Fired! So What?!

By Phil Gerard


Of course, nobody wants to be let go. It’s bad for the ego. But is it the end of the world? No. In a recent interview for the Charity Village article “Fundraiser Fail“, the author Susan Fish asked me if I thought good fundraisers will always perform no matter what the job and the organization. From my experience most fundraisers can’t create the same magic all the time, wherever they go and no matter in what situation or state the organization is in. The reality is that it always takes two. Sure, there might be a performance issue, but the organization can also be responsible for less than stellar performance.

Being fired doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a poor fundraiser. One bad experience shouldn’t ruin a career nor define you as a professional. I know fundraisers who were let go from one organization only to rise to fundraising superstardom at another. On the other hand, I have seen situations where well-known and respected fundraisers couldn’t live up to their reputation at the new job.

While nobody ever wants to be in this situation, it can happen to the best of us. And if it does there are a few points that could help you get back on track.

Stay professional

Receiving the news that you have been fired is upsetting and it’s understandable if emotions take over. However, you must keep it professional and don’t lose your calm. Never burn any bridges even if you feel that there is nothing to lose. There is. The nonprofit community is a tight one and you don’t want poor, unprofessional behaviour to come back to haunt you later.

Be real

When asked why they are not currently working, most people say “My employer and I decided to part ways, in mutual understanding”. Try and say it how it is, honesty is always best. I was let go, it wasn’t a good fit. But then leave it as that and never badmouth your previous employer.

Keep your confidence

This is easier said than done, but don’t let this drag you down. Keep your head up high. Because one job didn’t work out for you doesn’t reflect who you are as a professional. Maintaining your confidence is important for your own well-being but it will also help you perform better in an interview. You don’t want this to become a chip on your shoulder.

Be careful to make the right choice

When you need a job it is tempting to take the first offer, but be careful. The next job needs to be a good fit and set you up for success. Two bad experiences in a row can can negatively affect your career. The next job has to be your opportunity to shine again.

Make it work now

Ok, I get it, sometimes it is really the organization’s fault and not yours, but I have also come across people who always blame the organization for a lack of success. That doesn’t fly with me. You just need to make it work in the new job. Even if it is a tough situation, be it an inactive board, a poorly organized fundraising campaign, donor fatigue, or a poor pipeline, this time you need to give it your all. I once ran a campaign for debt reduction – I know what tough fundraising looks like!

Losing a job happens to the best of us. What employers need to look for are patterns. If candidates have been let go, or laid off more than once, or if there are too many short stints, that is a red flag. For employees don’t let this drawback make you think less of yourself as a fundraiser. Take it as an opportunity to look at the areas you want to improve and perform at your best and rebuild your career – and then exceed it!

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