Although Steve Browne’s recent blog post for TheHiringSite, “How We See Others: The Role of the Talent Advisor,“ is directed at human resources professionals, I suggest that his provocative observations and recommendations have equal relevance for those of us in the advancement field who have responsibility for the success of fundraisers and other professionals.
Browne’s post is concise and simple, but its take-away is powerful: Stop focusing on why your employees and teams might be problematic and instead focus on their strengths and possibilities:
You need to understand the Pygmalion Effect*… [It] states that people will behave how you see them. If you think someone is a problem, they will be one. If you think they are talented, they will perform.
Perhaps Browne’s post resonates with me because during my career I have both delivered and received messages that conveyed low expectations or a lack of confidence. And I know from those personal experiences that when a supervisor encourages an individual, they frequently go on to overachieve; however, when an employee receives more criticism than praise or otherwise senses a lack of support from their supervisor, they will not be motivated to expend additional effort to excel–and indeed often respond in quite the opposite manner.
I suggest that all of us who supervise fundraisers and other advancement professionals follow Browne’s advice and start thinking of those we lead not as staff or FTEs but as “talent” with untapped potential; likewise, we should also begin to view ourselves not as managers but as “talent advisors”–coaches and mentors whose objective is to empower our own team members to grow, stretch and make the most of their abilities.
And if we do that, then perhaps–just as Professor Henry Higgins’ attitude changed toward Eliza Doolittle–we will soon “become accustomed to” the unique attributes and contributions of our own employees and thus find ourselves equally downcast about the possibility of losing these valuable partners.
* For those unfamiliar with Pygmalion, it is the 1912 George Bernard Shaw play upon which My Fair Lady–both the 1956 Broadway play and 1964 movie (source of the scene with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn posted above)–are based. Shaw, in turn, took his play’s name from a character in Greek mythology.
Successful educational fundraisers know that faculty and academic leaders can be invaluable allies in building productive relationships with donors and securing funding for institutional priorities. Deans, department heads, professors and researchers possess a deep understanding of the programs they direct, as well as a credible and persuasive passion for those initiatives that few professional fundraisers can match.
Unfortunately these potential partners are often reluctant to engage in the cultivation and solicitation of prospective benefactors. Their hesitation can be rooted in a lack of understanding about how major gift fundraising is conducted, anxieties about asking for money, fear of rejection, or even concerns that a donor may attempt to exert control over their work. On the other hand, their perceived reluctance might also be a simple case of not being invited to participate.
In his recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay, “Don’t Fear Fund Raising: Matching Donor Passion to Your Department’s Needs,” Texas Tech professor and dean David D. Perlmutter does an excellent job of demystifying the fundraising process for his fellow academicians. Perlmutter’s piece provides insights into the process of setting fundraising priorities, clarifying and articulating those needs, and underscoring the uncomfortable notion that what most excites faculty members may not be what resonates with donors.
Perlmutter’s most important lesson, however, is, that effective educational fundraising is usually an iterative process and that our greatest successes often follow the rejection of an initial approach. Accordingly, faculty and administrators must be prepared to listen actively, “be willing to shift gears,” seek to “recast and redirect” their appeal, and “leave the door open” for future discussions, even when the first appeal proves unsuccessful.
So if you are a department chair, director of a center, or dean of a college, what should you do if you find that what the donor wants is not what you need? …. Be willing to shift gears. Don’t be hypnotized by your agenda. Keeping your priority list handy does not mean you should ignore out-of-the-box opportunities.
Dean Perlmutter’s terrific insights, however, are not enough to prepare academic leaders for fundraising success. Institutions committed to actively and effectively engaging faculty and academic leaders in the fundraising process must also be committed to providing education and training for these key allies.
In addition to demystifying the fundraising process, a training program for faculty, department heads and deans will also supply them with the perspectives, tools and techniques they need to hone and articulate their priorities and to successfully engage and build relationships with donors. After helping lead workshops this summer for academic leaders at several TalentED clients, I found it both remarkable and satisfying to observe the resulting relief, excitement and resolve among our participants once they were been equipped with the tools for success.
