Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘major gifts’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Fletcher* was pleased when he got a job in major gifts, but soon realized he didn’t like all the travel. He was so tired, there was no time for his leisure activities anymore. He was either debriefing from the last trip, or preparing for the next.

Although this promotion out of annual giving seemed to be what he wanted at first, the theory and the reality didn’t end up being even close to the same. For example, nearly all of his hotels had exercise facilities, and Fletcher used to have a regular swimming or workout routine. There never seemed to be time to use the facilities, however. His travel schedule had him booked so tight to visit prospects that he often felt he rarely had time to sleep, let alone see much of any sights that the various cities had to offer, never mind exercise.

As Fletcher and I discussed his obvious aversion to the current situation, he realized that he did prefer working in major gifts – just not at such a hectic pace. He realized that if he could travel less and visit donors a bit more locally, without the intense pressure, he would enjoy that work assignment.

Once Fletcher had logged a successful year of bringing in major gifts for his employer, he decided to Forget It! with respect to staying in such a frenzied atmosphere, and we sought another position for him with an organization whose donor base was more geographically local, so that his assignments would be as well.

This did mean a slight pay cut, but Fletcher felt it was worth the trade off, to get more of his life, sleep and sanity back.

Gina* came to me, asking for help because she had been interviewing – unsuccessfully – for nearly a year, and wanted advice. “I’m not sure what else I can do,” she lamented. “I feel like I’m already doing everything I can!”

As I examined Gina’s resume and previous cover letters, I could see that she was trying to be very enthusiastic . . . but probably trying too hard. For example, most of her cover letters opened with a line similar to, “I will be the best [position] you’ve ever had!”

From there, the letter would go on to boast about what a hard, diligent or enthusiastic worker she was, but said very little about her actual experience or accomplishments in the particular area. As I explained to Gina, “There’s no meat on the bone – no reason to believe that you’d be a serious contender, just because you’ve said so.” Enthusiasm will only carry someone so far.

I then learned that Gina tried various tactics to demonstrate her enthusiasm in person as well. For example, in an effort to sidestep being lost in an HR pile and directly reach the hiring manager, she had, on occasion, sat outside a hiring manager’s office – resume and cover letter in hand – until well after hours, to personally greet Mr. X, introduce herself, and tell him of her interest in [position], handing him her resume and cover letter.

She was disappointed that no interviews had resulted from this tactic.

I explained that, at best, Mr. X probably concluded that she was ignorant of basic interviewing protocols, and at worst, he may have been creeped out by the fact that she demonstrated some stalker tendencies. I suggested that a different – and better – way to circumvent being lumped into the HR pile in the future is to network with those in your profession, find a contact who knows Mr. X, and ask your contact to make an introduction and/or recommendation about your work.

I also dispelled an often believed myth that Gina held: namely, that a resume must be limited to a single page. She had even recently run into a problem with this during an interview, when she was questioned by Ms. Y about her experience with [subject], and proceeded to elaborate on how she had worked on that before at [Job A]. The interviewer looked on her resume, and [Job A] was nowhere to be seen.

Gina hadn’t anticipating needing [Job A] for this position – and besides, it didn’t fit on the single page with the other jobs, so it got cut. The interviewer seemed not to find her experience to be as credible because it wasn’t listed on the resume with her other jobs.

Taking these three issues together – being overzealous in writing, in person, and not taking full credit on her resume – Gina had been coming across as someone who was desperate and nearly begging for a job. We were able to Fix It! by presenting her as a more skilled, confident worker who was offering an experienced employee, both on paper and in person. She could tell an employer, in tangible terms, what kind of a person they would be hiring.

It wasn’t too long after Gina changed the way she presented herself that she started getting more interviews, and after that, a job offer.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share? Send it to me, and it might help others. Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

How you can stand out in an interview – or should you bother?

The need to find the right fit when job hunting

The interview process as a learning experience

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

“You really don’t need to be eating that,” a volunteer admonished Opal* at her desk.  “You’re too fat already.”

Opal works at a very busy nonprofit for the mentally handicapped, and it’s common for staff to work through lunch, eating at their desks.

“The first few times, I simply ignored it,” Opal recounted, “But it didn’t go away. I simply could not eat my lunch – or anything – without this woman lecturing me on my diet, weight, etc. – and very loudly, for all to hear, since everyone’s workspace is in cubicles in our office.”

“Finally,” Opal recalls, “I had had it. I declared to her firmly that what I ate was my business, not hers, and I didn’t want to hear another word about it, period. This angered her, and she began writing me notes and leaving them on my desk, in broken spelling and grammar, explaining how my bad diet and weight would eventually kill me, and so forth.”

With documentation now in hand, and feeling she had no other recourse, Opal took the notes to her supervisor . . . and was gravely disappointed at the response.

Her supervisor, also a woman, appeared to empathize, yet encouraged Opal to see that this woman was mentally handicapped, after all. (Then, she reminded Opal that this particular volunteer was also related to a major donor.) Opal was encouraged to take longer lunch hours . . . out of the office instead, and nothing was ever said to the volunteer on the topic.

