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"What, me, ask for a raise?" An interview with Marc Pitman

1 February 2016


 February 1, 2016
Marc Pitman

Mazarine Treyz: Hey, everybody. Welcome. This is Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising and I am so pleased to have with us today Marc Pitman, who some of you may already know as the fundraising coach. He had been doing incredible work with nonprofits around the country and around the world for years and years, and Marc has never spoken for me before. It’s so exciting to finally get to work with him. Marc is going to be speaking, and I’ll be speaking as well, about how to get a raise or salary increase at your nonprofit fundraising job. So I’ll just lead in with this week I talked with a fundraiser who had a salary increase after six years from $18,000 to $20,000.

Marc Pitman

Marc Pitman: Whoa.

MT: Right? And when I tried to help a fundraising friend negotiate for her last fundraising salary, she took the first thing that they offered. Now she’s in a grant funded job for $35,000 a year with no raise in sight. So how can we get a higher salary or rate when we’re in an environment that doesn’t value fundraising or what we bring to the table? So to answer this question, we’ve decided to offer a session on raise and salary negotiation at the fundraising career conference April 6 – 8, 2016. Marc has agreed to do a wonderful session on this. So first of all, I’m just going to skip to the second question here, Marc. Who are you and what do you do?

MP: I do not know. No, I am a passionate believer that people have incredible potential and I help to untap that potential. Most people, like you said, know me from I’ve had clients in the last four years say, “Yeah, fundraising is good, but you have other skills and we want you to help us with our staff relations, our organizational relations, our board relations.” So I’ve just been in the process of exploring with the people that have hired me, what is that called? So we’re calling it the conquer leadership group which oversees the executive organizational coaching,, and is because I believe that it’s just not right that the best fundraising training only goes to the people with the biggest budgets. I think everybody should have access to it. So with, it’s a lower subscription rate and I get to open up my rolodex to really cool people like you and have different webinars, fresh webinars every month and fresh coaching calls and a 24 hour support forum. So yeah, I like helping people and I love the people that are called and compelled to work in nonprofits and special causes like we get to. It’s really fun.

MT: Oh man, I love that. You know, when I did a webinar for you for Nonprofit Academy, that actually started our whole conversation about empowering people in their careers. It was on what you do in your first 90 days in your fundraising job. I’m really, really glad that you chimed in with – and people don’t realize how raises and salaries can be negotiated. Then you have this wonderful example. I was like, oh my gosh, would you teach that? You were like, okay.

MP: Exactly, right? That’s true. That’s the funniest thing, Mazarine, is that the cobbler’s kids just don’t wear shoes or don’t have good shoes. It’s partly that, even though I love helping other people discover that, I rely on other people. I don’t know if you do this, but I read a book, I think it was C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley, that said look at the people who are commenting on your stuff, have the highest click through rates, do the comments, take the time to comment on social media, retweet you, comment on your blog, and corral those people. Those are your inner actors. That’s your group. I didn’t know what to call them, but I have a group of people that I call like an advisory team or something. So I go back to them. When I was in the process of what is my company morphing into, I was able to go back to them and just say, “You guys have been around for a long time with me. Some people since I’ve been blogging, since I started speaking in 1999. So you know me, you know my character. What resonates with you? Does anything come to mind?” And one of the people I was talking to yesterday said he was just so blown away that I’m still in that feedback space, that I’m still willing to get feedback. But just like you just did in that call a little while ago, where you said, “Well, that’s really good.” That technique you use.

What’s annoying to me, I think in our space, is that fundraising is – for fundraising in particular but nonprofits also – is that we are so under – I don’t know if it’s because we’re accepting lower salaries or expecting them, or if it’s just because it’s just a different field. I think we’re really shortchanging ourselves. In 2003, I moved back to Maine. I’d had six capital campaigns under my belt at that time. So I knew I had been successful. One miserable failure, five real successes, and so I knew I had incredible value to add to a development operation. When I went to Maine, people were eager and thrilled and excited to offer me jobs that were paying me less than I made right out of college. I mean, there’s such a disconnect. And it wasn’t that they needed to pay – they’re not responsible for the fact that I got married and had kids and that my kids like to eat. It’s not like I’m not saying that it’s their responsibility for my life’s choices and my expenses. But there is demonstrated value on my career path that they were not willing to enumerate, or they were just so out of touch with what that value is. Do you find that too, in the nonprofit space?

