Community Member Spotlight: Meet Bri Seoane!
Bri Seoane, chief mission officer at the Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area, steps into our community member spotlight!
Bri has been a member of the Blackbaud Community since 2020 and currently uses the following Blackbaud solutions: Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT®, Blackbaud Financial Edge NXT®, and ResearchPoint™.
Read on to learn more about Bri, including her experience in the Peace Corps, what her typical day looks like, and what she attributes most to her success.
Bri Seoane has been instrumental in the success of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area. A year after merging three local chapters into one, the organization found itself $1 million short. Bri raised her hand to switch leadership roles from operations and programs to development to bring a more data-driven, integrated approach to their fundraising. Just two years later, Bri and her team, with the assistance of Blackbaud solutions, exceeded the chapter’s fundraising projections by $1 million! You can read more about their turnaround here.
We’re so impressed by what Bri has accomplished that we wanted to learn more about this social good warrior, mother of two, Peace Corp veteran, and active member of the Blackbaud Community.
Q: Tell us about your family.
A: I am a single mom to two amazing daughters: Andrea is a rising junior at California State University-Chico and Izzy is a second grader in a Spanish immersion program. Andrea is a psychology major with aspirations of becoming a marriage & family therapist and using her lived experiences as an immigrant woman of color with native Spanish language skills to reach populations that are underserved by mental health services. Izzy is a competitive dancer who has a passion for music, performing, and all things creative.
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: The key to coping well during the pandemic was making the mundane fun. I’ve truly mastered finding delight in the little things, such as: recreating my grandma’s arroz con pollo, epic group chats with my girlfriends across the country, and teaching my eight-year-old to salsa dance in the kitchen.
Answers to this question would have looked quite different in 2019 😊. If you asked me this back then, I would have said:
Any excuse for a theme night with friends – animal print tracksuits anyone?
Carpool karaoke, yes please!
Concerts, comedy, and drag shows.
All opportunities for oysters, ceviche, and pisco with excellent company and a view of the Bay
Q: What is a life achievement of which you are particularly proud?
A: I am too young to have life achievements! I object to the question on principle. All jokes aside and by no means do I think I peaked at 24, but the first thing that comes to mind whenever I’m asked this question is something I did as a Peace Corps volunteer twenty years ago and it wasn’t even the big, sexy, potable water project!
As a rural health and sanitation volunteer in a tiny fishing village in El Salvador, the gender inequality was staggering. Girls didn’t get to go to school, they had zero options and choices for their future, sexual assault was rampant, sexual health was a taboo topic, the teen pregnancy rate was through the roof, domestic violence was commonplace, and women’s lives were completely controlled by the men in their lives, be it their fathers, brothers, or husbands.
I had an idea to start a women’s soccer team as a way of providing some healthy recreation for the teenage girls in my village and an opportunity to build some comradery and leadership – the ultimate goal being to make their bodies and minds strong. I played soccer my whole life and the sport had given me so much; I hoped the girls could grow through it too. The key was that it was PUBLIC, which I thought meant that any whispering about the girls' gathering could be easily dispelled. Boy, was that naïve of me!
At first the girls showed up in their skirts from their school uniforms and we all played barefoot because cleats were a luxury and girls did not wear shorts. Men and boys would cat call us, but the girls persevered.
My plan was to give them something that was theirs, only theirs - something to look forward to and work hard for, but also a place to work on leadership and teach things like family planning and talk about healthy relationships. My goal was to have zero teen pregnancies on that team.
I could go on and on about those sixteen girls, but the short of it is that at the end of my three years in the village, there was not a single pregnancy on the team. In fact, there was not an unplanned pregnancy ever in that group. Two of the girls went on to play for the Salvadoran Women’s National team and traveled all over Central America. Five of them went to high school; previously not a single girl had ever completed eighth grade in that community. Twenty years later, they are raising their own girls and coaching their soccer teams. They tag me in photos and posts on Facebook. It means the world to me - we are forever bonded; we changed each other’s lives.
Q: What experience did you learn from your Peace Corps experience that still helps you to this day?
A: Relationship building is the most precious skill I learned in the Peace Corps that I use daily in my work. Salvadoran culture is community based, particularly in rural areas, so your reputation and who you know and how you conduct yourself is paramount. People would only collaborate with me once I earned their trust and knew that I cared about them. It did not matter where I got my degree or what I knew or how much access I had to capital. I still approach partnership and relationship building the same way today and it is highly effective, even in our culture [here in the U.S.]!
Q: What is one memory that always makes you smile?
