A Nonprofit Career: What the ‘NFL’ Means to Me
It is the time of year for the National Football League draft. Living in Indianapolis, I am a Colts fan and hope they do well in the draft. I have also heard through the years from a few former pro football players that the term NFL means “not for long.” What they mean is players do not typically play a long time in the NFL because of the nature of football. It is a very physical sport, and one can only play physically at a high level for a few years. While I love football, the term NFL has a different meaning for me. The term NFL means “nonprofit for life.” I have made this field my long-time career and wonder how many other nonprofit employees view working in this field their chosen career for life.
To have a long nonprofit career, you must enter this field at some point. You must also have the chops to succeed in this demanding career. It all begins at the first nonprofit job hire. In the article titled, “5 Traits to Look for in a Nonprofit New Hire,” the success of your nonprofit organization hinges on your employees. These are the people who will increase your organization’s funds, build relationships with donors and keep your operations running smoothly. Here are five key characteristics to look for when making a nonprofit new hire:
- Passion for the cause. They must have the desire to make a difference and to pursue excellence.
- Excellent communication skills. These skills are a must, especially for a front-facing position.
- You need to hire people that will roll up their sleeves and offer an extra pair of hands.
- Self-motivation and resourcefulness. Team members must drive and support organizational success.
- Individuals must be able to pivot plans due to changing environmental factors.
Nonprofit employees that are successful are more likely to stay in nonprofit jobs and the nonprofit career track. In the article “10 Qualities of Outstanding Nonprofit Employees,” the author cites her thoughts and those of Bill Sommerville, president and founder of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, when together they compiled the following 10 qualities of outstanding nonprofit employees.
These qualities are:
- A blend of seriousness and ability to laugh at themselves.
- A longing to make good things happen.
- View hopeless situations as issues waiting to be solved.
- Recognize possibilities that remain hazy or invisible to others.
- Concentrate on the work at hand rather than daydream.
- Trust gut feelings and intuition.
- Stick it out for the long haul.
- Understand various perspectives.
- Do not hesitate to lend a hand.
- Seek to learn about their cause, their community and themselves.
“The 10 Qualities of Outstanding Employees,” a Forbes article, notes that 10 qualities of outstanding employees are:
- Know the reason their job exists and how to make their jobs more effective.
- Know what is going on around them at work and ways to integrate content into jobs.
- Form great organizational relationships internally and externally.
- Look ahead and anticipate problems so they can be addressed early.
- Tell the truth about workload, work/life balance and ineffective procedures.
- Have a personal career plan or direction in mind and manage own careers.
- Address conflict rather than avoid it.
- Ask for help when they need it.
- Open to new ideas.
- Are coaches and mentors to people around them.
If you are an outstanding employee stuck in an undeserving organization, get out of there and onto your brilliant future! While you are in the analysis mood of reviewing your job and career, the article, “10 Ways to Tell If You’re in the Right Career,” says when you look back and survey where you have been, look ahead to a distant shore and take an occasional pause to click your heels.
Few of us know what career is in store for us when we take our first job. But here are some signs that you have increased the odds for a spontaneous outbreak of tap dancing, whether it is the nonprofit career or not, according to the article:
- You’ve found something you can be good at.
- You like the nuts and bolts of the job.
- The job lifts you.
- You’re in the thick of things.
- You’re in an industry that fits your personality type.
- You like the other people in your field.
- You’ve found an inspiring mentor.
- You look forward to Mondays.
- You learn, grow, become, test, try.
- You’re proud of what you do.
If you are planning your future, the author states you are not likely to be satisfied with a series of jobs that merely keep food on the table. Instead, turn your progression of jobs and assignments into a career that creates relationships, promotes learning and makes a difference, which will send you tap dancing to the office.
I was recently with a high-energy, young nonprofit professional who was very happy with his job and career path. He seemed to be the perfect fit for a long nonprofit career. He noted that he knew another professional, who already in her 30s, was already completely bored with her nonprofit position. I hope he continues to be excited and experiences a long and satisfying nonprofit career. I would suggest to his friend that she choose a different career path. This field is not for everyone. In truth, only those committed to the nonprofit sector as a career will thrive and view the term NFL as a “nonprofit for life!” I hope you join me as one of those colleagues!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.