MT: Yeah, definitely. In 2009, I started my business partially because I couldn’t get anyone to hire me, and I had plenty of demonstrated value. But what I found was during that time, people were hiring executive directors, former executive directors instead of development people for development jobs. As well as they were hiring consultants, or they just weren’t hiring at all. Because it was a buyer’s market. So it was like, oh God, everybody wants a job. Where I live in Portland, Oregon, and I moved away from and came back, a lot of people want to live here. So it keeps the wages low, $10, $15 an hour even for a great deal of fundraising work. I met a guy a couple of months ago who was making the same amount as I made ten years ago here in 2005. I’m like, jeez, $35K a year, that kind of sucks but nothing has changed. And he’s got tons of experience and a really good fundraiser. So yeah, I wonder why.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MP: Well, what was weird about 2008 was that nonprofits were so – sometimes, bless our hearts, we’re so messed up in our thinking. Some of it was justified, I understand. But in 2008 when the market fell apart, nonprofits, their way of regrouping often was firing their fundraisers at the time they needed them the most. We’re so messed up or misguided in our thinking about what’s program and what’s mission and what’s not, that we fire the people that are bringing in the gas to put in our car. Fortunately, we have the studies now. [unintelligible 00:11:18] have reported that the companies or the nonprofits that invested in fundraising or kept at it, didn’t stop fundraising, were the ones that actually recovered more quickly than the ones that cut their fundraisers and marketing staff. It makes sense. There are a lot of fundraisers that are just underperforming and not doing good work, and there are plenty that are being measured well. I think some of it was necessary. Executive directors and the board breathed a sigh of relief because they finally had a reason, excuse, to let their staff go.

But I think a lot of it was this misguided idea that the revenue generating part of the mission isn’t really the mission. The service isn’t with donors. The service is with whatever our other stuff is, and just the total disconnect that, well, without the donors we don’t have any mission. We can’t fund it or we can’t do it as well with the efficiency or the scope. It’s incumbent on us to tell that story better, I think, as prospective employees and people in our career. So that’s what we’re going to talk about in the conference is taking leadership of your career path. I’m shocked with this employee mentality of people expecting stuff to be done for them. It’s sort of like, well, parents fed me. Then teachers assigned me homework and coaches gave me practice times. Well, there’s got to be a time where you just stand up for yourself and realize, if nobody’s going to do this, I’ve got to do it myself and it’s my life. I get to write what my example of success is, and if I like what I’m seeing modeled, awesome. I can do that.

But if not, those of us in North America, anyway – and many other developed worlds – we’ve got a ton of options available to us and they’re not all about higher salaries, necessarily. It could be more flexibility. It could be project based work so that we have times like – some people, instead of putting retirement off for 60 years, they’re doing module-ized kind of retirement where they’ll work for a period of time, save up some money, and take six months to a year sabbatical. Then do another spurt. I mean, there’s so much flexibility in our lives now in the 21st century, but it’s not going to be handed to us. We need to stand up and take ownership of that. So that’s what I think getting a raise is all about. It’s defining how do you measure success, and then there are some really, really great ways that you can communicate it to people too, which is really fun.

MT: Yeah, I love that.

MP: Should I leave that as a tease or should I. . .

MT: It was so beautiful. No, no. I mean, and one of the things that you said when we were doing the other session together was like, oh, what a good thing to say to get a raise. Most nonprofiteers never say this one thing, and what a game changer just to say this phrase. I know in other nonprofit fundraising jobs I’ve been in, I’ve been there for over a year. The raise conversation never came up. I didn’t bring it up in the beginning either, and that was one of the things that you did. So one of my questions I was going to ask you is, you know, some of our listeners have been struggling to get a raise after years of fundraising. Why do you think this is? We talked about that a little bit. You know, sellers market, things like that. Maybe devaluing our work, right?

MP: Absolutely.

