Stick it out! Why leaving may not be a good idea

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! Phil Gerard photo

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 gifts? 

Have 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 opportunity knocks. 

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. 

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