Fundraising is a team sport

On October 26, 2015, in Insights, Workplace Culture, by Phillip A. Jones

In any organisation that relies on proactively seeking sources of funding its common to engage someone in the role as a fundraiser. Whether the title is fundraising or development, or giving manager or similar the focus is the same: the bottom line.

Its all about attracting money to fund operations or some other aspect of the organisation.

The role itself might be funded by a grant has to fund itself through donations or some form of fundraising and under a short term contract.

This in itself puts pressure on the person  to succeed, and whilst common, is not an ideal model as the person may be very successful in many areas of their job but may fall short of fundraising targets at no fault of their own.

The rules may change for a grants program, or funding withdrawn by the government due to a change of policy. Or perhaps they get sick, or a promised donation falls through due to no fault of their own.

Another factor that goes against meeting targets is that cultivating donations, especially recurring or significant donations is that it takes time. Time to find the right contacts, make the connection, educate + inspire the prospect, build trust and rapport and then convert that into a donation.

If the contract for the fundraiser is for six months or a year, then in many cases the conversion of a prospect, particularly in the case of a high net worth individual.

So they can do everything right and still not land their targets.

There are many factors that can influence success or failure for a fundraiser that are outside of their control, and its no wonder that there is often high burnout rate for people in those roles due to the uncertainty and stress involved.

Another factor that can impact success in fundraising is lack of support by the rest of the team. At times the attitude can be: that’s their job, not ours, we’re the admin/ creative / finance team et alia.

So often the result is the person is out there on their own, doing their best, but they really need the support of the entire organisation in some form.

This is essential not just as a risk mitigation strategy, but can also be a catalyst to get the energy of the team to help drive fundraising activities in an coordinated way.

So at all levels of the organisation there is a role they can play from Board level, to management, to rank and file staff.   Itis important they have a shared understanding of the fundraising activity or specific campaign and given the tools and rationale to help it along by the fundraising manager.

They can have a role in lots of ways that don’t necessary take them away from their own responsibilities, but it give a multiplier effect to the activity. Some of the activities can include:

  • Contribute to the development of the fundraising strategy and offer to assist in its execution
  • Being available to test messages and tactics before the launch
  • Raising awareness of the campaign through their own networks including social media
  • Leading by example by promotion of the opportunity to give, giving themselves or reaching out to people that can donate, the old ‘get, give or get-off’ mantra!
  • Turning up and showing solidarity especially at fundraising events
  • Create introductions or open doors for the specialist fundraiser to start the conversation or follow-up with their peers once an initiate contact has been made to help convert the prospect, especially at the senior level
  • Ensuring their doing their bit to ensure the organisation is as attractive as possible to a potential donor
  • Amplifying the key messages that have been developed about what the organisation is looking to achieve with the funds raised, and the results of what’s been done with donations to date.
  • Help celebrate the wins and reflecting back constructively how fundraising initiatives can be improved for next time.

No one person can be solely responsible for fundraising for an organisation, everyone has a role to play in some way and can contribute materially to its success. There needs to be a go-to person who can design the strategy, create the opportunities, cultivate the leads design the activities and be the point of contact.

But by leveraging the whole team, then it not only multiplies the potential of the fundraising activity, but shows potential donors that the organisation as a whole has a team spirit, is invested in its future and is a good investment of their support.

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Thoughts on the Absent Leader

On March 7, 2015, in Insights, Workplace Culture, by Phillip A. Jones

IMG_0836Delegation, autonomous teams, self-directed work, are they a cop out?

In 2015 the idea of directing every detail of a team’s work reeks of micromanagement and a sign of a poor performing team.

Of course each workplace and role is different, some positions require more direction that others, workplace organisation differs, and the experience of the person in the role will impact the level of management support required. In a knowledge economy the ideal is a team that gets on with the job to the required standard without the need of a supervisor, along with the expectation of a work-life balance culture.

In theory if you recruit well, and have good systems in place, then shouldn’t the appointment be perfect for the role and apply themselves with diligence? Of course its not that like in the real-world, we all being imperfect creatures and variable on a daily basis.

How far done the ‘hand’s off’ management road do you go before the leader is so absent that its every person for themselves in the workplace?

Having consulted across all sectors, there is no particular ethos for the public, not for profit, association or private sector. Sometimes the management style is laissez faire because the manager is simply too busy doing their own job to manage their team, other times its the culture of the workplace, sometimes its intentional and nearly always well-intentioned, but the results can be the same.

A few years back in conversation with a director of a a very busy commercial SME I was told that their management style was to allow their staff to get on with their job without their input, as to direct them daily would reflect a lack of trust on their professionalism.