MT: Yeah, yeah. But you know, you’re right when you say that we’re all part of the same nonprofit and without us, the work doesn’t happen. We have a program, just like everyone else runs their own program. So your nonprofit is made of your people. It’s not made of just your mission, and if your people are gone, your mission can’t move forward.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MP: The natural inclination is not to see how you can increase your expenses. So nobody’s really going to be putting it on their calendar. No manager that I know of is putting it in their calendar to invite the pay raise increase conversation. And it’s not because they’re mean. It’s not because they’re greedy. It’s because they’ve got a million other things to do, and the person that’s most interested in the pay raise is you. You need to take leadership of that conversation too, and just saying, “I want a raise.” I mean, the number one reason people make a donation is because they’re asked. The same with raises. I had one colleague sold a firm, joined another firm as an employee, and in the contract they had stipulated a salary but no cost of living increase, and found out that meant the firm years later was still paying him the same salary when he initially had joined the firm. It was not going to go up because they said they had no contractual obligation to.

So I mean, there are some gotchas out there, but a lot of people aren’t that gotcha. A lot of people are more invested in their employees. But if things are going well, they’re not going to invite an expense increase. So part of what people need to look at – I know my first job, my second position, actually. After I had the conversation that you’re referring to, my next boss told me this particular organization had steps of salaries and ranges within the steps. There were specific descriptions for what constituted the next promotion. Because I had another promotion question with him. He said, you know, “For you, Marc, the next level of getting you a pay increase. Right now you’re in this particular band of pay and there’s a low end and a high end. I’ve bumped you up pretty close to the highest part of that band. To get to the next band, I need to give you someone to manage and I don’t have that ability right now. We don’t have that in our office.”

It was interesting because I didn’t necessarily want that. So it was an interesting juxtaposition, but to know. And part of what I did, I think I shared this with you, is that for my Masters in organizational leadership, my research project was studying boarding schools and seeing how did they explain salary and benefits to faculty to retain the ones they wanted to keep. Every organization needs to be regularly culling through their underperformers and underachievers because it kills morale. If you have people that are just doing time, punching the clock and not contributing to the team, that brings everybody down. So there’s a healthy aspect of churn. People move and there are other reasons. You should always have some level of turnover.

But there were some faculty members in boarding schools that would just leave because it’s a tough gig. You’re coaching. You’re living in a dorm. You’re teaching. It’s very demanding 24/7 in a way that very few positions are. So what we found in the study was that there was a slight indication that when you were clear on what your pay raises were, if you coach you’re going to get an extra some. Or this is the next level. If you get this advanced degree, you’re going to move up to the next step. When that was figured out, those schools retained the faculty they wanted to retain. More clearly, when it was a don’t ask don’t tell sort of salary thing, it was just this murky black box that nobody really knew if they could talk about. That became harder to retain faculty because they just didn’t know how to have that conversation, so they left. Really good people were leaving. It was really sad.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MT: Wow, that is so interesting. I almost wish the people at the next level conference could hear you as well, with this. Because you’re speaking to the senior leadership that they need to have this conversation among themselves.

MP: It feels so awkward at first. There’s a great – I think it was on NPR or Planet Money. Planet Money did an interview. There were firms that are just talking openly. Like one firm has a Google doc of what everybody gets paid. It’s just open to everybody, so there’s no question. If you want a pay raise, you can talk about it and see what responsibilities or whatever that you might need to do. But yeah, and it’s tough for people to move into that, because people that are hiring, they’re always lowballing the salary and seeing what’s the least amount someone will accept for the job.

I offended one guy that was hiring me at a hospital in Maine. After 100 job resumes sent out, interviews and joint venture proposals in one year when I moved to Maine, I finally found a hospital that was willing to pay me much closer to my market value, which I was really impressed with that they were willing to invest in that. But when he offered me the position and he told me what the salary and benefits were, and I said, “This sounds great.” I said, “I have one question for you.” He said, “Okay, go for it.” I said, “Am I leaving money on the table by accepting this?”

MT: Ooh.

MP: He got a little offended by that. But I didn’t know if I didn’t ask, and it turns out I had negotiated – I got like eight weeks of vacation. There were some good things that I got. But it was one of those – I’m a fundraiser. I don’t know.

MT: Right, got to negotiate.

MP: As a coach I learned that if you ask permission to ask a tough question, it lessens the blow somewhat. So you could ask, you know, “Can I ask a potentially awkward question?” And at least they’ll be in a different space if they say yes.

MT: Because they agree to this conversation.

MP: Right.

