Are YOU Looking for a Job?—A Two-Part Series


Many times in our blog, Richard and I have written about the qualities an MGO or development professional should possess to be considered great, or at least be on the short list for being hired.

I want to turn that around.  This is a two-part series devoted to helping you discern the positive qualities you should look for in a non-profit you would want to work with, as well as some qualities to avoid.

If you are considering a new position in non-profit fundraising and major gifts, whether you have many years of experience or you are new to the business, I believe there are several things you should consider when looking for the right fit.

And by right fit I don’t necessarily mean looking for an organization that works to stop hunger or helps adopt pets.  I’m talking about the qualities you should look for in a non-profit so that you have the best possible chance of succeeding in your new job regardless of the organization’s mission.

First, I want to tell you something.  YOU are of great worth.  That’s right, YOU have great skills and would be an asset to any organization.  Get that into your head and feel it in your heart.  If you have been beat up by a recent employment situation, it is very important that you rebuild your self-worth before embarking on a job search.  If you don’t, you may very well get into another job where you are not valued.

Also, because of the job market today, another pitfall could be that you might be tempted to “take anything”.  That could result in a situation in which the non-profit doesn’t have the qualities or support you need to be successful.  I want you to go into this search for a new job feeling confident that YOU have great abilities and that you would be a tremendous asset to any organization you decide to work for.

Okay, now that you have the correct self-confidence (not over confidence, but solid self-confidence), here are some qualities in a non-profit that, over the years, Richard and I have found to be crucial to your success.

  1. They have a vision.  I’m not just talking about something they have framed on the wall in their lobby.  I’m talking about a clear vision of knowing exactly who they are and where they want to go in the future.  In your interview, if they cannot clearly answer that, there could be big trouble ahead.
  2. They have passion.  This is critical.  Richard and I always look for organizations that, in addition to having a vision, have a passion to fulfill that vision.  There is an energy about the place that is attractive and electric.  AND, it drives everyone there.
  3. They want to grow.  This is sort of close to the passion thing, but it is even more tangible.  It is a desire to move forward – to do even more. If this non-profit is addressing a problem, do they have long-term plans to do even more?  And are those plans couched in financial goals that grow? If they have no real growth goals, then why would they need your help?  That’s the way I would look at it.  You want to be part of an organization that has clear, long-term and growing financial goals.
  4. They are innovative.  Okay, so the non-profit has a vision, passion and growing long-term financial goals.  Now you should see if they seek out solutions in innovative and fresh ways that no one else is doing.  Remember, YOU have tremendous skills to bring to the table. Do you want to use them on an organization that is tired and staid or one that is forward looking and excited about the future?
  5. They treat their people well.  This is a big one.  A non-profit could have all four of the above qualities, but if they don’t treat their employees well, I would run away from it as fast as I could.  Now, admittedly, this could be somewhat difficult to discern.  But, I urge you to do your homework, talk to current employees and ask good questions to understand how a non-profit treats their employees and what are their expectations.  You want to know that people are honored and not taken advantage of.
  6. The organization is in good standing in the community they serve.  With your skills and accomplishments you want to consider an organization that is in good standing in the community.  Or, if this particular organization has had previous “problems”, there is at least energy from a new leader to turn it around in order for you to consider working there.  Remember, you are going to be working with donors who want to support an organization that is doing great things in the community.  That will be very difficult if the community has a poor view of that organization.  Remember this:  No one person can save an organization.  You are not a savior.
  7. They are donor-centered.  You can feel it when you walk in the door.  Do they honor donors?  Are donors central to their mission?  When you question leadership in your interview about donors, is it clear they hold donors in high-esteem?  When you talk to donors who give to the organization (yes, you’ll want to do this) do they feel integral to the mission?  Do they feel they are making an impact?  YOU want to work with an organization that is donor-centered and has a healthy culture of philanthropy.  I mean, this is half of their mission and you need to feel that it’s honored or YOU won’t be honored in your position.

These seven qualities are crucial to your success and happiness at the organization you will work with.  These have to part of the organization you will be spending most of your time with.  Think about it.  More than interacting with your family or friends, this is where you will spend the majority of your time.  The organization you choose has to be worthy of it.

Next time, we’ll talk about the qualities in organizations you need to avoid.  It’s not going to be pretty.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Donor-Centered, Hiring, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Are YOU Looking for a Job?—A Two-Part Series

  1. J says: – very interesting blog to find a job

  2. Monique Tilford says:

    Hello Jeff and Richard –

    You’ll probably address this is a future post, but two more things to watch out for when considering a new post as MGO:

    1. Clarity re programs: Be sure that management has a clear vision on what types of programs they want you to sell and that you think these programs are compelling. If management doesn’t
    have clarity or you think programs have to be redesigned, you will be left having to recreate these programs with leadership which will be a huge drain on your time when you should be out meeting donors and raising money instead.

    2. Solid leadership in place: Be wary of taking a job if leadership at that organization is in transition. If the org’s programs are evergreen, it’s probably less of an issue. But if you are considering a
    job with an organization that has programs needing continual oversight and direction, wait to accept the position until the new CEO is hired and has had a chance to decide on the org’s programmatic
    direction. Otherwise, you will be selling programs that might not get fully implemented or which might get eclipsed all together by the new CEO’s vision.

    I speak from experience on these issues unfortunately and hope these suggestions will help someone else avoid the problems I have faced.

  3. C says:

    Why does it seem more and more difficult to find the really good places? I feel that we need a survival guide to deal with the reality of life in the trenches… stay positive; close to the program; don’t take things personally; build a support netork!
    Excellent post, as always!

    • It does seem like that Colleen. One thought I’ve been mulling around is that non-profits are havens for people like us who want to alleviate suffering in the world, yet ironically don’t want to deal with or deny our own suffering. So, we end up with a lot of non-profit leaders and managers who can’t deal with their own crap and build it into the structure and culture of the non-profit. This causes everyone else to suffer needlessly.

  4. Heather says:

    These are all SPOT ON! Thank you for articulating what I am quickly learning from working in the non-profit sector. I especially love the line, “No one person can save an organization.” It’s true, no matter how good you are. I’ve watched someone try and then get run over with the bus again and again – it’s a shame.

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