publication date: Dec 7, 2012
author/source: Philippe Gérard
Turnover is a big
challenge for the fundraising profession. A few years ago a recruiter would
have been concerned about a candidate who had moved jobs every two or three
years. Now if you have completed three years, you have serious staying power!
While I am
half-joking, the tragedy is that I am only half-joking. I am hearing more and
more about fundraisers who leave a job under one year of service - even less
than half a year!
Too many opportunities?
There are many problems
with this. First of all, turnover hurts the organization's bottom line and its relationships
with donors. It also hurts the job-changing fundraiser's reputation. Yet in an
environment where recruiters call fundraising professionals weekly to present
attractive career opportunities, it is tempting and easy to make a career move.
In an environment where you don't have so many options, you may consider
staying in a job longer even though it is not perfect.
And this is where I
think the problem lies. We have too many options these days. Positions at the
director's level and above appear daily on job sites. We simply have too many
jobs and not enough senior-level fundraisers.
Short stay may mean little value
In our efforts to
find the perfect job, we look for alternatives right away if a new role is not
what we expected. Unfortunately, if we keep giving up and starting all over
again, we have no chance to build our reputation, our track record, and above
all, value for our employers.
Isn't it time to think
not only about ourselves, but also about what we can do for a nonprofit? There
are two reasons why people get hired: to make money for the employer or to save
money for the employer. If we cannot demonstrate that we bring value, then we
have little of substance to add to the "Achievements" section on our résumés.
Take time to learn, build relationships
When my family and
I came to Canada 17 years ago, a good friend advised us not to make any
decisions before experiencing all seasons in the new country. There is a lot of
truth in that statement.
We can apply that
concept to a job as well. The first year barely helps you understand the
organization and get a full picture of its work. As well, we know that securing
a $1 million gift takes on average about 18 months from the first contact to
closing. If you leave your job every year, how are you going to cultivate any
meaningful relationships and be fully responsible for achieving significant
a long-term career vision
Right now there is high demand for fundraisers.
There are many opportunities and very few professionals. We can afford to
behave like brats and try out something new whenever a seemingly better
What if the tables turn and we experience another
economic downturn like 2008, when many fundraising shops laid people off? We
have to have a long-term vision for our careers. There is no perfect job -
every position has its ups and downs. It may not sound very exciting, but
sometimes we just need to stick it out and do a job even if it's not perfect.
Philippe (Phil) Gérard has
been a fundraising professional for 14 years in the community service,
education and university advancement sectors. His specialty is major gifts
fundraising. An MBA with a human resource management specialization set him on
the exciting path of fundraising talent management.
He is a director of
advancement with Simon Fraser University.
Phil is also the President of Gérard
Consulting - Fundraising Talent Management and author of Phil's Careers
Blog. His firm helps fundraisers find a great career and organizations find and
retain the next great colleague.