If you’re someone who manages a team of development professionals, this post is for you. Recently I received a message from a Director of Development sincerely asking as a new manager how they can best support their mid-level, major gift, and planned giving officers.
First off, it’s great that this person asked the question. Richard and I have heard way too many negative stories about bad managers. So when a new manager asks this kind of question, I leap for joy!
If you’re a development manager or you’re hoping to be one someday, here’s a list of things that your staff wants from you. And if you can put this list into practice, your team will not only be successful and bring in positive results, they’ll also be happy in their work and stay with you longer.

  1. Empathy — If you can put yourself in your staff’s shoes and understand where they’re coming from, you’ll be a compassionate and wise manager. (Tweet it!)
  2. Structure — Giving each of your staff a solid structure to work within gives your team the parameters to do their work more effectively. Many managers think this is counter-intuitive, and they want to allow their staff to “do their thing,” thinking they’ll be liked better. Don’t fall for that. Your MLOs, MGOs, and PGOs want a solid structure to work within.
  3. Goals and Plans — Set agreed-upon revenue goals and a strategic plan for each of the donors in their portfolio. This allows you as their manager to actually manage.
  4. Offers — Your staff needs something specific to “sell” to their donors. The most empowering thing you can do is provide them with inspiring donor offers. This means you’re working with program and finance to figure out all your organization does, how much it costs, and what the fundraising need actually is. Then you can provide your team with compelling case statements to help them solicit donors based on the donor’s passions and interests.
  5. Communication — Meet with your staff individually every week. Give them accountability, help them focus their time, be their cheerleader, and help them solve problems. This will help each of your staff feel supported.
  6. Advocate — Be your staff’s advocate with upper management and leadership. For example, when a CEO is concerned because you allow the MGOs and PGOs to work odd hours or work from home, don’t cower from that leader. Instead, show the leader why they’ll be more productive because of it. Stand up for your people!
  7. Evaluation — Every month, review where your staff is, compared to goals. Have conversations BEFORE something goes wrong. And evaluate the right things that promote building relationships with donors, rather than promoting getting immediate cash in the door. Evaluate these things: a) How is revenue per donor compared to last year vs. this year vs. to goal? b) How many meaningful connections are being made, and c) Are they working their strategic plan?
  8. Freedom — Now this might sound like it’s the opposite of structure, planning, and evaluation – but it’s not. Structure allows your people to have the freedom to do their work within the parameters you set. This way, you don’t have to “hover” and micro-manage them.

As a manager, if you can follow these eight management strategies, you’ll create and foster an atmosphere that’s donor-centered, honoring of your staff, and promoting a workplace of trust and care of people.
Richard and I have heard from hundreds of MLOs, MGOs, and PGOs over the years, and this is exactly what they’re looking for in a manager. Give them this, and you’ll see great fundraising success.