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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Nonprofit Field as a Profession
Michael Bacon

March, 2010

Recently, a member of our firm shared that her niece is considering entering the nonprofit world.   The young woman is graduating from college and asked Joyce’s advice on what she liked about her work with nonprofits.  Joyce then asked several of us to share our likes and dislikes about fundraising in the nonprofit arena.

As I read the responses from my colleagues, I realized that there are lessons here for all of us.  Some of these will make you smile and others will cause you to grimace because you know… you’ve been there before too!

Please add your own likes and dislikes and share your story with us.

What we like BEST about fundraising for nonprofits:

  • People who are passionate about serving others
  • Willingness to share what we have learned with one another
  • The joy of giving makes people happy and fulfilled
  • Knowing at the end of the day that you have made a difference
  • The people one works with in the organization and also development colleagues tend to have “giving” spirits, more so than in the for-profit world
  • Knowing specific examples of lives being changed is a great motivator
  • The field contains both “art” and “science” which makes for variety in working with donors, board members and other staff
  • Working for a “greater good” and knowing that lives are changed for the better by your efforts
  • Excellent field for women
  • Always interesting and challenging as boards, volunteers, and economics change
  • Working for a good cause
  • Colleagues
  • Creative challenges

What we like LEAST about fundraising for nonprofits:

  • After about five years I had to “gear myself up” for another gala or golf tournament
  • The stress of whether or not you’ll “make budget” and the weight of responsibility that comes with that
  • Working with volunteers who “are not on the same page” as you need them to be
  • The pressure to reach an arbitrary fundraising goal with no basis in reality and little input from the fundraising staff itself
  • When volunteers fail to do their jobs, you must pick up the ball
  • Many nonprofits have huge financial challenges
  • It takes time to achieve success
  • Lack of advancement potential at most non-profits
  • Lower pay than private sector; no financial incentives as in private sector (year-end bonuses, etc.)
  • Limited job opportunities in smaller cities
  • A lot of turnover in staff – people move jobs too frequently
  • Boards can create just as many problems for nonprofits as they can help solve problems
  • Sometimes funders/donors/foundations think they know better how to solve an issue because they have the money.  They forget that the staff at the nonprofit is in the trenches and working with that issue every day.
Michael Bacon is with Bacon Lee & Associates. You may learn more at


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