One of the greatest lessons that Richard gave me as he mentored me over the years has been to manage by objectives (versus micromanaging a person by tasks, hours, et cetera). If you manage by objectives, you give your employee the freedom to do the work in a way that allows them to be successful.
So here’s the deal, managers: if you want to keep extraordinary frontline fundraisers and help them meet their objectives so they can make or exceed their revenue goals, you cannot expect them to be 9-5 employees like the rest of your staff at your organization. You must treat them differently.
Too many frontline fundraisers leave organizations whose missions they love because they’re expected to be in the office until 5pm, they’re required at every internal meeting, and they’re paid a low salary due to some antiquated pay grade system. Many organizations don’t give fundraisers the freedom for flexibility around their schedules so they can spend most of their time outside the office meeting with donors.
Here’s one scenario that Richard and I hear about all the time. An MGO has an early breakfast meeting at 7am. They meet with the donor until 8am, then they head to the office to start their day. That same day, there is a donor cultivation event from 7-9pm. The MGO asks if they can leave early that day so they can see their kids before coming back to the event. The manager, thinking he doesn’t want to play any favorites, says, “No, you have to stay until 5pm just like everyone else.”
Now, you may think I’m being overly dramatic in this scenario, but we’ve seen this played out repeatedly with many organizations. And eventually, this kind of approach takes a toll on the fundraiser’s work satisfaction.
Another common scenario is that an MGO travels to visit several donors and is gone a few days. By Thursday night, that MGO has already logged 50 hours of work, plus travel time, but because they “have to be in the office and work all five days,” the manager doesn’t allow that MGO to take Friday off.
As a manager, you want your people to meet their relationship and revenue objectives with their donors. If they’re doing that, why do you care if they arrive at the office at 10am, or leave at 3pm some days, or take a day off here and there when they’ve worked hard during the week? Usually, the answer we get is that it’s “organizational policy,” or “we can’t treat our staff differently.”
Yes, you can.
Your frontline fundraisers should not have to adhere to standard policies around schedules and time in the office. Frankly, they are revenue generators for your non-profit and to do their jobs well, they should not have to adhere to work hours, in-office requirements, or pay grades that other departments in your organization follow.
Your job as a manager is to help your frontline fundraiser be the best they can be. That means providing support that allows them to do their job effectively, efficiently, and with flexibility so they can form authentic relationships with donors.
You do all those things, and your frontline fundraisers will be making and exceeding goals, and you’ll stop the revolving door and keep these good people for many years.
PS – For more on managing by objectives, check out this example of an MGO job description which outlines the key objectives for an MGO. When your MGO is performing in these areas, it truly doesn’t matter what time they clock in.