• Cass Polzin

How a Career in Music Prepares You for Partnership Success

This article is part of our Women in Partnerships series, highlighting female professionals in the partnerships space. To learn more about the series and the Women in Partnerships group, check out the series intro.


Diana Fragnito is the Director of Partner Development at OneCause. She started with the organization back in 2009 when it was just a startup. OneCause is a technology company providing various fundraising solutions for nonprofits.


Diana joins us to discuss the pivot that took her to OneCause, advice from her career experiences, and more.


Starting in the Music Industry

Partnerships, Diana shared, is actually her second career. “I was in the music industry for most of my adult life. Music was and still is a passion. I have no musical talent but knew I wanted to do something in the music industry. Through my 20s and 30s, I was in the industry following my passion.”


At the same time, Diana was building partnerships skills before she ever thought about working in the tech industry. “I worked with different artists to put their records together. I created partnerships with musicians, managers, and producers.”


For a long time, Diana was following her passion and really enjoying her career, but she worked at record companies and the market was changing rapidly with the rise of digital streaming services. “I thought it was time for a career change. I had gone as far as I could go. Entertainment roles were not 9-5s and I wanted more balance. I wanted something different and new, but I didn’t know what that was. I really wasn’t sure what my work had prepared me for in the ‘real world’.”


Making a Successful Career Change

Stepping away from the music industry, Diana wasn’t quite sure where to head next. “I was in the music industry for so long, it was all I knew from a young age. I didn't have any experience in any other industry. Music entertainment is such a unique lane. I do recall thinking, ‘Oh wow. What am I going to do? Do I need to go back to school?’ That was a huge obstacle for me. It was a very scary moment. I live in New York. I have a mortgage. I was wondering what I was going to do. That's where I leaned into my grit. ‘Let's see what's out there - you got this.’


Diana spent about 18 months doing freelance work in the event space. “I remember deciding I don't need to figure this all out right now. Let me just work, do something, in time I will figure it out. I removed that pressure and allowed myself 18 months of trying to figure things out by experimenting in different roles. Some of that was working with nonprofits on their galas. I wanted to sink my teeth into something, I just didn't know what that something was. Through contacts and different people, I heard that OneCause was looking for a Sales & Events Director. I remember looking at the job description and not feeling I was qualified, or so I thought. I never aligned my experience in the music industry with sales or partnerships, but figured I had nothing to lose and applied.”

Diana was glad to have taken the chance and applied for the position with BidPal as she ultimately got the role. OneCause (formerly known as BidPal) introduced electronic bidding for auctions to the nonprofit industry. “At the time, I thought, ‘wow this seems like a great product to help nonprofits raise money and make their jobs a bit easier as well’. I was very intrigued and challenged by the unknown as it was a new industry and a startup company. When you work for a startup, you wear many hats as a salesperson, customer support, marketing, and more. It was like going to business school but being on the ground doing it. As a startup, you get to see it at all of its different levels. I've been fortunate to see how you grow a company, put processes together, and build upon things when the timing is right.”


As the platform has grown and evolved, Diana’s role has too. “I think if I was in the same role, I would be bored out of my mind. Once I helped to launch different markets up and down the east coast, I transitioned to inside sales and customer success. I realized now that I'm officially in partnerships, having that past experience and roles are beneficial to my current role in partnerships. Now I get to work with the whole team — marketing, sales, product, etc. It keeps me in the loop with everyone and keeps me challenged.”


The Value of Female Mentors

Diana didn’t have much exposure to female mentors when she began in the music industry. “Back then, I was more often than not, the only woman in the room or department. I had very little interaction and didn't come across many female mentors. It could have been my fault — I didn't seek them out probably as much as I should have, I now realize.”


Things changed when Diana made the leap to partnerships. “One of my biggest differences once I started working at OneCause was, the woman who hired me, she was my first great influential woman mentor, and remains so. I work with incredibly strong and intelligent women at OneCause. I didn't experience that before here, and what a great asset! It's great to finally have that influence and mentorship.”


Advice for Others in Partnerships

Diana shared a few key pieces of advice from her time building partnerships at OneCause. “There's nothing wrong with asking questions. You don't have to know the answers right then and there. Especially with partnerships, it's like a relationship and you might not find the right answer at the first meeting. Take the time to learn, take the time to ask questions, take the time to look around at your own company and seek out mentors. It's okay to make a mistake, as long as you learn from it. Tap into your curious nature.”


Partnership Leaders embraces a culture of curiosity, providing a platform for partnership professionals to ask questions, solve complex problems, and share their experiences. Apply to join Partnership Leaders and tap into your own curious nature.