Values, loyalty and your career…are you in sync?

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A career in philanthropy is a wonderfully rewarding occupation.

Most seasoned professionals did not initially set out to work in the sector, but that is not the case today as more and more young people choose the sector as a career. There has never been a time in history when the need for great fundraisers has been more necessary. Conversely there has never been a greater amount of money available for philanthropy.

I am constantly amazed at the wonderfully talented, optimistic young people that enter our profession. Every time I attend a conference I immediately identify that one third of the attendees are new to the profession. Their energy, inspiration, vision and a belief in an optimistic future is palpable. Few professions yield such memorable opportunities to make a significant difference, allied to the prospect of earning an extremely competitive wage.


A challenge for every organization however, is recognizing exceptional talent, nurturing and mentoring and then holding on to the individual. Too often successful professionals are lured away for slightly more money, just as they are becoming key producers in their organizations. I recently worked with an outstanding fundraiser, who is just in her early thirties, yet she was fundraising for her sixth organization. The challenge of staff retention is widespread across our industry and comes with significant costs.

The advice I don’t hesitate to share with advancement professionals is to find an organization that aligns with their personal values and then to stick with the opportunities provided, to create lasting change. The importance of working with a leader who is ethical and inspiring should not be underestimated. Working in a stimulating organization makes the long hours required for success truly meaningful. Jumping ship every two years is not a career-enhancing strategy. To make a difference takes time and effort, which will be recognized and rewarded. I am not suggesting blind loyalty to an organization that is not in tune with your goals, but search for a not-for–profit that is the right fit for you and then stay. You will be amazed by the success that is possible.

Creating relationships with transformational donors takes time. Trust must be earned and visions created that are in tune with their beliefs. Acquiring the deep knowledge of the organization also takes time, as do the stories that reflect the values of the organization. Donors quickly identify loyal, committed individuals who move the needle every day. This not possible if constant change, for a few dollars more, is your métier.


For further reading on this subject, check out Ben Cijffers’ blog.