So make the most of this readily accessible talent pool at your institution by ensuring your faculty and academic leaders receive the perspective, preparation, encouragement and support they need to maximize their chances for fundraising triumphs. Don’t leave it to chance.
Client Advisory – June 25, 2014
It’s the end of June, ending many organizations’ fiscal years, academic terms, and fundraising cycles. Now is also the time of year that many organizations conduct their performance reviews, set goals for the next year, and think about how the next year’s budget might be allocated. With so many moving parts, it can become easy to treat performance reviews as just another part of the routine. Performance reviews, however, are one of the most effective tools for successful talent management and staff retention, especially in a competitive hiring environment.
BWF’s research and data have shown that staff greatly value and want meaningful management and goals.However, few organizations utilize performance reviews to provide this value to staff, with high-performing frontline fundraisers reporting more dissatisfaction with their performance review process than their peers. Below are five strategies that development organizations can use for more effective performance reviews.
- Encourage both parties to come prepared to the meeting. The evaluation forms (both supervisor and staff) can be completed and distributed prior to the review meeting with the staff member. This allows the meeting to focus on setting meaningful goals, discussing ongoing concerns, and addressing the most important topics first. Having access to the evaluations before the formal performance review also ensures that neither party will be walking into the meeting blind. Since one-on-one time focused on a staff member’s performance and development is rare and hard to come by, preparing the basic materials beforehand gives team members more time to effectively be heard by management and understand what their managers are asking of them.
- Develop strategies behind metrics. Metrics are a hot topic for frontline fundraisers in particular. In many ways metrics drive activity. BWF data has shown that those fundraisers who are assigned outcome-based metrics perform better than their peers. Stronger fundraisers go on more calls, yes, but they also ask earlier and make more ambitious solicitations. During a performance review, dicussion can be on the overall strategies behind metrics. (What do the overall numbers for the year mean for a fundraiser’s average month? What percentage of time should be spent on top prospects? Etc.) For those who have not met or exceeded their metrics for the year, the performance review is an opportunity to discuss where the team member is spending his or her time, assess the strength and composition of his or her portfolio, and evaluate the adequacy of metrics in tracking the responsibilities and priorities of the individual.
- Set long-term goals beyond metrics. Under-performers are going to be most focused on those short-term goals to get their performance up to par, but for high performers and average performers, short-term goals have less meaning. In the development field, we live in a world of long timelines and high turnover. Campaigns last seven years and up, philanthropic initiatives can be around for decades, large gifts are pledged over years, and decisions are made in months and years, not days. However, due to the competition for talent in the field, chief development officers and development staff are likely to leave before several of these big initiatives are met. Setting long-term goals (what you hope will be achieved by the end of and after the campaign as well as end-of-year and intermediate goals) communicates to your team that you expect them to be around for a while and that you have a plan for them to grow. Linking their personal goals to broader team and development goals links their behavior and activity back to the mission and impact of your institution, a factor that has been linked time and time again to driving engagement among non-profit employees.
- Incorporate meaningful professional development and leadership opportunities. Most development shops have some amount of budget set aside for professional development, often designated for conference attendance of some variety. However, a performance review is the opportunity to discuss more long-term growth with team members, setting aside time and management buy-in not only to discuss event attendance, but also to brainstorm on implementation of newly learned skills, identify areas for career growth in leadership and management, and discuss mentorship and partnership options. So much professional development in this field concentrates on gaining technical skills (making the ask, learning a new database, etc.), but BWF data has shown that the professional development topic area most frequently requested by frontline fundraisers is team management and leadership. Leadership is not as easily taught in a conference session or periodic brown bag, and the performance review is a great opportunity to provide concrete next steps for team members to grow throughout the year.
- Review communications and contact practices with management. One of the most frequently cited reasons for development staff dissatisfaction is the lack of access to or attention from management. From the management side this is easy enough to understand: senior managers in development shops are often overworked, managing full portfolios, large teams, and complex systems simultaneously. Regardless, we cannot afford to ignore staff needs: staff performance is too critical to our goals, and other job opportunities are too prevalent. The performance review is the ideal time to discuss how each team member can build more open communication channels to management and for the manager to evaluate his/her own responsiveness to staff needs. Addressing this regularly in performance reviews also can build standardization of communication across the staff and help the manager set the terms with which they are most comfortable being contacted proactively.
