Stay or Leave? Pros and Cons of Changing Jobs
Sometimes, you’re in that ideal place, one where it feels like everything has come together full circle. You’re sailing along in your dream development director job. You love your work, your coworkers, your commute. The benefits far outweigh the shortcomings. What’s more, you’re getting great results.
And then it happens:
- A new board president (aka the queen of micromanaging) arrives—and she’s micromanaging you.
- State funding gets cut, and your already small development department is laid off—with you left holding the bag.
- You're only two weeks into your new job. And you just learned that you've had five predecessors in three years!
Listen, I’ve been there more than once. I’ve worked alongside a toxic colleague who would ooze charm with me when in public, but would flat out ignore me in private. I’ve seen three years of massive success go down the drain after a new executive director came on board—one who took her red pen to everything I wrote, and questioned every decision I made.
And yes, I worked for one CEO who all but patted me on the head and referred to me as “sweet” for working to encourage a culture of donor gratitude.
So I could certainly relate when I received this email from a subscriber:
I’ve been reading The Grow Report since I started fundraising in 2014. I recommend it to any fundraiser I know, and truly look forward to seeing your email pop up each Thursday and Monday.
Because I respect your opinion so much, I wanted to reach out. I’ve been at my current position for eight months now, in charge of annual giving (including direct mail, calling program and qualifying donors). I love direct mail—I love learning about it, seeing your examples each week, telling stories and testing. However, all of the best practices I’ve learned from you and other great fundraisers are not welcome here. I’m presented with templates that have to fit in my letters. Using salutations and signatures is not encouraged. They say doing more than one page of writing would be overwhelming. And I can’t ask for specific amounts (don’t even get me started on the reply card that asks not just for a gift, but if you’ll be a monthly donor and include us in your estate planning).
I understand I am still relatively new to fundraising and to this organization, but it hurts my heart to put out pieces that don’t use donor names, can’t use readability formatting, and go against all the things I love about donors and direct mail. Our campus has only broken even the last four years, so I know something has to change. Do you have any advice for me?
My heart hurts for the writer. You, too, may be in a situation like that right now. You may even think that you’ve overstayed your welcome.
Our world can be rife with dysfunction, and so can our workplaces. I wouldn't presume to tell you what to do and what choice to ultimately make. Nothing remains constant. You can sail merrily along in the perfect job (perfect for you, anyway) for years, and then, all of a sudden, the bottom drops out.
The decision to quit a job is deeply personal and should never be taken lightly.
But if there was a point in time when you genuinely loved your work, if your mission still sets your heart on fire, then there is hope. You can turn it around. I implore you to think long and hard about it.
Remember that you can't change those around you, so focus on the things you can change. You can change your attitude. You can begin implementing a culture of gratitude in your workplace. You can figure out how to give more appreciation, instead of wondering why you aren't more appreciated.
You can resolve to take up the cause of your donor. You can begin by working to develop the leadership skills necessary to guide your organization along the invariably rocky transition to a donor-centered culture. Understand that it takes time, persistence and extraordinary patience verging on that of a saint. And, understand that, as far as the big picture goes, there are far more “cans” than “cannots.”
Or, you can take this route, which Tom Ahern has suggested:
Change jobs. Your experience is invaluable. Next time, you'll ask wiser questions during the interview.
You can't move a mountain of ignorance. The leadership dictating this nonsense should be fired, but won't be, despite clear proof of incompetence to anyone who works professionally in direct mail. When you go to an archive of successful direct mail, like SOFII, you'll find bloody little from higher ed. There's a reason for that—entrenched, opinionated gas-clouds masquerading as your boss.
I've had various academic clients over the decades. Fundraising ignorance is more the rule than the exception, in my disappointed experience. Deans are usually the worst. Well, OK, presidents are real dragon morons sometimes. Again, with fabulous exceptions.
There are some shooting stars in academic fundraising—thinking of Rory Green at Simon Fraser University, for instance.
And there's a much bigger mob of chair-warmers who pull down a decent income with never a threat of a challenge. Look for a huge weed-out of these dolts eventually—but not for another 10 years, when philanthropy finally becomes about the only way a school can survive. It's coming.
Get out. Get on with your career.
I urge you to think long and hard. Regardless of which direction you’re leaning, the choice is ultimately yours to make. Never forget that— especially when you feel like you’re treading water and control is beyond reach. Everything really does begin with you.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.