It’s easy to see how we might be. Just spend a year absorbing the nonprofit culture of democracy in decisions and sacrifice to mission, and the business world from whence you came can pretty quickly look alien. Besides, most business refugees don’t do themselves any favors.
In the thick of the Great Recession, I had what seemed like hundreds of calls from people who were either out of a job at a business or seriously disillusioned with their role. Unfortunately, most waxed romantically about “giving back.” It’s a real turn off, along with the often implied (and sometimes stated) “any nonprofit—those undersized, under-managed, under-funded, not-quite-businesses—should be glad to have me” arrogance that comes with having a solid 401(k) plan—having security.
As a dedicated nonprofit professional, I don’t need to tell you that it is all about mission. No mission, no money. No money, no mission. Right? It is time to swallow hard and think about alternative ways to meet your mission. Is it time, instead of finding someone who has already fallen into fundraising, to raise an outsider to the sublime level of a nonprofit professional? Can thinking differently lead to mission success?
Maybe. I’ll tell you that my own experience in hiring outsiders is mixed. Some worked out great. Others flamed out. But I’ll also tell you that established, sure-thing nonprofit fundraisers didn’t work out either—at about the same ratios.
So is it our own confidence that’s at risk here, and not the hire?
Those of us of a certain age remember the saying “nobody gets fired buying IBM.” Back in the days of the first personal computers, you could take a risk on Apple, or you could “buy Big Blue” and feel safer about your job. It was short-term security. Anyone buy an IBM PC lately?
I don’t want to tell you that outside is better, or that as a profession, we need fresh blood (though it never hurts). However, when someone with 20 years of selling something like aircraft engine parts—where you’re used to developing long-term relationships with people in high-level positions that lead to a major transfer of funds at the end—comes to your door, you might be talking to a future major gifts officer.
Don’t lock her out.