There was no overall direction, no pulling together of the team on a daily or weekly basis,  no reflection on a job well-done or not, no vision or goals described, no motivation or accountability conversations unless asked.

There was just the annual performance review, or the opportunity to grab them for a decision or input on the fly.

The director applied the same approach to themselves, the result being the team not knowing if they were going to be in the office, and needing to manage upwards to get the input or decision point required, with a lot of energy second guessing what may be required on a daily basis. This resulted in a lack of relevance + authority of the leader to the team.

There was also a strategic impact on the organisation: with the workers acting independently, the potential of all the teams intellectual and professional capital being harnessed collectively to a goal was a missed opportunity.

The upside of this scenario was that the workers did collectively form a sort of accountability over several years. They made up for the lack of strategic + tactical direction themselves, with a token reference to the leader, which was admirable.

There was also a strong team culture formed by a core group – solidarity you may say.  The work ethic was strong, and this was just as well, for the workplace flexibility could as easily been abused.

But there was no overarching goal being worked toward, the focus was tactical, daily, weekly or project driven.  Like most organisations, I think, the only time anyone referred actively to the business or strategic plan was for governance reasons as a tick the box exercise.

It is said that most people want just a few things from their work:

  • Clear boundaries of what’s expected of them
  • What the professional standards required are of them: so they know when they’ve done a good job
  • Pride in their work and recognition
  • A positive work culture and association with their work
  • The opportunity to develop their careers and professionally
  • Reasonable work conditions, flexibility and renumeration.

Without an active and present leader in the workplace these norms cannot be established or applied consistently, and the vacuum is filled by subjectivity, personalities and short-term fixes, albeit often well-intentioned.

To my mind, its great to have professional autonomy in one’s work-life, and be treated as an adult who know’s what one is about. But without a collective vision of what the team is working towards on a daily, weekly or longer term basis, plus the accountability to ensure standards, the multiplier effect of a well-led team is lost.

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The team + leadership appointments

On January 27, 2015, in Insights, Workplace Culture, by Phillip A. Jones

typewriterIt is well understood now that most people leave a role due to their manager or workplace culture generally rather than as a purely financial driver.

Yet when seeking a successor to a manager or director, its usually the executive team or Board that both define the skills, qualities+ experience they are seeking and conduct the selection process.

But the people who have to actually work with them day in day out are rarely, if ever, consulted.  They are the ones who have to executive the directives of the new leader, know better than anyone the realities of what it takes to get the job done and are the ones most impacted by the skills + personality of the new leader.

Certainly management isn’t a popularity contest, and its rare a company can institute a Maverick/Semco solution where leaders are voted for, or key decisions are voted for via employee democracy.  But it seems to me a missed opportunity if the team are not consulted with when designing the selection criteria, or considering the qualities required in the workplace.

The appointment of a new leader is a risky and delicate moment for the organisation and team. The selection team or employer want to make sure the time consuming and expensive process sees the appointment of someone who can drive results quickly and see the organisation prosper.  They often take the opportunity to reshape the strategic direction or set new KPIs.

The staff naturally hope the appointment allows them to keep the things about the job they like, and improve on the ones they don’t, and the new appointment wants to shine and make a difference.  Everyone wants to win. But those ‘wins’ can be quite diverse and rarely shared with the main stakeholder groups.

With any appointment the risk is always there that there will be attrition from team members who don’t like the appointment for various reasons, such as personality, new workplace culture or the KPIs put in place as the new leader wants to put runs on the board.

I don’t think the risks are any greater or less if the appointment is from within or without. With the former there will be team members who are not fans of the appointment, or are too familiar for them to exercise effectively the new authority. So whilst they may seem the one who can step up easily with minimum disruption, they may come with baggage.

With an external choice, they may have a mandate from the people they report to make changes, or drive results that may be at odds with the current culture. But to carry that off they need to bring the team with them and attune to the workplace culture quickly. With advance insight from consultation as part of the process that can be done so much more easily.

By taking the team into their confidence and asking for input the selection panel can mitigate some of these risks as part of the overall mix. The team can provide insight into the workplace, the key needs of the organisation as they see it, and the qualities they see a new leader needs to have as part of the selection process.

As a group I suggest they will be mature enough to know that they are not going to get their next best friend by coming up with a wish list. The fact they are asked at all sends a powerful signal too that they are valued by senior management. Most people want the best for the place they work for, and understand that the next appointment will have responsibilities to answer for and there will be some changes they can expect.

The caveat, of course, is that they would have to understand that by presenting a shopping list of their dream boss will not result in that coming about, but at least they’ll have been heard

Through this consultation process those involved will have gained insights into the organisation they may not have otherwise received, had a chance to be listened to, and the new appointment can be well briefed on the team’s perspective, leading to a well-informed appointment.

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