In my last blog post, I spoke to front-line fundraisers about realizing their power in the current job climate. I encouraged folks to ask themselves: “Do I want to go back to the office full-time?”

Today, I want to pose a question directly to non-profit leaders and managers: do you actually need your front-line fundraisers to return to the office? And if you really do, how you can do that in a way that honors your staff?

Richard and I understand the desire to get back to normal. But we believe the pandemic has changed the game, probably forever. What was normal before the pandemic does not have to be what’s normal after the pandemic. Just because you have office space with empty desks doesn’t mean you need to fill that space with bodies.

In fact, we believe you will provide a more friendly work environment that will lead to happier staff, which leads to better retention, if you either allow your front-line fundraisers to work remotely or offer a hybrid option.

One thing is clear. Front-line fundraisers have been just as successful doing their work at home as they were in the office. And from all the surveys out there, your staff is happier working from home than they were commuting into the office.

Of course, if your staff prefers to work from the office, great, but we are urging you to consider being flexible and allowing your front-line fundraisers to make that choice themselves.

Here is what we’ve seen so far that shows the benefits of working from home:

  1. More flexible schedules make for happier, more productive employees. We saw this happening pre-pandemic, and we urged non-profit leaders and mangers to allow their front-line staff to work remotely.
  2. Stress related to commuting is reduced, and when people are spending less time commuting, they have more time to do other things, both personal and work-related.
  3. It improves inclusivity and supports diversity, community, and family.
  4. It increases productivity overall due to fewer interruptions and more personalized work environments that meet the needs of each employee.

Why would you want to take the remote option away from your front-line fundraising staff? It makes no logical sense to order them all back into the office. If you’re honest with yourself, is requiring your staff to return to the office really about control? I mean, I get it. Many managers are feeling obsolete in the wake of this pandemic because they felt out of control. But other managers thrived in our work-from-home reality and realized their staff was actually much happier.

Okay, so there’s the argument against going back to the way it was. Now, if this decision is beyond your control as a leader or manager, here’s some advice before you bring them back:

  1. Give adequate notice. Some front-line fundraisers are telling us they have been given a week’s notice. That’s not enough time! Allow at least 4 weeks.
  2. Make sure the office is safe. This is everyone’s greatest fear; that when they go back it won’t be safe enough, and they will catch the variant. Make sure you have the right protocols, including a defined approach to COVID-19 vaccinations and masking, so your staff can feel safe.
  3. Seek input from your front-line fundraisers. Many fundraisers are telling us they have not been consulted about whether it’s feasible for them to return to work now, or what kind of arrangement would work best for them. Maybe your staff really wants to return to the office but asking for their input will go a long way toward creating trust with your leadership and management.

Any good leader or manager wants the best work environment for their staff.  This pandemic has proven that the traditional office is not the only way for employees to thrive. As a leader or manager, we urge you to take the time to evaluate if it might be time to think differently about the traditional paradigm and start something new that actually could realize more success and happier staff.