10 Ways to Always Be Prepared for Your Next Nonprofit Job
The last several weeks have been very busy for me. In addition to long hours in my day job plus volunteer commitments, I have been asked to pursue my special hobby.
Most people play golf, read, travel and pursue exciting and fun activities. My special hobby is to act as an agent or recruiter and help my peers get new jobs. I have always had a special feeling and joy from doing this type of activity. I believe I am driven because I never had that type of assistance in obtaining jobs. Unfortunately, it is the nature of our business. It is no fun talking to a very competent performer, especially if he or she has lost a job for the first time.
Employers in our field of endeavor should realize that turnover costs a great deal of money. According to Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research, the average amount of time a fundraiser stays at his or her job is 16 months. I contend that in no way do you understand the culture of an organization in that limited time. You certainly do not develop any relationships with prospects, donors, volunteers, board, staff and others needed for long-term job success.
Burk notes that the direct and indirect costs of finding a replacement total around $127,650. I guess the good news is the demand for good fundraisers is so high "at the moment" that it is greater than supply. Burk also notes that "only one out of three fundraisers experience even a day without a job." I have worked with others who have been out of a job for a number of months.
In a free consultant role, I currently assisting three professionals who have different case studies. Do any of these scenarios apply to you or your peers?
- A senior-level executive in her mid-40s must leave her job after several years and is looking for a new position.
- A late-50s male executive was caught up in a downsizing after 14 years on the job and is worried about finding a new job at his age.
- A young director in her late 20s is not challenged after a very brief stint and is looking for a better position with more money and advancement opportunities.
While all three cases are different, they are alike in several ways. In discussing their futures, they did not have game plans and were not prepared to find a new job. These unemployed professionals were very emotional, anxious and felt a lack of confidence. Two of the three were angry, bitter and confused at their employers.
I was honored that they came to me for advice and counsel. I stressed to them that while transitions are difficult in this field, they will eventually land new positions with a wiser view of their career choices. I suggested that they take a deep breath and focus on their new task at hand — getting a good job.
As they began their job searches, I stressed 10 initial points for them to consider:
- Update your résumé, and highlight metrics of success. Do not dwell on what you do but how you have succeeded with proven results.
- Create a cover letter that separates you from others. Note in the letter the key functions of the job you are applying for in one column and why you are the best candidate with matching results in the other column.
- Create key summary letters after every interview and send them immediately to the persons you just met with pointing out why you are the best candidate.
- Create a list of companies you would like to work for, and seek connections to those companies.
- Determine what areas of the nonprofit world excite you and for which you can ask for resources with passion and conviction.
- Make of long list of potential peers that can help you after you narrowed geographical parameters, and create a strategy for each personal visit.
- If needed, determine while seeking the dream job if you need an interim or bridge job.
- Never burn any bridges with former employers, and obtain important references from them.
- Understand your finances, and plan a timetable for the job search accordingly.
- Rest, exercise, stay mentally positive and focus on the future — a job is only a chapter in your career book.
I encourage each one of you to "Pay It Forward" in the sense of helping others get new jobs. When we chose this field, we knew it might take 10 jobs to get us from career beginning to end. Even if you feel "secure" in your current position, always prepare for your next job. It will be here before you know it!
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.