Development Life Is a Long Song
If you're old enough, you'll remember the '70s song "Life Is a Long Song" by the rock band Jethro Tull. As you stop and think about your development career, isn't it a long song? How many of you, in high school or college, remember saying, "I definitely intend to make resource development in the nonprofit sector my career?"
I chose this career by accident many years ago. I certainly didn't map out a supreme career strategy. In fact, while explaining to my then 7-year-old daughter what I did for a living as a fundraising professional, she responded, "Daddy, you are like Robin Hood."
When you really explore your career, you need to look at it in chapters. In some ways the career takes form at an early stage where you are feeling your way. The mid-stage career is one in which you are making your mark. The late stage is the fun stage, when you only care about the mission of the institution and providing wisdom to others. The largest tenure in one place for me has been 16 years, and the shortest two years. I will assume these numbers are average in the scheme of things. The fact is that in this profession, tenure is usually out of your control. Performance is certainly key, but chemistry, relationships, opportunities and simple luck can determine longevity in your job.
During my career I paid thousands of dollars for career coaches that frankly ended up being a waste of time and money. While I wanted to explore opportunities in government and business, every indicator ultimately pointed me back to the nonprofit sector. It makes sense to constantly evaluate where you are and what you enjoy doing. It also makes sense to play to your strengths and experience in this economy.
The main point of this story is to enjoy the ride. If you are committed to a career in development, understand there will be highs and lows. The beginning of the end of your tenure with each employer begins on the first day of the job. Think about what motivates you and gives you passion. You need to work for organizations where you enjoy the challenge and feel that you can make a difference. View the career ride as a long song, and seek to maximize your opportunities. Be prepared to lose a job or two along the way. The institution cares about itself and not you. The key is job satisfaction, which usually relates to positive engagement with your direct report.
I wish you well in your career in this field, which may span at least 10 jobs. View the ride as Columbus discovering America at each stop. Always seek to learn, find mentors, push yourself to grow, strive to network, look for new opportunities and always keep your résumé up-to-date. Before you know it, you will look back on your career and smile. Think about all of the people and causes you helped along the way.
As for the Jethro Tull song, every song will eventually end and so will your development career. How the song ultimately ends depends on you!
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.