MT: Oh, man. Okay, so other salary negotiation story. Okay, so I know this person who’s trying to get hired by the Red Cross. They’re not a fundraiser. It’s a different position. But the job was advertised at low 40s, and then he went to the first interview and they said high 30s, and then he went to the second interview and they’re like, low 30s. So he’s like, do you mean $32,000 is the salary for this job? The guy looks down that’s interviewing him, and is like, “Uh, yeah, that’s right.” So I hear you when you say people try to see what they can get away with. Nonprofits try to see what they can get away with as much as businesses do.

MP: We all do. Most of us know that WalMart isn’t the best socially responsible way to buy groceries and food, but it fits our budget. So that’s why they’re still a big retailer. There’s all sorts of ways that we do this. So it’s not just that management is greedy or senior leaders are bad people. It’s just human tendency. But being open and realizing that that’s part of the game, and just choosing to see it as a game and not as a personal affront. It’s just like no nonprofit is going to just magically get funded because they’re doing good work. No employee is magically going to get a raise because they’re doing good work. We need to be able to be spokespeople for ourselves.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MT: So what I’m hearing you say is that one mistake people make over and over with their raise conversation is just not even having it.

MP: Yeah, that’s the biggest mistake. Then I think the second close corollary is the result of that is either low grade frustration that turns into this really awful attitude, because they’re not getting valued or they’re not being paid what they’re worth. But it’s because they haven’t brought up the conversation. Or the other side is an over-assumptiveness of damn it, give me a pay increase, without any understanding. My fundraising book, Ask Without Fear, I have a chapter on Put Yourself in Their Shoes. So it’s just putting yourself in the shoes of the boss. What would make it easy for them to justify to whoever they need to justify a pay increase, a salary increase that’s going to go on forever as long as you’re there? Is it having people that you report to? Is it taking on a new project? What else is there that will make it ridiculously easy for them to explain why they’ve decide to pay you more money. Sometimes it’s actually more time. Sometimes it’s just repositioning the way you do things and managing the impressions of how you’re doing things. It’s a moving target. It’s not a one size fits all kind of answer.

MT: Right, right. Some of us do ask and don’t get. But a lot of us don’t. So what do you wish more people realized about getting a raise in fundraising? We’ve been talking about this. One thing people should realize.

MP: I guess part of it is, do you really feel you’re worth that raise? It’s similar, again, since we’re talking fundraising. I was just at an event where honorees were given $10,000 and one honoree was also chosen for an additional $25,000. There was ten in the nation who received this honor this year. So the group came to me, the nonprofit founder and one other person, and said, “So how do we fundraise now? It’s December, the time of the event. How do we do this? We’ve just received $35,000.” Which may well be more money than they’ve received ever. I said, “Well, are there more homeless children that need exceptional birthday parties in their homeless shelter?” Yeah. Well, you have a moral obligation to keep fundraising then until every kid has – until your mission is filled. Every kid in a homeless shelter has an exceptional birthday party. Oh, that’s true. But, I said, “You’re going to have to keep convincing yourself. You’re going to have to talk to the steering wheel and say, ‘Why do we have to raise money when we just received $35,000?’ Oh, right.” And, I said, “Make it a person. Until every Adam or every Angela or every whatever, Shavon, has a birthday party.”

But for us as our own, it’s what do we want out of life? Is it flexibility? Is it income stability? Is it more to retirement? Is that a way that people could pay? Would that be an acceptable pay raise? Then why do we think we’re worth it? What are the ways that we’re proving to ourselves? And it may be a perfectly silly thing. Like for me, my first book, I needed to get published by a publisher. Self-published books make more money for the typical published book for the author, but for me, I needed that outside verification. Being a coach, I was told I had coaching qualities before I was officially a coach. But I still needed to go through a certification for my own internal belief system. So I internally could have that posture of yeah, yeah, this I who I am. So figuring out what’s that yeah? What are those things that you need for your own credibility? Is it getting your ACFR? Is it getting your Masters? Is it starting to teach programs locally so that people in the community look back to your boss and say, “I’m so glad that this person is fundraising for you because she’s helping all of us.” Or donors are saying, “I’m so glad that she’s training because she’s protecting donors from really bad asks.” That’s part of what I get to do is keep donors protected from people that are asking really poorly.

