“Are you going to look for a new fundraising job?” my mom, brother, husband, and best friends all want to know.
I don’t know,” I’ve been answering. “I feel like a woman who has just gotten out of a bad marriage and doesn’t yet feel like going on a date.”
In fact, just after leaving a recent job, I watched one of my favorite movies, “The Help.” I feel like Minny who has “gots her some stories.”
Imagine fundraisers: imagine writing a book of our stories featuring us as the nonprofit help. We wouldn’t write about the “chil’en” or the bathrooms, but we could write about the board members and budgets like:
- the board president who decided to use donations to fund his birthday party (and then left you to deal with the donors calling to ask how much of their ‘donation’ was tax deductible)
- the CEO who screamed at you on a Friday afternoon, an hour before a government grant deadline, that she wanted you to submit the “f*ng grant” that your organization had zero chance of receiving (because weeks ago, when you asked for the necessary information, she couldn’t be bothered to give it to you)
- the CEO who thinks that adopting a balanced budget simply means writing in “new money,” “new money,” “new money,” into the revenue side of the equation (which, of course, he expects you, the CDO, to figure out how to find).
Because I’m aware of the historical criticisms of The Help, I don’t want to push this too far, nor do I mean to equate the professional challenges fundraisers face with the discrimination and abuse that African Americans have experienced in the South (or elsewhere). I’m simply trying to find some humor in a situation that is often pretty ugly.
Apparently, I’m far from alone. In the midst of thinking about all of this, I’ve read the Chronicle of Philanthropy front-page story based on its joint survey with the Association of Fundraising Professionals titled “Why Fundraisers Are Fed Up,” and I’m clear that I’m not the only one who has gots her some stories.
I look at the job ads – there are tons of them. Lots of people are looking for a fundraising professional. Or at least they say they’re looking for a fundraising professional. What they may actually be looking for is a miracle worker or magician who can shoulder their verbal abuse with aplomb. I guess there are plenty of folks on dating apps saying that they want a committed relationship also.
Swipe left. Swipe left.
I look at the ads and this is what I see:
- I had a friend who worked there and she says that the CEO is a “nut case.” Swipe left.
- My friend who worked at that one says the VP she reported to yelled constantly. Swipe left.
- That one reads “this highly energetic, entrepreneurial, brilliant, positive, person who walks on water will be able to…” Swipe left.
There is little that brings me more joy than connecting a philanthropist with a good cause. I’ve always thought that fundraisers were so privileged because we get to see the very best in people—people acting selflessly to make possible the good work of our organizations. So fundraising doesn’t have to be awful.
I actually love fundraising just, I guess, as Aibileen loved nurturing children.
But like Aibileen, I think I may have just walked away from my last white baby. I’m looking forward to spending some time writing (resuming blogging after several years of not blogging) and helping nonprofit organizations in ways other than as a chief development officer.
As I do walk away, though, whether or not your CEO, the program staff, or the board of directors appreciate it, please remember, fundraisers “You is kind. You is smart. You is important” and I look forward to resuming writing to help you be even smarter as you do the important work you do.
Please share with me your stories (good and bad).