After almost 10 years of being away from the non-profit world, at least in a full-time capacity, I decided to make myself available again. I am always game for new and challenging opportunities, mainly because I need to stay active, keep my mind going, and I crave intellectual stimulation. Making money is always good, but it’s mostly about the need to create, build, and enjoy the productivity.
Having a profile on LinkedIn affords me the opportunity to be blasted weekly with dozens of inquiries, sales pitches, and off-shore FANTASTIC BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES. But I do get around 10-12 communications a week telling me that “whoever” would like me to submit my resume as I would be a great fit for the position that they have posted. Most of the positions are either for Executive Director or Development Director, for which I have served in both capacities and each, obviously involves, what else, raising money!
I have been a fundraiser for almost my entire life, beginning in high school when I won the sophomore class candy sale. And in college, I raised tens of thousands of dollars to help cover costs and expenses for equipment and telephone lines for the campus radio station to be able to broadcast remote events.
After serving as the Vice President of a large recreation sports organization where I helped to raise large sums of money to pay for major improvements on the facilities, I began my career as a professional fundraiser. I worked at large non-profits like the Red Cross and Easter Seals, educational institutions like Bloomfield College, and smaller grass roots organizations like Literacy Volunteers. I have raised tens of millions of dollars.
You would think with that kind of background, and that kind of track record, some organization would want to grab onto me. And there HAVE been some. But most of the time it would come down to the “old regime” didn’t want to change what they were doing; or some less-experienced Executive Director was fearful that I was going take their job; or some Board President/Founder did not want to relinquish their blatant need for full control; or they didn’t want to actually pay me what I was worth.
During the months of Covid, there were a lot of non-profits in trouble and they would reach out. But, mostly, they would simply pick my brain or, rather, TRY to pick my brain, steal my ideas, and try to implement them without me. Good luck with that. It’s my charming personality that is the secret ingredient. And I am cute too!
Sometime in March, I got one of those communications asking for my resume. It was a non-profit after-school program in Newark, New Jersey and they needed a Development and Marketing Director, a position I held at the Red Cross. Months went by and I didn’t hear anything.
In the meantime, I got an inquiry from the Executive Director of a non-profit youth tennis organization based in Brooklyn, New York, but also active in Manhattan. I met with the ED four times, the first time by telephone, and three times via Zoom. She was a first-time ED, in the position less than a year, and had been plucked from the media business for her PR abilities. So no non-profit experience, and certainly no fundraising experience. And…she made it clear that they needed to raise the bar by $1 million for the upcoming year.
She also told me that we had the same thought process and that she had a good feeling about working with me. Although she confided in me that she wasn’t prepared to stay very long, she was uncomfortable in the position, and that I would be a good fit because I could then slide into the ED position when she left.
But then, crickets. Weeks went by and I didn’t hear from her. No response to calls, texts, or emails. Finally I received a phone message telling me that she was, in fact, leaving, and that the organization wanted someone who actually played tennis. I played tennis but, obviously, not on the level some other people play.
And what exactly does that have to do with raising money? I raised money for the American Red Cross…and I wasn’t in crisis. I raised money for Easter Seals…and I am not disabled. I raised money for Bloomfield College…and I was never a student there.
So a tennis player rather than an experienced and seasoned fundraiser who raised millions of dollars?
Soon after the ghosting of the tennis pros…I suddenly heard back from the ED at the after-school program in Newark. She told me, “I never thought you would even consider this position (Director of Development and Marketing) because you are way over qualified and I didn’t think we could pay you enough.”
She kept me hanging for four weeks during the summer months, never follow up when she said she would, constantly moving/cancelling calls, and giving me excuse after excuse. But…she finally pulled the trigger and hired me for September 1, 2022.
And it ended on December 18, 2022. It was the worst experience I have ever had in the non-profit world. And the non-profit world CAN be bizarre…dealing with so many differing wants, needs, desires, interests…of staff AND board members. But this was truly a mess.
Horrible communication. No protocols or policies adhered to. No follow-up and no follow-through. ZERO professionalism. And constant, CONSTANT lying. Everything you always want in great, charitable organization!
I have no patience for nonsense, disrespect, and dishonesty. Zero. So I completely shut down and just didn’t argue with the ED…just let her say and do whatever she wanted. I wasn’t wasting my energy on her ignorance and stupidity. And when she asked to speak with me right before the winter break, I was so excited…I couldn’t contain myself.
I was so glad it was over, but I also knew that she used me to get out of me what she needed before the fiscal year was up. She delayed my start until September 1, even though she found me, supposedly, back in March, and was trying to make me so miserable that I would quit (which I didn’t) before December 31.
One of the things I had realized was that this organization had some big local competition. It was another organization, with virtually the same name, operating in the very same neighborhood! And, guess what? THEY contacted me.
Well…actually…it was a recruiter who spoke with me for an hour. And, the pay was actually $50,000 higher than their competitor had been paying me so, yes, I was willing to listen. He told me how much he loved me (they all do…hey…I am a great and funny guy!) and wanted to push me along to the next step in the process. OK…great.
Turns out, there were FOUR additional steps and talking to him was not even the first. The first? Was talking to two board members, via Zoom, and doing a performance. A performance. They wanted me to make up and sing a song, do a dance, recite a newly written poem.
Are you fucking kidding me? The position is for Senior Director of Development. I am a fundraiser, not a fucking circus performer! What the FUCK does any of that have to do with raising money?
And…I told them that. And…within two minutes of me telling them that…I got a notice from LinkedIn about a job that had JUST been posted. FOR THEM! So if I was the ONLY candidate, and you had been searching for SO LONG for someone and finally settle on ME…why would you fuck with me? Why not just let me DO MY JOB AND WHAT I AM GOOD AT? Why do people have to wield power just so that they can feel superior?