The five strategies above are aimed primarily at performance reviews for those team members who are already effective or very effective in their positions. Low performers require more guidance in clarifying what deficits are present and setting action steps for improvement. However, for all shops, performance reviews are a tool for staff satisfaction and retention that is underutilized. When these meetings are glossed over or lack strategy, the negative effects go beyond the lost opportunity of setting ambitious goals and growing the skill set of your team. Skipped or ineffective performance reviews communicate to your team members that they are not a valued priority of your organization. Since development is a relationship-driven and human capital field, that message should not be further from the truth.
Copyright © 2014 Bentz, Whaley, Flessner & Associates, Inc.
Having resided for much of my life among dairy farms in either upstate New York or northeast Wisconsin, I’ve had a lot of exposure to silos—the physical structures in which farmers store grain for their livestock. But the experiences I’ve had with college and university silos—the metaphorical but nonetheless very real structures in which schools, departments and disciplines isolate themselves from the rest of their institution—have been far more profound and always more troublesome.
The presence of academic and administrative silos within an institution inevitably influences the behavior of fundraisers who serve those subunits. Such silo-induced thinking leads fundraisers to act in counterproductive ways that minimize fundraising yields at both the institutional and subunit levels, mostly because they are focusing on their own program’s bottom-line needs and not giving primary attention to the interests, motivations and aspirations of their donors.
Top donors usually have multiple points of contact with a college or university they are supporting; nonetheless, those donors tend to view their multi-faceted colleges and universities as a single entity. Even if interacting with multiple units and personnel, they are interested in the overall success and reputation of the entire institution. They also believe—often wrongly—that the various people and parts of the institution are communicating with one another.
When academic fundraisers operate in silos and do not actively collaborate with their counterparts from other silos, several bad things can happen:
- Confusion: Donors may mix up the multiple appeals, confuse which personnel represent which program, forget what gifts they’ve made, or overlook pledge payments.
- Frustration: Donors’ confusion can quickly lead to irritation, which may result in reduced giving to one or more subunits—or no giving at all.
- Inefficiency: Even when donors give generously to multiple programs, if that giving is not coordinated there is still wasteful duplication of dollars and efforts expended on soliciting and stewarding those gifts.
- Uncertainty: At some point, a donor who observes a multiplicity of uncoordinated fundraising efforts from a single college or university is going to have doubts about the management and leadership of that institution, which will likely affect that donor’s future giving decisions.
On the other hand, when fundraisers climb out of their silos and collaborate, several positive things can happen:
- Efficiency: Eliminating duplication of expenditures and effort means that more resources can be devoted to other donors and other projects.
- Synergy: When formerly siloed fundraisers collaborate, they create the potential for synergy from sharing of ideas, information and perspectives about a donor that may help both of them be more effective in their solicitations.
- Teamwork: If two or more fundraisers and their programs coordinate their strategy and tactics, their combined solicitation team can be more persuasive than if they operated separately…and they will also eliminate the possibility of a donor playing one program against the other.
- Camaraderie: When fundraisers collaborate, greater respect, trust and support tend to emerge; from this camaraderie can develop an environment in which colleagues look out for one another and make a point of sharing information and new possibilities.
- Karma: From a culture of camaraderie and trust may emerge a belief that if a fundraiser in one program shares a promising prospect with a colleague in another program, that act of collaboration will eventually be reciprocated by the original beneficiary and/or by other colleagues.
- Donor-centricity: If we de-emphasize what’s best for our unit and our own best interests, the focus will shift to what’s best for our donors. When that happens, donors will become more fully engaged with our institutions, become more informed and excited by all that we’re doing, and ultimately increase their overall giving—often to the benefit of the fundraiser and unit that took the initiative to expand the donor’s engagement.
