As part of the Academy of Hope’s advancement team, Mirvlyne is changing the community one learner at a time
“I moved for love,” says Mirvlyne Brice. “I was in New York City, working in civil services and, six years ago, I got married and moved to Northern Virginia. Suddenly, I had to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up.”
Before her move, Mirvlyne had also been focused on community development and change and had served as executive director for a small business improvement district. She’d also worked closely with returned veterans, helping them secure special accommodations for testing.
“Once I got to Northern Virginia. I had to evaluate what’s next. I knew I wanted to go back to nonprofit work but wasn’t sure exactly where I fit,” she says. “I took a personality test, and it said fundraising could be a good fit. The more I thought about it, the more I could picture myself in more of a development role — it seemed to align with my experience and with my goals to support communities and impact change.”
Joining Academy of Hope
Mirvlyne joined Academy of Hope (AoH), an adult public charter school that provides quality education and career training to D.C. residents, with an eye on fundraising. Today Mirvlyne is the Senior Individual Giving Officer, part of AoH’s advancement team.
“Fundraising, for me, answers the questions I’ve always asked myself: how do we bring people together to support a common good?” she says. “It’s about collaboration. It’s about connecting with people. It’s about matching a donor’s interest and passion to the needs of an organization — what’s that spark or catalyst?”
This past year in particular, Mirvlyne says, has pushed those boundaries even more. Organizational issues have expanded across the entire nonprofit landscape, and fundraisers have had to accelerate their effort to ensure those critical donor connections happen.
“That’s the exciting part, though,” Mirvlyne says. “It goes back to what I’ve always done in terms of community development. How do we address ever-changing needs? How do we get in the weeds and understand what matters?” As a fundraiser, she says, it goes a step further. “Then we have to consider what matters to donors — sometimes it’s a natural fit, sometimes we have to find that link. That’s where I come in.”
Reimagining donor connections
This approach — paired with Mirvlyne’s skills in donor communication strategy — helped her continue raising funds for Academy of Hope, even during these tumultuous few months as D.C. and national unemployment spiked. Despite these pandemic-driven challenges, AoH was able to refine its message, engage donors, and, ultimately, welcome 317 new donors over the last two and half years.
“We’ve continued to show how relevant distance learning is, especially for adults — people who haven’t been in school for a long time,” Mirvlyne says. “And we’re helping donors understand what that looks like — not just classes, but making sure students have laptops and internet access. We’re creating that sense of urgency and understanding — so our messaging has shifted.” That messaging, she says, highlights not only the benefits to adult learners but also their families. Give internet access and technology to adults, and, suddenly, their children have the access they need for their own in-person and remote learning.
“We’re sending more emails, more messages, helping donors and the community understand why this is so significant — how this work benefits the community as a whole,” Mirvlyne says. “We’re sharing more stories about adult learners and promoting our student success fund — so not just the classes and the supporting tools, but also paying for those licensing exams so that learners can become a certified nursing assistant, let’s say. We — and our donors — are supporting our students from start to finish, helping them not just gain skills but build a lasting career.”
Fundraising as a whole-self career
Looking ahead, Mirvlyne is eager for the continued evolution of Academy of Hope and how their work can grow to serve more adult learners and the community as a whole. She’s also committed to helping make fundraising more inclusive.
“I’m focused on how we diversify in every sense,” Mirvlyne says. “How do we diversify or be more inclusive with our donor base, how do we ensure fundraisers of all backgrounds are getting the care and the support they need, and what can we do to promote pay equity for women? How do we make sure Black-led organizations — specifically those led by Black women — experience greater equity and funding? That continues to motivate me.”
That, she adds, is critical in development and fundraising when leaders give so much of themselves.
“One of the reasons I stay in fundraising is because I found a career where I can bring my whole self. I can bring in my personality. I can bring in my skill sets. I can bring in my past experiences,” Mirvlyne says. “I can bring my values. I can bring my creativity — and I can be a change agent. All of this, together, is why I became a fundraiser. I wanted to be in a space where I can bring in my values, what I care about, and my personality.”