Career Keys Blog

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In the spirit of Halloween, the CFRE Central Career Keys blog asks, "What is the scariest job interview experience you've had?" Share your story in the comments below. I'll start. One time I had an interview for a job at a nonprofit that supported foreign exchange students at high schools in the U.S. I walked into the reception area. Three employees stared me down with looks that simultaneously communicated, "Get out while you can," and, "We'll eat you for breakfast." During the interview, I was informed all employees were paid $10/hr for the first month. Then during the second month, the actual salary would kick in. I had one interview in the morning and ...
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Being paid what you’re worth is essential to your on-the-job satisfaction. Everyone loves a bargain, but no staff member should be a bargain to their employer. You deserve to be compensated fairly, a fact any reputable employer acknowledges. A 2019 Chronicle of Philanthropy article reported 55 percent of fundraisers say they “often feel unappreciated” in their work. Earning what you deserve is a cornerstone of feeling seen and valued. Asking with an airtight reason When requesting a raise, you’re asking for your salary to align with the level of work, education, and skills you bring to your role. You’re not asking for increased pay because you took ...
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Fundraising isn’t a cakewalk. It takes determination, self-belief, and patience to persevere. While there are tough days, there are also jump-for-joy victories that create measurable change for our communities and causes we serve. Here, CFREs from around the world share with us their advice for someone just starting out in their fundraising career. In the comments below, feel free to share your advice for new fundraising professionals. Jennifer Atkinson, CFRE New Westminster, BC, Canada “There will be moments as a fundraiser when you feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Focus your energy on building meaningful and ...
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“I’ll put my head down, work doubly hard, then my boss will recognize my fabulous contributions. Lickety split, I’ll be on my way towards a promotion and sweeter salary,” said oh-so-many nonprofit professionals. And why wouldn’t we believe that? It’s the narrative we’ve been told from the era of kindergarten—work hard and you’ll be dually rewarded. What no one told us as fresh-faced children with peanut butter stuck on our chins is that working hard is only part of the equation. Management is a minefield You may view yourself as an exemplary specimen of management material. Maybe you are currently a manager or you are aspiring to your first management position. ...
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My first development job was at PBS Wisconsin, where I was one person on a team of 16 people. I thought my next job would be in a department of about the same size. But then, I had an opportunity to become Director of Development for Lowell Observatory and became the leader of one and a half staff, including me! Since then, I've worked in and advised both large and small shops. While I have an affinity for smaller teams, I have also worked with many colleagues who would never leave a larger organization. When you're looking for a new job, you probably consider the mission, salary, title, position, and responsibilities. But do you consciously think about if ...
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For many fundraisers the concept of an events coordinator, database manager, or prospect researcher is quite foreign. They are ALL of those things (and more). Welcome to the fundraising shop of one. Working in a fundraising shop of one means you must be a jack or jill of all trades and you may not always have the support you need. However, it does present unique opportunities. Often you end up in a fundraising shop of one because you’re deeply passionate about the cause. That alone is a huge benefit, but your career does not have to suffer because you want to work for a cause that is important to you. Here are a few ways to advance your career during ...
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I think we all can agree on this—a career as a fundraising professional is one of the most coveted professions in existence. What better way to dedicate your life to the good of humanity by representing organizations that are making a true impact in the world? As fundraisers, we have been fortunate enough to work in a “golden age” of philanthropy—a time in which organizations would reap the benefits of a massive generational wealth transfer, gains in the economy, and a rebound in the stock and housing markets. This has contributed to robust growth in overall giving with charitable contributions topping well over $471 billion in 2020 (representing an increase ...
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You’ve been cultivating a donor for over three years now. You’ve done your homework and know the donor’s particular passions, how she likes to receive information (and to what level of detail), and the framework of her life that will inform her decisions. You understand relationships take time and the donation will come on her timeline…not yours or the organization’s. You kept detailed notes in the donor’s record so anyone with access could read about your interactions and progress with the donor. An Ask Without Your Knowledge Then you discover your boss went ahead and made an ask without your input, knowledge, or recommendation. The donor ...
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Mentorship is critical. Often, mentors are individuals with years of sage experience that have held senior leadership roles and guided their mentees to successful careers. But at what point does a mentor need to step aside and consider letting their mentee lead the organization? The COVID-19 Pandemic ignited fires around the globe within various cultural, political, financial, and societal issues. It created a chain reaction of activism, spikes in philanthropy, and the most stable employment (for those who have remained employed) period for Millennials who have the notorious reputation (though, questionable on how true) of job hopping for promotions and career ...
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At some point in our nonprofit careers, we’ve likely heard a board member or executive director (ED) talk about challenges facing their organization. Those remarks can contain the frustration of not feeling heard, valued, or supported. What can be done to remind EDs and board members that we’re all on the same team? After over a decade fundraising, I’ve worn both hats as an ED and volunteer board member for other organizations and used these questions to help understand the other’s perspective. For EDs working with board members: While board service is a significant commitment, volunteers appreciate the proactive steps that make it easy for them to ...
