We’ve spent time talking about talent, what makes good fundraisers, what to look for in incentive structures, and the role of titling. Talent management, especially in a sector as competitive as development, is a complex process, but almost every element related to this array of challenges can be boiled down to one of three fundamental questions.
The questions (and what they mean) are below:
1. Do we have the right people?
This question really can be broken down to one big idea: talent composition. When thinking about whether or not you have the right quantity or quality of talent, one should focus on institutional objectives. What is your non-profit trying to accomplish in its fundraising program? Can you tie those objectives to expanded or existing responsibilities for specific team members or positions? If not, that means that there is likely a gap in your staffing that needs to be filled. If so, your next question should assess whether there is confidence in the skill level and breadth of these individuals to meet the goals set out before them. For example, a new objective could be to triple gift income designated towards an existing program, but if the giving team program is inexperienced or already maxed out in workload you do not have the right people to reach that goals even if you can trace responsibility initially.
Similarly, the level of skill required to meet goals can be higher than what is found among existing staff members. If a development shop wants to go after 7 figure gifts in New York City it will need a seamless operations team to handle the $1M+ gifts and fearless, versatile frontline fundraisers who can converse fluently about high level wealth and have a proven ability to get new gifts. In all likelihood the organization entering this goal area will not have the right level of talent immediately available.
2. Are our people in the right place?
Take the scenario described above, where a team is unable to meet the existing or new demands placed upon it. This type of occurrence doesn’t necessarily mean that you are required to bring someone new on board. Rather, the next question to think about is where your top talent is. Non-profit talent management is all about minimizing cost and maximizing outcomes – one key way to do so is to match staff members with positions that best fit their skills. For example, if your development shop has three top priorities, it follows that you should ensure that the institution’s strongest talent are positioned to work towards or lead the efforts related to those priorities.
In a different example you may have a strong leader on your team. He is a stellar frontline fundraiser and has strong relationships with board members who can easily open new doors. Since his performance has been so strong he has been put in front of a new team to manage. This new position effectively reduces the time he can spend fundraising by half. Unless this individual strongly desires the management responsibilities or there are sufficient other fundraisers who can maintain similar high level donors relationships this new position may leave a gap in current performance and fail to utilize his greatest strengths towards institutional goals.
3. Are team members reaching their full potential?
This question related to two levels of potential: current efficiency and work quality and long-term potential and growth. If you look at questions #1 and #2 and feel confident that the size, skill, and organization of team members are all effective, but are still dissatisfied with performance this question should be the launching point for identifying the problem. Are team members under-performing because they don’t have sufficient staff support or there is a negative office culture? Perhaps the structures supporting the team are insufficient and don’t give teams the tools they could use to be more effective. In the area of long-term potential you may have individuals with strong performance, but very high capacity that aren’t getting the training and coaching that would help them be even better.
Using these questions in problem-solving.
To look at this process from another angle – these three questions are useful to diagnose existing frustrations or challenges you currently face. Take any struggle, high turnover in a critical program for example. Do you have the right people in the program? High turnover often happens when position responsibilities are too voluminous or technical, thus overwhelming or overextending employees. Are your people in the right place? A weak or disorganized leader may discourage retention or perhaps there’s highly technical element that requires a stronger partnership across the organization. Are team members reaching their full potential? A common reason for leaving offered in exit interviews is that there is no room for advancement so staff members feel undervalued and underused. These questions help you identify the root of problems that any office encounters and lead to stronger solutions moving forward.
The talent management process and strategy-building comes into play once you answer these questions. Talent management is designed to be the “what’s next?” when institutions realize that they don’t have the right people, or their talent isn’t organized effectively, or performance is below where it should be. We will talk a little bit later about what your most effective options are when you look at your staffing related to these questions and come up short.
On an unrelated note – I will be at the AFP International conference this weekend in San Antonio. Stop by the Bentz Whaley Flessner booth 539 and say hello, ask me any questions you may have about talent management, or share some feedback on your own talent management struggles.