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Open Letter to New Development Officers

Dear Newer Development Officers:

A few weeks ago I posted an article about a "talent crisis" in fundraising. Many newer development officers move on before they have added sufficient value to the programs within their organization. In that article, I outlined how an organization could be prepared for this and some steps they could take to prevent it from happening or, at least, delay the departure for a while.

There are steps you also can take. I want to speak candidly about what it takes to be successful in this role, and in almost any role.

Development is remarkably rewarding. Bring your enthusiasm and creativity every day. Find that part of you that really is dedicated to the mission of your institution. Develop passion. Dig deep. Find real meaning in what you are doing, true devotion to the projects for which you are responsible and real zeal for your overall work. The mission should feel inspirational. If you look around and find that others don't share the passion, simply continue to concentrate and do your best on each responsibility. Your success will feed your passion which will feed your success, and on and on...

Believe that every contact you have will lead you to other contacts. Internalize that thought and really believe it. Over the years I have said that one gift is a magnet for others...and I believe that.

People often will tell me, " You know everyone." Well, I surely know many people and that comes because of the work I do and the passion that I have. Everyone needs to have dedication to their work and the ability to make an impact. Work so you really can change the world. I always believed that I could and, with others, I was able to make a great impact on research and increase excellence within the institutions where I worked. Together, we changed people's lives–who could ask for more in their work?

Dream big. Create large goals and work towards them every day. Others may doubt that you can do it, but that shouldn't dissuade you. Whatever you believe, you can achieve, so work towards that dream. Set goals for the day, the week, the month, the year...and the years. You can build a wonderful portfolio of experiences and successes. Will there be mistakes along the way? Sure. Remember them and grow from them. You are not the sum of one hour or one day or one project, so don't let these things bother you. Keep going. And take your emotional intelligence with you wherever you go.

Build Relationships. Get to know others in your department, in related departments, in the overall system of your organization. Get to know people within the community–other development officers, other leaders, other individuals. Network nationally. Look at every event or meeting as an opportunity to expand your network–perhaps these are people you can help in some way in the future. Perhaps some of these people will help you or eventually be your prospects, your board members, your donors or, simply and most importantly, your friends.

Seek out people who can be your mentors. People who can help to guide you in some way when you are trying to figure things out, when you need a note of encouragement, when you want to share excitement. Network with enthusiasm for the future. Make it a way of life.

Use ingenuity when you work–get things done before they are due. Mark your success by always staying in front of the wave. Be bold and enthusiastic.

As you become more and more comfortable with your job, position yourself to take on more responsibilities. When someone asks you if you can do something, say "yes." Then determine how you are going to do it and get it done. Build your courage every day.

Commit. Stay within your organization for as long as you can and work hard to make that impact. What are your achievements? Articulate them for yourself, your supervisor and your resume. Ensure that you secure contributions for important reasons–secure as many as you can. Do it as early as you can within the year. Leave room to exceed your goals and assume additional responsibilities. Anticipate what else is needed and reach high to get those things done. When you have mastered one job, reach for the next level. Learn with everything you do. Don't look back, except to measure your successes and evaluate what you need to do today.

I have loved my job every day–and I still do. I love the people with whom I get to work, the people with whom I get to dream, the people with whom I get to create some amazing things. Visualize success and make it happen.

The small sapling above was nurtured over the years and developed into a mature tree. Work with Heart. Bring value. You have the control.

When you are in an organization that you love, you can do many things. But I readily acknowledge that sometimes the environment just isn't helping, and it truly may be time to leave. Within the next weeks, I will be posting on that particular issue.


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