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Best of the “Worst” Fundraising Career Advice

As professional fundraisers, we have a wide range of resources for our career development. Over my career I’ve had some amazing bosses and mentors. However, not all advice is good or still applicable today. Beware of well-intentioned maxims that no longer apply to the 21st century workplace.


Here is my collection of outdated career advice.


Be at your desk, ready to work by 8:00 a.m.

Yes, this was the expectation in the olden days. Thank goodness there’s more flexibility with work schedules and more realistic expectations. Today, most organizations just want the work done within a reasonable timeframe.


Do good work and your boss will notice.

Certainly, you want to do your best work, but you need to know that good work does not always equal recognition or rewards. You don’t want to be just a reliable employee; you want to exceed expectations. Do you have ideas for improving your job? Is there a project where you can take the lead? Don’t be shy. Make sure your boss knows the part you played to make the project a success.


Your boss knows best.

This may work in the military: your superior officer gives the orders and you and your fellow soldiers follow them. A nonprofit organization is not the army, and your boss is human.


Follow your passion.

This sounds good, but following your passion without considering and planning for an extreme career change can result in a job history that is disjointed and inconsistent. Take the time to find a career that matches your interests and your personal and financial goals.


Only steward the big donors.

Intuitively we know this is bad advice. All donors want to know the impact of their donations. Stewardship can take many forms and intentional stewardship can encourage donors to increase their support of your mission.


Some advice that never goes out of style is stay curious and keep learning, maintain your professional network. Give as much as you get by being a resource for others. Practice self-care. If you don’t take care of your own physical, mental, and spiritual health you can’t be there for others.



Michelle Crim, CFRE


Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.


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