But so I guess what I wish people knew was that. What are the internal criteria they have for justifying the conversation? Because when you start believing that in yourself – and it feels a little weird because we’re often taught not to brag. We’re taught not to think too highly of ourselves, and there’s good reasons for that. We should always remain humble, I think. But part of humility isn’t being a doormat. There’s nothing wonderful about being a doormat, and nothing is going to be accomplished in this world except people’s feet scrape on you if you’re a doormat. So humility is knowing what you’re strong at, too, and being able to accept that you’re really good at this. These three things that I do in my job, I’m really, really good at. That’s something you can be proud of, and it’s okay to be proud of that sort of thing.

MT: I love that. Wow. So this is some of what people are going to be learning when they come to your session. Oh, wow. This is incredible.

MP: Who wouldn’t want to know this stuff?

MT: I know, right? This could be the difference between $100,000 to $400,000 or $500,000 for you over the course of your life.

MP: Exactly.

MT: This is incredible information and you can just help people start to have this conversation, as well as actually have it and then follow up.

MP: So it could be a different of $400,000 or $500,000 over your life, or it could be a difference of knowing your kids or not knowing your kids if that’s something that’s of value to you. It could be a difference of traveling the world or not traveling the world. It’s easy to do quantifying the dollars, which are legit, but there are other lifestyle choices that you may have that this could be that. I did not know. I kind of wish I had known, but I wanted to get out of the job. That people take leaves of absence. A lot of organizations have an option that is still awkward to ask for, but you can take leave and just go to do something else for six months, eight months, a year. Often it’s around political campaigns, but it could be anything. I didn’t know that that was an option to explore, and I kind of wanted out of the job I was in when I joined a political campaign anyway. But so knowing this could be the difference between loving your life or living with loads of regrets and frustrations.

MT: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. That’s something you have to think about. You know, if your job isn’t actually supporting the lifestyle that you want. For a lot of us in fundraising, it’s not. I know I was consulting on the side just to make more money when I had a full time fundraising job. I know a lot of other fundraising jobs now are trying to have no compete agreements and things like that so that you can’t do that. But one of the biggest questions people have had for me as I’ve been doing this conference, is well, how do they become a successful consultant or fundraising coach or things like that? There’s so many different ways to slice that. But I think if people had the raise conversation, or the salary negotiation conversation up front, they wouldn’t necessarily need to consult if they’re not necessarily suited for that. It’s like having two jobs. It really makes you a bit crazy. I’ll be honest. You don’t give your best to either thing if you’re trying to have a business and work full time. It just splits you.

MP: I’ll take issue to that. I didn’t find that to be the truth myself.

MT: Okay, great.

MP: In fact, in Salt Lake City just recently I said – I think it was in Salt Lake City. I told people, I said, “If your staff is doing consulting on the side, celebrate that because it’s making them a better employee.” So for my example was that at one position, I was writing about blogging. I’ve been blogging since 1999. But I was blogging about writing databases, how to do database research for beginners, sort of. How do you find out who your typical donor is? Then I realized, I haven’t done this. I’d been in the position two and a half, three years. I had done all the demographic studies in my community. But I hadn’t actually looked at who my donors were. That was the difference of a World War II generation widow who I was writing to. Edith was her name, I called her. I was writing my fundraising appeals to her. But I found out my donors were boomers. It was 45% men and 55% women.  But it was a very different fundraising appeal to write, and for two and a half years I’d been doing okay but I wasn’t writing to the right group.

So my consulting and my blogging and all helped me to be smarter at my own work. Part of owning your own business, I find, helps you figure out what’s really important. I’m not a big water cooler chat person unless my goal is to develop a relationship, because that’s not moving the needle. You figure out what’s moving the needle. Oh, in a fundraising job, raising money is moving the needle. So what moves that needle? Building relationships with donors and not just the people you enjoy. I’m working with one client who as a previous major gifts officer filled up her assignment portfolio with people she enjoyed hanging out with, not people of networking worth. They’re people of inherent worth, but not people of financial means. So she was actually squandering donors’ money by just traveling around meeting people that she enjoyed. She wouldn’t have seen it that way. She raised money. I don’t think she saw it as a breach of ethics. But you know as a consultant, if you’re self employed, you only eat what you produce. So that helps focus your energies in your paid job, too, of is this really going to help? I don’t know, it makes you think smarter, I think.

