For Nonprofit Professionals, Prepare for a Lifelong Career
I was recently asked to be a part of an interview process, even though I am out of staff management at this point in my career. There were several finalists for a position that required specific experience. I always enjoy the engagement of ideas and thoughts in this process. I am especially interested in the amount of preparation each candidate shows or does not show in the interview.
Where I am typically disappointed is when I ask right off the bat, “What do you know about the organization you are interviewing for at this moment in time?” In about 95% of the interviews that I have witnessed, candidates have shown me that while they have a great deal of experience and can probably do the job, they show little knowledge about the organization they are applying for.
Either they do not understand how important that upfront research is needed to be shown or they are just applying for any job. If you are a fundraising professional, or a professional generally, you must be prepared for success each day, week and month. You must understand the organization that you represent to the greatest degree possible. Common sense calls it “career long preparation.” This concept not only relates to a job interview, but ongoing job performance.
DonorBox noted that professionals should have great interpersonal skills, commitment to the cause, determination/resilience, perseverance, integrity/honesty, adaptability, ability to tell compelling stories, ability to research donors in depth, ability to motivate others and creative thinking. Professionals may not have all these attributes in spades, but need to be aware of these elements and strive to acquire knowledge and development of these characteristics over time.
The Guardian had a roundup of experts on the topic of professional development for fundraisers. These experts were asked what skills and processes professionals must be acquiring and improving over time.
These elements include the following ideas:
- Invest in personal and professional development.
- Strive to see the bigger picture.
- Always create a positive work environment.
- Go beyond your job description for the organization.
- Everything you do relates to the development of your CV.
- Have a plan for your future.
- Focus on a return on investment in everything you do.
- Be an effective communicator.
- Learn various sectors of fundraising.
- Seek to network.
As a fundraising professional related to fundraising results, Bloomerang suggests to determine what percentage of income is coming from what methods, and what percentage of income is coming from what source each month, in order to determine where you need to spend your time. Look to expand online giving, but remember it is still a small percentage of the total amount of yearly revenue raised. Create fundraising priorities based upon your own strengths, ask for support by others within your organization, say no to ideas that do not generate significant revenue, remember that all fundraising overlaps, understand your organizational structure, get the basics right and build relationships.
According to members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council who offers advice to fundraising professionals, they say keep things simple, align fundraising with a purpose, be transparent and accessible, focus and find a few key relationships to strengthen, show gratitude after the donation is made, communicate to the donor what is in it for them, seek donor feedback and do what works best for you.
Forbes provided eight job skills to succeed in a post-coronavirus world. With the understanding that the work environment is likely to change, how can professionals be prepared with the right job skills? Functions and skills need to be continually adapted for a variety of industries, including nonprofits.
That said, professionals in today’s world going forward, need to have the following general skills:
- Adaptability and flexibility. The pandemic accelerated change and professionals will need to update and refresh their skills.
- Tech savviness. Professionals need to acquire technology skills. The reality is that we are dependent on our computers, the internet and communicating in new ways.
- Creativity and innovation. Organizations will need greater human ingenuity to dream up new ways of working, interacting and communicating with prospects, volunteers and donors.
- Data literacy. Organizations must have the correct data and data systems to survive and thrive going forward. There must be data literacy by everyone in the company for organizations to grow and develop,
- Critical-thinking: People will need to objectively evaluate information from diverse sources to determine what is credible and will be valued. Everyone will need to understand information to have more effective organizational decision-making.
- Digital and coding skills. Individuals will need training and understanding of the implications of digital transformation.
- Leadership. Professionals with strong leadership skills who can educate, stimulate, motivate and communicate with others through tremendous change will be in high demand.
- Emotional intelligence. Because of uncertain and emotional times, leaders will need to be aware of their emotions and others around them to maintain stabilization.
For career development, I believe in tangible and intangible development. Seek to be a strong generalist and have experience in the total nonprofit arena. Understand and gain experience in all aspects of fundraising. Master the technical aspects of the job. While you cannot change your personality, you can ask others for feedback on your ability to listen, engage, present, have empathy and develop positive traits that will serve you well with the various constituents you engage with on a daily basis.
The intangibles may in fact separate you from the herd and help you land a promotion along the way. For professionals, it should be preparation over a career. You live in a dynamic world and to truly succeed, you must adjust accordingly.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.