Some readers will no doubt react to this mini-rant against siloed fundraising as self-evident and a description of behavior in which they and their institution would never engage. If that’s indeed the case, you have my congratulations and admiration. But fundraising in silos remains a far more common phenomenon that I’d like to think, and my visits to several large, multi-faceted universities over the past year have confirmed for me that it’s still alive and impeding progress at numerous institutions.
I am a firm believer in doing the right thing and seizing opportunities to expand a donor’s engagement with our institution, even it means “sharing” our best prospects with other. I believe this because I think it’s philosophically the right thing to do. But I’ve also witnessed how it’s good for business and ultimately pays off.
The most illustrative example from my career involved a top donor to the school I served at a complex research university. While the donor had been generous to our school by most any measure, we knew he had the potential to do much more, but numerous attempts had failed to unlock it. Then, after discovering our friend had a passion for architecture and historic preservation, I persuaded my dean that if he were to introduce the donor to the leaders of our historic restoration program the donor and the university leadership would all appreciate his sharing. Skipping over a lot of detail to get to the end of the tale, I can report that the donor did indeed become very involved in the historic restoration effort, was appointed to the university’s governing board, and made an eight-figure pledge to the university’s next campaign. And my dean—the one who shared this generous donor with others at the university—received from the donor a naming gift for a new facility that far exceeded any of his previous gifts to the school, as well as a coveted award for community-spirited contributions to the university.
For more about the dangers of silos and the benefits of cross-division collaboration, I recommend Patrick Lencioni’s enjoyable 2006 book, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors (http://www.tablegroup.com/books/silos). According to Lencioni, silos—and the turf wars they enable—devastate organizations by wasting resources, killing productivity and jeopardizing results. His book provides useful advice on how to “eliminate the invisible barriers that separate work teams, departments and divisions, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against one another.”
It’s a constant struggle in the development world to find and keep talented fundraisers and staff. Institutions of all sizes are facing budgetary struggles and, as a result, are prioritizing private support, launching campaigns, and reorganizing resources. The size of fundraising programs across the nation is growing, but the talent pool of qualified, effective fundraisers is simply not growing fast enough to meet the new demand. Development shops of all sizes are competing for frontline talent, and very few are winning. Below are some tips for what non-profits can do to better find, attract, and recruit fundraising talent.
A popular saying—the best defense is a good offense—comes to mind as being especially applicable here. The direct cost of losing a development officer can be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 times his/her salary. The indirect cost of such a loss, however, is much greater as the vacant position results in lost portfolio yield and gaps in critical prospect relationships. The best fundraising shops are those who build recruitment strategies before vacancies arise. Some ways of doing this are:
- Building talent internally and establishing programs that identify high potential individuals from within the institution and training them in frontline fundraising.
- Creating a “wish list” of individuals and their related qualities that would fit well within your institution and focusing on building relationships with those people so that when an opportunity does arise, a few candidates have already been identified. At the very least, this process gives managers an idea of the traits that have great value when searching for new hires.
- Offering incentives for staff referrals for open positions. People who are already familiar with your shop will be able to be strong judges of who will fit in. Fundraisers are also natural networkers, so encouraging referrals will extend the reach of job postings. A bonus to this strategy is that staff referrals can be used as a gauge of staff satisfaction; if few members of your team are eager to share openings with their contacts then there is a good chance that they don’t view the work environment to be strong and vice versa.
Look for Consistency in Experience
One of the worst possible outcomes of hiring a new fundraiser is to invest in finding and onboarding the individual only to have him/her leave within 24 months. It’s easy enough for both strong and weak performers to hop from institution to institution chasing promotions. One thing that strong performers in frontline fundraising have in common, however, is a passion for the non-profit cause. Passion for the cause of their institution is consistently listed as a top driver of personal satisfaction and inspiration for fundraising stars. When reviewing applicants and candidates, development shops should value consistency in both the length of time at previous organizations as well as the overall cause ethos of the individual’s background. A development officer who is driven by cause as well as ambition is more likely to choose institutions that serve a similar community or mission.
