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The Job Tenure Myth

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It has become common lore that the average tenure of a fundraiser is 24 months. Is it true?

As an executive recruiter for advancement professionals, I have to say that the majority of resumes we receive for positions we represent, typically vice presidents, director of development or major gift officers, reflect this average.

24 – 30 months seems to be the average tenure of job-seekers in the field, distinct from that of non-job seekers. Non-seekers seem to average well into the 48+ months in tenure. It is the job of a search firm to find the non-job seekers and to convert their interest toward a new position.
There are, of course, many reasons for a short stint as a fundraiser. Sometimes you realize early on in your new position that you made a mistake and the fit is poor. It quickly becomes clear that the organization’s leadership, CEO and board, are not allies in development. I don’t know anyone who has not made this mistake.
Then there is the situation where you join a strong team and the team leader leaves. You have lost your mentor, perhaps, and the prospect for a good outcome grows dim as time goes on… time to find a more promising opportunity.
To be sure, sometimes we are victims of circumstance. But, if you find you are regularly not “lasting” in a development position for more than 30 months, perhaps you should take stock and try to understanding why this is so.
Ask yourself the tough questions:

  • Do you like to build relationships with people?
  • Do you know how to frame those relationships professionally so you can eventually do your job and ask people for a gift?
  • Do you write well and are able to communicate clearly and persuasively?
  • Do you have enough attention to detail and follow through?
  • Are you a good advancement officer but a lousy career builder? And finally,
  • Do you understand your personal mission – that drive that gets you up and raring to go in the morning – and is it aligned with the non-profit/charitable world in general, and the organizations where you seek employment in particular?

Increasingly, tenure is a very important career asset and will separate you from what is the job-seeking norm.
Your Takes…

  1. Take time to reflect on your personal mission and how it aligns with your career moves.
  2. Take stock in what is important to you in a job and pursue it.
  3. Be realistic about what kind of development officer you are and whether it works for you.

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Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.