Career Keys Blog

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Whether we like it or not, 2022 will ring in a new year of the same old COVID drama. While we have the advantage this isn’t our first COVID rodeo, many of us are feeling our motivation and balance erode as the pandemic drags on in a disheartening shuffle of one step forward and one step back. Labor markets worldwide continue to tighten, impacting nonprofits severely. The third sector has oft struggled to lure and retain motivated, savvy employees. This can be witnessed in staffing throughout nonprofits where churn is high and morale routinely crashes for a host of reasons. Personally, I’ve never seen so many people in my LinkedIn network posting job vacancies ...
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You’ve launched your first annual giving fundraising appeal and it was a success. Now what?   Every nonprofit organization wishes for the large gifts that will fund mission-critical programs. So why don’t all organizations move forward with a major gifts program?   The answer is simple. Developing a major gifts effort takes focus and time.   Many organizations aren’t sure who to approach or are nervous about making the ask. However, with the largest source of charitable giving from individuals (Giving USA), major gift fundraising is an essential part of any nonprofit development plan.   Here’s a simple step-by-step approach to creating and implementing ...
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What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? If it won’t cause a PTSD episode, think back on why it made you miserable. Now, let’s make sure you never feel that way again. Be picky Finding a role that you’ll thrive in begins with deftly assessing the job description. Be choosy and avoid the crop-dusting approach of firing off your resume to every position you feel moderately qualified for. Where do you want to go? Are you looking to make a leap up the career ladder? Climb one rung? Or are there circumstances that make a lateral move more attractive? Once you’ve determined this, it’s easier to narrow your search. Consider the causes that make you want to pop ...
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I am one of those fundraisers who “fell into fundraising” instead of seeking out this job in a more traditional way. I remember being offered my first job in development, and thought to myself, “So, now what?” Before you officially begin Even before you set foot in the door (whether virtually or in-person), ask your employer if there are any documents or company materials to review before you begin.  Get familiar with your new job description, mission of the organization, and organizational values. Use this time to identify areas where your strengths can shine on day one. You may suggest offering to visit the office and meet your new team before officially ...
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Co-authored by Ashley Gatewood, MA A haphazard fundraising plan can mean your team is in for a white-knuckle ride. Efficiency and realistic planning are the name of the fundraising game, and one of the strongest ways to ensure your team’s success is to follow tried-and-true project management frameworks. You may think project management is just for techies. Rest assured, it can supercharge your fundraising endeavors, too! When you engage in an “investor’s mindset,” you extract the most out of daily operations, donor prospecting, volunteer management, and securing the gift. An investor’s mindset means putting your money and efforts behind practices and initiatives ...
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It may be hard to believe that during this time of The Great Resignation, Involuntary Exits are still causing pain and suffering among fundraising staff. Let’s face it, getting fired can happen to any one of us, especially with the notoriously high turnover in the fundraising field. How you manage your Involuntary Exit and move on with dignity and hope is a skillset you would be wise to acquire. Let me help you with my Best Advice from my new book “Involuntary Exit: A Woman’s Guide to Thriving After Being Fired” (She Writes Press, 2021). Caveat: This advice helps any professional fundraiser no matter the gender. Best Advice: The qualities that helped you ...
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There’s an opening on your fundraising team. You’ve trimmed the stack of applicants to a shortlist of what appear to be exuberant fundraising super stars. Getting that next hire right can be the difference between dancing on top of your desk because your team sprinted past its fundraising goals earlier than expected or fighting the lump in your throat as you look at a chasm between your targets and the reality of funds brought in. Fundraising is a team sport. One bad hire can have your team feeling they’re consigned to the minor leagues. You’re seeking someone with that championship-winning secret sauce of fundraising knowledge, motivation, perseverance, and ...
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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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