This post is part-three in a four-part series titled “Reimagining the Non-Profit Workplace”

What does it take to be a manager people want to work for? What are the traits in a manager that cause their staff to excel and find joy in their work?

This is what I want to write about today.

If you have been reading this series on Reimaging the Non-Profit Workplace, you know that in my first post, I reported on the bleak state of management in the non-profit sector. And I stated that in all surveys taken by fundraisers on why they are leaving their jobs in record numbers, the #1 reason is that they are unhappy with their managers.

So, if we wanted to really “reimagine” the non-profit workplace, then valuing and lifting up the role of managers is essential, especially if our goal is to have happy, fulfilled, and satisfied staff along with deep, fulfilling relationships with donors.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on what those traits are that make up great managers. Interestingly, Google, the company, has done extensive research on this and has invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to figure it out. In the online publication, they report on what Google did.

Google created a project called “Project Oxygen” to ask the question: What if everyone at Google had an amazing manager? The called it “Project Oxygen” because their Director of People Operations said, “Having a good manager is essential, like breathing. And, if we make managers better, it would be like a breath of fresh air.”

After investing the resources and time into this project, they came up with 11 traits a good manager possesses.
  1. Caring — Caring managers take time to get to know the individuals in their team. They’re genuinely interested in a team member’s success and personal wellbeing, and they regularly check in with people about their lives, both at work and outside it.
  2. Coaching — Good coaches focus on developing the people they work with as well as getting the job done. They ensure they have regular 1-on-1 meetings with team members and encourage them to present solutions to problems, rather than solving problems for them.
  3. Communicating — Managers become great communicators by being good listeners. They allow time for others to speak. They have a clear understanding of the organization’s vision and share it with the people in their team in a way that motivates them. They keep their team up to date on what’s happening in the organization.
  4. Development — Managers who show a genuine interest in employees’ career development acknowledge improvement and not just deliverables. They take time to discuss their direct report’s long-term career aspirations and help them understand potential career paths within (and potentially outside) the organization.
  5. Emotional resilience — How a manager responds to challenging circumstances can have a significant impact on their team. Managers who are emotionally resilient are aware of how their mood affects others. They remain calm and productive under pressure and cope well with change.
  6. Fair treatment — Managers who value fair treatment will allocate tasks and set schedules keeping in mind people’s capacity and development goals. They acknowledge good work. They build a diverse and inclusive team and encourage diversity of thought.
  7. Fosters innovation — Fostering innovation and empowering their teams to make decisions is how managers can inspire – and learn from failures and achievements. They don’t micromanage people. They encourage innovative ideas and approaches and help people to implement them.
  8. Empowering and motivating — Effective managers help people stay motivated to do their best work. They make the people they manage feel valued, supported, and empowered. They feel they’re successful when the employees they manage are successful.
  9. Results-oriented — Results-oriented managers ensure performance standards are maintained. They work with team members to help remove blockers and get the team workable outcomes from team meetings.
  10. Technical capability — Technically proficient managers add value to their teams. They can roll up their sleeves and work alongside the team when necessary. They empathize with the challenges the team faces and have the necessary skills to help devise solutions.
  11. Vision and goal setting — A manager ensures the organization’s vision and strategy are translated into an actionable vision and strategy for the team. They help their reports understand how their role contributes to the organization’s success.

What an amazing list! One of the key points that Richard taught me over the years is that good managers have a desire to get results through other people’s work. They have a desire and heart to develop others and help them be successful.

In our book, “It’s Not JUST About the Donor,” Richard and I outline the three key tasks that managers have to do to create a successful front-line fundraising team and be a manager people want to work for:
  1. Communicate with your fundraising team — Not only do you need to provide them with encouragement, motivation, and accountability, but you also need to keep them informed. You have a much wider view into the organization and have a great deal of valuable information. Just because you know something doesn’t mean your front-line fundraisers know. If you are aware of important information regarding the organization of your programs, make sure that information gets to your MGOs.
  2. Provide assistance, especially in cross-collaborative projects — You’ll see a lot more effort behind things like creating a portfolio of donor offers if you encourage that effort first. You also have insight and perspective on the big picture that can be crucial in conversations between departments.
  3. Have your team’s back — You need to show your team that you support their work. Their efforts are too valuable. If you don’t support them, you’ll end up with a revolving door for donors and staff.

We take management and the role that managers play in the non-profit sector seriously because Richard and I have witnessed first-hand the results of what good management does: It creates an abundance of joy… more needs being met, fundraisers happy in their work, and donors fulfilling their passions and interests.


Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Front-line Fundraisers Are Leaving… And It’s Your Fault
  2. How to Deal With and Change a Toxic Non-Profit Culture
  3. How to Be A Manager People Want to Work For (this post)
  4. Hiring and Retaining the Right Fundraising Talent