Paloma Mexika spoke with New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty’s new Development Associate, Jessie Calero, about her experience working in fundraising and the nonprofit world. Ms. Calero has years of fundraising and nonprofit management experience. She received her Master’s and undergraduate degrees at the University of New Mexico. This interview has been edited and condensed.
What made you interested in social justice/advocacy work?
I’ve been involved in disability-focused advocacy and direct services for over a decade. As an autistic
person, I’ve really seen how the world is designed to be accessible for a very specific type of person who
fits one conventional mold. In doing that work, I’ve really wanted to highlight that this isn’t just true for
disabled folks, it’s also true for people of different gender identities, racial and ethnic backgrounds,
LGBTQ folks, and people living in low income communities. It’s especially true for those living at the
intersection of those identities and circumstances. We expect people to access resources using systems
that are not designed for them, and even go so far as to purposefully prevent them from getting support.
I’m very interested in work that centers the community: work that asks people what needs to change and
centers them in that change process. We are the experts on our own lived experience.
What influenced your decision to work in fundraising?
In the broader nonprofit world, a lot of messaging is focused on trying to make people feel guilty. This
communications strategy creates a paradigm where people who can give are put in one box, and people
who need community support are put in another box. When I started to explore the world of fundraising, I
loved that it gave me an opportunity to tell success stories in a slightly different way. I was able to remind
donors that we all need support from our communities at different times of our lives…this was not only
effective, it was fulfilling. I think it’s important to remind people that giving is an investment in your
community, your friends, your neighbors…Approaching giving from that perspective is not only more
compelling, it also honors everyone involved as part of one larger, reciprocal movement that creates real,
lasting change. It’s a return to the work of mutual aid and other grassroots organizing that has been
meeting needs for thousands of years.
Why did you want to join the Center’s development team?
I was ready for a new challenge, and I was really excited about the idea of moving from fundraising for
direct services to something focused on systemic change. I spent so many years trying to educate donors
about the ways in which direct services were filling gaps created by systems-based issues, and so joining
this team is really an opportunity to contribute to solving some of those problems on a larger scale. That’s