I just had another talk with a fundraising director who was getting micro-managed by a nonprofit ED. She was out visiting sponsors for an event and getting emails questioning whether being out of the office was the best use of her time.
This happens all the time.
Even when fundraising professionals specifically ask a question like “Are you expecting me to simply warm a seat?” in the interview, EDs still seem to freak out when they aren’t at their desk.
Why is this?
I don’t have it figured out. But here are my ideas…
- Everyone else is at the office when they are working
This is probably a big one. For most organizations, butts in seats is visible proof that employees are working. (Or at least are physically present. They may be mentally elsewhere!) Empty seats = no work getting done.
- The ED wants to pop in and ask a question
This has got to be frustrated for an ED. Most other employees are available for a quick question. If we’re doing our job engaging, soliciting, and stewarding donors, we aren’t at our desk. So when she comes in to ask us a question, she’s reminded that we’re not there. Which pops back to the butt-in-seat issue mentioned above.
- Most other revenue is billable
It might also be that fundraising isn’t a consistent monthly income. It usually comes in chunks at different times of the year: in response to direct mail, or an event, or a major gift project. It becomes a “receivable” only after it’s pledged. Only then can the ED show it to the CFO or board and feel reasonably confident that it’s coming in.
I don’t think we’re stupid
I don’t think fundraisers are stupid. But I think we stink at “impression management.” In many ways, we need to “steward” our bosses (or boards if they are our boss) just as well as we steward donors: we need to prove their investment in us is a good one.
We are usually the only person at our organization, or the only department, that thinks like we do. So we need to translate our activities in a way our employers understand.
The Weekly Call Report
Years ago, I developed what I call a “Weekly Call Report.” It looked like this:
It had places for the date and a weekly focus. But the rest of the page (and the back) was filled with spaces to record the names of people I contacted. There are something like 120.
This was just how I “kept score.” My goal was to fill up the sheet every week. At the end of the week, I’d make a copy of this and put it in my bosses inbox with a simple “FYI” scrawled on it.
You’ll see that I also included how I was contacting the person, why I was contacting them, and any relevant notes. All this helped me then put the information into the database so others would know.
I didn’t have to do this. No one was forcing me to keep score. I simply needed to prove to myself that I was doing the right actions. Seeing how I was contacting people and why I was helped me make sure to mix up my communications. If I were too reliant on email, I’d quickly see I needed to pick up the phone or get a face-to-face. If I were too focused on thanking, I’d easily see I needed to step up my solicitations.
I was at a school when I created this, so I also looked at who I was contacting. It got really easy to contact people that graduated around the time I did. This sheet served as an early warning system, reminding me to talk to a variety of alumni.
And it went into my boss’ inbox every week. A simply, nonverbal reminder that 100-120 people were touched that week without her having to lift a finger.
If we do our jobs well, we will not be at our seats all the time. This might help you with your “impression management.”