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A convention center of one’s own–by guest blogger Judy Neufeld

I remember my very first time at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was December of 2005.  I was a recent college graduate in need of a job and sorely missing the support network of being a student. I was unsure what the conference would be like and what the day would bring, but as I walked into the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center that early and chilly Thursday morning, I felt optimistic that I may get some leads on job opportunities and was excited to attend the workshops and panels. What I actually got that day was so much more than just some business cards.

I remember walking in to the Convention Center and being surrounded by thousands of other women. These were women who were eager to learn and grow personally and professionally; women who were eager to mentor and support the younger generation in the crowd; women who wanted to reach out and connect with others. What I got that day at the first Conference was a new network beyond my friends from college; I got a network of other women who wanted to see me succeed, to help me grow personally and professionally.

Now in its fifth year, the Massachusetts Conference for Women remains a space where women gather to connect with each other, motivate and inspire others, and build their personal and professional skills. It is a space where over 4,500 women gather annually to hear from speakers like Suze Orman, personal finance expert and bestselling author; Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University; and Susan Taylor, editor emerita of Essence magazine and founder of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.

Every year, I look forward to the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I always leave the Convention Center feeling refreshed, energized, and inspired to do more. Women need more opportunities to connect with each other and we all need to ensure that we are taking responsibility for mentoring the next generation of young women leaders. In fact, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston has a booth at the conference where women attendees can learn about our mentoring opportunities to ensure that we are all doing our part to encourage, inspire, and support the next generation of young women.  I’m excited that for the third year in a row I will be attending the Conference as a representative of Big Sister Association!

But why should we wait until the Massachusetts Conference of Women to encourage, inspire, and support another woman? Why does it take a space exclusively dedicated to women to help us reflect on our personal and professional goals? What if every day you felt supported and empowered, and in turn helped to instill confidence in a younger woman or girl? Isn’t that what being a mentor is all about?

I hope you’ll leave your comments on this and also join me and Big Sister Association at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 10!

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Fearless Fundraising–by guest blogger and Big Sister staffer Laura Toni Holsinger

I’m not a fundraiser.  Well, at least that’s what I told myself to minimize disappointment as I began my quest to raise $1,000 (yikes!) for Big Sister through this year’s Rodman Ride for Kids.  Turns out you don’t have to be a fundraising pro, you just need to ask.  Here’s a look into my unexpectedly exciting journey through the unfamiliar world of fundraising.

July 28:  I started out with an e-mail.  Yes, just one e-mail. As I browsed my contact list, I added them one by one: My aunts, my dad’s friend from college, my sister, my grad school classmates. Before I knew it, I had sent an e-mail to more than 30 friends and family.  While I had a great template e-mail to send, I decided to add my own personal touch.  Nothing like that hook to get the family involved!

Sisterhood has had a profound impact on my life. My mom grew up with five sisters (and one brother!), modeling the value of sisterhood through her relationship with each of them. I’m lucky enough to have a sister, Beth, who is also one of my best friends. And over the past nine months, I’ve been volunteering as a Big Sister to Toni, an amazing 12 year old girl from Boston that I’ve been privileged to get to know and mentor. Sisterhood is a gift. Your support can provide that for more girls in Greater Boston.

Oh no, what will they think? I hate asking for money!  I stared at the screen for a bit, and hit the send button. And then, I waited. 

July 29:  My first donation!  A high school friend comes through with a $25 donation.  I’m off to a great start…$975 to go!

August 1:  Another donation.  This one is quite a surprise.  $200 from one of those people that I thought might read the e-mail and then delete it.  $775 to go.

August 13:  Donations are slowing down. Time for another e-mail!  It turned out to be a nice reminder for those friends and family that initially thought to themselves “Oh yeah, I should support that,” and then forgot.  It worked!

September 5:  It’s official, I’ve reached my goal!  But why stop there?

September 14:  New goal:  $1,500.  Third and final e-mail goes out to those that still haven’t donated with an announcement that I’ve increased my goal.  Two donations came in within 24 hours!

And I’m still going!  I had no idea how much support I would receive by sending a compelling e-mail and sharing my story with family and friends.  What I’ve learned from all this is not to be afraid, especially if I can somehow benefit a cause I truly believe in.  I have also learned that people can be exceedingly generous; even when you least expect it.  All you have to do is ask.  Next year, $2,000.