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Managing Others

Development is a crucial department for any nonprofit organization. Not only are development staff tasked with getting all money for the organization, but they are also the brand evangelists for the organization. They raise you millions of dollars for a low end 5 figure salary. They MUST be excited about your cause. They MUST be happy to work for you. If they become unhappy, this is going to hurt your cause. Since it takes 12 months to 18 months for a new development person to start generating serious revenue for your organization, you need to minimize turnover. So keeping Development staff happy should be a priority for board members and executive leadership.

When you manage development staff, there are three principles to keep in mind.

1. Clear communication
Your first meeting should be about how you prefer to communicate. if you want to text your employee or direct report, for instance, make sure they are comfortable with that. If they prefer to communicate face to face, or through the telephone, make sure that you communicate with them in a way that works for both of you. Weekly meetings are important. You need to be able to check in, have measurable results with deadlines, but at the same time, help your staff feel appreciated and valued. Think of one compliment you can give them each week, spontaneous or in your meeting.

2. Creating good feeling constantly about the job and about the organization
Have respect for everyone in your organization, from your janitor to your Development Director. Show this respect by listening, by keeping your appointments, and by being clear about what you can commit to. If you catch yourself or your board referring to staff in disrespectful ways, ask yourself why you are doing that, and whether that will foster the cause of your organization.

Take the time to have that weekly staff meeting, and have a story each time of one thing your cause is helping to accomplish.

Hone your listening skills and question skills. Ask good, neutral, open-ended questions about the programs. Say, “What does your program need the most right now?” “What can we do to support you?” “Where do you see room for improvement?”

In this meeting, allow everyone to speak. Do not interrupt people.

Always praise the team. Do not draw attention to your own accomplishments.

3. Empowering everyone to lead
This is the most important principle.

If you remember the post about Leaderless Organizations, you know I am an advocate of increasing your bandwidth by empowering everyone to lead. Let people make mistakes. It’s important to let people know that it’s okay to take risks and make mistakes.

Getting volunteers, the secretary, and your donors to help you fundraise can be easy, if you create a good feeling about your mission and your organization. This can make it much easier for you to get the million little tasks done that you need to get done. When you empower people to lead, when you empower the secretary to do your mailing for you, when you empower that volunteer to sit at a fair in a booth for your nonprofit, when you empower your donor to help you plan your fundraising event, you can help everyone feel more connected to your cause, and feel that they are doing something more important with their lives.

Be willing to mentor others about development.

One thing that Generation X and Y have learned very well is that if they’re not happy with a job, they will find another one. It’s up to you to show them why they should stay.

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