Create an Appealing Offer
Salaries and titles for frontline fundraisers are seeing more and more inflation as the demand for talent continues to exceed the supply. As a result, many fundraising shops are upping the ante of what they can offer new hires. Those who are succeeding in this area, however, are creating offers that present more than just a salary bump and new title. Flexible benefits, vacation, and professional development opportunities create great appeal to candidates. Including these items in offer conversations also communicates to job candidates that your organization values employee development and work-life balance, making the position all the more desirable.
Ultimately the institutions that do the best in hiring are those who don’t have to do it too frequently. Follow-through and commitment to talent development and management is critical to development shop success. Successfully hiring a new fundraiser is only the first step in filling a talent need in your office. Planning out and implementing the next ten steps after he/she comes onboard are just as important to reach your goals.
Copyright © 2014 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.
I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this article on LinkedIn. The article, entitled “Employee Satisfaction Doesn’t Matter” is written by Jim Clifton (CEO at Gallup) and asserts that focusing on job perks and striving to be atop “best places to work” rankings doesn’t actually improve performance. He continues to argue that:
Employees don’t want to be “satisfied” as much as they want to be engaged. What they want most is a great boss who cares about their development, and a company that focuses on and develops their strengths. Trying to satisfy employees’ appetites for free lunches, lattes, and ping pong tables is giving people something they don’t deeply want — and that isn’t natural or good for them.
There are a few things to consider about Mr. Clifton’s assertions here:
- First – the article and study that he references are incredibly interesting. You can find the summary here and the report in full here. Its data indicates a point that I think Mr. Clifton neglects to emphasize in his article: that both superficial perks and traditional benefit incentives pale in employee impact when compared to more strategic engagement.
- It would be interesting to see what impact specific incentives have not on performance, but on recruitment. Stronger candidates are likely unable to really assess employee engagement. So, while they may not play a larger role in employee performance, it is entirely possible that being a “best place to work” attracts higher caliber candidates initially. In a field like development where the talent pool is extremely limited – it is difficult to rely on selectivity of candidates to build a stronger program (as the Gallup report advises).
- There is the implication here that employee satisfaction is irrelevant to effective management. However, neither Mr. Clifton’s article or the full report actually benchmark, define, or attempt to measure satisfaction or assess its correlation to employee engagement. It seems that they use the term “satisfaction” to loosely cover everything that is not considered engagement. Plus this approach allows them to use a title as eye-catching as “employee satisfaction doesn’t matter.”
- Clifton’s strongest point is that management is largely responsible for establishing and reinforcing a culture of employee engagement. “A winning culture is one of engagement and individual contribution to an important mission and purpose.”
Other interesting data points from this report that I found include:
- The percentage of employees across the US who are engaged has not changed much at all since 2000 (it remains around 30%)
- Companies with less than 10 employees had the highest ratio of engaged workers.
- Organizations who are in a hiring phase have 30% more engaged employees than those who are cutting jobs (not a surprise there)
- Millennials, even when engaged, are more likely to look for new jobs and opportunities.
- Vacation time is not necessarily a good tool to attract your ideal talent. “Engaged employees who took less than one week off from work in a year had 25% higher overall well-being than actively disengaged associates — even those who took six weeks or more of vacation time.”
- Employees who spend part of their time working from home are, on average, more engaged and put in more hours than their counterparts.
So how can we apply this data to the non-profit sector and fundraising? There are a few implications that fundraising managers and leaders should consider:
- That flex-time and the ability to work from home can actually lead to better engaged employees
- That engagement is driven by managerial attention and leadership. Strong team managers and leaders are hard to come by in the fundraising world (not coincidentally – in a recent BWF survey weak management or development team leadership was listed as a leading cause of dissatisfaction among frontline fundraisers). Development shops need to be proactive not only in the hiring and recruitment of their talent, but also in the investment and cultivation of strong managers, which results in better retention and performance results. Frontline fundraisers in particular require a combination of direction from and empowerment by management.
- That cause and passion about the institution matter. We’ve touched on this before; fundraisers care and are driven by your institution’s mission and impact. The more you can celebrate their contributions to the cause and integrate their activities with the overall culture and impact of your organization the more engaged they will become.
We will talk some more about creating and supporting effective managers in a later post. In the meantime – enjoy the end of the fiscal year!