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Posts Tagged ‘mentor’

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

Congratulations, You Survived Another Year!

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

For many fundraisers, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is dreaded the most.  It’s the sink-or-swim season, when everything you’ve got is thrown into appeals, hoping to make coffers swell.  Did you feel like you were drowning for a while?

A lot of organizations won’t know their final totals and how successful their efforts were for a few more weeks yet, until the dust settles and everything is entered, counted and analyzed, but as you’re winding down and regrouping, consider an additional question:  Did you accomplish everything you wanted to this year?

Making the overall campaign goal is certainly important, as well as increasing your average gift, number of donors, acquisition, and your other fundraising markers.  Beyond that, however, surely there are aspirations that you, as a fundraiser have made that too often take a back seat or get forgotten in the frenzy.

Were you hoping to spend more time in the field this year, so that you’ve gotten additional experience working with major donors?  Did you want to take a course in grant writing?  Have you been meaning to learn how to use Facebook and/or Twitter, or did you just want to grasp your database’s reporting system better, so that you don’t have to ask someone else to run them each week?  Perhaps it’s time to study for the CFRE exam and become certified in your profession.

Whatever it is that you would like to learn, improve or accomplish, make a point to consciously add it to your goals and calendar for 2011, instead of just getting around to it in your “spare time.”  The rest of the year may not be as frantic as year-end, but fundraisers rarely have any time to spare.

Just as you map out how you’re going to reach your fundraising goals:

•     I’m going to visit ___ prospects
•     I’m going to send ___ mailings
•     I’ll make ___ phone calls each week

so should you plan your career goals:

•     I’m going to take that grant writing class
•     I will create and use my Twitter account on a regular basis
•     I’m going to study for and take the CFRE exam this year

Keep in mind that you don’t have to navigate these waters alone, either.  It’s always helpful when your organization offers guidance and training, and your co-workers and supervisor are supportive, but even if that is the case, getting another perspective can be very beneficial.  (And, of course, for many people, their work environment is not as educational and supportive as they’d hoped, so that’s all the more reason to seek help elsewhere.)

Networking with a variety of others, through professional organizations such as AFP, CASE, AHP, APRA and NTEN, provide a plethora of resources that one nonprofit simply cannot offer alone, regardless of its size.

Another wise investment in your career is to spend one-on-one time with a mentor in the field – preferably someone who has particular experience in the area that you see yourself headed toward in a few more years.  Networking in larger professional groups is a good way to gain exposure to more people in general, however, to get a better idea overall of what direction you see yourself taking in the future.

As you begin tallying and analyzing those figures coming in, keep in mind that boosting numbers isn’t the only objective you should be striving for.  Certainly you want to raise more money, but consider what you’ll do to hone your craft this year and boost yourself as well as the organization.


Starting in 2011, blog posts will alternate weekly, and the Annual Giving columns and the Fix It Or Forget It? columns will appear on Wednesdays.

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

Fix It Or Forget It?

Friday, September 24th, 2010

This week’s Fix It Or Forget It? column is a salute – and challenge – to women in the workplace.  If you’re a Maddict, then this week’s Mad Men episode may have been very disconcerting . . . particularly the final scene.  Have things changed much since 1965?

Joan, Peggy and Faye work in the same company, all at different professional levels.  By the end of the day, both their professional and personal lives weigh heavily on their minds.  Each of them has toiled hard to get where she is at her position at the company, and is the only woman to do so thus far.  Yet, they are far from friends and make a point not even to have chit chat in the elevator (where this scene takes place).

Invisible lines are drawn everywhere to keep them apart.  Indeed, in a previous episode, when Peggy attempts to cross a line and offer a hand of friendship to Joan, she is shocked when Joan rebukes and later chides her, explaining that Peggy’s actions will only serve to further diminish both of them in the eyes of the men at the company.  She clearly doesn’t make the same mistake again.

Fast forward a bit more than a decade to 1977.  A very popular book, Games Mother Never Taught You: Corporate Gamesmanship for Women explained the (man’s) business world to women as some sort of foreign land we were visiting, with this as the guide book.  Among the directions, language deciphering and wardrobe tips included explicit instructions not to reduce your perceived professional value by associating with women – such as eating lunch or socializing after hours – who rank below you.  Adopting a successful man as your mentor was high on the list of advisable things to do in this book.

Although we’d like to think that things have progressed a great deal for women’s careers, the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that, despite the fact that women make up the majority of fund raisers in our profession (75%), this percentage isn’t even remotely reflected in the amount of women who are chief development officers (52%).  The numbers dwindle further as the organizations’ size and budgets increase.

Recently, Olive* shared a story with me about how things haven’t changed very much at her workplace:

Not too long ago, her (woman) director asked her to assist interviewing major gift officer candidates.  After speaking to the several finalists and reviewing their resumes, Olive discovered that her director agreed that X (a woman) was clearly the strongest, most qualified applicant.

However, her director said she would be offering the position to Y (a man) instead, specifically due to his gender, because she felt that

•    the [mostly male] major donors being approached would prefer dealing with a man
•    the [mostly male] board and [male] CEO probably wanted her to hire a man in the position

Olive was surprised at this and asked if she had been told by leadership to “hire a man.”  No, but her director felt that it was implied, expected or preferred, nonetheless.

Olive pointed out some of candidate Y’s weaknesses, such as his reasons given for being laid off.  In this economy, they could be understandable, of course, but she thought they warranted following up, and were one of several points that made candidate X stronger.

It became obvious, though, that she really wasn’t being consulted at all, and Olive stopped giving any feedback after that.

