Fundraising Nonprofit Career Advice

AFP DC held another great session for “advanced” executives (read 10+ years of fundraising experience). Yes I know – old fundraising farts – I yam what I yam.

We had a wide ranging discussion but a theme has been repeating itself to me recently. It is about looking for a fundraising or nonprofit job. Lots of friends are looking for their next opportunity and asking for advice, recommendations, references and ideas.

Having lunch with a friend, she told me she had to slow her search because she was getting interviews for every job she applied.  And she didn’t want to get overwhelmed researching and preparing for meetings or getting them mixed up! This is great news and I am not surprised, cause she’s a rock star.

Then this evening we discussed looking for a great position as an experienced fundraising executive and why and how some have decided to enter consulting versus joining a new team. We also talking about nonprofit hiring decisions – wanting someone “fresher, entrepreneurial, new ideas or more experience. Couple things came up including a search consultant who said it was about how we presented ourselves – there is no ageism. And they also said there is definitely a price tag that comes with our years (ok decades) of experience and that is real issue in the market place. A fundraiser with less experience costs less – that’s a fact.

Here’s what I think – in the nonprofit world – there is not a lot of pay compared to for-profit opportunities. If you are looking – follow your vision for yourself, your career and passion ’cause that commitment will get you through living on your nonprofit paycheck.

THEN make sure you ask the right questions and that the people – your soon to be colleagues – are people in an environment with a Board who understands fundraising. Are teams in silos or working cross teams toward success? Do they want to make change – do you? Do they have to? Ask not what you can do for them, but what can you do together to achieve a common vision – providing you have the same vision.

Note the red flags – wrong answers for you to any of these questions – listen to the whisper in your head or tightening in your chest and run the other way. Some things happen for a reason and others are telling you what’s going to happen….you just need to listen.

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