Do Old Dogs Really Have What It Takes?

I recently heard from an old friend, Bob Crandall the Founder/Consultant at Crandall, Croft & Associates. In addition to being a terrific fundraising professional, Bob is the kind of guy who instinctively knows how to weave humor and wisdom together. The latest story he shared with me is a great example of this:


The Old Dog

An old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep s… now!”

German Shepherd by perlaroques via FlcikrNoticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.

“Whew!” says the panther, “That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?” But, instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says…

“Where’s that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!”

Moral of this story…

Don’t mess with the old dogs. Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery!

Brilliance comes with age and experience.


While no one knows who first told this story, I’m grateful that Bob shared it with me so I can share it with you.

Yes, young people entering the fundraising profession bring vital energy and fresh perspective. However, we need to remember that seasoned professionals bring experience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Older development professionals can be a tremendous benefit for any number of reasons. For example, older professionals might be able to more effectively relate to older prospective supporters and donors. This is particularly true with planned giving, as veteran fundraising expert Stephen Pidgeon has written. He finds that many young fundraising professionals, in contrast to their older counterparts, are not as effective as they could be because they are guilty of “patronising age-ism.”

In the nonprofit sector, we often talk about the need for diversity. For example, at the Association of Fundraising Professional’s International Fundraising Conference, AFP hosts a diversity booth in the exhibit hall and presents The Charles R. Stephens Excellence in Diversity Award. The AFP website also provides a great deal of information about diversity in the nonprofit sector.

Diversity means many things to many people. As we aspire to build diverse workplaces, we should remember to keep age-diversity in mind.

For an interesting take on nonprofit hiring practices and the need to enhance them, read “Our Hiring Practices are Inequitable and Need to Change” at The Nonprofit with Balls blog.

What does “diversity” mean to you? Do you think it’s important to the nonprofit workplace? Why or why not?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

5 Comments to “Do Old Dogs Really Have What It Takes?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. As we season in age, it’€™s nice to know that we can still add value.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    • Joanne, thank you for your kind comment. By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, the photo that I use of myself on my blog site is out-of-date. I have a lot more gray hair these days. So, my post might be just a tad self-serving. 🙂

  2. Michael, I enjoyed reading this post, especially the story about the German Shepherd. I wish more in our sector would share this with HR Managers who are looking to hire fundraising professionals. Often, these younger employees overlook older individuals who can be quite successful in our craft. Sadly, ageism is a problem in our field.

    • Richard, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Ageism is sadly a problem throughout our culture. Sometimes, coded language is used to hide it. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard employers say something like, “That candidate is over qualified.” We need to evaluate job candidates as individuals and consider what they can contribute to the organization. No one should be turned away simply because they’re older or younger.

  3. In a LinkedIn Discussion Group, Mark W. Jones, Senior Associate, TalentED at Bentz Whaley Flessner, provided an interesting commentary about my Old Dog post. With his permission, I’m sharing his remarks here:

    Michael, this is another great post. And I’m definitely going to share it with my network.

    It also struck very close to home with me. While I can’t speak to what is happening with non-academic nonprofits, inside academia there seems to be a troubling pattern of passing over seasoned, older advancement professionals in favor of younger, up-and-coming fundraisers who’ve not yet held key leadership positions. I know of many searches (including ones I’ve entered) where an up-and-comer gets the offer despite there being decades of experience in that very position among the other leading candidates.

    No one says it in these searches, but there seems to be a bias against older professionals on the assumption they no longer have the necessary energy, drive or hunger. And given the turnover and volatility in this field–much of it involuntary–many over-50 professionals have on their resume one or more tenures that were unnecessarily shortened due to factors that nothing to do with their performance. In contrast, the up-and-comers offer search committees cleaner slates and prompt fewer reservations than those who have already been out on the frontlines for several years.

    It also seems there’s an assumption that more senior candidates cannot or do not learn or grow as a result of being in such challenging situations. When I was 41 and coming off my first vice presidency, a prominent search consultant told me I had “a perfect resume” because I had successfully advanced through a series of increasingly responsible positions. Five years later, after struggling for two years with a president who had dismissed four CAOs before me (yes, it’s a fair question to ask why I took the job in the first place!), that same consultant expressed concern that I now had a “blemish” on my CV. My response: “Five years ago you told me I had a great resume and had lots of options; but today, in part because I hit that bump in the road, you tell me I have less options, even though I am a wiser, more humble, and much more effective CAO than when you told me my CV was perfect.”

    I guess I should go and write a post of my own on this subject?! LOL!

    Thanks again for raising the question and perhaps prompting some re-thinking about how senior, deeply experienced professionals can be a valuable asset and a complement to other, less-experienced team members.

    By the way, your readers might also be interested in this article: “Mature People are Disadvantaged when Interviewing.”

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