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Meet the PMA Team: Interview with David Ibsen

New to PMA? Get to know the voices behind our blog posts and articles through this new segment “Meet the PMA Team.” Our interview today is with David Ibsen, Associate Director.

David brings more than a decade of experience in finance, organization development and fundraising at a variety of corporate and nonprofit organizations. Before joining PMA, David worked in the development office at Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, where he collaborated with the development director to create strategies around cultivating and stewarding the Museum’s major donors. In addition, David spent nine years working in the financial industry, working for both RBC and SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, GA. He is a 1999 graduate of Furman University in Greenville, SC, where he earned his BA in Political Science. He also completed a Masters of Science in Organization Development from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Charlotte Region.

Q1. Tell us more about your background. How did you transition from the banking field to the nonprofit sector?

After I graduated from college, I found a position in a bank. I worked in this field for nearly nine years, working with both individuals and corporate customers to help with their deposit and lending needs. The one thing that I found that I was not able to do was to build relationships with my clients. I realized that I wanted to make a transition into the nonprofit sector as my volunteer work was what really energized me. However, I was unsure how to translate my experience in the most appropriate way. I made a variety of connections in the Charlotte nonprofit community, and I got referred to an internship that was being offered in the development department at the Levine Museum of the New South. This allowed for me to learn how to develop donor relationships and utilize the database properly. This position helped reinforce my decision to transition into the nonprofit sector.

Q2. Last spring, you graduated with a Master’s degree in Organizational Development. Can you talk more about that?

My time in graduate school was an interesting balance of fun learning and a difficult balance with work, and, because of that, I would not trade in my time for anything. The degree teaches students to design and lead change in all types of organizations, while understanding the dynamics and behaviors that are involved within those organizations. Before applying for this program, I did not think that I would ever go back to school. However, what I took away from the program was not only the degree, but also the chance to build relationships and how to learn in a way that I never had before.

Q3. Talk to us about your thesis project and how it relates to nonprofit board development.

My project focused on how nonprofit boards make decisions. The purpose behind this topic was to gain a better understanding of what type of leadership and relationships are needed among board members to make decisions that will properly benefit a nonprofit organization. Because nonprofit boards are generally asked to make decisions that affect the governance, financial future, and the evaluation of the leadership of the nonprofit. I developed a survey and interviewed leaders within the Charlotte community that would help me to understand the type of personalities that are needed as well as the way that board members should communicate to make proper decisions. What was uncovered is that tension, on a controlled level, actually can help a board to make good decisions because it forces each member to think before making a decision. In contrast, boards that keep critical thought and debate out of the board room tend to make decisions that are not good for the whole organization.

Q4. A big part of what you do at PMA is executive search. What trends are you seeing in this line of work?

I see that nonprofits are being very careful and thoughtful about those that they are hiring. Many organizations are taking the time when they have an opening to reevaluate their needs to understand the type of individual they are searching for and what type of position description is needed to attract the proper candidates. This is a positive sign as this shows that organizations want to build the strongest teams that will work together. The description of a development director five years ago might not be applicable to meet the needs of the organization today as times have certainly changed.

The other trend that I am seeing is that organizations are willing to look at individuals from the for-profit sector that have experiences that can be utilized within the organization. I think that bringing in new ideas and experience to the nonprofit sector can make organizations stronger.

Q5. What advice would you give nonprofit search candidates?

Since working with candidates on a variety of searches, there are several pieces of advice that I would give to candidates. First, review and know what is on your resume. This may seem obvious, but make sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors on your resume. Even though you may be a strong candidate, simple errors like this can keep you from getting an interview.

Next, make sure that you can speak to your own experiences. When interviewing a candidate, I want to make sure that he/she can speak to their strengths and weaknesses, and want to gain a proper understanding of how those experiences will be applicable to the position at hand.

The final piece of advice is, before applying for the position, research what the organization does and what their mission is. Then, ask yourself, “Why do I want to work for this organization?” If a candidate does not have an affinity for the position or organization, it will be very obvious throughout the interview.