Soon after that…an ED from another student-based performance organization in Princeton, New Jersey reached out and asked if she could speak to me. Fine. I set up an hour to speak with her. Again, it was a case of asking me about my strategies, how I did things to raise money. After about 30 minutes, I turned it around and began asking HER questions.
What did I find out? First-time ED, NO experience whatsoever, she was/is a performer who talked her way into the role and was looking for someone who could do the fundraising for her. The pay wasn’t great, but she chose not to bring me in because she said, “I know that with all of your experience you wouldn’t be satisfied with just being a Development Director.” Meaning…she was afraid I would steal her job.
Right before the end of the year, four different organizations all reached out in a one week period. I thought, perhaps, this is a sign that something is going to break…OR….it’s just more time spent that I will never get back.
The first was for Development Director for STEAMpark, an organization in Asbury Park, New Jersey that promotes cultural stimulation and education for youth.
It started off a little odd when the person who scheduled the first “interview” forgot, or someone forgot, and I was sitting twiddling my thumbs. Okay…I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs…but I CAN’T say what I WAS doing. Anyway, the first interview got underway a bit late and I had to take Erin and her cat, Ziggy, to the airport. And the interview is dragging on and Melissa is making faces.
What I came to realize is that the ad that they had posted said that the compensation was $50,000. But, I guess, that is because they had to put SOMETHING in that slot before posting, or, more likely, they didn’t want to cause anyone to go past their ad so they threw that in there. Because…BECAUSE…the JOB was for only 10 hours a week at $25 an hour.
So I was spending this time, WASTING this time…while Erin is panicking, Ziggy is restless, and Melissa wants to punch me in the face.
I suggest to the ED who was on the call, that we perhaps should talk about a situation where I can consult for them, and help them get to a position where they COULD ACTULLY PAY SOMEONE. Because, according to the ED, they were in a position where they couldn’t make payroll. But they want someone to come and raise, get this, an immediate $20,000, and then help them to raise a MILLION DOLLARS? For $250 a week?
So I did actually, agree to speak with the ED after she had provided her cell number. Her “assistant” set up a Zoom call and…she was late getting on the call. And then she lost the signal because she was in Colorado. So we finished talking by cell and she told me that she loved my ideas and that if I didn’t hear from her within a week, reach out to her.
And so I did…twice by text messaging…and twice by calling. And nothing. Not a single response. Ghosted. How professional.
The next prospect was for The King’s College, a Senior Development position in their Office of Advancement. The Manhattan-based school was conducting a search that began with someone who called me from Canada. He spoke with me for 45 minutes and told me that he was telling the HR specialist from the college that I was his lead candidate and that they should schedule the next call with me.
To his credit, HE checked in with ME and told me that he was surprised that the person hadn’t contacted me yet. He gave me her name and number and told me to expect a call in a day or so. Three weeks went by and nothing. He sent me an email stating that he was going on to another company and put me in touch with his replacement. The replacement then emailed me saying that the position was now on hold and that she would touch base when she had an update. Well, I guess there is no update.
The next prospect was for a regional Development Associate for Cross Catholic Outreach, a world-wide organization based in Boca Raton, Florida.
A recruiter in Florida contacted me and asked if I would be interested in fundraising position that was with a great organization trying to expand their outreach in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area. It was supposed to pay between $65-72 thousand and mostly remote. Sure, why not?
One day, out of the blue, I got a call from a number that I thought I recognized…and it was the woman who was actually from the organization. She had taken my information and took it upon herself to call me, bypassing the recruiter. She was in Florida, but talked about being a New Jersey native and told me that she loved all of my experiences that I had with non-profits.
Everything she said made the experience with the organization sound so good. And, then, came the responsibilities, and that every morning at 8 a.m. everyone gathers on a Zoom call for morning prayer, bible study, and a book club. What does any of this have to do with my abilities to raise millions of dollars? Sounds more like a cult.
Speaking of sound, the fourth prospect was for the Executive Director position of the Sound Start Foundation, the funding arm of the Sound Start Babies Program in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.
Again, I was contacted by a recruiter who was conducting a search for the position. And, again, this person was in Florida. I spoke first by phone, and then by Zoom, with the recruiter. She told me that she loved my thought process about fundraising and that I was an exceptional candidate for the position, unlike any of the other candidates for the position.
Why am I different? Because I am short and bald? Because I a vegetarian who loves lobster? Because I am a pain in the ass? WHAT makes me different?
So she does schedule me for a face to face with three board members and…lo and behold…she is there at a country club. I honestly was not into the interview at all, I was already in a horrible mood and it was an hour drive in traffic. But, I was my usual joking self…told my stories…presented my philosophies…and took my leave before the next candidate could walk in.
On my way to the car, the recruiter said, “You killed them. You were terrific. I love the way you command a room. I will call you later.”
She called me later and told me there was good news and bad news. The good news was that I was still in the running. The bad news was that they wanted to think about it for a week until their board meeting on Wednesday night.
Wednesday night came, and went. Nothing. Thursday, I didn’t hear anything…until 8:30 when the recruiter texted me saying that she was in a conference all day and that she would call me in the morning. Ugh.
So Friday morning, she finally called me. “Alan, I have good news and bad news.” Here we go again.
“The bad news is that, after a tough discussion, they chose someone else who just edged you out. The good news though, is that you have an opportunity to come and work with me at this organization.”
Really? And here we go…the pitch. She went on to try to sell me on coming on board with a firm that takes $6,500 up front as some kind of “registration fee” and then $1,500 a year membership fee after that just for the privilege of POSSIIBLY getting some leads on some POTENTIAL clients that you have to then woo and sell and get them to retain you.
You know what…I will see you all when Melissa and I are off driving in the Wienermobile. My bologna has a first name…