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Nonprofit Career Challenges?  Try this!

Nonprofit Career Challenges? Try this!

By Peggy Calhoun, ACFRE

Several times a year I am solicited for advice and suggestions from colleagues facing challenges. With looming lay-offs, merger discussions, departmental restructuring, unprecedented unemployment trends, pending partnerships, and numerous budget adjustments, this year has been no exception.  After listening to each colleague to learn more, I find myself asking the same questions, which usually produces a pause followed by “That’s a good question!”  I continue questioning the caller in order to identify and explore options.  Options are a beautiful thing to have when faced with a challenge.  

While I am not the Abigail Van Buren of this age or field, I’m sharing the same process to help guide your decision-making process while gaining clarity in order to make the best decision for your career. If you are considering a move or forced into a transition that is less than desirable, consider asking yourself these thought-provoking questions.  Write down your answers and you may discover that the answers may emerge or change as the situation evolves.  Be honest and write down specific answers.  This process will help you gain clarity of the situation.

First, divorce yourself from emotions, politics, and personalities while reminding yourself of your professional and personal goals.  Have they changed?  If not, proceed to ask yourself the following ten questions.  

If you do not have clear goals, begin by asking yourself where you want to be in ten years.  Imagine how your resume will look at that time.  Last month, a colleague who was just promoted sought my opinion about her accepting a new position with a different company.  Why?  Similar pay and benefits with less travel coupled with meeting new contacts appealed to her.  Digging a little deeper, I continued the conversation asking her if she accepted the new position and in her next move in a few years or longer, when she’s looking at yet another opportunity, how would her resume appear to future employers? Could she explain why she left a new position with higher pay and more responsibility within her company so soon? She had not thought about that and decided to remain with her present company, keeping focused on her professional ten-year work plan.

Once you have a clear vision of where you want to be in ten years, focus on answering these questions:

  1. What are the changes in personal or professional attitudes that I’m experiencing?Are they real or perceived?  A threat to my position or an opportunity for advancement?
  2. What are my alternatives? Which is the best alternative?
  3. How can I manage the change to achieve the best alternative?
  4. How do I empower those around me to help with this change?
  5. What are the tools, resources, and associated costs?How will I secure these?
  6. What are the top three trends I’m experiencing that can help me gain strength and employable visibility?
  7. What steps do I initiate to prepare for the future? 
  8. Who else can I ask for support and advice?
  9. What is my personal deadline for making this decision?
  10. If needed, is there an alternative plan that can be quickly implemented?

Handling challenges productively makes one a stronger and more experienced professional. Needed resources may include a specialized certification, more professional contacts, less distractions, access to key individuals, more responsibilities, a new skill, etc.  Some colleagues have revealed to me that they simply need the confidence to take the first step.  

Whatever your situation may be, throughout this process calmly remember: Stay focused and you will succeed!  

Good luck, stay in touch and please feel free to contact me for career coaching or more information.


About Peggy Calhoun, ACFRE:

Peggy Calhoun, an Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive PCalhoun center for nonprofit excellence cropped(ACFRE), enjoys more than 35 years of advancing philanthropy, marketing and volunteerism.

Beginning her career as Executive Director of a crisis intervention agency serving three states, her extensive staff experience includes raising $3.7 million in nine months for an art museum, overseeing a $60 million national campaign for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and successfully concluding a capital campaign while increasing the endowment from $2.6 million to $55 million for The Salvation Army. 

Peggy has received the lifetime designation of the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE), a distinction earned by only 122 of the 33,000 members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). 

Peggy is a founding member and past president of the Broward Chapter of AFP, past president of the Gulfstream Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and a former board member of the Advisory Board of Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. 



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