Of Nuclear Weapons and Nonprofit Careers: Keys That Release Your (Career) Energy
Here’s a puzzle: What two things require two keys to unleash all the energy you could ever imagine?
A nuclear weapon and your nonprofit career.
OK, I really don’t know whether it just takes two keys to unleash a nuclear weapon. I dearly pray that however many keys it takes, we lose most of them. But I know that if you want to unleash all the energy potential in a nonprofit career, you need to have two key things nailed down pretty well.
Key No. 1: What are my skills?
Giving yourself an honest answer to that question is the most important career move of your life. When you get that right, half the work’s done.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Are you good with numbers or better with people? Are you organized? How do you get your information — are you an audio learner or a visual learner? Do you usually lead by example or “command and control,” or don’t like leading at all?
Getting to the answers of these and other questions — whether you ask your friends, work with a coach, take an assessment like the Myers-Briggs or watch yourself as you go through the day — can take you down some unexpected paths. You might even share my experience after I read aloud the results of my Myers-Briggs assessment to my wife, who remarked, “What, you didn’t know that about yourself?”
I would argue that most career issues come up because someone — whether it’s you, your employees or your boss (it’s always the boss, right?) is misplaced in his or her role. Are you supervising a fundraiser who doesn’t like to meet people? Are you the one who is bored all day because you’re crunching numbers when you would rather be meeting with clients? Is it clear that your boss would rather be a teacher than a leader?
Matt Hugg is an author and instructor in nonprofit management in the U.S. and abroad. He is president and founder of Nonprofit.Courses, an on-demand, e-learning educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members and volunteers, with hundreds of courses in nearly every aspect of nonprofit work.
He’s the author of "The Guide to Nonprofit Consulting," and "Philanders Family Values, Fun Scenarios for Practical Fundraising Education for Boards, Staff and Volunteers," and a contributing author to "The Healthcare Nonprofit: Keys to Effective Management."
Over his 30-year career, Matt has held positions at the Boy Scouts of America, Lebanon Valley College, the University of Cincinnati, Ursinus College and the University of the Arts. In these positions, he raised thousands of gifts from individuals, foundations, corporations and government entities, and worked with hundreds of volunteers on boards and fundraising committees, in addition to his organizational leadership responsibilities.
Matt teaches fundraising, philanthropy and marketing in graduate programs at Eastern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Juniata College and Thomas Edison State University via the web, and in-person in the U.S., Africa, Asia and Europe, and is a popular conference speaker. He has a B.S. from Juniata College and an M.A. in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. Matt has served on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Nonprofit Career Network of Philadelphia and several nonprofits.