8 years ago, I walked out of my fundraising office for the last time.
I clutched my grant folders, my bike helmet, and my dignity, and opened the door, with tears in my eyes.
It was hard.
Even though I had wanted to leave for a long time, when it actually came time to leave, it was hard.
For a long time, I tried to find a new fundraising job. I upped sticks and rolled down to Austin Texas to try to find a job down there. And wrote my first book (see below)
But despite writing a fundraising book, I couldn’t find a job.
I tried to fit myself into a mold that said I just wanted to serve one cause again.
But… I couldn’t really convince myself I wanted another fundraising job, and I think people could tell.
I had been betrayed too many times. Over and over again I had given my hours, my loyalty and my health to nonprofits that didn’t care about me.
I used to think that no boss was good. I used to think that I couldn’t trust anyone.
What is life like NOW, 8 years later?
I never could have imagined that after my fundraising job, I would be here.
- Running the Fundraising Career Conference
- Creating the Nonprofit Leadership Summit.
- Writing so many fundraising e-courses,
- Three books also!
- Hundreds of blog posts!
- Consulting clients for fundraising and nonprofit careers!
- Partnering with so many good people.
- Getting media and monetary sponsors for my events.
- Making new friends!
What changed? How did I get here?
Well, my beliefs have changed.
I got lucky. But I knew I had to partner, and not go it alone.
I have a thriving business. That is LARGELY due to people wanting to partner with me.
Do I work harder than I ever worked at a fundraising job?
Do I get to take a bikeride whenever I want to?
Do I get to travel more for work?
Yes! This year for example I will be going to Cuba, Colorado, Florida, and San Francisco to speak.
Is work more like play now?
Is my income less stable than before?
Yep. I never know how much I’m going to make from month to month.
It reminds me of this line from Ransom Riggs,
“Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares at the very same time.”
I didn’t set out to create this, but I’ve started to create a thriving community of fundraising friends.
Now I have fundraising friends I get to talk with and hang out with on a regular basis! And if we’re not talking friend stuff, we’re propping each other up, and helping each other out.
I also get to hang out with and talk with my family and friends a lot more too.
Here are some of us. There’s a lot of us!
Most of all, I get to help people change lives, every day.
It’s pretty fun!
If you’re thinking of leaving your fundraising job and starting to consult, here’s some advice.
- Having some money saved up will REALLY help you. I can hear your laughter. Saving? On a fundraising job? Hahahahaha. OK, well, if you don’t have savings (I didn’t) you can-
- Get unemployment for awhile if that’s an option for you (It was how I started my business, and helped me recover from the inevitable mistakes that I made as I started.) If this isn’t an option, then-
- Start consulting on the side before you quit your job. This works pretty well and in fact in my last 2 nonprofit jobs I did consult on the side before moving on. Check out idealist.org to find some nonprofits in your area to see if you can start doing some fundraising tasks with them.
- Think about what makes you different in fundraising. Are you good at certain fundraising tasks? Are you just curious about some fundraising tasks? If so, consider making that your focus. It’s hard to focus sometimes, and if you JUST do one sort of fundraising, you’ll be more of an authority that people will be willing to spend money on.
- What ELSE makes you different? Are you from a certain area? Do you have a certain background that could be useful to certain kinds of customers?
- Use this crucial difference as you begin to market your services. When you consider what domain name to buy, what twitter handle to get, how to start building your brand, these are all things that an stem from your key differentiator.
- Writing a book can help set you apart. You might think you have no time to write a book. You are wrong. You do have time to write a book. How can you make time? Go into a room with your notes, your ideas, and maybe a couple books about how to write a book. Crucially, you will NOT take your phone or computer into this room. Spend several hours each day on this task and your book will be done within 3 months.
I don’t coach people in how to become nonprofit consultants. Why? Just not what I’m choosing to focus on. But if you are someone who does this, please leave a comment, with your website or more about how you help people, so people can find you.