Are They Coachable?
If you are considering a new position and evaluating the opportunity, there are many factors to consider. Two bottom-line factors are:
Does the organization and its leadership have a commitment to integrity?
Are you passionate about the cause?
Here’s a third that may save you a lot of stress: Are they coachable?
Especially if you are looking at a chief development officer position, will the CEO, your peers and the board listen to you? Do they understand that fundraising is an established profession with educational programs, professional associations (that you should be connected with) and an established body of best practices?
The same question, frankly, is true with a consulting firm and clients.
Earlier this week, we had a call with a board chair who was asking a few minor, but valid, questions about our proposed agreement. But his biggest question was, “Can we retain you after you have finished the project to be sure that our implementation is on track?”
This organization is coachable.
We recently met with an executive committee after presenting a study report. We proposed a one-year campaign and engagement based on the report. Well, the organization had plans to begin the project in six months (then they obviously should have begun our process earlier). Then, two of the committee members shared that the other proposals they evaluated said that the campaign could be completed in six months.
Our study results showed a project that resonated, but the board largely was unengaged, unwilling or unable to make major gifts and lacked connectivity among major donors. It needed a year. I asked how the other firms that were not chosen had the knowledge of research and working with them to make a valid projection.
Before the study, we had told this client that we did not know how long a campaign might take, because we had not conducted the research. Evidently, other firms vying for the work had told them what they wanted to hear, but that was inaccurate. For some reasons at least, this organization had been convinced a study was the right step. However, it was obvious that there were challenges with board leadership and that they indeed may not be coachable.
So, while in the interview process, ask questions and see if they are listening. And don’t be afraid to be direct and even ask, “Are you coachable?” If they find this offensive, don’t worry; it may save you months or years of grief and an organization where you can’t fulfill your potential as a fundraising professional!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.