The Importance of Marketing Yourself
Growing up in West Virginia, I noticed several of my junior high classmates running for various student government offices. From home room president to class president, there were opportunities for candidates to lead and promote their school. At the time, I played sports. I was basically an introvert. I enjoyed being around a small circle of friends. I was actually fortunate to have a best friend. What made that union unique was our differences. They say differences attract, and we had a beautiful eight-year run. He was the politician of the group and always won high offices. I admired his skill and ability in motivating others to common goals.
Because of my best friend I decided to run for junior high home room president. That was my first experience in marketing. I realized very quickly you had to learn to read well, write well and speak well in public to succeed. I had to become an extrovert. I talked to extroverts and watched them in action. I asked individuals who were excellent in performing how they accomplished success in their chosen fields. I had to overcome fears of speaking in public and dealing with strangers. This activity was not natural to me.
What was natural to me was the love of marketing. In this field I found many activities that I loved to do. As a player of sports I always strived to be a team player. My coaches taught me that I had to develop as an individual and that would improve the overall team. The sum is the total of the parts. Over time I learned to progress to the best of my ability in any field of endeavor because I learned to understand my strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, I tried to improve my weaknesses before reinforcing my strengths.
In today's world, if you want to succeed you must market yourself. You simply have no choice. When you do anything you are in competition with others. You represent an institution and success depends upon your presentation and performance. Over time, you have to decide what sets you apart. You cannot do this in a vacuum. You must have the desire and willingness to continually learn about your field and yourself. In my career, I have spent thousands of dollars with personal consultants in an effort to improve my personal brand.
Some ways you can improve yourself include:
- Joining toastmasters or a speaking group and learn to speak.
- Try writing articles or personal blogs so you can become a subject matter expert.
- Take continuing education classes to learn the latest in your field.
- Work out to reduce stress and get plenty of sleep each night.
- Strive to dress well and keep your shoes shined.
- Serve as a volunteer on various nonprofit boards where you have a passion.
- Mentor younger professionals to obtain fresh perspectives.
- Communicate with outstanding veterans in the field to learn from them.
- Always be proactive with your boss and volunteer for assignments.
- Keep your resume up to date and get your CFRE.
- Sign up for Linked In and have others recommend you, and you recommend others.
- Join an AFP Board and other similar service boards.
- Learn to work with the media and experience on-air television interviews and radio interviews.
- Where appropriate, have a Facebook page, Twitter account and other social media outlets.
- Become a consultant even in a minor way. You will enjoy the thrill of being listened to as the subject matter expert. Try having your own LLC Company.
- Agree to speak in public in front of various groups and join public panel discussions.
- Learn to train volunteer boards.
- Be outgoing and go up to strangers and introduce yourself.
- Have your business cards ready to be distributed.
- Always say yes to any nonprofit opportunity.
Develop pride in yourself and understand you need to be "on" at all times in public. Ask others for feedback when you perform so you can improve. Have a thick skin and be ready for criticism, at times. That is the only way you can grow. As your career expands and jobs change, many people will remember you at a point in time with a particular institution. Others with a broader view will remember you as a career nonprofit professional in the field.
While I will always cherish each institutional stop in my career, I will have greater satisfaction in knowing I had a successful 40-plus-year career in philanthropy. Don't ever forget to market yourself. You are your most important product and key to your ultimate institutional success. Finally, no less than 100 percent daily effort will do. People are watching you—and you set your own performance bar.
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.