“I think I’m in a unique position to be able to not give a shit what people think. Who’s going to stop me?” ~ Gretchen Peters
Later this year, barring something unforeseen, I will observe the most frustrating and humbling of anniversaries. I will be five years unemployed.
This is not how I wish it to be, nor have I been quietly accepting my situation. I have applied for hundreds of positions in my field, walking distance from home, and as far away as Chicago. I’ve interviewed in the District of Columbia and Baltimore, Ithaca and Poughkeepsie, Purchase and Buffalo (twice). Of course, I’ve had a good many interviews right here at home in Syracuse, as well.
I’ve been willing to step backward in terms of career path, to live away all week from the people who are my life, hoping to steal a day and a half with them on weekends. I’ve brought my decade and a half of experience, my successes, my talent, my outlook, and my intelligence. I’ve brought my integrity and my loyalty and my vision. I’ve brought my lifelong record of overcoming adversity and striving to make this world a better one.
Nobody wants me.
The irony here is that my chosen field, the not-for-profit development field, needs people like me desperately.
If you go in to a room of fundraisers and mention “Donor Centered Fundraising,” you will most assuredly get nods of recognition from most in the room. The problem being that knowing something and doing something are not one and the same.
Fundraising is based, as the cliché goes, on relationships. It’s a cliché because its true. The problem is that folks who work in development, and their organizations at large, damage relationships on a daily basis. Would you keep a friend who only came around when he needed money? If you gave an associate money for a task and she never gave you any indication that task had been completed, that your money had been put to good use, would you trust that she did what she said with it? Would you trust her enough to give her money the next time she asks?
That’s why the not-for-profit development field is so nomadic. Because fundraisers churn through their “relationships” with bad behaviors. Then it’s on to the next organization and a (hopefully) new slate. A lot of my own struggles to find a position are no more than losing at an ongoing, maddening game of musical chairs. The problem isn’t only individual, it’s systemic, but it can only be changed by individuals.
Here at home, we’ve been fortunate to have been able to financially weather this loss of the larger portion of our household income. Many families have not. I tell myself consciously every day that, while things may not be ideal, we are lucky. Damn lucky.
With that good fortune comes responsibility. Make no mistake, while it seems my profession has turned its back on me, my resolve to change the things I see in need of change remains strong. I will not go quietly.
Who’s going to stop me?