MT: No, I think you’re right, actually. I take it back. If you can manage to have a client and do your job, you can really find out what you’re good at in fundraising. You can also learn more. When I was consulting, I wasn’t blogging to begin with. Back in 2004, 2005, I didn’t have a website. I didn’t have any of that. Then I got a full time job after starting to consult, and other different full time jobs. Then I kept consulting on the side a little bit.

MP: I would say that you shouldn’t be trying to get jobs from your donors, or gigs. So for me, my blogging was my way of consulting because I’ve always had a speaking and coaching model. So I was doing phone based coaching, which could have been anywhere in the world and still can be, and speaking at conferences. So I wasn’t trying to – and what I found was that that improved my stature with my jobs. People realized, oh, Marc is getting featured at this conference because he’s doing a breakout session. Maybe he’s got more street cred than we know. Because it’s face it, Mazarine. Most of the fundraisers in their nonprofits are the weirdos in the group. They actually like asking for money. They like talking to people. They’re not afraid of that, and nobody gets what they do.

So if we’re doing some of this stuff, there’s ways that we can choose what we do so we can improve the impressions that people get about our own professionalism. Because if we try to be a team player, like I tracked my time with the hospital. I found out that about 40% of my time was in internal management meetings because I was just being a good team player. I had asked at one point, “Could I work four ten hour days and get a three day weekend? Because I’ll be just as effective and I’d love the flexibility.” And they had just said they were going to go to that model as [unintelligible 00:35:05], and the CEO said, “Marc, you’re the only person fundraising in the hospital and I just can’t do that for appearances. It just wouldn’t look right.” At least he told me why, but I kept track of my times that they said, “You’re not raising enough money.” I could look back and say, “Well, then let’s look at the management meetings that I’m in. They’re not moving any needle. They’re internal leadership things. It’s nice that we have team camaraderie. It’s really good that I’m learning about infection rates and stuff, but really. My time is better spent in front of donors or writing copy for letters. So which meeting do you not want me at?”

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MT: Exactly. Did they get it when you said that?

MP: Oh, no. That conversation didn’t happen because I ended up leaving for a political campaign at that point. But I had it there, because he had given me enough crap about, “Well, I wish we saw some of that fundraising prowess here.” I mean, they get intimidated. When you do a certain amount of professional development, they do get intimidated. So my books coming out intimidated the tar out of my employers. They just didn’t know what to do, and it made me unemployable, actually. I don’t know if you found that.

MT: Yes, yes I did, actually.

MP: People get scared then. Instead of hiring the smartest people at their job and letting them loose in your organization, they got scared that I was overqualified. And I’m not. I was just trying to help people in a way that was bigger than my time schedule. More people can read a book than can talk to me in a day. So I created a book. A book is imminently cheaper than hiring me. So it was something to help volunteers. But one of the unintended consequences was it really intimidated insecure people in the hierarchy. A lot of other people were supportive and celebratory. But the people that were responsible for my career path in that healthcare system, as a matter of fact, got pretty intimidated.

MT: You know, it’s so funny when people get intimidated by you writing a book. Because like, it could be blank pages. It could be gibberish. It’s just a book. You haven’t read it.

MP: Yeah, in a digital age it’s so amazing how the print book still has so much street cred. So I would not say don’t write a book. I’m a big fan of publishing, still. Well, of writing books. Not necessarily the publishing industry. But you have to know, measure the cost. If you’re looking to stay at an employed job, speaking at conferences and being noted on boards of associations is really smart. That’s something that internal organizations, nonprofits can respect and understand. But then you need to know that if you start doing things like publishing books, depending on the confidence and security of your own supervisor or the executive director, CEO, you’ll quickly start exposing insecurities in them if you keep being the best that you can be.

MT: It’s so true. I went for a job interview back in 2009, and I brought my book with me. I’m like, “Hey, I’m Mazarine Treyz. I’d really love to work for you. Blah, blah, blah, here’s a book I wrote and here’s why I think you’re great and here’s what I could do for you.” At the end of the interview, one of the people said, “Well, you seem great.” I’m like, “Ouch, did I really just sell myself and not sell why I wanted to work for you?” I guess it’s a learning, you know, but I also felt like they were intimidated that I had a book. They didn’t need to be. But like, there you are.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MP: So with one job, I had made a CD. My first product was a CD that I recorded, and I brought it intentionally, Mazarine, so they’d know that I’m not giving up the fundraising coach stuff. I’d love to work for you. I think this is a great opportunity. I am not going to co-opt this, because even then – this was a little more than ten years ago – organizations were already starting to do this non compete stuff, or no moonlighting. To me, can I swear on this interview?

