I’ve been let go and laid off. I’ve had my position eliminated. I’ve been the last hired, first fired. I’ve quit. I’ve resigned. I’ve given notice and been asked to leave, right now. I’ve been falsely accused and I’ve been lied to. I’ve had a board member call me years later and apologize for the way I had been treated. Another time, another organization, another board member told me that he and other board members were surprised to learn, after the fact, that I had been let go even though my work had been exemplary.

People will stay with an organization because they deeply believe in the mission and want to help others, even to their own detriment.

I know an organization where the staff made so little they were on food assistance.

Sometimes people stay in a position because they don’t think they have the skills to work anywhere else. This fear is not unique to the nonprofit sector, but it is certainly prevalent and easily taken advantage of.

There are plenty of reasons why people in the nonprofit sector leave jobs: noncompetitive salaries, ineffective leadership, an overwhelming workload, lack of mobility, poor communication. As a fundraiser myself, let me add unrealistic expectations by executive staff and/or the board to that list. I’ve come face-to-face with all of these and then some.

The only way I was able to move up the nonprofit ladder and receive a better salary was to change jobs.

I’ve worked for a large international nonprofit organization, a small environmental education agency and everything in-between. I’ve worked with teams and alone.

What has all this experience taught me?

Above all, to be true to myself.

It’s taught me that I have to believe in the mission of an agency.

I’ve learned that it’s better to leave a position if you are unhappy and stymied in your work.

I’ve learned it is always better to leave with your head up and your backbone straight. It’s called bearing.

And as trite as it may sound, my experience has taught me that when one door closes, another one opens.

Don’t stay stuck. Believe in yourself enough to leave a bad situation.

I’ve done it and have always come out better for it.