A couple of weeks later, as Opal was departing for the Thanksgiving holiday and simultaneously waved goodbye to the volunteer and her supervisor, the volunteer yelled out her parting words for all to hear:  Don’t eat too much!

That led Opal to decide to Forget It! and she contacted me to begin her job search immediately after the holiday weekend. It was clear that her workplace would never be interested in providing a harassment free environment for her.

Peter* worked in fundraising and was relatively new to his organization. He made it clear upon being hired a couple of years ago that he wanted to get experience in major gifts, and his director had told him that she would mentor him in that area, taking him on occasional calls, since she needed help boosting that segment – and couldn’t possibly visit all the prospects, anyway.

What he realized after his first year review, however, was that this particular goal had gone nowhere. There were always other details that kept him busy, in the office, or otherwise occupied. His director had made plenty of calls, yet she had never managed to take him along. In fact, he noticed that there was no mentoring of any kind happening between them. They only met for status reports, or for him to receive assignments from her.

Peter consulted with me on whether or not he should look for another position so he could get the major gifts experience he sought.

As we weighed the pros and cons of his current position, Peter realized that there really were more prospects in the database than his director could possibly visit, but he would most likely have to approach the less important ones, so as not to step on his director’s toes. He would also have to reevaluate how he was currently spending his time on his other duties: Which tasks would take a back seat, or could be delegated?

When Peter looked at it from this perspective, he decided that he could Fix It! and make the time in his schedule to add a few major donor calls and visits each week. He was still disappointed that he would have to learn it all on his own, rather than be coached, as promised, but there would be no guarantee that a new supervisor would be any better a mentor, either. I also recommended that he sign up for the mentoring program through his local AFP chapter, which has helped many people. It’s also a good source of general networking.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.


Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Molly* and Nina* handle networking challenges outside the office

Trudy* and Velma* recognize warning signs at work

Patrick* and Ramona* find ways to seek professional development

Fix It Or Forget It?

Friday, August 27th, 2010

This week’s Fix It Or Forget It? has to do with situations my clients found themselves in where too much or too little was promised.  In both cases, it’s unlikely delivery will ever take place, so what’s a person to do?

Gwen* was a very personable major gifts officer who had not only increased her portfolio substantially over her tenure, but had done so during most of the last year without a director of development.  In fact, it was not a stretch to say she was leading the department, having been the staff member with the longest time at the organization.

When it came time for her (and others’) annual review, however, the executive director prolonged conducting them, with various excuses, including wanting to hire the department head replacement.

Gwen tried to be patient, and had been assured that whatever was ultimately decided would be retroactive, but the delays continued.  First the department had to be reorganized, restructured; therefore, the job description for the head had to be rewritten, and so on.  Once the director was hired, she was essentially asked to train her supervisor.  After that, he postponed conducting her review – although he had little idea of how to evaluate her performance, anyway, and so it went.

Finally, Gwen decided to Forget It! and refused to hold her breath any longer.  We conducted her job search, and it wasn’t long before her talents were put to use for an organization that appreciated them.

Unfortunately, this dynamic is all too common among clients I see – especially non profit clients, and particularly the women.  What they both share is a desire to serve and to please, making them less confrontational by nature.  This trait is not necessarily a bad attribute, but it can lend toward making someone vulnerable to a person who is interested in taking advantage.

Similar to the dynamics I spoke of in last week’s column when recommending Deborah Tannen’s book, I also often refer clients to read Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock.  The subtitle is The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change.  These books can offer effective tools to those who aren’t used to using such tactics every day.

Howard* spent his days agonizing over how much extra work he constantly had to do, just to keep up with the demands required because his director routinely committed him to projects and deadlines that simply could not be met.

When Howard contacted me, he was ready to leave, and his greatest concern, frankly, was only about finding the time to interview once they were scheduled.  He told me that he had already attempted several times to tell his director that when she met with the executive team and agreed to projects without first consulting him, it was not only unfair, but unrealistic.  She would politely agree in theory, but continued to repeat the same pattern.

What appeared to lie beneath this was a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of Howard’s director of the details of his day-to-day duties.  This was not unusual: Howard’s manager worked in marketing, while Howard had more of a statistical role, compiling market research figures from databases.

Something changed in the entire marketing department just at the time Howard was ready to leave, however: His manager was given various directives on how, when, where, etc. to implement an entirely new social media campaign, combining technology, marketing, demographics, statistics, software, etc.

The same thing began happening to her at the departmental level!  Decisions were made and deadlines were given without her ever being consulted as to what other projects she might be working on at the time.  I advised Howard to point out the comparison at each and every opportunity, so that she would realize how unproductive, unrealistic and unfair it was.

Howard was able to Fix It! as he his director became allies, strategizing together on how to tell upper management what could and could not be done in a given amount of time, what they best advised, and why.

After the social media campaign was launched, she came to trust Howard’s judgment on his subsequent projects, and he no longer had to put in 60+ hour weeks.  He was pleased to stay and continue work he enjoyed, once it was a manageable amount and he’d earned his director’s respect.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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