MS in Professional Writing (MSPW) alum, Laila E. Dreidame is currently the Senior Director of Institutional Partnerships at United Way Bay Area (UWBA). In this role, Laila and her colleagues at UWBA raise critical funding for housing justice, financial stability programs, and career and employment opportunities for people living in poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area. Laila is responsible for connecting with partners in the social impact space and crafting requests for funding or grant proposals for funding. In this role, Laila communicates the urgency and need for UWBA's collaborative approaches to radically reducing poverty in the Bay Area.
Q: Can you tell us more about your current role and your daily professional tasks and responsibilities?
A: I took on the Senior Director of Institutional Partnerships role at United Way Bay Area (UWBA) to partner with phenomenal colleagues on mission-driven work. Each day, I communicate with partners at corporations, private foundations, and government agencies dedicated to improving people's quality of life through bold and strategic approaches. Our goal is to expand opportunities that support healthy and stable lives for people living in poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region in the US experiencing vast inequities between the financially wealthy and poor.
Q) What made you realize that writing was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
A: At its core, writing and storytelling has a unique ability to foster human connectivity and understanding. As someone whose parents’ native language is not English and a person who was delayed in speech, I find the ability to communicate through writing a liberating and powerful tool. I am motivated to spend my time writing to advocate for basic human needs, prosperity, and greater equity.
Q) Talk about how the MSPW helped shape who you are as a writing professional. Any specific mentors, books, or experiences that stand out?
A: The MSPW program at NYU, (with special thanks to Academic Director Kristine Rodriguez Kerr, EdD) was the most rewarding educational experience of my life. Although it was challenging, I finally feel confident as a writer and motivated to use my skills to support human-centered programs. For anyone interested in a career like mine, learning to write from an authentic place is essential and so is communicating alignment with funders and other partners. Every request for funding, proposal, or report should clearly demonstrate the connection between the organization's mission and its programming, and center anti-racism policies and goals at every chance.
Q) In your role and industry, how important is collaboration? With whom do you collaborate?
A: I collaborate across departments internally and partner with philanthropists and social impact leaders across sectors. Without thoughtful and widely inclusive collaboration, I could not effectively find equitable approaches to respond to poverty, racism, and discrimination. I value the thought partners I work with both inside and outside the organization.
Q) Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: Writing from a place of purpose and dedication is the foundation of a meaningful career in fundraising and grant writing. Take time to learn what drives you as an individual and work on applying that motivation generously and intentionally to your work.