Several times in my career a new job looked far more appealing than staying in my current role. The thought of another fiscal year with ever-increasing revenue expectations and largely the same plot and cast of characters left me deflated.
Early on I had heard that fundraising is difficult. Turns out, it’s true. I watched development colleagues change jobs—some frequently.
I learned fundraising is a team effort dependent on executive leaders’ attitudes, clear organizational vision, board members, volunteers and adequately budgeted resources.
In several positions, if one or more of these supports were lacking, I tried to fill in or work around these gaps. I was often frustrated. Daily firefighting resulted in scrambling to avoid negative outcomes, rather than finding constructive ideas to move forward. The joy of serving the mission grew clouded, and, in one case, was unfortunately lost.
Sometimes that pervasive tug for new opportunities indicated it was time to move on, but adversity didn’t always mean there weren’t solutions to be discovered.
I decided to find a mentor to help me in this career that, despite its challenges, I was growing to love. She said, “Always run toward an opportunity, not away from one.” Before jumping ship, that proverbial, “Wherever you go, there you are” needed serious attention.
Evaluating my circumstances started by talking with trusted advisors—people who shared their experiences, offered advice and helped me reframe different situations. I also gave myself permission to take time-off. I simply couldn’t reflect on a path forward without space and time away from my work environment.
I was encouraged to make an inventory of everything related to my position. I started with global statements like “The board won’t fundraise,” “I don’t have time to steward major donors” and “The program staff don’t see development as important.”
On the other hand, I listed that I loved the mission, led a stellar fundraising team and my commute worked well with my family life.
The inventory helped me define what was most important in my career and current job. I developed problem-solving skills, cultivated relationships and created action plans for the organization. This process built a strong foundation of skills and leadership.
Each stumbling block presented an opportunity. For example, to give fundraising momentum to the board, I met with each board member to learn more about them and where their organizational priorities lay. I built rapport and relationships so that when the time came, I had permission to ask for their help and connections, which most willingly gave.
In another case, a database wealth screen helped me initiate a focused major donor campaign. The CEO, board development committee, and staff learned why and where we needed to put our time and energy.
Calculating the ROI of hiring a grant writer and a special events firm proved that staff time spent doing what mattered—cultivating and stewarding major donor prospects—resulted in higher contributed revenue and numbers of donors.
Before leaping into a new position, it’s worth taking stock. With time and experience I learned how to determine where I could affect positive change, and where, no matter what I did, things couldn’t or wouldn’t budge.
My attitude about the challenges I faced meant growing by intention, rather than reaction. It’s a blueprint designed for success.