MT: Yeah, go ahead, do it.

MP: I think it’s bullshit that an organization would say that. What I do in my own non-employed time is none of their business.

MT: Yes.

MP: I couldn’t stand it at Starbucks when I was right out of college and they were giving me a schedule more than a few days for the next week in advance. They could have scheduled our entire staff for the month and let us have some predictability. But they had this – it felt like a Machiavellian desire to control our lives and lead with instability by constantly changing things up. I wasn’t a manager. I do not know what they were being measured on. But I just knew the instability it created in my life, and it felt like they have no right to control my schedule like this. I feel that with employers too. They can’t tell me what I can do. As long as I’m meeting my targets – and that’s the hard thing with fundraisers. Most managers understand butts in seats. If I see you in your office, I know you’re doing your work, which is totally wrong. You could be playing Solitaire, but whatever.

But for fundraisers, we have hard metrics. To me, if we’re meeting our goals – let’s be adults about it. Let’s establish what the goals are, and if they’re only fundraising goals, I’ll push back. If it’s only money in the door, you could slash and burn and not have any sustainable fundraising because you just had a good year and you just ticked off a lot of people but you got gifts. So let’s talk about sustainable philanthropy. But if we’re meeting those goals, then why are you bent out of shape that I’m going to a conference and actually getting better at it so I can meet the goals more effectively? Why are you bent out of shape that I may be speaking to another board about fundraising tactics and raising the status of our nonprofit in the community because we attract experts? Sorry, I didn’t realize I had a soap box there. But boy, I got on it.

MT: Oh, no, no. Man, it’s the best. No, seriously. This is what happened with my old job. It’s like my boss wanted me to be in the seat. He had this little thing where he’s like, “Why was I the only one here at 7:00 last night?” And I’m just like, “I don’t know, because you couldn’t get your work done by 5:00?”

MP: Because you have really awful work habits? Yeah, right?

MT: Yeah, and he’s like, “Everybody should just be here all the time.” I’m like, “Can I go out and see donors?” He’s like, “No, I want you to be here to answer the phone.” I’m like, “No one is calling me. They’re calling the front desk. I need to go out.” I didn’t say it in that whiny tone of voice, but you know what I mean, right?

MP: Well, it blows my mind. That’s why I love working with CEOs and boards, increasingly love. I originally got into it and worked in a lot of development, kind of went through a social media teaching phase. But I’m moving back to my center which is CEOs and boards, and just letting boards know it’s scary, but it’s going to be okay. Not seeing them is actually a good thing, and yes, somebody’s going to leave a voicemail. And I had to ask one job, “For you, what’s better? I can’t do both. I know you want a live person answering the phone and you want money coming in the door. So which would you prefer to have?” Me out visiting with donors and not just meeting with people, but being intentional why I’m there. Or, being a desk and answering a phone? I just needed to know, where should I err on? I’m going to try to do both, but there’s only one of me. So which would be better for me? Again, I’ve never had support staff. Our organizations are usually so flat, there’s not really – and if there’s a shared support staff, that’s almost worse. You’re usually not there physically present, so you’re not as urgent as the other needs of the people that are there. Wow, we’re going to have a great session, aren’t we?

MT: We are. We’re going to have the best session. I just can’t wait to learn from you and really understand what does it mean to actually ask for that negotiation, even if people are like, oh, well, uh, we can’t give it to you. Like, how do you come back from that? We’ll be talking about that.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

