husband, a political theory professor, helps me leave my professional bubble by providing analytical perspectives from outside of my sector.
Lastly, my three-year-old daughter reminds me daily to find beauty and inspiration in the simplest aspects of my day. The pride she displays when she helps younger kids in her class, the beauty she finds in the gnarly twig she picks up during our walks to school, the endless questions inspired by her curious spirit…It’s impacted me way more than I ever expected.
As mothers too, we can all relate to the joy and inspiration that we draw from our children’s curiosity! What project or endeavor are you most proud of and why?
Give Miami Day, which is right around the corner on November 21, captured my heart prior to joining The Miami Foundation and remains my favorite initiative of ours.
The 24-hour online giving event is like a big community pep rally and helps our nonprofits raise funds at no cost. Anyone with the capacity to make a $25 donation can join in to support one or more of the 850 (!!) participating Miami-focused nonprofits. The generosity on display during Give Miami Day makes me swell with emotion and pride.
Last year, over 22,000 donors raised more than $11.5 million for Miami during those 24 hours. Every donation big or small counts and Give Miami Day demonstrates firsthand how much of a difference we can collectively make. Those who gave $25 and those who gave $25,000 are equally to thank.
Shameless plug: to join the movement, head over to givemiamiday.org starting at midnight on November 21 and until midnight on November 22 (or now to check out the 850+ participating nonprofits). One warning though: it’s somewhat like making a Target or Costco run. You go online intending to make one donation and close out your browser after making 15!
Every Mom understands that analogy. What an awesome way to use our resources to give back. We encourage Moms reading to take a moment to check out Give Miami Day!
Rebecca, what is an obstacle you’ve overcome in business and how did you overcome it?
Public speaking has long been a professional challenge for me. I had a strong aversion to it and actively avoided opportunities. This typically came as a surprise to people because I seem quite extroverted. However, it just made me uneasy. I decided that I needed to face my fear head-on and actively seek out opportunities for practice. Though it’s still very much a work-in-progress for me, that practice has made me far more comfortable and helped me to realize the irrationality of my fear.
What are the challenges and rewards you have encountered as a working Mom?
I strive to be a present member of my professional team and a present mom, wife, family member and friend. It’s just not possible to accomplish all of that in 24 hours, let alone to also squeeze in some time for a bit of self-care. It’s an ongoing juggling act with a different ball dropping daily. Note that I strongly believe this particular challenge is not unique to working moms: it’s one that I’d guess the vast majority of parents also feel. Trying to string together a coherent sentence after sleepless nights during the infant stages is also no joke.
Insofar as rewards go, I find my work to be very fulfilling and it’s gratifying to set that example for my daughters. For me, it’s important they see firsthand how their mom has multiple purposes in life. Though they’re still a tad little, I also love to involve them in my work: telling them about a nonprofit organization that I visited sparks great conversations with my three-year-old or breaking out our “My 1st Give Miami Day” onesie for my seven-month-old to wear on Thursday. Another reward: being able to use the bathroom at work in peace (something I know many stay-at-home-moms don’t have the luxury of doing!).
What advice would you give a Mom who is considering stepping back into the workforce or to the Mom who dreams of starting her own business?
I’ve seen friends re-enter the workforce and grapple with self-doubt both at home and work. Treat yourself kindly, particularly during the transition back into the workforce. We frequently hold ourselves to unattainable standards we wouldn’t expect of anyone else.
What resources do you recommend for women in business?
As far as reading goes, I’ve found that being well informed about a variety of topics and issues is more effective for my line of business than traditional business publications or books. I read the New York Times, Miami Herald and New Tropic (Miamians: subscribe!) and selections from my Medium roundup daily.
That said, I’ve gotten lots of great quick research-based tips from articles and blogs from the Kellogg School of Management (disclosure: my alma mater) and the Harvard Business Review. Also, the group of peers I mentioned earlier…They are my greatest resource. Whether it’s to workshop an idea, garner advice, share about an accomplishment or to be there as a support system, I cannot stress how crucial it is to have your informal team by your side and to be by theirs.
What resources do you recommend for Moms?
There’s this podcast from NPR and Sesame Street called Life Kit: Parenting that I’m loving lately. Episodes cover things like how to teach your children kindness or how to discuss race with your kids. There are several moms groups on Facebook (the largest being Miami Moms and The Little Ones) that I love going searching through if I need recommendations on a product or activity, along with sites like Babycenter. And, as was the case for business resources, nothing compares to the support, advice and information I get from my friends and colleagues who are at a similar moment or slightly head on their motherhood journeys.
Rebecca, thank you for sharing your time, heart, and insights with us. We’d like to close with a few fun “get-to-know-you” questions that we ask of every guest. Tell us, what’s your favorite go-to spot for “me” time in Miami?
Margaret Pace Park is a wonderfully active Bayfront park just north of downtown that strikes the perfect balance of serenity (those views and that breeze!) and energy (thanks to its active nature and the many Miamians who use it). I love going for a speedy walk along its pathways and then connecting to the nearby Venetian Causeway with a friend or a TED talk to keep me company.
What words of wisdom do you live by?
On the wall of The Miami Foundation’s Ruth and Richard Shack Community Board Room, it says: “We are privileged to work in a field where our job is to leave Miami in a better place than we found it.” These words are a mantra though I’d expand upon “Miami” to include “my family and community.”
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Right where I am but with a nice, long trip to the northeast on the horizon to see our family and friends who live there.
Can you share with us 3 simple joys that make you smile?
1. My 3-year-old loving on her little sister (7 months old) and, in return, the little one’s cheek-breakingly big smile.
2. Spontaneous living room dance parties with my husband and daughters.
3. Friday afternoon team meetings when we’re still getting the job done but a bit more deliriously so thanks to the productive week behind us.
Join the fun on Give Miami Day and help make an impact in Miami by donating to a participating local nonprofit.