This blog post was originally published by Giving Tree Associates.
As March draws to a close, we’ve been talking a lot about Women’s History Month and what it means to us as a woman-founded and owned business. We care deeply about developing women leaders and helping our own female consultants exceed their professional goals.
It’s fairly common knowledge in the nonprofit world that women make up the majority of paid staff positions. It’s encouraging that women are increasingly joining the ranks of senior leadership positions at local, national and global nonprofits. In fact, our own client-base has changed dramatically in the last eleven years in that we are seeing more and more women in the top spots at the small to mid-size agencies we serve. This is so exciting to us!
However, we find that women in nonprofit leadership or fundraising positions frequently feel a sense of isolation and are looking for ways to find the support they need to succeed. Often, in smaller nonprofits where an Executive Director or Director of Development may be the only staff member, they don’t have a robust group of colleagues on site. Given their limited time and budgets, they often turn to my colleagues for advice. Here are the top three suggestions:
- Schedule at least one call, coffee visit, lunch meeting every month with a friend, a former colleague, or a trusted board member. You need to replace the casual interactions that happen regularly at larger, office-based organizations. We understand that this requires planning on your part, but it’s worth it.
- Commit to professional education. When you work alone, or in a small environment, it’s easy to get stuck in your ways. You also don’t have peers to brainstorm with, making it even more challenging to try new things and take risks. Make sure that you attend webinars, professional conferences and read as much as you can. Again, it may seem daunting to add more work to your plate, but often you will find new approaches that can help you become more efficient or effective in the long-run.
- Find a mentor. When you are in a senior-level position, finding a mentor can be tough. Our clients tell us repeatedly that as they grow professionally, this becomes harder and harder. Because I have a background in working for larger nonprofits, I have always had the benefit of easily finding mentors along the way and having day-to-day interactions, as well as more formal, structured meetings that helped me learn and grow. My peers in smaller nonprofits don’t have this in-house luxury and have to work hard to seek out the guidance they need. This often comes in developing a relationship with a paid professional coach. We’ve seen the demand for coaching increase significantly in the past few years and we are so glad that women leaders are putting themselves first and investing in leadership development.
Remember, It’s okay to seek the support and resources you need to help you learn and grow. The work you are doing to make the world a better place is amazing and it’s tough. We are always here to help!