MP: So we’re going to cover real phrases to say in ways that are respectful so you can assert yourself without being a jerk. A lot of times, we don’t know how to assert ourselves so we take a posture of being jerks, and we need to not do that because being a jerk is not a good way to win friend or influence bosses. So what we’ll talk about is real phrases to say, respectful ways to take leadership of your own position, whatever sphere of influence you have, and ways to ask for the raise and to be aware of opportunities. Because unfortunately, still, although I’m trying to fix this and I know that you are too. Still, one of the ways that we promote ourselves in our career in a nonprofit space is to have to move to another position because we’re so flat. I was at this awards ceremony that was in New York City, and there was entire career paths that happened in that building. People would never have to leave that building for the length of their career. Most nonprofits just are so flat that you have to wait for someone to die before there’s a level open. And we’re moving into a time, 10,000 baby boomers are hitting retirement age every day. So there is a time that there will be increased levels of turnover in senior leadership. But right now, the study that I’m currently doing is showing over 80% of respondents say that they don’t have a financial system set up in their nonprofit to make it so that people can retire and feel financially secure. So they’re holding onto their jobs longer because they’re realizing, oh my goodness, this paycheck thing is going to stop when I leave here. They didn’t realize that. So it’s going to be a rocky couple of decades going forward. So we need to learn how to be leaders of our own career, of our own brand.

MT: You’re right. You’re right. Go ahead, please, please.

MP: So yeah. I’m just excited.

MT: Me too. Oh, my God. Seriously, for those of you in your twenties and thirties who are listening, and forties and fifties as well, you’ve got to have a plan. You’ve got to have savings. Life is too short to eat ramen every night. I know you know this. It’s got to be better for you. I want it to be, and that’s why I’m so glad we’re having this session.

MP: I’m glad you said that, Mazarine. For me, the questions that we’ll talk about in the session, I asked in my twenties. It’s not something that you have to wait until you’re older in your career. You’re not too late when you’re older in your career. I was just listening to Michael Hyatt talk about how we have this internal editor, internal conversations, and these self limiting beliefs that we just need to get out there and write down so we can see how ridiculous they are. But one of his examples was a person in his late fifties was saying, “No one is going to hire me because I’m so old.” When he wrote it out, he was able to look at it critically and realize, “That’s ridiculous.” They’re not going to get someone with my life experience and my professional development experience for the rate that they could – they’d have to pay a lot of schooling and programs and all to get somebody new to have the level I have. They’re getting a bargain. So there’s a posture that we can take no matter where we’re at in our career cycle. So that’s exciting too.

MT: Yes, I love that. So no matter what age you’re at, you can still negotiate your raise and your salary. You may have to make a lateral move, but we’ll be talking about that too. So yeah, thank you for bringing that up.

MP: Oh, actually. So everybody that’s listening, this is what happens when I talk to Mazarine. She sparks great ideas. I don’t want it to sound like you have to know exactly what your life goals are going to be and set in stone. It’s just knowing – it’s kind of like a position on a compass. You’ve got to know where your true north is so that when you’re deviating, you know why you’re deviating. There was one year where I was on the road 226 days out of 365 speaking at conferences and working consulting gigs, and that was a strategic decision for my family. My wife and I chose that that was the right move for that year for our family and knew that we wouldn’t do that again at that intensity. But we were off course, but we knew where the path was and we knew we were going to come back to what was more in harmony with our decision with our family.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

So it’s just kind of setting some big rocks, setting some priorities. And those lateral moves that feel like the end of the world, every career change that I think I’ve had felt like the end of the world. You go through a mourning process, but it’s great. Like the lateral move we’ll talk about at the session, my move into development felt like an incredible risk. But I haven’t even looked back. I spent the rest of my career in development, found out I loved this fundraising gig. So the lateral moves can seem really risky and scary. It may not have been the path that you thought you were looking at, but it can be even more fulfilling. So being open to those changes too.

MT: Oh, Marc. I love that, and I love that you said that we are the weirdos in the room because we like to ask for money, or we have an aspect of fundraising that scares other people. You know, like for the weirdos out there, come to us. And for those of you who feel a little more normal, come to us too. We’re going to help you with this session.

MP: Yes, yes.

MT: Thank you so much. How can people get in touch with you, Marc?

MP: Well, Twitter is always good. Marcapitman, and my two emails that most people know are either or

MT: Wonderful, Marc. I can’t wait to have this session with you. It’s going to rock. Thank you, thank you.

Fundraising Career Conference 2016

What else will you learn at the Fundraising Career Conference 2016?

How to interview strong for a fundraising role – Interview with Claire Axelrad, J.D., ACFRE

How to create better boundaries at work – Interview with Sheena Greer

How to use your team’s strengths to raise triple your goal – Interview with Kishshana Palmer

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