Lowri Turner, fundraising manager at Kidscan, sets out her seven steps to self development.
I’d be willing to bet that no-one has ever escaped a job interview without being asked the dreaded question, “what’s your biggest weakness and biggest strength?” It’s the one we worry about most: should I be completely honest? Should I try to sound humble? Should I say I don’t have any weaknesses? How can I make my weakness sound like a positive thing?
The truth is, most of us find it hard to identify our biggest weaknesses – and our greatest strengths for that matter. It’s particularly tricky for fundraisers because we spend all our time directing attention away from ourselves and towards our cause. But self-evaluation is vital to our effectiveness, and the longer we avoid it, the more painful it will be.
Here are my top tips for making it a pain-free process:
Accept that you are a work in progress
No-one starts their career as a great fundraiser. You can have natural talent, you can pick up techniques and learn to be good at it very quickly, but being a great fundraiser requires a commitment to continued learning, and lots of experience. You’ll fail, succeed and grow in almost equal measures for a while – and that’s okay.
Decide what you’re working towards
Spend time thinking about the kind of fundraiser you want to be. Is there an area you want to specialise in? Is there a kind of charity you really want to work for? Is there a character trait you think you need to develop? Write all these things down. Be as aspirational as you can. Also write down why you think you can be that great fundraiser. What skills and experience do you already have that show you it’s possible?
Identify the pitfalls
What might stop you getting there? Very few things are deal breakers; you can change, and you can conquer your weaknesses. If you struggle with identifying weaknesses, think about those tasks you always leave to last. You can also have a conversation with your line manager about your current performance: it’s their job to help you identify and overcome your struggles.
Plan your route
Decide how you’re going to conquer your weaknesses and become the best fundraiser you can be. That might be through attending training courses, getting a fundraising qualification, volunteering for a charity you’d love to work for or learning a language so you can work overseas. It might be simply learning to prioritise, or to tidy your desk every day. Make an action plan and write it down.
Share your plan with someone
Ideally, share your plan with your boss, as it’s their job to help you develop in your role. Find out if there is money in the budget to help you develop. Consider getting a mentor. In any case, arrange for that person to check in on you every few weeks or months to see how you’re getting on.
Put your plan into action
This is where the work really begins; but if you’ve broken it down into achievable steps, you can tackle one thing at a time without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.
Make full use of the people and resources available to help you
There are organisations (e.g. the Institute of Fundraising and the Directory of Social Change), and many blogs and books that exist to help fundraisers become great. Meanwhile, so don’t be afraid to approach your fellow fundraisers for help and advice – even if you don’t know them very well. Fundraisers are famously great at sharing knowledge and you’ll find that most people are happy to be asked, and will do their best to help.
Lowri Turner is fundraising manager at Kidscan