Take Advantage of Mentors and Opportunities
“Sometimes opportunity knocks, but most of the time it sneaks up and then quietly steals away,” wrote columnist Doug Larson.
I’ve found this to be true in my life and in my career as a nonprofit leader.
Nelson Andrews was a mentor that I could count on in a number of ways. He was behind so many initiatives to improve the quality of life in Nashville, Tenn.—most of them behind the scenes. He, for example, was a founder of the Leadership Nashville program and an expert on leadership—in theory and in practice.
Nelson passed away a few years ago, and I greatly miss the ability to call or visit and get his advice. He provided me with many opportunities, some of which I took advantage of. Others, I am only aware of in hindsight and those I let “quietly steal away.”
Learning from Nelson was an incredible experience. He first tested me on my insight and ethics with a nonprofit he was on the board of, but greatly concerned about. Then, when I passed this test, he mentored and provided opportunities to me. He coached me through stories and asking a lot of questions—the Socratic method. He also connected me with some wonderful people.
I began to think of other mentors, and I have a confession: Each one quietly offered me more than I took advantage of.
Be attuned to opportunities to grow as a leader and as a fundraising professional. Be aware of opportunities that can provide additional resources for your organization.
Another great mentor, Jerry Panas, just shared with me the wisdom, “A question not asked is a door not opened.” No one is offended by a respectful, appropriate question. If you sense an opportunity, do not be timid. Follow up. Take time each day and each week to reflect on your interactions, and evaluate if you inadvertently are letting a golden opportunity quietly steal away. Follow Jerry’s advice and take the next step. See where the opportunity leads for you, your worthy organization and the people you serve.
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.