ABCs of Our Profession
Since we are in the new year mode of getting started in a positive way, I feel it is important to understand basic concepts I have learned over time. Some of these concepts consist of theory, while others have been learned through trial and error.
If you understand my ABCs of the profession, you will hopefully gain a basic level of knowledge that may help you make 2020 a real year of personal growth and development.
My ABCs are as follows:
A is for “administration.” The administration of your organization must understand their leadership role in all aspects of the resource development process.
B is for “board.” The board of any nonprofit organization must fully support and have the opportunity to engage in every activity of the nonprofit.
C is for “CEO.” The CEO must have the vision, inspiration and be the chief cheerleader for any nonprofit, both internally and externally. In many ways, the CEO also leads the organizational fundraising effort.
D is for “donors.” Donors must be identified, cultivated, solicited and stewarded through a process of long-term relationship building. They must learn to love the institution.
E is for “excellence.” Strive for excellence in everything you do, and pass that culture along to everyone associated with your organization.
F is for “fundraising.” Fundraising success in every facet of this process from annual, major, principal, planned and capital gift programs is a must. This balance is not easy and must be shared with staff and volunteers.
G is for “goals.” Make sure you have a strategic plan followed by a written and documented operational plan with organizational goals that include both monetary and non-monetary features.
H is for “help.” You cannot begin to achieve any level of success without internal and external continuous support. This support needs to be fully engaged and accountable for success.
I is for “ideas.” You need fresh ideas by seeking best of class examples. Constantly evaluate where you have been, where you are and where you need to go through ideas of many competitor programs.
J is for “joint partnerships.” Many funders are more complex in their giving and will not give to singular organizations. They will give to mutual organizations that create partnerships with common programs and joint outcomes.
K is for “knowledge.” What separates you from others in the profession is your knowledge and how you share your knowledge with others. Seek to enhance the performance of those around you as you seek ways to improve your performance.
L is for “leadership.” You should always strive to be a servant leader by being an example for others to follow. It is never about you. It is always about others. Constantly give credit to everyone else as you will need them for your success.
M is for “money.” Money is needed by all nonprofits not only to survive but thrive. Be ethical in every dealing with resources. You are entrusted by donors. Invest funds wisely and spend funds where programs are needed to make the greatest impact.
N is for “nonprofits”. Learn what makes nonprofit organizations similar and different. Examine successful nonprofits to see why they are successful. Research is critical to positive outcomes.
O is for "organizational growth and development." Understand the life cycle of organizations and what is needed for your organization to make paradigm shifts to stay competitive in complex environments.
P is for “profitability.” Nonprofits that are nonprofit in operations will not survive long term. Organizations must achieve profits in revenue, examine expenses and make sure case for support priorities for fundraising are real and can be substantiated.
Q is for “quality.” This feature is expected in every facet of an organizational structure. This is a sought-after goal that should be attained and maintained over time.
R is for “results.” This outcome needs to be measurable, makeable, marketable and stretchable over time. Everyone needs to be accountable for results through quality improvement processes and job performance evaluations.
S is for “staff.” Every organization needs to hire quality, committed and high-performing staff. The organization must constantly motivate and train staff, plus create a culture of inspirational positivity. The goal is to keep quality staff over time that continue to raise the performance bar.
T is for “team.” Everyone loves to work for a winning team that cares about each other. The jobs are too complex for individuals to succeed without the support of others. Maintain a team spirit and your organization will gain a positive brand.
U is for “unacceptable.” You should have a standard of performance that others should follow. Through excellent ethical continuous performance efforts, your organization should set a standard where unacceptable activities with any constituency will never be tolerated or accepted.
V is for “volunteers.” These individuals enhance the productivity and morale of an organization. They save the organization money and provide a wealth of experience plus good will in the community. Excellent volunteers inspire staff to perform more effectively.
W is for “wealth.” Many organizations with development programs do not have a process to research wealthy donors for increased multi-year pledges/gifts. These organizations need to capture new tools now to enhance data systems. These systems will lead you to engagement of high-level prospects.
X is for “xerox.” As a professional in the nonprofit world, learn to copy through being a mentee, ways to improve performance and share new concepts with others. Each day provides a unique opportunity for personal growth and development.
Y is for “yourself.” You are unique and have strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to undergo a personality test to determine ways you can continually improve your performance. If you do not grow, you will stagnate. Seek to adapt to change, which is constant. Learn your communication style for maximum effectiveness with others.
Z is for “zeal.” You must have great energy and enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Prospects look at you and see your passion for the organization and organizational programs you represent. They will compare your zeal with others. Never lose your zeal, for if you do, seek another profession.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.