“It gave me a new insight into the hiring process that I hadn’t considered . . . and made me feel embarrassingly ignorant and naive!” Olive told me.  “After that, I began networking a great deal more!”

Olive discussed this particular situation with me recently, after reading a different Chronicle of Philanthropy story earlier this summer, related to sexual harassment in the fund raising workplace.  It seems that a small, initial post opened the floodgates, resulting in a live online discussion, followed by several stories and anonymous testimonies.

“So, on the one hand,” Olive said, irritatingly, “Women shouldn’t have these positions because men aren’t comfortable working with them, but on the other hand, we should fear or avoid working in these positions because we might get attacked?!  That’s some choice!  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!”

Several points the article made again and again were how isolated women felt in these positions and the lack of support there was.  For example, the women who agreed to be interviewed for the Chronicle stories said they did so because they wanted to help others . . . and they had found no assistance – online or elsewhere – when they went seeking for it themselves.

Women would do well to make better use of networking and mentoring whenever possible, rejecting the seclusion and insulation that comes with whatever assignments their positions compel.  While social media makes it possible to network online, meeting in person is important, too.

Especially as we rise through the ranks, it’s important to keep in touch with one another – across the various strata that can become constructed.  Joining professional societies and organizations is one way.  You can also ask someone you respect to be your mentor in an area you would like to improve, and offer to assist someone with skills that you have in another area.

This week is the 29th anniversary of Sandra Day O’Connor being confirmed as the first woman on the Supreme Court in 1981.  It took us a dozen years later (and four more judges) for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be the second woman in 1993.  Sixteen more years (and four more judges) until Sonia Sotomayor became the third in 2009.

If we cross those invisible lines, and all get to know more women better, many barriers can be lifted sooner.  Will you Fix It Or Forget It?

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

(When) should I start looking elsewhere?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

In honor of Labor Day, I help examine a question that millions of workers ask themselves on a regular basis.

In addition to the time I’ve personally spent on both sides of the interview desk, over the years I’ve heard numerous stories from clients I’ve either counseled for months during their job search, or just chatted with while designing their resumes.  Certainly, many people are currently out of work and looking for whatever employment they can find right now.  It does help to do a targeted search, though.  Making the best use of your time can improve your odds significantly.

For many people, making the decision to start looking for another job is the most difficult step of all in the entire process.

Is it the right time?  Is there anything better, anyway?  At least what I have is a known quantity, right?  How do I face all of that rejection, interview after interview, before I get an offer? What are my strengths and weaknesses?  I don’t even know where I see myself NEXT year, let alone in five years . . .  Maybe I’d better wait and see if it gets better . . .

Here are some guidelines I give to people, as a sort of mental checklist, to see if staying or looking might be a better move at this time.  Each person has to decide for her/himself, of course:

What priorities do you have with employment?

Location?  Salary?  Title/Authority?  Benefits?  Training?  (Consider your reaction, for example, if your salary increased by 20% but your commute time doubled.  Would that matter?)  Make a specific list of the top five aspects of a job that you seek.  What are you receiving and what are you lacking?

Don’t wait until you’re miserable at your current place of employment

ALL job searches take months to complete.  Not only will it make the process seem longer, but it might actually be longer!  Presenting a positive outlook is important when interviewing, and you are less likely to do this if depressed.  In addition, you may be more desperate to leave, so that you end up taking something you typically wouldn’t and are no better off.

Think ahead about your career and act instead of react

Escaping a bad situation is one reason to leave a position, but that is reactive.  What do you want as the next step in your career?  Can you get that where you currently are?  If yes, list the steps you need to take and begin on #1.  If no, then it probably is time to start looking elsewhere.

Realize that everything you do and don’t do is setting the stage – or blocking your path – for your next position, promotion, assignment, etc.

This has to do with more than your wardrobe, although that is certainly an element.  Are you punctual – and work more than required hours when that’s what it takes to get the job done?  How good are your writing, spelling, grammar and computer skills?  Do you contribute ideas or wait to be asked?

How many people outside your immediate department know who you are and what you do?  If someone (not necessarily your director) were asked for input on an important project, would they respond, “[Your name] would be great for that!”?  How can you make that a reality?  Many jobs are hired through word of mouth and networking instead of from responses to listings; therefore, you need to be known for your expertise through various channels.

Invest in yourself

It’s best if your employer has a training budget and pays for you to attend various courses and seminars, but if not, attend these on your own.  (This should also be an indicator to you about whether or not you want to stay with this employer: How much can you grow and learn here?  Will they even care or reward you if you do?)

Many online trainings are available, and you can see a variety of free and low cost courses listed on the Bilou Calendar, depending on what you’re looking for.  Membership in professional societies also provides valuable face-to-face networking opportunities.  How many online publications do you read to stay informed about what is current in your field?  Finally, in this competitive job market, having your resume professionally designed and/or a career counselor can help give you an advantage over other job seekers.

Whatever your final conclusion is, most people feel more assured if they run through a checklist similar to the one above and actually do an assessment, instead of constantly wondering, “What if . . . ?”  Only you can decide to Fix It Or Forget It! in the end.


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

Selecting your next mentor

Friday, July 31st, 2009

An important part of growing your career is networking, but another side of networking can be mentoring.  Here’s a good article on how to go about planning for and selecting a mentor to help you in your career.

And…don’t forget to return the favor by being a mentor to others along the way.  That can be rewarding as well.  AFP-MD has a mentoring program in place, so if you don’t have someone specific in mind, one of the membership benefits of AFP is that you can fill out a Mentors Program application online.


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

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