Leading Is Not Seasonal: Never Stop Giving Back
Recently I was asked to share some remarks at a professional association's annual meeting. The topic was the benefits of belonging to an association. This struck me as awkward. Didn't the association's members know why they joined?
The challenge, the CEO shared, was involvement. Members join for their own reasons but never become involved.
I shared five general benefits of joining any professional association and then addressed becoming involved. Don't make leadership a season of your professional life, I challenged them.
We see this often in fundraising. Volunteers, board members—and yes, donors—say, "I have had my season. Let someone else 'do it, lead it, raise it, give it.'"
I have been guilty of this, too. I've served on a few boards that helped turn around organizations and subsequently felt my time had passed. Some of those organizations continue to prosper, but a few have hit hard times. I feel guilty.
This may speak to our involvement with the Association of Fundraising Professionals and other professional fundraising organizations. The reality is that the stronger the AFP is (as the largest and broadest organization of our industry), the stronger we are as a profession. How we are perceived impacts us all. When our profession is perceived to be strong, our worthy causes benefit more—and so do we.
Back to the challenge not to make leadership a season of life. In this case, I used as an example my great friend and mentor, Abit Massey. Abit is president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation. I can't even count the number of boards he has served on and led. He continues to impact and influence most of those boards.
He is a former chair of the American Society of Association Executives and, even today, an active member and ambassador for that organization and its affiliate in Georgia, the Georgia Society of Association Executives. After decades of involvement and service, GSAE doesn't have a better ambassador. I am a member of GSAE because of Abit's invitation, and I have benefited greatly.
A big part of life—as we know from our profession—is continually giving and continually learning. Continue to associate with great folks and be part of a cause larger than yourself.
Don't make leading or giving a "season of life." Make it a lifelong habit and commitment.
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.