Help Someone Else Succeed
I have come to believe that those who contribute the most to the leadership in our profession, as well as achieve the greatest success raising funds for their organizations, are those people who were mentored and inspired by other development professionals.
When we conduct a search to recruit new talent to fill a chief development-officer position, we always ask our candidates to describe the individual, or individuals, who most inspired them early in their careers. Invariably, we find that candidates who were fortunate enough to learn the secrets of fundraising from a talented development professional have achieved higher levels of success in the field than those who never had the privilege of learning from another “great.”
Some of the leadership traits and qualities of great fundraising executives, as cited by those who admired them most, include:
- willingness to communicate and share information;
- genuine concern for the professional development of others;
- willingness to actively contribute to their staff’s professional development;
- commitment to educate, train and mentor;
- attention to organizational detail;
- ability to captivate and retain the attention of others;
- a modest disposition;
- a sense of vision and alignment;
- technical expertise; and
- a passion for excellence.
If you are a neophyte in the fundraising field, you now know the qualities you should be looking for in a boss — if you have hopes that she will help with your career growth. The person with these traits is definitely someone you should want to work for.
An exercise in humility
One of the most appreciated qualities of a good leader is modesty — that rare individual who doesn’t acknowledge that he is actually a great leader. Leadership is inherent to their normal scheme of things since they often do things out of necessity and rarely take credit for their success. Their actions, not their declarations of being a great leader, determine their success.
Wouldn’t we all love to work for someone who’s willing to actively contribute to our professional development and help educate, train and mentor us?
If you don’t have someone like this at your organization — someone you can reach out to and look up to for good counsel and inspiration as you pave the way in your own career — seek one out from another nonprofit by taking advantage of mentoring programs offered by professional fundraising associations in your region.
Advocate for others’ advancement
High-level mentoring opportunities with senior fundraisers facilitate professional growth and development. For the employee, mentoring can help enhance core competencies and maximize job performance. For the senior fundraiser who serves as a mentor, rest assured that what you are doing will enhance staff retention. Your commitment to support your employees’ long-term professional development creates immense job satisfaction.
Helping others succeed broadens your own exposure in the fundraising arena and galvanizes you as a valued resource and advocate for younger people advancing through the field. Serving on the board or committees of a professional fundraising association in your region is a great way to get networked and help others succeed. What’s more, becoming a faculty presenter to share your successes or writing an article for a professional journal are other ways to help tothers succeed.
You have to ask yourself: How much of your professional talent are your using? How much of it are you giving back? Mentoring someone else and teaching others further sharpens your competitive edge.
Are you intentionally taking steps to learn from the best and brightest in our field? If you don’t consistently sharpen your professional skills, you set yourself up to fail. If you have not personally taken charge of your career development, no one else will watch out for you. Find yourself a mentor. Think about those people who you admire most in our profession and take steps to get to know them. If you have already achieved success, offer to be a mentor to staff or other aspiring professionals. I think you will find that one of the greatest rewards you can experience in your career is to have another successful fundraiser credit you as their inspiration — their mentor.