July 17, 2024
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July 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

You have given proper notice to your current employer and now it’s time to look forward to the next stepping-stone in your career. Or perhaps you are about to enter retirement. Another possibility is that you’ve decided to inaugurate a new business opportunity, which is the reason you are leaving. Or perhaps you just needed to take time off. Of course, it’s also possible that you were let go. There are many reasons why folks exit their employment.

What are your obligations to the employer from whom you are taking leave? Is it OK to just become a “lame duck,” put your career on “cruise control” and then be done with it? My short answer, especially if you are an ethical fundraiser, is a resounding “No!” In my considered opinion, you have a moral and professional responsibility to make your exit a smooth, painless and even a “righteous” one.

Remember, too, that you never want to “burn your bridges” behind you and besmirch your good name. Tarnishing your reputation will do you no good. Benjamin Franklin once said: “Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.” So, how honorably you handle your employment termination may indeed herald your career life forwards. It’s like starting the last chapter in a book; you still look for the happy ending.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals adopted a Code of Ethical Principles and Standards. Oddly, there are no standards it specifically adopted to deal with issues of when an employee leaves employment. However, it is understood that the existing standards apply to development executives who are yet working for their employer. It would follow that even after service to the nonprofit, certain principles are still in play. These would include the following standards:

“Practice their profession with integrity, honesty, truthfulness and adherence to the absolute obligation to safeguard the public trust … demonstrate concern for the interests and well-being of individuals affected by their actions… Bring credit to the fundraising profession by their public demeanor…”

However, it is my contention that you have a moral obligation to leave behind a transition plan that will not only enhance your reputation but also pave the way to success by your successor. (Notice how the word “success” is embedded in the word “successor.”) Leaving with grace is just as crucial as the promise you held out when you joined the organization. Who knows? You may be fortunate enough to recruit your replacement.

The format of the transition plan will depend on the importance of your job, as well as the size of your nonprofit and the scope of your responsibilities and job description. In this regard, the plan might be as simple as just preparing a checklist of tasks and previous assignments ranging all the way to a comprehensive plan with many details.

Here are some of the steps in the Transition Plan you should consider when leaving your employer:

1. Schedule an exit interview. Meet with your supervisor and/or lay leadership before leaving. This is a good opportunity to review highlights of your written transition plan. It also is an opportunity to enhance your reputation by saying thank you and comporting yourself humbly. It’s always a smart idea to leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth by keeping it nice and polite.

2. Update your portfolio. Every fundraiser maintains a list of donors during their tenure. These are folks for whom they are responsible and should include important facts such as contact information, birthdays and anniversaries, friendships and special circumstances to be aware of such as a description of the donor’s idiosyncrasies.

3. Offer your point of view and suggestions. The transition plan is an opportunity to share ideas about your donors and prospects. You have accumulated knowledge that shouldn’t go to waste. What a wonderful chance to show your erudition about subject matter with which you are most familiar such as potential honorees and sponsors. You may be leaving, but depart as a champion for your former cause. Your helpful ideas may also mend some broken fences that may bode well for you in your next position.

4. Address the four major categories of giving. Unless you weren’t responsible for them, the transition plan should incorporate your plans, where relevant, for the annual campaign, capital campaign, planned giving and endowment fund giving. When possible include the status of major gifts, special events, legacies and bequests, foundation grants, grassroots campaigns, and all other forms of giving in which you were personally involved such as direct mail, appeals and special development strategies.

So, do you need to create a transition plan when you resign from a job? No, but you want to because it’s the right thing to do.


Norman B. Gildin is the author of the recently released book on nonprofit fundraising “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the president of Strategic Fundraising Group, whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds for their organization. His website is www.normangildin.com.

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