Principles of Training New Major Gift Officers – Part II

Last week we discussed two of the essential principles for training new major gift officers: understanding the donor perspective and clear definition of the donor cycle. This week we have three more. Beyond orienting fundraisers to the nature of major gift philanthropy, organizations must seek to broaden the aptitude of these professionals to work with their colleagues and adequately represent their institutions. Leadership can do this through offering:

A Deeper Understanding of the Functionality and Capacity of Central and Operations Teams

Hand in hand with providing fundraisers clearer expectations of what working with donors looks like, an organization must partner with these individuals to set expectations for working within a development team. New fundraisers must know, for example, when and what type of additional research will be most useful to them (early career development officers often will get caught in a desire to know everything possible about a prospect before meeting with them). The ability to partner with and utilize the skills of central development teams and operations professionals will give new fundraisers a leg up in their early years as well as lessen the burden of other team members in orienting these individuals to their own programs the hard way (when something goes wrong or a fire needs to be put out).

Opportunities to Practice New Skills and Observe and Learn from Senior Fundraisers

Learning means little without the ability for professionals to put what they have learned into practice. Any formal training session should, therefore, be paired with low-risk avenues for new major gift officers to gain experience in the realities of working with donors. Across the country there are now several institutions tackling this need in creative ways—whether it’s a virtual learning experience utilizing actors or avatars, structured “mock” meetings with close volunteer donors, or role playing in a workshop setting. This “practice space” gives new fundraisers two great things: the chance to get a feel for major giving conversations and valuable feedback from those working with them on what they did well and what could be improved.

Another great resource that many institutions already have lies within the existing senior fundraising team. Exposure to best practices by observing high performers in action can be a very meaningful point in developing new fundraising talent. This type of shadowing helps show novice development officers not only how to respond when a meeting diverts from the theoretical agenda, but also the depth and nature of relationships between an experienced fundraiser and high level donor.

Knowledge of Institutional Strengths, Histories, and Controversies

Your donors and constituents have typically been familiar with your institution longer and in more depth than your junior fundraisers. This gap has to be addressed directly. Donors and prospective donors will expect any development officer they meet with to not only know about their history as donors, but also have a decent grasp of the people, programs, and history of your organization. Whether this be previous controversies that the institution has survived or national championship teams and coaches, training a new frontline officer must include consistent and reinforced building of institutional knowledge.

We’ve seen data time and time again that says that newly hired fundraisers take 3.5–4 years to begin to produce real gift dollar results. For those who are new to the frontline, that ramp-up can take even longer. It’s in our best interest to accelerate this process with new major gift officers through strategic training and education, clear opportunities and exposure to donors and the team, and reinforcement and feedback.

BWF’s TalentED practice offers one-on-one coaching, intensive training workshops, and talent management counsel to help our clients recruit, retain, and grow a high performing fundraising team. For more information contact us at training@bwf.com.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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Maximizing the Return on Your Investment in Staff Development

Something Worth Reading: Talent Retention and CASE’s “Hire Learning”

I know that talent management is a critical component of development success. This article  from CASE Currents highlights just why. Written by Peter Hayashida (VC for Advancement at UC Riverside) this essay describes the great challenge of turnover in the development field.  Hayashida makes many good points, including:

That leads me to an important point about retention, pay, and performance. In their book,First, Break All the Rules, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argue that people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Specifically, they leave managers who don’t properly manage employee performance. Poor performers drag entire organizations down and make high achievers vulnerable to the lure of greener pastures. In development, we tend to promote people with strong technical abilities as fundraisers into managerial jobs but give them little training on the skills required to be successful leaders.

We’ve talked about  the gap between technical and managerial skills, and the challenges of finding good managers, and the difficulty of recruitment before. Peter Hayashida hits one key issue on the head here: effective management is one of the best tools we have to attract and keep valuable talent. In a market where fundraisers are being called about job opportunities multiple times a month, having managers who engage their employees, inspire good performance, and build rapport is going to make the difference in whether your fundraisers stay or go.

 

In about a month Bentz Whaley Flessner will be releasing the report of its findings from a national survey of frontline fundraisers and what drives their behavior and job engagement. Early glances at this data have consistently pointed to two things: weak management is the top reason listed by those with low job satisfaction, and leadership training is the top topic area where fundraisers want more professional development. We should be able to address both these areas by focusing on building up what it means to effectively manage fundraisers and development teams.

