If you are seeking more meaning, satisfaction, and joy from your work as an advancement professional, addressing these 3 questions will be helpful:
1. Do I believe people to be more generous or more stingy?
This question, which focuses on your deeply-held beliefs around the basic social DNA of people, will fundamentally shape the enjoyment and meaning you gain from this work.
If you believe people are (or want to be) mostly generous, you might view inviting a gift as of a kind of professional mountaintop experience. However, if you view folks as mostly stingy, the thought of inviting a gift may feel more like the grind of climbing said mountain.
And are you even inviting gifts? Or are you asking or begging for gifts? If you believe people to be mostly generous, you are most likely inviting donors into the joyful giving experience, which is far more fun and meaningful than begging.
2. Does our team discuss mission or metrics more?
This question gets at the culture of your advancement program. It’s not that metrics are unimportant (they are not). But if your team is focused almost exclusively on quantifiable goals and/or metrics, issues such as professional burnout and high turnover become more widespread.
On the other hand, those teams that regularly remind themselves about impact, and mission, and purpose, and “why” what they do matters, experience increased team-member meaning, satisfaction, and esprit de corps.
3. Are institutional leaders and colleagues engaged with advancement or do they promote a siloed workplace environment?
Does the institution within which your team and you work have your back? Or, is there a culture of “not my job?” How you address this question will help you understand the value your institution places on the role of philanthropy (in all its forms) as part of the fabric that is institutional culture.
When people say, “we are building a culture of philanthropy,” this is the first place to look for evidence. When leaders and colleagues are appropriately engaged in advancement activities, the sense of meaning and satisfaction increases for the members of the advancement team. And, the advancement program is more productive.
Each of these questions highlights the importance of perspective. The way we experience the world goes a long toward understanding how we behave in it.
Now, a 4th question: What needs to change?