If You Can’t Support the Cause, Don’t Take the Job

I know a lot of fundraising professionals.  Some fundraising professionals are like myself.  They are effective fundraisers because they are passionate about the causes they support.  They have a deep connection to the mission, and that connection drives them to build support for it so it can grow and grow.  They stay with their organizations for a long time, decades in some cases.  In my experience, this dedicated group is small and their numbers are few.

Other fundraisers are like certain people in the sales profession who can sell anything to anybody, and they are able to raise money for any organization or cause.  They see fundraising as nothing more than a job to pay their bills. They are good at convincing others to support their employers, but they really do not have a personal connection to the mission or cause.  They are mercenaries, guns for hire, so to speak.  They will work for any organization that will sign their paycheck.  Considering the high turnover rate for fundraisers and relatively short tenures that are common in the profession, I think that a large percentage of development professionals are in this latter group.

Now there may come a day when a position opens up in an organization that would be good for your career.  The pay and benefits are good, and success working for this organization would look good on your resume, but as a condition of employment, the organization requires that you abide by their standard of conduct.  An example of this comes in a story I came across in the Cincinnati Enquirer.  The story discusses how the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has changed the contracts of employees to include examples of personal behavior it finds contrary to the Catholic doctrine that can result in termination of employment.  While the article specifically mentions teachers, it is likely to include other employees like administrators and fundraising staff as well.  Some of the banned activities would include using social media to advocate for birth control, abortion, and gay marriage.  Other activities like sexual activity outside of marriage, actively engaging in a same sex relationship, using in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination would also cost you your job.  Could you honestly sign your name to a contract like that and live by those rules if they are contrary to your personal beliefs?

What about taking a job with a more secular group that advocates for gay marriage or abortion rights if you are an active Catholic or a member of another conservative religious group?   If you are an animal rights activist, should you take a job with a medical advocacy group and honestly seek support that finances experiments on animals while searching for a cure for cancer, AIDS, or some other disease?  Could you whole-heartedly advocate for an organization with a mission like that?  Can you compartmentalize your personal beliefs and fully serve your employer the way our ethical standards require?

The first tenet in the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards says “Members shall not engage in activities that harm the members’ organizations, clients or profession.”  According to the guidelines included in the long version,  when you sign on as an employee of an organization, you advocate fully for your new employer and agree to do nothing personally or professionally that might harm the organization or its reputation.  You are ethically bound to do your best for them, and refrain from publicly or privately supporting actions that they do not allow.

Over the years, I have had to refrain from applying for positions that had requirements I could not live with.  Those decisions were difficult to make, but since I knew I could not fully support a group because it went against my personal beliefs, I know I did the right thing for me and the organization.

So when you are looking for that next position, think carefully about what the organization stands for and make sure that you can fully support it.  Research it and find out everything you can about it.  If you cannot fully support the organization or its core beliefs, do not take the job.  Don’t even apply for it.  You will save the organization and yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

About Richard Freedlund

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the companion of a loving Springer Spaniel and two cats. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email greatergoodfundraising@gmail.com or reach him on Twitter.com @ggfundraise
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6 Responses to If You Can’t Support the Cause, Don’t Take the Job

  1. When I started out in the industry, we were always about the “mission” and if we could not align with that mission, we would not work for the org. Totally agree. It’s tough with so few jobs out there and people taking what they can find – and orgs sometimes taking advantage – but it is better to certainly live by those principals for the better of the org (even if it hurts you in the short term).

  2. Pamela Grow says:

    My very first job in fundraising was with a regional EMT agency. I didn’t know much about them and didn’t have a strong feeling about the mission, but within two weeks in I fell in love with it — and the amazing volunteer staff. I’ve always been strongly aligned with the mission of every organization I’ve worked for.

    But, more than once I’ve worked with organizations who were taken in by smooth talking job hoppers, often with many letters after their names, who crashed and burned and were gone six months later.

    I always advise to hire for mission fit – the rest can be taught.

    • It amazes me how many search committees and HR managers will hire a job hopper with short tenure over a long term volunteer with unpaid experience. People who raise money without being paid have much greater passion for the causes they serve than those guns for hire.

  3. mandarip says:

    Absolutely agree. I learned this from experience – I thought I could compartmentalize while working at a Catholic org, but compartmentalizing doesn’t work. Being out of alignment with your passions and personal beliefs can add unnecessary stress. Fundraising/grant writing don’t need any additional stress! A year and a half later I left and found something more suited to my passions. Understanding this is a lesson in knowing yourself and what matters to you personally and professionally.

  4. Take a peek at the “UnderDeveloped” report. http://www.compasspoint.org/underdeveloped
    It outlines the structural complexities that sabotage Development Director roles. I have found that most folks accused of “job hopping” have found themselves in impossible jobs set up for failure, regardless of how deep their commitment was to the mission.

    • Thanks for reading my post and sharing that study. I have come across a good number of the situations that are mentioned, but I have also come across a number of professionals over the years who took jobs just to add them to their resume so they could move on to larger organizations in the future. I have also found there are a great number of talented, successful, and experienced fundraisers overlooked by organizations because their success and experience came from years of volunteer service that they dedicated to their chosen cause. Sadly, many HR managers and search committees do not consider unpaid success experience.

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