A: In December of 2020, I took my girls on an EPIC RV trip to hike the Mighty Five National Parks in Southern Utah. Like everyone else, we were cooped up for nine months. My eldest daughter, Andrea, missed all those special high school senior activities and started her college career on Zoom, and I had just weathered my second COVID infection. On New Year’s Eve, we hiked Arches and Andrea and I watched the sun slink behind the snowcapped Turret Arch while my youngest played with her stuffed rattlesnake in a patch of ice further down the trail. I cried a little, and we laughed because I cry about everything. That day if felt like we were winning though, we made it through and were at a beautiful place together cussing out a terrible year. It always makes me smile when I think about it.
Q: Tell us about your organization:
A: Ronald McDonald House Charities is there for sick kids and their families, providing comfort and support when and where they need it most. Sometimes that means a hot meal, other times that’s a free overnight stay near specialized care far from home and sometimes that means psychosocial support to help families cope with the crushing stress of medical crisis.
Q: Tell us about your role as chief mission officer. What does a chief mission officer do?
A: In our organization, the chief mission officer role creates a path to achieving our vision where “every sick child has the care they need, surrounded by family and a community they can count on.” I do that by cultivating strategic relationships to mobilize resources resulting in expanded reach, richer programming, and financial stability.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: There is no such thing as a typical day, but generally I’m focused on a rotating list of strategic initiatives: growing our programs through strategic partnerships, raising awareness, and fund development. For example, on any given day I might be meeting a researcher at UCSF to learn more about how we can partner to support her work, finalizing our revenue strategy for our golf tournament in the fall, leading a launch day for expanded services at one of our partner hospitals, writing thank you notes to donors in my portfolio who gave this week, following up and scheduling meetings with people I met at a networking event last week, and clearing my Blackbaud Financial Edge NXT feed!
Q: How have Blackbaud solutions helped you be successful?
A: I use multiple Blackbaud solutions every single day to cultivate those strategic relationships that help us achieve our mission, but my absolute favorite is the data intelligence solutions. This is how I know our limited team resources are used in the most impactful way to reach donors who are most likely to engage in our mission. I use information from Research Point™ when new donors enter our orbit, or when meeting partners for the first time. Also, our Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and Blackbaud Financial Edge NXT® integration saves us dozens of hours each month on reconciliation and improves overall reporting.
Q: How did you grow your career and what advice would you give to people who are looking to forge ahead on the same path? What are important skills to develop?
A: Early on in my career I read a statistic that men apply for jobs where they only meet 30% of the requirements while women only apply for jobs where they meet 90% of them. It completely changed the way I thought about ‘potential’ versus ‘experience.’ Way before Sheryl Sandberg put ‘lean in’ into our consciousness, I started leaning in and raising my hand at work. I filled gaps, I took on projects, I did all kinds of things I had ‘no business’ and was not ‘qualified’ to do.
I am a hustler, smart, and a self-directed learner, and I practiced being fearless until it felt natural. It is funny how when you embody those things, people start to SEE you as those things and the opportunities present themselves because you create them for yourself. As women, we are often conditioned to scoff at adjectives like ‘ambitious’ and ‘direct.’ Early in my career when those feelings crept in for me, I would step back and view the situation I was in and swap me out for a male colleague and see if it looked the same. It never did, so I kept on trudging.
Having a keen sense of self and solid set of values is worth its weight in gold. My moral compass is something I depend on fiercely. If you do not have that in your career, you are in for a world of heartache and confusion.
Q: You spoke at bbcon 2021 – tell us about that experience!
A: Speaking at bbcon was exciting. It gave me the opportunity to share our organization’s amazing turnaround story and outsized results after implementing Blackbaud’s data intelligence solutions. I am so proud of my team and what we accomplished, and it has been so satisfying to be in touch with attendees from my session to hear about their successes too. The science is solid, and the strategies have been evaluated, so why not share?
Q: What do you love about the Blackbaud Community?
A: Fundraisers are generous and creative. I walked into the Blackbaud Community without any formal fundraising experience under my belt and the other members were helpful and kind and always willing to help.
Thanks for sharing your story …. your passion is infectious!
I love all the pictures!
@Bri Seoane absolutely loved reading this, including your inspiring chapter with the Peace Corps. I feel so fortunate to have helped tell the story of your work with Ronald McDonald House Charities. I guess we just scratched the surface!
Hi @Bri Seoane - I joined your session at BBCON ‘21 and heard your fantastic success story and how you and your team accomplished this. It is truly remarkable to hear about your Peace Corps experience and the impact you made on those young girls’ lives and their futures. Thank you for sharing your stories.
Great to “meet” you Bri!
Great to see a fellow RMHC team mate in the spotlight! Thank you for sharing your story and for all that you do for RMHC! We are so lucky to have you as part of our system.
I love this @Bri Seoane - my “first job out of college” was the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. You state the importance of the lessons in building relationships so well. While I don't think I peaked at 24 either, the experiences and the relationships I built are so close to my heart, it's as though they are from just yesterday. ?