Thursday, March 3, 2016

I could have missed it all

Sometimes the best things are the things that never happen.  I could have missed all of this.  I could have let it all go away and that would have been tragic.

Prior to arriving at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, I had made up my mind that I needed a change.  After years of doing work in prospect development I wanted to transition into front-line fundraising.  This decision came after a lot of thought and contemplation. 

Although, I had never been in that role before, I was confident I could do it. 

I’ve spent years evaluating and understanding fundraisers.  It’s hard to find really good fundraisers who excel at cultivating and soliciting major gifts and I wanted a shot.  All I needed was an opportunity.

I pulled out all the stops.  I resigned from my position at my last organization.  I focused all of my time and all of my energy into making this transition.  I was determined.  I was relentless.  I networked like crazy.  I had friends and colleagues making introductions and advocating for me.  I asked for and got informational interviews with key individuals who I did not know.

I was creative.  I found ways to by-pass recruiters when necessary and made my way to decision makers.  I wrote convincing cover letters.  I reached out via LinkedIn.  Again, I did everything I could imagine.  It was my full-time job. There was no other way to do this.

I put in the work the way a major gift officer puts in the work to build a base of donors. Eventually, I began to interview.  Hiring managers were intrigued.  They were curious.  I began to have meaningful conversations and I was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  I believed that sooner or later someone would see the value in thinking outside of the box and someone would be willing to take a chance on me.

My eyes were wide open.  It was hard work, but I managed to stay positive and focused.  I knew it was only a matter of time because I was doing the work and all I needed to do was to trust the process.

And then I had that conversation – the one I mentioned in my first post about an invitation to investigate the place where I work now.

Thankfully, I kept an open mind.  Although I was determined to make a transition into frontline fundraising, I didn’t shut the door on prospect development.  I was committed to making a change, but I decided to stay open to the right opportunity.  It had to be special.  It had to be extraordinary.

From the moment I decided to make a change until the moment I accepted the position I have now, I only interviewed for fundraising positions (my current job was the one exception).

The day I accepted the opportunity to work here, I felt at peace.  In my heart I knew it was the right thing.  It was the right fit and the right organization.  It was an easy decision to ditch my plan and move forward.

I didn’t have any regrets about the effort I had put in prior to this.  I knew I was richer for the experience and I made some new connections along the way.  I learned a lot about myself and I was proud of the effort and the process I went through.

Now, it was time to get to work. 

As I began to settle in and transition into my new position I realized some things about myself.  I didn’t know how much I missed doing actual research because for years I had teams that did the majority of that work instead.  I found that I still had good instincts and that I could still put the pieces of a puzzle together.  I still had that desire to get it right and I wanted to be able to tell the story of the people I was researching.

Every day has been like a treasure hunt.  I couldn’t wait to see what and who I could find.  I couldn’t wait to connect the dots and then have the opportunity to share the information with fundraisers either as a group or individually. 

I found the enthusiasm and passion for what I do return. I felt engaged.  I felt a burning desire to help my organization succeed and I could see the potential impact.

I’m not saying I haven’t felt this before, but it had definitely muted over time.  There were times when work felt like work.  It wasn’t necessarily fun or interesting or inspiring for lots of reasons. It happens.

That’s behind me now.

Getting back to basics has awakened something inside of me.  I have a new perspective and I have promised myself to not take what I have now for granted. 

I believe I will have an opportunity to grow this department (time will tell), but I will always keep my hands in doing actual research.  I will never move away from the opportunity to work directly with fundraisers on a daily basis.  I will do what I ask others to do.  I will always be in the trenches because I don’t ever want to forget what it’s like to do this good work.

Something happens to you when you don't use the skills you have for any long period of time.  First of all, you lose confidence.  For the last several years, I believed my team had the best possible skills and that they had surpassed me in my abilities to do research.  What I didn’t know was that I just needed to get back in the game.

As a result, I’ve found my groove again and my confidence has returned.  I know how much or how little time it really takes to do an effective profile.  I know what’s important and what’s not.  I know when to stop and when to go beyond.  I’m more strategic in my approach now and I know how to convey what’s important to fundraisers.  Basic stuff for sure, but important on so many levels.

I know I’m not the best of the best (not even close) – but, I’m better than I’ve ever been.  I think I have more value now than I ever have.  I can do the nitty-gritty and still have a clear understanding of the big picture.  I know when to say “no” when necessary and when to say “not yet."  

I may even be able to live up to the idea that I will have a bigger impact here than any place I’ve ever worked.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for some of you reading this today.  I don’t know, but you do.

Some days are long, but I’m taking the time to engage with the people that surround me.  My days are full, but they are rich.  And to think I could have missed it all.

Proverbs 16:9 states: “We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  Isn’t that the truth!

I’m not here by accident.  This is where I’m meant to be.  And to think… to actually think, I could have missed it all is beyond me.  I could have missed seeing the joy of doing the work I’ve known for years return to me.  I could have drifted away from colleagues in my field who I’ve known for years.  I could have missed the opportunity to work with the terrific people here. 

I’m back, but I guess I never really left.  Thank God for that.

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