Elite athletes use them every day. So too do the top executives of the largest and most complex companies in the world. Even our politicians. What am I referring to? A coach.
After all, coaches make us better at what we do. An elite player often hires a strength coach, a position coach, or even a nutritional coach to boost their performance. CEOs frequently use coaches to better manage public relations, especially in times of crisis management. Our elected officials are known to employ an image coach to help them better interact with a broad and diverse constituent base. So why don’t more professionals in the non-profit sector seek out a coach?
For the non-profit fundraising professional, looking at employing a coach can mean wading through an array of dizzying options. There are life coaches, business coaches, leadership coaches, and executive coaches, to name a few. While there are some specialty Fundraising Coaches out there, some view professional fundraising or engagement activities as something anyone can do—just point them in the right direction and let them go. This shallow approach does far more damage than good. It is all too easy to miss countless opportunities to advance the purpose of the organisation, and this is the direct result of a fundraiser or engagement officer who didn’t “get it” or who never received proper educational development. Giving the wrong advice, backed up by little in the way of research or practical experience, can mean that poor methods proliferate in the non-profit sector and give fundraisers a bad name.
THE BENEFITS OF HIRING A PROFESSIONAL FUNDRAISING COACH
However, making the commitment to hire a Fundraising Coach, while also taking the time to assess their qualifications and industry experience, can have extraordinary benefits for your non-profit organization. According to the International Coaching Federation, coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Remember that coaching is not mentoring. Mentoring is generally quite reactive and serves more as a type of a sounding board relationship. Coaching is proactive, especially coaching focused on the development of professional skills as they relate to an individual’s daily tasks and objectives to reach high performance outcomes.
Partnering with a qualified and experienced Fundraising Coach is like a taking a professional development course on steroids. Working with a coach has the distinct advantage of reinforcing learning and forming good habits, which over time lead to greater outcomes. Effective coaching can also help prevent and overcome burnout, as well as equip those who find themselves in a position of organisational leadership—especially those who have never been afforded the opportunity to acquire a better understanding of a particular area.
After all, becoming a successful fundraiser or engagement officer requires a substantial amount of time and effort. It is not a 9 to 5 job: you will often work on weekends and in the evening. It is necessary for fundraisers and engagement professionals to invest in their professional development. Enjoying your work, and knowing that you are doing your work well, gives you the energy you need to make a difference in the lives of others.
THE ROLE OF A FUNDRAISING COACH
What role does a Fundraising Coach play in helping a professional achieve the desired level of professional satisfaction? By understanding the pressures, challenges, and successes in executing the job, a Fundraising Coach has the tools to help you succeed. Having a Fundraising Coach with years of experience in different organisations — with demonstrated success, but who has also learned from their mistakes — gives you an insider’s view. Unlike many professions, for example, the fundraiser creates a great deal of his or her work. A fundraiser who sits in his or her office waiting for donors to walk in to drop off cheques is not a fundraiser in practice. A Fundraising Coach will listen and learn from the participant (coachee) to understand areas of focus, situational behaviours, habits, and attitudes. The Fundraising Coach knows the right questions to ask in order to help. It is important to note that retaining a Fundraising Coach for a staff member is not about trying to “catch the person out” and report back to their superiors, but rather it is a genuine investment in the professional development of a member of the team.
Above all, remember that using a coach is not in any way an admission of failure. Quite the opposite in fact. The highest performers at the top of their game use a coach because they want to achieve even better outcomes. Retaining a Fundraising Coach means you are committed to becoming better professionally, and personally, for the benefit of the worthy organisation you serve (and, more importantly, those the organisation serves). It does, however, mean a commitment of time. Coaching requires a working partnership along with the willingness to learn and change for the better. To become better doesn’t happen overnight; if it were that easy, it wouldn’t take years of experience to accumulate the wealth of knowledge that a good Fundraising Coach is waiting to share with you.