By Sarah Sims
It’s the summertime, and some of us are feeling a little lazy and perhaps and a tiny bit unmotivated right now. For most of us, the fiscal year has ended, offices are empty as vacation beckons, there’s no burning fires, football is still a few weeks away, and we are breathing a temporary sigh of relief.
But as we head into the fall and the work compounds exponentially, we need to be ready and prepared to advocate for more resources when the opportunity arises. It’s only a matter of time before we feel we are burning the candle at both ends again. For many Donor Relations employees, requesting and making the strategic case for additional investments in your team, whether they be staff or programmatic dollars, can be an intimidating prospect. The best ways to be effective in negotiating additional resources revolve around your preparedness, prioritization, and perspective - the Three P’s.
Preparedness: Nothing is worse than getting caught off guard when asked strategic staffing or initiative questions and not being able to answer the inquiry with knowledge and confidence. Always have a good handle on what needs to come next in your shop – additional staff, specific investments in technology, changes to existing programs, general ways in which you know you need to improve or build your team. Even if the answer is currently “no” or it’s not in the budget, there will always be an opportunity to express your needs, and you need to be prepared, well-spoken, and knowledgeable when those moments arise. In addition, you should always be armed with a series of key statistics and metrics for your team, such as:
Your organization’s first –time donor retention rate…and what you are (or are not) doing to affect their giving experience
Time and resources required to produce endowed or impact reports…and if you do X, your timeline or results could be Y
Total number of acknowledgments your team produces…and if you could implement X changes, they would go out Y days sooner and Z number would be more personalized
Prioritization: When asking for additional resources, we often fail to make a strong, strategic, clear argument for just one thing – we ask for the pie in the sky in the hopes that we will get anything at all. But we aren’t doing ourselves any favors when we lay out all the options. It can make us look ill-prepared and too scattered. We end up diluting the message and instead of focusing on one tangible request, our leadership can get lost in all of the moving pieces. For example, I needed to overhaul an existing program because it was manual, laborious, and required way too much time from my team with little ROI. I needed data and IT staff to build me a new platform…but, of course, those areas are in high demand and I was not the biggest priority. So instead of laying out all the changes I wanted, I made the case for just the one thing I knew success hinged on – the technology tool. I made the case that if they could invest the time and build me this tool, I could reduce the production time by 3 months and then use those 3 months for other things they wanted me to do, but didn’t have the time to do now. I prioritized one request, kept it simple, and demonstrated the tangible outcomes (with metrics) that would result.
Perspective: I have found over the years that a sure-fire way to frustrate organizational leadership is to implement change or request additional resources without a broader understanding of the impact of that request on the rest of the team. Self-awareness, context, and empathy for others is key in your battle for growth or additional investment. When going in, you need to have a very clear understanding of how your request will impact the rest of the organization. You will likely need data, IT, perhaps communications or design…and how does your request fit into their own workloads and priorities? If you need to invest in staffing positions, who isn’t getting their personnel request? What are the organizational priorities at the moment? You have to think of others and be able to frame your request in the context of the greater good. And, at the end of the day, how will your request help the organization meet its fundraising goals?
So sit back and enjoy the rest of your summer (beverage of choice in hand), but keep the Three P’s in mind as you work to grow and evolve your teams from good to great.
This post was written by Sarah Sims. Sarah is a consultant and educator with the DRG Group and serves as the Executive Director of Donor Relations at the University of Florida. Sarah is a leader in the donor relations field with more than 15 years’ experience. Drawing from her strengths in strategy and execution, Sarah is always looking for ways to turn challenges into opportunities.