I coach nonprofit fundraisers to either advance in their career or to make a mark in their first 90 days in their new position. As a coach, I sometimes hear and feel the same situation in different ways.
Most are not satisfied with their current role. Some face too many unrealistic expectations in organizations that don’t value fundraising expertise. Some like their organization but are unsure about their career trajectory and advancement opportunities within. Still others face the constant battle of personal versus professional considerations, and how well their current job fits.
Many fundraising professionals are experiencing what I call the “Fundraising Foxhole Syndrome.”
They have a constant barrage of expectations, demands, and needs that they feel are always flying at them. Triage is often a daily function of their job as they put out the next burning bush fire.
After a few months of constant triage, these fundraisers start to plan their exit route by searching the daily job postings and sending out their resumes. I know this because I too have been there. I speak from experience – my own! What often happens next is that they fail to vet the next position, taking it just to leave the last one. They end up going from one “foxhole” to the next or, as we say, “from the frying pan to the fire.”
Dear fundraiser, does this sound like you?
Below is a personal exercise that I recommend you take the time to work on in a journal or notebook.
Catalog and identify each aspect of your current job.
Think about how happy each element of your job makes you. Assign each action a Happiness Level, or “H-Level”. Use a scale from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).
Then catalog and prioritize your happiness ratings.
Any rankings above seven should tell you something! And, seriously consider any rankings below a five.
Remember that you will have some routine tasks that will follow you from job to job. These may rank very low on your H-Level but, unfortunately, cannot be avoided.
Spend some time analyzing and determining which are the more satisfying areas of your work and which makes you most happy. Observe what you dislike about your job and certain situations, and also note the positives of what you enjoy and what makes you happy.
This exercise will enable you to design your best professional and personal life rather than always going from the “frying pan to the fire” or from “foxhole” to “foxhole.”
By noting and analyzing your day-to-day dislikes and likes, you are creating a roadmap that you can then use to vet new positions. And, this will also help you to design career advancement opportunities that fit in your professional and personal lives.
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How do you make that decision to accept your next position?
Do you go by with what your heart feels? Well, there is some importance to listening to your “heart,” “intuition” or “gut” when making decisions like this, there is also an important thing you can do, and that is due diligence.
You want to be able to assess where an organization is at in each of these key category areas:
Customers: First line, customer chain, end users, influencers
And, do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis of each key category areas.
For instance, how satisfied are the constituents who attend the organization’s programming? What do the families have to say? Does the organization have strong collaborative partners? Do they work with the organization to meet constituents needs? Do government leaders support the organization’s efforts? Does the organization have good relationships with its vendors? Who are the organization’s main competitors? How do they differ or not? How ahead or behind of the organization are they? What is the organization’s competitive advantage in the marketplace? What is going on economically in the general community and on Wall Street? Are those conditions favorable or not? What internal capabilities does the organization have regarding human resources? Are there certain weak links in staffing? What is the overall culture of the organization?
What is the overall culture of the organization? What about recent business performance? What have been some recent trends? What are some positive and negative drivers within the organization?
Are you clear on how your strengths can enhance or detract from the organization? How do your cultural preferences compare with the organizations set culture? Is the job right for you regarding your strengths, motivations, and fit? And, do you understand the risks and can manage those risks?
You must sit down and evaluate each and every component before saying “yes” to the proposal. Don’t just idly say yes. Be strategic about your decision, but let it have some heart too!
For the past year, I have watched development jobs come and go on the job boards.
I lamented that folks like myself with over 20 years of experience, certifications, and education were getting passed up for the lower paid, less experienced, “greener” young ones. And, there might be some thread of truth to that. I can’t be all wet behind the ears.
But, the funny thing is lately, after a year of scanning job postings, I started to notice something very, very interesting. The same postings were coming up. A place down in Newport, a place in Dorchester, the same job, needing the same person.
It is so costly to keep having staff turnover. Expensive in many ways. Not just because of having to fill a vacancy, but costly to the organization as its donor base is disturbed. Development is all about relationships, and if high staff turnover continues, those relationships are never truly built.
Another thing that I have noticed is that some organizations are being a bit more proactive. Seeking out referrals for qualified candidates and then actively recruiting instead of waiting for candidates to apply and come to them.
The smarter move, I might add.
I guess I pen this manifesto for all those development professionals who have spent years in the field honing best practices and in some cases even developing them. It is time that organizations stop looking for the cheapest, youngest, idealistic help. It doesn’t serve the organization to cut the budget by hiring inexperienced newbies for its top position, particularly when it comes to fund development. Can you afford to take a chance on someone who is “green” behind the ears to figure it out as they go along?
I think naught! If you think differently, leave me a comment below.