In Part 1 of this series, we covered the topic of using your personal power properly. Today, in Part 2, I want to suggest how you should think about advancing your position in fundraising.

I have seen it happen so many times. A very successful person, bored with the familiarity of their job and plagued by many conflicting desires, looks for another place in the organization, maneuvers into that other role, and is miserable after they get there. In major gifts, Jeff and I often see a very successful MGO decide that they must become the program manager for major gifts. That’s a big leap!

Why do we do this? Why is it we just have to move to another position, usually setting our sights on moving up?

There are some very good reasons to seek out a promotion, such as:

  1. You really do have more to contribute – better ways to put your skills and abilities to good use in the organization. I say “really do” in the sentence above because not only do you think this is true, but others do as well. (Don’t just go by your own opinion on this one).
  2. The organization needs you to help in new ways.
  3. The two items above are true, and you need (not want) more money.

On the other hand, many people are motivated by the following, which should be a red flag:

  1. You want (not need) the money.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen a person who, wanting more money, gets into a job position that does not fit them, performs miserably, fails, and then loses not only the job they so brilliantly got, but also loses the platform of respect and honor (and the position) they originally had. This happens more than you know, and it’s a tragic situation.

  2. You want recognition.

    This one is tricky. Because recognition is not all bad. In fact, one of the key attributes of good sales and good creative people is that they love to get results through their own efforts, they love to self-express, and they love and need the attention and recognition of others. This is good. When interviewing for these types of positions, I always try to discern if the person is satisfied with being one of many in their group, or do they need to be a key contributor? If they are satisfied being one of many, they will not succeed in their job as a frontline fundraiser.

    A critical attribute of a good salesperson (read: frontline fundraiser) is that they, motivationally, need to stand out from the group and they desire to be a key contributor. So, this is good. But where this goes bad is when the person is so hungry for recognition, they cannot see the limits of their abilities and they cannot respect and honor others. They will do almost anything to gain recognition, including taking over the job duties of another person, grabbing the credit for something well done even though it does not belong to them and, generally, almost like a child, demanding attention, demanding a place, pushing their opinion on others, insisting they be included in a meeting, etc. It’s tiring to watch and experience, believe me. This is where you do not want to go.

  3. You want more authority and power.

    And not because you want to increase your service to others and the organization. You want it because it makes you feel good and you need to be in charge, controlling and directing others.

    I just experienced a situation where a person is in such a position. This person desires more recognition. They like the feel of authority and power. And they are totally out of their depth in terms of ability. They are so far away from their true authentic self – they are so far away from the use of any skill or ability they have that, if it weren’t so tragic, it would be like watching a comedy. One gaffe follows another. The person dominates meetings yakking away about total nonsense. But then, trying to follow my own advice, I looked at the person through compassionate eyes and saw a human being that is simply lost – a person who so desperately wants to be valued, loved, and accepted that they just cannot help themselves. It’s really sad.

So, if you’re making enough money, you’re happy in your job, and your boss is also happy with your work, why worry about another position unless you can contribute more in another area or the organization needs you to help in another capacity?

Someone might say: “Richard, you seem to be saying that a person should never desire or strive to move ahead in their career either with the organization they are with or with a new organization. Is that what you are saying?”

No, not at all. I am talking about the heart and motivations behind the desire to advance, NOT the actual act of advancing, which is good. In fact, if no one wanted to advance in life, we would stagnate into a non-productive, zero progress, low-energy place of the status quo. And that would be terrible. No, I don’t mean that.

Here is what I do mean.

If you have unrealized potential and can use that potential (those skills and abilities) to serve others exceptionally; if you see an area in the organization you’re currently working for or another organization where you know you could make a difference by contributing your skills and abilities; or if you need more money to live comfortably plus one or both of the previous statements are true, then go for it with gusto energy and determination.

I call this kind of motivation for advancement an “others-focused” reason, because your key motivator is about how much more you can do for others.

If, instead, your motive is about gaining recognition, power, and authority, and the points above do not apply, then stay where you are.

You are obsessing about the wrong stuff. And if you let it play out, you will get yourself into trouble. I call this reason for advancing a “self-oriented” reason, because your key motivator is about making yourself feel powerful.

While it’s easy to write about these two orientations (others versus self) here, it can be complex to actually apply the principles embodied in them because there is always a little bit of self in everything we do, no matter how “others-focused” we become.

But my major point here is to manage your motivations for moving up and to focus those inner drives on others. When you can tip the balance from self to others, then you begin to experience true happiness and fulfillment in your life.

In Part 3 of this series, we’re going to get into the role of money. Stay tuned. This will be fun.


This is Part 2 of a three-part blog series: The role of Power, Position, and Money

Read Part 1: The Role of Power, Position, and Money in Frontline Fundraising
Read Part 3: How Much Does Your Salary Matter? The Role of Power, Position, and Money