Nobody and Nothing Can Stop You

When I first began my fundraising career, I assumed that literally everyone I would ever encounter professionally would be on my side. I thought that everyone I would meet would want to be helpful, always willing to look out for a fellow fundraiser, and that everyone’s “default” setting in life would be to build others up, not tear them down. After all, this is fundraising, right? There are no antagonists, except of course the enemy that our nonprofit organizations are fighting (poverty, sickness, inequality, etc.).

More than 40 years into my career, all of it spent in the higher education and nonprofit circles and nearly all of it spent raising money, I can report that folks in our field come in all stripes. I have observed – and yes, even personally experienced – that some folks wish for your success, some don’t really care and others are resentful of your success more than you can imagine and will actively work to destroy that success if they can get away with it.

And sometimes, they will get away with it.

It troubles me to say it, but there are people in our incredible profession who cannot allow others to be more successful than themselves. There are folks who may be an “80” but can’t handle it if an “85” or a “90” is on their team. And there are others who must have their legacy read a certain way, and unfortunately, others (often great people with good intentions) become collateral damage.

I’ve seen it happen all too often.

If this feels or sounds familiar to you, remember my philosophy. Stay focused and move forward and regroup so you can fight another day. A very successful fundraiser sent me a quote by Sir Thomas More a few years ago, which at the time I didn’t totally appreciate, but the longer I work in our beautiful craft of fundraising and read those words, the more I appreciate the quote that Tony was so kind to send to me.

 “You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds….What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can.”

— {University of Virginia}, CWM, v. 4, pp. 99, 101

For those fund development professionals who are experiencing a momentary stop or dealing with a challenge in your career: Stay the course. You will come out of the storm much stronger and continue to make a difference in others’ lives.

And that is what you are called to do: Make a difference!

Gary L. Bukowski, MA, is a 40-year development professional and AVP for Development, Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, Erie, PA.

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