lookingup 2014-Mar26
We have written quite a few times in this blog about the way managers need to manage their major gift officers. Sadly, the state of management in the non-profit sector is sorely lacking. It’s just very rare to come across a good manager who really knows how to develop a staff.
Now, I do want to state up front that, despite what I’ve just said, Richard and I certainly know some incredible managers. We have encountered people who have dedicated themselves to really developing others and have a heart to ensure that the people they manage do great things. It’s just that they are few and far between.
Worse than that, we find that many managers actually get in the way of accomplishing great things. In fact, ever since we started this blog we have received a ton of communication from MGOs and other development professionals who lament how their managers get in the way of really serving their donors.
This is very sad. But, unfortunately it doesn’t surprise us. So, with it being the fact that both Richard and I are activators, we most always counsel folks in the following manner:

  1. Either you wait around for 5 years and become frustrated until the manager moves on, or…
  2. You figure out strategies to “get things done” now without the manager blocking you, or…
  3. You move to another job.

In other words, manage up, or tell your manager what he or she needs to do in order for you to accomplish what you need to do. Don’t sit around waiting for your manager to, all of a sudden, see the light and actually begin to manage. If you are not getting what you want, then you need to take the initiative yourself.
Here are seven tips on how to do this so you can get what you need and serve your donors well in spite of a bad manager.

  1. Proactively schedule update meetings — I know your manager doesn’t have time to supervise your work.  He or she is involved in all the office bureaucracy and you’re getting left out. You deserve to have someone looking out for your workplace needs and giving you feedback. If you are NOT getting it from your manager, ASK for it. Ask your manager to sit down with you every week to go over your activities. Then sit down with her every month to go over your revenue goals. You need accountability and you may just have to ask for it. Great MGOs do this.
  2. Overcommunicate what steps you are taking on major moves with your donor — If you can proactively communicate with your manager, it will assure him that you are on top of things. Especially when you are working on a complex, large gift, overcommunicating the progress with your manager is so important because he will be able to give you good input and support you if something goes wrong. Don’t wait until something does go wrong and then try to bring your manager in. Let him be part of the process with you.
  3. Make sure you establish a good relationship with your boss’s boss — This one is a bit tricky, but if done right, will help inoculate you from a bad manager. Of course, you want to establish a good relationship with all of your colleagues, but especially those who manage your manager. Why? Because if you run into a bad situation with a manager who is not being just and fair, you need an advocate to move forward. If your relationship is solid with your manager’s superior you are likely to come to a positive conclusion. I’m not talking about bad-mouthing your manager; I’m talking about overcoming a barrier to making sure you are serving your donors outrageously. It’s all about being donor-focused.
  4. Make your goals — If you really want to make sure your manager doesn’t become a barrier to serving your donors, then achieve your revenue goals. We have seen too many MGOs whine about management and use that as an excuse not to make their revenue goals. You will get much more accomplished if you are also making your goals. In fact, this will enable you to get what you want sooner than anything else you could do.
  5. Never talk badly about your manager to your colleagues — I know this one is tough, and it’s easy to fall into. But, DON’T DO IT! Find a mentor outside of work or a partner or spouse to blow off steam with. This could hurt you if you are bad-mouthing your supervisor and someone finds out about it.
  6. Always look for a winwin solution to make your manager look good — Whatever the situation, if you can work in a way to help make your manager look good, all the better. I’m not saying you should give him false credit, but look for ways that can help your manager to be successful. I’ve seen managers really turn a corner when the folks they supervise look out for them.
  7. Sometimes you need to just do it and ask forgiveness later — This is not something we would advocate using frequently, but remember, YOU are the champion of your donors. If your boss is getting in your way of doing the best job you can, you need to move ahead anyway. Most of the time this works out fine, but know that it may have consequences. Do the right thing.

Well, there you have it. Seven tips to help you get what you need and serve your donors, even if you have a bad manager. Remember, nothing will get done unless YOU take charge and make it happen. You can’t sit around and wait for a manager to do it for you.
PS – On April 10th, I’ll be speaking at the Engage Conference in Philadelphia. If you’re a non-profit employee, you can join us and save $75 off the admission price by using the code VERITUS75. Come hear the great speakers and introduce yourself to me!