How to Move Ahead in Your Non-Profit Development Career

In today’s article, I want to diverge from discussing fundraising strategy for a moment to talk about something just as important, if not more so. Let’s talk about you!

If you’re like me, you work for or with non-profits because you believe in the good that they can do. You’re working for your organization because you support their mission and want to make a difference in the world. But you also may be wondering how to advance in your career… how to move up to new challenges, more responsibility, and a greater impact.

During my fundraising career, I have found five keys to keep moving ahead in non-profit development. They’ve worked for me and for countess others, and there’s a good chance they will work for you too. Here they are, in no particular order:

#1 – Take Responsibility

One of the most important things you can do to show that you are ready for a bigger challenge is to take responsibility for your current projects and workload.

By “take responsibility,” I don’t mean that you just get the work done. I mean that you own it. You constantly look for ways to get the job done better. You implement systems for your work that allow you to do more, in less time. You suggest ways to tweak projects to be more effective. You find ways to save money, raise more, add on new components, and generally stand up and say, “This is my project. It’s going to be a success.”

For inspiration on taking responsibility, read Non-Profit Entrepreneurs Can Change the World

#2 – Take Risks

This rule of thumb is slightly more controversial, because non-profits are known for being very risk-adverse. That being said, the people who take on leadership roles at large organizations (or become founders of new charities) usually get there by taking risks over the course of their career.

What do these risks look like? Sometimes it’s taking a stand against the board in order to move the organization forward. Other times it is launching a new program or fundraising campaign that requires lots of work and risk, and shepherding it to success. Obviously, taking risks doesn’t mean being foolhardy, but far too many non-profit fundraisers refuse to go against the status quo.

For inspiration on taking risks, watch Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

#3 – Keep Learning

Constant learning is the best way to become a valued asset to your organization, and is a great way to generate new ideas and strategies for fundraising and non-profit management.

There are many ways you can keep learning. You could pursue a new degree in non-profit management, go for your CFRE, take a fundraising course through The Fundraising Authority, or simply read some books on areas that interest you and are important for your non-profit.

#4 – Be Passionate

This one is important – modern non-profits need passionate people to push them forward. Are you well steeped in your organization’s mission and vision? Do you communicate your charity’s case for support well? Are you a cheerleader for your programs and fundraising campaigns?

#5 – Become a Leader

In order to be seen as a leader, you need to act like one. This means seeking out new challenges and new responsibilities and volunteering to head-up new projects. Being a leader also means being encouraging and helpful to co-workers, having and sharing opinions on strategy and tactics, and proposing new ways to increase revenue and efficiency.

Are you following these five keys as you navigate the non-profit field? What else have you found that is important to moving ahead in development?

Photo Credit: Tulane Public Relations