Working from home has its challenges.
Veritus Group has worked with hundreds of major gift officers over the years. A great many of them (roughly 25%) actually work out of their homes, full time or part-time, one to three days per week.
For many non-profits, especially those that are national in scope, having home-based MGOs is great because it allows you to look anywhere in the country for a good MGO. But even a regional or local non-profit can benefit, because it’s a perk not to have to commute into work every day, and that may get you a higher quality MGO if you can’t pay someone more than market rate. Many people, especially MGOs, love this perk. It’s too bad that many organizations frown on this, but most of the time it’s because they have been burned in the past.
Veritus Group is actually a virtual company. All of the client managers for Veritus work out of their homes. We have no building to go to every morning. Personally, I’ve been working out of my home for about 13 years. At first, I didn’t know if I would like it – I’m a real people person. I get my energy being with other people. When I worked in an office, I loved going to lunch or getting coffee with my colleagues. But I adjusted. I learned how to communicate remotely and get my “people fix,” and I can’t imagine working in an office ever again. Who doesn’t like working in their pajamas until 10am? …or maybe all day?
But while it affords the MGO much more freedom, and it allows MGOs to concentrate on their caseloads, there are many Development Directors and Executive Directors who don’t like it. Besides the control issues that some managers have, they have legitimately been burned by some MGOs who have taken advantage of telecommuting. Like anything, there are challenges to working from home. Today, I want to give you some tips from my personal experience on how you can be successful working from home, and at the same time I hope to help you give comfort to your manager that you are “on top of it” when it comes to your job. Here they are:

  1. Over-communicate. Working from home requires that you have superior communication skills. Make sure you have the latest video conferencing software and that you have superior knowledge in how to use it. Just having it doesn’t count. You have to know how to use it. You should have regular weekly meetings set up with your manager. I think it’s best to do this by video if you can. Having your manager see you does make a difference, and it gives them comfort. I also strongly recommend having a regular meeting with your fellow MGOs, especially if all of you are working remotely.
  2. Answer your e-mails and phone calls. Nothing is worse for a manager who has people working for him remotely than if they don’t answer their phone or e-mail in a timely manner. You have to understand your manager: there is a built-in assumption that anyone working from home may not be working. You can argue that it is wrong of your manager to think that way, but it’s your job to prove, over time, that he’s wrong and can trust you. Not responding to e-mail and phone will lead to more distrust. You can’t use the excuse that you were out for an hour because the laundry was piling up. You can do the laundry AND get back to people.
  3. Get out to see your donors. We believe that about half of your time as an MGO should be out in front of your donors. You could argue that if you are working from home, that percentage could even be higher, since you are not distracted by all the “office stuff” that takes up 2-3 hours of everyone’s day. Here is the key: make sure your manager knows where you are. This goes back to over-communicating. When you do your weekly meeting, let her know your full schedule of donor meetings, when you are going, etc. Put those meetings in a shared calendar that your manager can see, so she is always aware. Again, you are giving comfort to your manager.
  4. Enter your moves into your donor software. While this is important for every MGO, it’s an absolute must for MGOs working remotely. This shows everyone what you have been working on in real time. Working from home means you have to be extra-diligent in recording your moves with donors. If you want to keep this nice “perk,” you will do well to keep excellent records. This gives no one a reason to say, “Well, if she were in the office she’d be more accountable…”
  5. Make or exceed your revenue goals. At the end of the day, it’s all about the relationships you have created and deepened AND whether you have hit your revenue goals. I keep going back to #1, over-communicating. If you are properly communicating with your manager about your caseload, nothing will be a surprise; but the best way to give your manager comfort that you are doing your job well from home is to make your goals. If you continue to do it successfully year over year, no one will bat an eye that you took an afternoon off, or went to the grocery store in the middle of the day. Why? Because they know you do your job well, and it’s not about you being at a desk from 8am-5pm.

Working from home can have its challenges, but if done well, it can give you a great quality of life that benefits not only you, but also your organization and donors.
Do it well.
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