Headcount, salaries, and FTEs are very much in the news for our industry. Pay levels for executives are being scrutinized. Team sizes are being questioned.
The notion of doing “more with less” is never one I’ve embraced, although most organizations have plenty of opportunity for incremental improvements from their existing team. In my years of consulting, I have found that team members are coach-able, social sector infrastructure is underfunded, and, therefore, organizations need to leverage the team they have.
The caveat, though, is that we shouldn’t mistake FTEs for expertise. That is, “more with more” may not be the case. This message has stuck with me in many ways. I’ve had employees who were more productive and effective in a few hours than some were all week. I’ve seen clients hire firms to “throw bodies at the problem” only to find that inexperienced (even if book-smart) contractors often make easily avoidable mistakes.
Of course, we don’t always have the luxury of an experienced crew. In our industry, where turnover is rampant and investment is too low, there are a few things to consider:
Retain, retain, retain. Where you have a great person in place, reward and retain them. You’ve likely seen someone refer to “one year of experience, ten time” to refer to a professional that hasn’t really learned much year-over-year, generally because of job hopping. If you have a great team member, assume they will be poached and do something about it.
Grow with impact in mind. A careful plan to add team members based on the impact and results that position will drive is essential. I completed a project for a large academic medical center that doubled their team size, but more importantly had a training, retention, and career development plan designed to keep and promote the best people. The reality is that fundraisers, in particular, need a few years to optimize their productivity, so build a plan that accommodates that reality.
Don’t assume more people and hours equal productivity. Hiring a big firm to “do everything” will increase the hours available, yet the impact of those hours may be much less productive than you desire. Before assuming the “bigger equals better”, determine if your optimism will match the reality of the situation.
Be smart with your “B” students. I’m a proponent of top performers and going the extra mile to retain them; my clients too often lose top performers for the cost of a 10% raise. Your next tier of performers needs special attention, too. Because they may be less desirable to executive search professionals, you have a chance to retain them and coach them into high levels of impact. Have a “stay plan” for folks designed to get them to want to be on the team as long as they remain a good performer.
Just adding lots of FTEs is not a great plan. When budget and approval are available, it can seem like a bonanza, requiring immediate plans to load up on people or engage a contractor. Do so cautiously. Put expertise (and retention of expert team members) first in those plans. True up salaries for long-standing employees whose results have been proven. Then, with retention concerns allayed, get yourself the most talented and experienced people possible, one FTE at a time.
Had a great time with a group of terrific fundraisers from around the Big 12. The main question–are we strategizing the right way? The uncomfortable answer: Not really! Get back to basics and put the donors first, among other things.
Hey, all. A great group gathered to discuss gift and data management issues at the #CASEgpw conference in Providence, RI. My prezis from my sessions (best-in-class and privacy and regulations) can be found via these links.
During the St. Louis Planned Giving Council meetings, we spent some time discussing the challenges (and, as some call it, strangle hold) that cost-per-dollar-raised measures place on great fundraising. The “overhead myth” approach aligns nicely with the notion that we are under-investing in our fundraising efforts. We emphasize efficiency over effectiveness and often miss out altogether on the notion of impact and net gains.
We can start to change this. Of course, some donors would like us to do more with less. However, donors that are focused on the long-term impact of their giving understand the value of investing in broad gains, much of which requires patience.
Thanks to all who attended the Blackbaud Higher Ed Forum. We covered one of the most vexing aspects of higher ed philanthropy–getting and keeping investment in our hard work. Check out the session here.
Good luck with dialing up the investment in the months to come!
….You should have your talented team move your WordPress site into the 21st century. That’s what I did.
Thanks to my colleague Geof Landgraf for his excellent work in combining my WordPress site with my fundraisingoperations.com site. You can expect some fresh blogging in the next few weeks on: alumni participation; mergers and acquisitions, nonprofit-style; and, triggers to change your ERP.
In the meantime, consider whether you’re doing all you can with your digital real estate and assets. A consolidation like Geof provided or other refreshes might be just the trick to get your onsite profile noticed by more constituents and donors.
Every team needs great reports. Successful and effective reporting is essential to advancement efforts. Your team’s report framework may be different than others, but you should have some set principles. I’ve written about the critical importance of great reporting for operations efforts.
A simple way to determine if your team’s reporting environment works is to determine if it is FACTual. In this approach, reports should be:
Formatted. Users trust data (and experiences overall) that are consistently delivered. Just as a brand promise helps ensure that, say, every Coca-Cola will taste the same as the next (and apparently make the consumer happy), the report consumer should trust the facts and understand the familiar formatting.
Accurate. Users must receive accurate reports. In addition to reports relying on tested programming to yield consistent results, “accurate” reporting also requires that all users share common definitions and understanding.
Complete. Reports (and the reporting environment) must contain all records and details expected by the user and defined in the parameters of the report. This principle requires that data be reported from a central, comprehensive source.
Timely. The ideal reporting environment requires that information be readily available. In the absence of timely reporting, many offices will resort to highly inefficient, hybrid reporting solutions that increase room for error and inconsistent formatting.
Want to see how your reporting environment stacks up? Check out my “confidence calculator” to test whether your reporting environment is FACTual.
The trend toward online, and more specifically, mobile direct response fundraising continues. My colleague and mobile strategist, Molly Kelly, blogged about this very point recently (click here for Molly Kelly’s Mobile Donation Form Blog). Of course, big campaigns are still won with the biggest of gifts. However, if you’re strategies aren’t engaging 20- and 30-somethings who are immersed in mobile access and apps, your current participation rates and future campaigns will suffer.
If you’re having a challenge getting investment into mobile technology, take a look at Molly’s piece. Mobile donations: no longer a fad; they’re a fact!
In the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewed regarding trends in our industry’s technology sector and how this will affect the future of fundraising. We have a challenge: we don’t have the funding for the technology we want to use for fundraising. It’s a market issue. At the same time, we are faced with changing trends among 20- and 30-something donors, new, innovative, and possibly disruptive technologies, and a concentration and transfer of wealth that’s nearly unique in human history.
Have a look at this article in TechTarget to get a sense of how our industry is shaping up. And, be on the lookout for additional posts on these vitally important topics.
Check out this fun session here. We covered a number of nuanced situations that affect our ability to handle data more securely. Those little computers people carry around in their pockets–with access to, more or less, the entirety of human knowledge via tools like Google–create some unexpected issues. Breaches and data sharing complicate matters. It’s a fast-moving world we are trying to control, and this session pin-pointed a few tricks to put in place.