Introducing: Carly Eldstrom, RAVEN’s new Development Director
RAVEN is welcoming back Carly Eldstrom, former RAVEN grant writer and now our newest Development Director! Carly recently graduated from Columbia University with a masters degree in Nonprofit Management, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her back on the RAVEN team in this new capacity.
We sat down with Carly to learn more about what brought her to RAVEN (not just once, but twice) and what she’s looking forward to the most in her new role.
What drew you to working with RAVEN?
It was obviously RAVEN’s mission. I first became acquainted with RAVEN through connections in my network, and in 2018 I met the former Director of Development, Laurie Mackenzie. I was completely enraptured by her genuine approach to creating relationships and connections, and her emotional availability with how the mission deeply affected her on a personal level. We really connected and I resonated with the feeling of being misled by the public education system about how and what it meant to be in relationship with Indigenous communities. I found from my first connection with Laurie that both her and RAVEN were diving headfirst into the misconceptions that are held by settler communities. That was really refreshing to me and RAVEN is driving this critical conversation forward. That’s evident through the new Home on Native Land course, and so much else.
Beyond all that, RAVEN presents a systemic solution that is actually working, and it’s easy to join a winning team. I connect this to my undergraduate studies in Sociology at Vancouver Island University. That’s where I first became aware of Indigenous ways of being as well as the systems of power and oppression that control and enforce the inequity in the world around us. So I really find that working with RAVEN presents me with a beautiful intersection of my beliefs, values and interests. It also gives me an opportunity to unite with my friends and comrades who are working toward the same vision of how the world can be.
Another drive to working with RAVEN is being a part of a juicy transition period from being a small nonprofit, the one I first came to know in 2018, to now being a midsize nonprofit where we’re having an increasing opportunity and responsibility to make an impact on a national scale. There’s no other organization in Canada that does what RAVEN is doing. So, I believe passionately in our legal theory of change, which relies on Indigenous peoples’ hard fought constitutional and Aboriginal rights to create environmental benefits.
What’s your favorite part of the job so far?
I can honestly say it’s meeting donors and RAVEN’s community of supporters, and I get to be so much more of a people person now than I used to be when I was writing grants. I remember a lot of lonely days with Word documents. And now, my day is mostly conversation to conversation, which I’m really appreciating because so much of fundraising, and of RAVEN’s mission, is relationship-driven. An added bonus is that joining the team in January I’ve been having a lot of opportunities to express gratitude after a phenomenal year-end fundraising season. So it’s kind of fun to start by saying thank you, and that ethos is really embodied in RAVEN’s work as fundraisers.
In contrast to when I was a grant writer, where I had an intimate view of the mission through writing for campaigns, now as the Development Director, I’m focused instead on RAVEN’s core operational success, and therefore I’m challenged to take a bird’s eye view of the work and all of the levels of resourcing that it requires. I’m embracing this challenge and it excites me every day.
What does Indigenous sovereignty mean to you or look like to you?
The first thing that comes to mind is decision-making power, and moving away from the mutually reinforcing systems of capitalism and white supremacy. I’m really motivated by the idea that nobody can truly own the land, but going forward, Indigenous peoples have proven ways of being in relationship with the land, the water, the air. And none of that is trivial: we rely on that for continued life on Earth. So, as a settler, Indigenous sovereignty means completely getting out of the way, both out of my own way and out of everyone else’s way. And promoting Indigenous sovereignty as a settler requires an examination of my understanding of my positions within systems of power. It requires me to use my privilege to advocate for what I believe to be the right way forward even and especially when it is challenging.
I’m still learning about the Land Back movement. That is something really interesting to me, the idea of removing lands from a toxic system and bringing it under Indigenous governance is hugely appealing and motivating to me. There is no force on Turtle Island that has been quite as destructive as colonialism. It’s been broken promises and outright lies. The harm has and will continue to affect all of us if we don’t come together to embrace reconciliation as an action rather than a topic of discussion. The amount of injustice that perpetuates these systems is overwhelming, and I cannot see a way forward that doesn’t position Indigenous sovereignty as the end goal in the future. We do not have a livable future without meaningful Indigenous sovereignty, period.
What makes you feel connected to the land or water? Do you have any practices that keep you grounded in the natural world?
Deep breathing is one of my practices. I breathe in that delicious fresh air whenever I have the opportunity. Opportunities for breathing fresh air are quite limited when I am living in the polluted environment of New York City. But, I do have waves tattooed on my ankle and those anchor me to the next opportunity to be in nature. I would say that proximity helps me strengthen my connection because I have made a home on both the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts and being able to see water calms me down.
Meditating has become a part of my own wellness practice and whenever I can do that outside or with the window open, that really helps me disconnect from the online world — which can be a lot sometimes. And if I’m in the city, and people are honking or yelling, well then I have a lot of nature sounds on Spotify to fill the gap when needed.
What’s something that brought you joy in the last year?
Graduating with my master’s degree brought me immense joy. I worked so hard for it. To walk across the stage was enormously joyful. I really think it was a dream come true to find a program that taught me the technical management skills that modern nonprofit organizations require. And yeah, this education is what brought me to RAVEN again. It gave me the skill set that I had perhaps underdeveloped and now I’m ready to work. The chapter is now closed on formal schooling, and I’m ready to be of service.