A great perk of working in the nonprofit sphere is that you typically wear many hats. As a fundraiser, you might be managing a direct mail campaign one day and meeting with one of your major donors the next. Depending on the size of your development department, there could be some specificity to what you do, but likely, you’re involved in seeing each development task come to fruition. And that’s rewarding.
While a blessing in one sense, you might see your daily juggling act as a burden in another sense. You have a big responsibility: raising more money for your organization. You understand that if you do not do your job well, the entire organization suffers. And around this time each year, the gravity of funding your organization begins to weigh on you. Am I doing this right? Is the CEO pleased? Is the Board, well, onboard? Does my boss approve?
Especially as a young development staffer, it can be easy to forget that only half the battle is how you do your job, and the other half is how your boss perceives what you do. Trust among your CEO and board stems from your job performance.
The fundraising industry is built on relationships, but often we forget that our relationship with our colleagues is just as vital to growing the organization as executing on our overall fundraising tasks.
So, how are your relationships with your colleagues going? Here are some tips to help you become a model employee.
1. Hear the instructions, understand the instructions, say the instructions. We have all been there. Your boss walked in and asked you to do something and you quickly replied, “Yes, right away. I’m on it!” Only to realize that you didn’t fully hear and understand the request. Early on in my career, one of my mentors advised me to “hear the instructions, understand the instructions, and say the instructions.”
- What am I being asked to do and when am I being asked to do it?
- Do I know how to do what I am being asked? If not, ask clarifying questions right then.
- Repeat back to your boss what he or she just requested of you. “So, you want me to write the next solicitation letter about our major donor clubs and send to you for review by the 1st?”
2. Have a problem? Find a solution. I’ll never forget the first day of my first job right out of college. My new boss said, “Don’t come to me with a problem, unless you also come to me with a solution.” Yeah, I was a little intimidated.
Whether your development assistant isn’t understanding direct mail coordination, or your foundation solicitation program is suffering, or you have too much on your plate – believe it or not, you probably have the best solutions to the problems you face… even more than your supervisor does. Write down your ideas and make a compelling case for how to fix your daily dilemmas. Then present them to your boss in a way that says, “This is the problem. Here are some ways we could solve the problem. What do you think?” Believe me, you will be labeled as a problem-solver and they may even be coming to you for advice.
3. Write down everything. Yes, everything. Some of the smartest people I know travel everywhere with a notebook and pen in hand. Notes on top of notes. To do lists on top of to do lists. CYA (definition here) is one motivating factor for scribes, but another, is execution. It’s easy to come up with ideas. Few can execute on those ideas without a plan in place or pen in hand. Write it down. Had a tough conversation with one of your development staffers? Write down what happened and date it. Did the mail house screw up your letter? Take note on what is being done to fix it. Have a meeting with your boss? Write down an agenda ahead of time and action items post-meeting. Seriously, you will be floored by how much you accomplish when you write it down. You will also earn the respect of your colleagues by being known for “having information.”
If you make a habit of doing these three things, your relationships will improve, your colleagues will trust you, and hey, one day, your salary may even grow, too.