All posts by Phil's Careers Blog

Phil Gérard has been a fundraiser for since 1997, working in the community service, education and university advancement sectors with a heavy focus on major gifts. A Master of Business Administration degree with a Human Resource Management specialization set him on an exciting path within the fundraising profession: Fundraising Talent Management. Gérard Consulting - Fundraising Talent Management’s services include recruitment, job postings, career planning services for individuals, and talent management consulting for organizations (including onboarding, career pathing, performance management, professional development, and succession planning).

Managing Talent: Your Team’s or Your Own

By Phil Gérard

Talent management has become a buzzword these days, often used interchangeably with human resource management. It describes the entire cycle from recruiting through retaining to advancing talent in an organization.

Sometimes we assume that the organization is responsible for its employees’ success and professional development. A proactive talent management approach is in the employer’s best interest, because turnover is expensive and the talent pool may be limited. However, we as employees have our part to play as well, and need to be proactive in managing our career.

Employers, job seekers need realistic expectations
A vacancy offers an employer the chance to find the person who best fits the position and the organization. It is also an opportunity for job seekers to position themselves most effectively and find the right team, culture, and environment.

Accepting a new job is a serious commitment that requires diligent research and consideration. It is not just about being offered a job anymore. We need to do as much research on the employer as they do on us. In a larger organization we want to meet the team we would be joining to observe its dynamics. In smaller organizations we want to meet the board members and ask some tough questions around expectations.

It continues to amaze me how many board members at small organizations expect fundraisers to bring their previous contacts and donors with them. Some boards believe that by hiring a top fundraiser at a premium salary, they will immediately close six- and seven-figure gifts. A year later that fundraiser may be out of a job.


“Onboarding” is the process of making a new employee part of the team and ready to perform. It starts during recruitment, as that experience influences how a new employee perceives the organization, and it is a crucial time that can make or break the relationship.

Organizations can save time and money by motivating top talent to stay past the honeymoon period. Some organizations go the extra mile in making new colleagues feel welcome: presenting jackets, t-shirts or other paraphernalia, or giving flowers and welcome lunches.

The common theme is that the organization has been expecting and preparing for the new employee. Simple things such as a working computer, a prepared office, business cards and an activated phone go a long way. Some organizations communicate prior to the new colleague’s arrival about what to expect on the first day. Once the new colleague is welcomed to the team, orientation and training programs can help make the onboarding process a positive experience.

Employees joining an organization without an official program can help their own onboarding succeed. Find out who the champions are and who can answer questions so that you can understand the culture better and integrate with the team faster.

Setting a career path

“I want your job, boss!” Often employees know what job they ultimately want, but how to get there is a different story. Organizations that can demonstrate and explain available career paths and how to get there are more likely to retain talent.

The first person to approach in our own career management should be our manager. If a position becomes too mundane, with limited opportunity to advance into a higher role, just asking for opportunities and additional responsibilities may help. If we want more frontline fundraising experience, we can ask to accompany a senior fundraiser on calls or assume a small portfolio. Sometimes, however, people have to leave the organization to gain additional experience before returning as so-called “boomerangs” in a more responsible role.

Professional development

Having a career path is good but climbing it successfully requires gaining additional knowledge and experience. Organizations with a professional development plan proactively support their employees’ continued growth, motivation, and engagement.
Some organizations think about professional development while others do not. Employees need to think beyond conferences when setting their personal development strategy. Public speaking, communications, leadership training and time management are all important in fundraising: One of the best professional development experiences for me has been joining a Toastmasters club.

Succession planning

While professional development should be open and accessible to all, succession planning is a much more personal affair and therefore requires an individualized approach. Not everyone has what it takes to be the next leader. Senior managers need to identify and advance their potential successors and give them chances to see for themselves if they are cut out for a leadership role, perhaps by appointing acting leaders during their absence.

As employees, if we already know that we want to be in a leadership role, we must show it and demonstrate that we are serious and committed. Positioning ourselves to be noticed by the right people is important. This does not mean bragging to everybody about successes, just ensuring the decision makers are aware of our involvement in successful projects. Too often I have seen brilliant fundraisers overlooked because they are poor at positioning and marketing themselves.

In our busy, target-driven world, talent management matters are not always at the top of our minds. However, just like fundraising, a strategic talent management approach can help build and maintain our talent pipeline. In an ongoing talent crunch, that is crucial not only for large organizations but for all. Still, as employees, we should not expect that every organization will embrace talent management. Be proactive. No-one else will manage our career for us. Get in, perform, get noticed and move up.

Hey, Mom – I Want to be a Fundraiser!

By Phil Gérard

This could be summarized as my vision for the future as a recruiter and talent manager in the fundraising sector, and as someone who simply loves our profession.

Strategic planning experts say that a vision should be achievable – ideally in the next 5 years. Goodness, do we have a lot of work ahead!!

The good news is that AFP Vancouver has created a new committee – Youth in Philanthropy (YIP). I’m excited to be chairing it.

Last year, a YIP taskforce comprised of UBC Development and Alumni Engagement colleagues have started brainstorming ideas on how to reach the next generation of fundraisers (and in their language).

Initial ideas have been

  • Creating collateral material promoting the profession and summarizing the educational pathways (how to actually get there!)
  • Liaising with high school counselors
  • Speaking engagement at university clubs, high school career days
  • Attending career fairs in universities and high schools
  • Start and internship program

We attended two career fairs last year and the interest of the students in the profession was impressive! The question almost everyone asked was: “So, what do I do, what do I study?”

We have to do a lot of work making it easier for up and coming fundraisers to understand what the educational options are and what else to do to be employable.

I invite discussion on this as we are embarking on this YIP initiative in Vancouver. And of course I am recruiting enthusiastic AFP Vancouver members to shine as members of this new committee.

A Job In Fundraising, No Way!?

By Phil Gérard

I felt compelled to write this today because of two conversations this week with  aspiring yet disillusioned fundraisers.

Of the many rewarding moments in my job is when I meet promising, talented individuals who have an interest in breaking into the field of fundraising and I can just tell they have a great future ahead…

Unfortunately, there seems to be an uninspiring attitude out there for this next generation of fundraisers, coming from some members of the fundraising community.

Twice this week alone, I have heard from such promising individuals that the advice they have received from professionals in the field, is that it is tough to get in. Your best bet is to volunteer for at least a year with an organization until they maybe give you an entry level job.

In my opinion, this is very old-school thinking, and is sending the wrong message. In order to be one of us you need to make a sacrifice and work for nothing before we consider you worthy of entering our profession. Dan Pallotta would love this one!

What I think the message needs to be, and I continue to emphasize it to aspiring fundraisers, is this: Put yourself out there, go to AFP minglers and breakfasts, sell yourself, and keep trying – keep trying! I’m not saying that it is easy. Networking for a months and applying for 20 positions may not do it. So don’t give up easily. Education is not enough to position yourself in a competition. Don’t wait until you graduate from a fundraising program to start your search. The whole package is important. Get a job as soon as you can, continue to sharpen your skills through education and continuing education and most importantly start raising some money!

I have met several individuals who kept trying and one day called me up excitedly to tell me that they got a job in fundraising! It is definitely not impossible! It’s like with everything else, those who are persistent and focused on the prize will succeed eventually.

It’s very much like we say in fundraising – activity will lead to success!