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Last year, none of us knew what we were facing when the announcement came that our team was required to go home to work due to this thing called the COVID-19 pandemic. We cancelled a much-anticipated donor gathering scheduled for the weekend, packed up our offices, and vowed to see each other in a few weeks. At that point, only a few of us were familiar with virtual meeting platforms like Teams or Zoom.Terms like PPE, super-spreader events, and social distancing became part of our everyday vernacular. Quickly Pivoting The team at HSHS St. John’s Foundation, at the time, had eight full-time employees. Quickly, we began making plans to adapt. How could ...
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There is a plethora of priceless ways you can promote motivation and happiness in the workplace. The common misconception is that a high-performing environment needs a big budget for incentives and other superficial tangibles.   What if I told you there are activities and habits you can adopt in your workplace culture that will yield immeasurable benefits at little to no cost?   The key is finding creative ways to trigger natural happy chemicals.   Happy chemicals motivate and inspire us to do productive and positive things in our personal and professional lives. The bonus? We feel good about it!   Think of happy chemicals as D.O.S.E.   D ...
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Setting your junior fundraising staff up for success begins with you. Properly onboarding new hires from day one ensures they understand your organization’s procedures and success metrics.   Most importantly, it’s your opportunity to show your freshest team members you value their skill set and are ready to help them flourish. This is the time to establish expectations and help your new staff person gain a firm grasp of their role.   Read on for useful onboarding tips from five CFREs around the world.   Jennifer Atkinson, CFRE, Canada When onboarding a junior member of your fundraising team, it’s important to consider how much time you have to ...
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At one point or another, many of us reflect on our fundraising careers and ask ourselves some simple questions: “Am I in the right fundraising job?”  “Should I look for another position that pays more, offers better opportunities for advancement, etc.”  “What will I do if I’m not promoted this year?”   Whatever your answers to these questions, think twice before accepting a new fundraising position.    During today’s COVID pandemic, you may feel your current fundraising position is devalued. Perhaps you feel bored and want a fresh challenge, or you’ve already been approached by another organization with what sounds like a better fundraising position. ...
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We’ve all had that sinking feeling before. You just nailed a presentation to your board of directors or submitted a perfect grant proposal, yet you can’t quite seem to shake the feeling that you could have done more or that someone more qualified could have done better. If this sounds familiar, you may have experienced impostor syndrome: the low, constant rumbling of insecurity that strikes even the most successful among us. It’s the feeling that you are not good enough, you don’t belong, or that you aren’t worthy of the gift you asked for in that grant proposal. It is important to acknowledge that the symptoms of impostor syndrome may be exacerbated in fundraising ...
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A global pandemic, job uncertainty, and adjusting to a new way of working can all result in taking time to reassess your career. Is it time for a change? Is now the right time to become a self-employed fundraising consultant?   It can be scary, taking that leap. It was certainly something I’d been seriously considering but was still so unsure about if it was the right thing to do. Then I was advised that my role was to be disestablished. Although there was a role for me in the new structure, I took it as a sign.   There are certainly advantages to working for yourself. You have flexible working hours, (ideal if kids are sick or you want to attend school ...
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Searching for a leadership-level fundraising position can be a competitive and frustrating process. Authenticity and honesty during the interview process is assumed – until you learn the hard way. Years ago, I interviewed for a senior level VP position at an organization for which I would be the third development leader in three years (first red flag). I was also told during the interview process that one of the staff members would be leaving, another was a consultant, and one position was vacant (second red flag). I was informed no changes would be made so that I could build my own team. Every leadership volunteer I met with told me the CEO is terrific ...
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Being offered an interview is your greenlight to start heavily researching the organization, if you haven’t already. Don’t skimp on this critical aspect of the job hunt. Check out our tips so you can go into the interview with your eyes wide open. Tip 1: Google everyone you may be closely working with before your first interview I once worked for a nonprofit where the director of development had previously done a stint in federal prison. You read that right. I was in my sixth week on the job when an intern handed me his phone. “Did you know about this?” My eyes widened as I scrolled the page. There it was in pixelated black and white. The director ...
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Even if you’re a wallflower, it must be your objective to stand out when job seeking. You need to have the most compelling, interesting, and strongest resume possible to compete in a new or crowded job market. Before you fall victim to the shortcut of using the same resume you did last time you were on the job hunt, ask yourself, “Am I really putting my best me forward?” If you need to rework, retool, reconstruct, or completely rewrite your professional resume, steer clear of these common resume errors: Failing to tailor your resume to the specific job posting. Job postings are written to attract the “right” candidates that match the current and ...
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For many people, especially fundraising professionals, the end of the year can be a stressful time. You have weather changes, family gatherings, office parties, holiday shopping, annual appeals, and throw in an annual review from your boss. That is enough for anyone to be tossing and turning at night! I am a planner, a list maker. To be honest, sometimes I write down things I have already done just so I can mark them off. The key to my stress level is planning, especially prior to my annual review. Let’s talk about five tips I have learned to help you prepare for your annual review so you get what you want out of it! Data collection Everyone wants ...
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