 

The article also features perspectives of three other experts on diversity, job hopping, and talent management investment. It is definitely worth a read.

Thinking about the personality of your fundraisers: A breakout of extroverts and introverts in development

In recent conversations a recurring  question has come up: In a field dominated by “people who love people” can introverts be successful fundraisers?

The answer to that question seems to be consistently affirmative. However, it’s important to think about how, as talent managers and supervisors to fundraisers, we utilize the strengths of fundraisers whether they are introverted and extroverted.

Keep in mind that, as Myers-Briggs (among others) has shown, personality is not an either-or equation. We all exist along a continuum of extroversion-introversion and some introverts may possess a traditionally extroverted strength.

intro extrovert infographic

 

 

Something Worth Reading: The appeal of non-profit leadership in “Work-life demands intense for CEOs at nonprofits”

Those of us who have worked in the non-profit industry for a while can become used to the “when’s your serious career going to start?” sort of questions. But there’s more to this doubt than the lower salaries that come with working at a non-profit organization. Increasingly institutions demand more and more commitment, time, and energy from their staff and leadership. This article post touches on the effect of that pressure on CEOs in particular, but there are several salient points, in particular:

When you lead a nonprofit, where the end game is about making the community a better place to live, the workload can be immense and the emotions intense. It’s a big responsibility – and one that people in their 20s and 30s aren’t rushing to undertake. As the demand for leaders in nonprofits increases, young workers say they don’t want to make the work-life sacrifices required of nonprofit executives…

We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about fundraisers and development officers, but fundraising talent in the form of leadership is also often in short supply. Even those who have great potential may be reluctant to take on new leadership responsibilities because the increased pressure and stress that accompanies a promotion are not sufficiently balanced out by job benefits and satisfaction.

Part of the struggle can come from the nature of non-profit leadership. Most non-profit institutions are smaller organizations and with every promotion comes a large jump in responsibility. Individuals therefore tend to shoulder a broader spectrum of responsibility for an organization’s success, and, if something does go wrong, staff don’t face a loss in “profit” – they are in a position to see and feel responsible for a gap in services provided or institutional impact.

We do have a silver lining, one that applies to most non-profit staff members in general – the great privilege of working to do good and using you passion, education, and time to change the world. The article acknowledges this as well. The question becomes then, how do we utilize team members’ passion and enthusiasm for an organization and it’s mission without burning stars out too early?

Titles in Fundraising – Break-out of 4 Urban Healthcare Centers

As I mentioned before, this series of posts will focus on titles, and I will be breaking out titling by categories in the non-profit sector. First we had big public universities and now we will look at urban medical centers (note: none of the cases used were Academic Medical Centers or Health Systems) . I looked at the frontline staffing for 4 hospitals and mapped out the titles that were used. The full chart is below.

A few things of interest:

  • There was more variety and volume with titles with “senior” or “executive”.
  • There seems to be a lot more weight of senior titles here than we found in higher ed.
  • Frontline fundraising staff totals for the five institutions I chose ranged from 10-18.
  • It was more difficult to map seniority and career ladders at each institution. There are fewer clear steps between career stages in titles.

Urban Healthcare Titles

What do you think? Any surprises?

Titles in Fundraising – Break-out of 5 Big Public Universities

As I mentioned before, the next few series of posts will focus on titles, and I will be breaking out titling by categories in the non-profit sector. First up – big public universities. I looked at the frontline staffing for 5 big schools and mapped out the titles that were used. The full chart is below.

A few things of interest:

  • There were 17 Vice President positions related to development between 5 institutions – it looks like the VP title in this grouping is becoming less and less associated with only meaning the CDO or most senior fundraiser.
  • While I excluded explicit support staff, there appears to be set of junior fundraisers coming up through “associate” titles (development associate, constituent relations associate, etc).
  • Frontline fundraising staff totals for the five institutions I chose ranged from 24-76.
  • There were only two individuals with the traditional “development officer” title and one “major gift officer,” with the most frequently used general title being “director of development.”
  • In the broader staff rosters the title “Director” seems to be the favorite for staff positions in both development and advancement services.

 

Big Public Titles

What do you think? Any surprises?