By Phil Gerard
I had an interesting conversation last week with a fundraiser that prompted me to write this post. I had contacted her to discuss a new job opportunity that I am currently recruiting for. I received a candid answer: “Phil, at this point I am not sure I want to stay in fundraising.” It was not the first time I have heard this.
In my experience, many professionals with transferable skills from other sectors want to start a second or third career in fundraising. When I ask these professionals why they consider fundraising as a career the answer is almost always “I want to have more meaningful work; I want to make a difference.” I think some people who are not from the sector romanticize the fundraising profession a little. Especially when coming from fast-paced, stressful careers. The reality is that fundraising is a tough job and can burn some people out!
I am now seeing a bit of a trend of fundraisers in my network leaving the profession and starting a new career. Some of the top career choices I have seen are real estate, corporate social responsibility (CSR), sales, and recruiting. A number of fundraisers in my network have also started their own businesses. So there is life after fundraising, folks! The fact is that as fundraisers we have transferable skills too to make a career change.
Back to the comment about being fed-up with fundraising. Are you in this situation right now? Are you disillusioned, questioning whether this is the right career for you?
Stop and think for a minute. It may not be the profession that is the issue. I have met fundraisers in this situation who decided to stay in the sector but changed jobs and/or organizations and completely blossomed out in their new role. These individuals were just not in the right job or in the right organization.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are my job responsibilities challenging enough?
- Is the cause or are the projects I am working on not challenging, exciting enough?
- Am I not passionate enough about the cause or the organization I am working for?
- Am I (not) comfortable with the tasks I am supposed to do?
- Is my leadership supportive of me?
I do believe that most people can be successful and effective employees if in the right role with the right organization. You need to find out what your strengths are and see if you are able to apply these in your current job. If not, maybe you need to look at a different role. If such roles are available in the fundraising field you may not have to leave our sector. You do not have to be a Major Gifts Officer if asking for money scares you. The fundraising profession is now so broad and diverse; with many different career opportunities, from research to writing to operations to project management to marketing and communications.
At the Fundraising Career Conference in April there will be a number of sessions including one on finding your strengths. I encourage you to check it out!