Is It Time To Leave Your Fundraising Shop?
It’s a question most of us have asked at one point or another regarding our jobs: “Is it time for me to leave?”
Now if you’re being honest with yourself as you read this, the thoughts that soon follow may sound something like this:
But there’s no guarantee that the next shop will be any better. What if I make the move and don’t like my new boss/team/workplace culture? Things aren’t always perfect here, but at least I know what to expect.
These are all perfectly normal questions to ask when faced with such a big potential life change, but before you let those doubts hold you back, take a moment to reflect on whether your initial desire to leave is well-founded.
MAYBE IT’S TIME TO CONSIDERING LEAVING WHEN…
THE ORGANIZATION OR ROLE IS NO LONGER A GOOD FIT
You have fallen “out of love” with your role. You no longer love the work that you do or find that it’s not fun or interesting anymore. It could be that simple!
The organization may no longer be a good fit for you if its mission and values no longer align to your own values and beliefs. “If you don’t feel like you can be a strong advocate for your organization, you are doing yourself and them a disservice by staying,” advises Elisa Williams Schroen, Senior Donor Relations Officer for the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine.
In some cases, it’s not a matter of organizational fit so much as positional fit. A good job fit should capitalize on your strengths and play to your passions.
YOUR OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEARNING & GROWTH ARE LIMITED
Continued learning and opportunities for professional growth are often-cited factors that influence employees’ job satisfaction1. If you are no longer learning and growing at your organization, is that still the place for you?
It may be the case that your organization does still offer learning and career development opportunities – maybe just not in the areas that interest you. Sometimes a change of environment allows you to gain skills and valuable experience that you wouldn’t acquire had you stayed in the same place.
YOUR PERSONAL WELL-BEING IS BEING COMPROMISED
This may seem fairly obvious, but it’s still surprising how often I hear of fundraisers who stay with an organization at a high cost to themselves.
First and foremost, there is only one of you and you have to remember that you do not have endless reserves to draw from. If staying in your current role will have a negative impact on your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health, then it is time to seriously consider whether you ought to continue there.
Closely tied to a consideration for your own health is the quality of your personal life. However passionate you may be about your role, your team, and the cause, there are other things in your life that are more important and simply not worth the sacrifice for a job.
An interesting perspective held by a long-time fundraiser and friend on this matter is that it’s time to leave when you start to take the job personally. This shouldn’t be confused for a healthy passion for your work and your cause; rather, if you are internalizing work matters as personal matters, it may be a red flag that the delicate balance and boundaries between work life and personal life have deteriorated.
THERE IS A LACK OF RESPECT & APPRECIATION FOR YOUR WORK AS A FUNDRAISER
Another good reason to consider leaving your current job is when your organization demonstrates a lack of respect and appreciation for the work you do as a fundraiser. This can take many forms, and may look like any of the following:
Extraordinary demands on your time and abilities. If your job has you doing the work typically requiring two (or more!) staff to carry out, it may be an indication your organization doesn’t truly understand what’s necessary to carry out the work that you do nor appreciates your value. In such an arrangement, the quality of your work may suffer, your work-life balance may be strained, and you may experience burn-out.
Unreasonable timelines to achieve targets. In such cases, management will not likely have the patience to see a fundraising program through to completion when they too quickly decide that it’s “not yielding results”.
Unrealistic budgets to execute programs. As with all healthy and successfully executed fundraising programs, you get what you put in. If your organization isn’t willing to make the proper financial investment, the results will reflect just that.
You aren’t being compensated fairly. You bring value to your organization through your own set of experiences, skills, and talents, and if your organization will not recognize that by fairly compensating you, there is another organization that will. Further to this point, be aware of times when your job description changes but your job title or salary remains the same! A change in duties deserves a review of title and compensation.
You are excluded from the decision-making process. If the Board, ED/CEO, or Director is making decisions about fundraising behind your back, it means they don’t respect your professionalism and expect that you’re just going to come up with the money because they say so.
THE ORGANIZATION LACKS A CULTURE OF PHILANTHROPY
Without a culture of philanthropy in place (or being developed), you will forever be fighting an uphill battle simply to do your job as a fundraiser. Even the best laid plans and most solid strategies will crumble if the organization’s culture will not support it. Here are some signs your organization lacks a culture of philanthropy:
- Reluctance or resistance in your organization to adopt better fundraising strategies and to innovate.
- The ED/CEO and/or volunteer board takes no personal responsibility for fundraising. The success of a fundraising program is greatly enhanced by involvement from the board and senior management2; a lack of their involvement demonstrates a lack of personal stake in the outcomes of the program and achieving of targets.
- Fundraising targets are based on budget shortfalls rather than history, potential, and sound fundraising strategy. Setting targets in this way is short-sighted, reactionary, and does not position the development program for healthy, sustainable growth.
- Lack of strategy in decision-making within the organization. Without a clearly defined direction for your team’s growth, your own professional development likely will lack direction as well. Furthermore, without strategically set goals for the development team, it is difficult to set targets and effectively design programs for the various fundraising portfolios.
STEPPING BACK AND LOOKING AT THE BIGGER PICTURE…
At the end of the day whether you choose to stay or leave, periodically taking time to reflect on these considerations could be a good exercise for your personal growth and self-care (another fellow wrote a great piece on self-care here). The ability to identify what matters most to you in your work and what you need from a job to feel satisfied is vital to charting a path to achieve your goals, so it may be a good idea to evaluate your situation regularly, rather than waiting for things to “turn sour”.
Another great tip from Jennifer Williams, Director of Advancement at the University of Toronto’s Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, is that you may not need to leave your organization to find the next right role for you, if you’ve decided that the organization is still a good fit. Perhaps an expanded role or moving into a different portfolio within your current organization would be a better move.
- Jacob Morgan, “The Top 10 Factors For On-The-Job Employee Happiness,” Forbes, December 15, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/12/15/the-top-10-factors-for-on-the-job-employee-happiness/#6ba1eccc44fe.
- Gail S. Meltzer, “Fundraising: A Partnership between Board and Staff,” First Nonprofit Foundation, 2011, http://www.firstnonprofit.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Fundraising_A-Partnership-Between-Board-and-Staff.pdf.
- Stephanie Roth, “Creating a Culture of Fundraising in Your Organization,” Custom Development Solutions Inc., August 25, 2016, http://www.cdsfunds.com/creating_a_culture_of_fundraising_in_your_organization.html.