The one piece of advice that has remained constant and I most value from my Non-Profit Career get a mentor.
I was fortunate when I gained my first role as the CEO of a Community Foundation to be mentored by the most prolific UK Community Foundation CEO of the time (and probably of all time) George Hepburn. Having an independent sounding board who pointed me in the right direction and provided solid advice has much to do with the success of my career.
Finding myself in an unfamiliar role in a new charity was a challenge in its own right, but the expectation for me to lead from day one meant that I needed to be able to validate courses of action in a way that did not impact my credibility. My mentor provided that ability.
Now, 14 years later I still have mentors (notice the plural!), and I find myself mentoring Trustees and CEO’s of Non-Profit organisations.
I have found three success principles that I apply when seeking a mentor – Knowledge, Care and Directness.
Knowledge – I seek people with substantial track records. Find the people who have done what you seek to do and not those who just claim to be able to do it.
Care – I seek people who have my best interests at heart. I look for people who really want me to succeed and who will always act in my interest rather than those who just see me as a client.
Directness – I seek people who are direct. I want objective feedback and advice that I can use to develop, so I value straight talking rather than vague comments.
Finding a good mentor is always a very personal thing, but the three principles have served me well.
Andrew Middleton is a Non-Profit consultant and Mentor specialising in income generation strategy and building organisational effectiveness.