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Staff Profile: Haillee Mason

Haillee Mason is celebrating a year as Development Coordinator at RAFI. Creative, community-driven, and a lifelong learner, Haillee’s work to deepen relationships with donors builds on years of experience in fundraising, storytelling, and movement-oriented community building.

Haillee grew up in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, where she recalls “being very into Egyptian mythology and hieroglyphics, scary movies, dancing, reading Goosebumps, learning to cook West Indian dishes, and being very dramatic and expressive.” She developed an early love of languages, learning Spanish and imitating the accents of her mother’s Cruzan Puerto Rican family (Puerto Rican folks who migrated to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands). “When I was in high school I remember having a Spanish teacher who was a Black woman, and it blew my mind. Her accent was so beautiful and effortless, and I remember telling myself I could do that too.” In high school, Haillee studied both Spanish and German. “I loved the challenge of being really bad at a new thing and starting at square one. I still do!”

Feeling trapped by the small town of Fuquay Varina, Haillee moved to Miami to attend college at Florida International University. She eventually received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she triple-majored in Global Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and African Diaspora Studies.

Upon graduating, Haillee embarked upon a career in nonprofit development and communications. As the Development Associate at Student U, a nonprofit that supports first-generation college-bound students in Durham, NC, Haillee secured more than $250,000 in private foundation investments and led the organization’s first-ever social media giving campaign. She managed the monthly newsletter and composed digital and written content for Farmer Foodshare, educating on food system inequities and building connections between farmers and communities. She also drove story-driven digital content development for The Black Farmer’s Market NC and spent nearly two years as the Development Coordinator for Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights in Maine, where she achieved a 125% increase in monthly donors through a new monthly giving program, surpassing all previous fundraising records in her inaugural Spring Appeal campaign. Her approach to development centers on personalized storytelling and gratitude, using tools such as individualized thank-you notes to strengthen connections and showcase impact through human stories.

One of the experiences that most impacted Haillee was her time as an Emerging Documentary Artist at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. There — along with meeting her spouse — she worked with her family’s archival images and film to learn about their history as land workers and sugarcane cutters in rural Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “I spent time combing through my family archives, learning stories about my lineage that I never knew, and connecting to my family’s history as migrants, as people living in a modern-day colony of the United States, and as landworking, rural people.”

Haillee enjoyed being a solo traveler, spending time in Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Belgium. She says, “I love going to some place and feeling totally out of my element. It reminds me of how social, powerful, and aware I can be.” She also continued devoting time to learning and being active in her community, taking Spanish classes at the local community college and writing classes at the Durham Arts Council, serving as a Guest Curator for the digital Black Matriarch Archives, and volunteering as an ESL assistant at a local refugee resettlement nonprofit.

In May 2023, Haillee brought her fundraising skills to RAFI-USA, where she manages all aspects of gift entry, donor acknowledgment, and data reporting to ensure efficient and strategic fundraising operations. She was responsible for directing and executing RAFI’s 2023 Annual Campaign, and continues to spearhead the development of year-round donor engagement strategies. At RAFI, she values having the space to be creative and try new approaches. “I’m trusted to get the work done, but in a way that feels authentic to my values as a fundraiser. Recently, I’ve been working hard to solidify our recurring giving program into something dynamic and engaging for our most excited supporters.”

That sort of creativity, she goes on to say, opens vital opportunities for generating the resources needed to make lasting and transformative change: “I think I’ve come into fundraising in a really exciting and daunting time. There are so many radical and thoughtful fundraisers of color that I look up to who are thinking about resourcing our communities by drawing upon our own talents, relationships, skills, and of course, financial resources to create a world we want to live in. Fundraising is powerful work, especially right now, when we feel so depleted and overwhelmed by the world we live in.”

Haillee believes that the power to make change lies in community connections. When asked what she thought were the most important levers for creating a just food system, Haillee’s answer was “Us! The people who are consuming the food. We need to be more curious and aware of how our food gets on our plate, and we need to do a better job of advocating for those who make it possible. I’m a huge advocate for building personal relationships, and that’s what our system needs — more connection between growers and consumers.”

Outside of work, Haillee fills her life as a weightlifter, salsa dancer, “Spanglish” speaker, and dog parent. “My favorite pastime is sitting on my porch with my good friends with herbal iced tea laughing until I can’t breathe while Marvin Gaye sings in the background. I’m still an avid reader and have recently been reading quite a few books by rural Appalachian white authors, which has been extending my empathy in ways I didn’t expect. I also love to thrift, and make weekends out of visiting small rural towns in North Carolina, visiting their antique and thrift shops, and starting up conversations with locals. I recently started volunteering with the North Carolina Women’s Prison Book Project where, alongside other abolitionist folks, I write letters and send books to people incarcerated in women’s prisons and jails across NC.”

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