EBkitchensink 2014-May28
That’s what most major gift officer job descriptions have – everything but the kitchen sink. Besides being really irritating, this situation actually hurts the MGO and the organization’s goals in major gifts work.
I was going to be positive about this subject. But the more I thought about it, the more upset I got. That’s why I am going to discuss why most major gift job descriptions don’t work in this post, then move to the anatomy of a good major gift job description in the next one.
Here’s why I am wound up about this – in fact, why I am upset about job descriptions in general.
When you think about the functionality of a job description, is it fundamentally about writing down what you expect the person filling the job to do and how they will know they have met expectations. That’s it. Nothing more. The manager should essentially be saying: “Here is what I want you to do in this job, and here is how I am going to evaluate how well you have done.” Period.
Instead, many job descriptions start wrong and journey wrong, which is the core reason why the person filling the job is wandering around aimlessly.
Here are my top six peeves about most job descriptions:

  1. The title is organizationally focused. This is an amazing occurrence. It truly is. Some manager or HR person has decided that the title of the job should let everyone inside the organization know what this person does. Hmmm. Helpful. But what about the folks outside – the actual people the organization is trying to serve through this position? Usually, these good people are totally forgotten. Whether you are in a for-profit or a non-profit job, stop and think about the lack of logic in this decision. Right out of the gate, we are telling the employee that what matters most in their job performance is how everyone inside thinks about it.
    While that matters to some extent, it really is not helpful for keeping the employee focused on the right things. So “Director of Major Gifts,” “Major Gifts Manager,” “Special Gifts Manager,” “Financial Development Director” or anything that has to do with money, major gifts or developing finances is a sure path in the wrong direction. Jeff and I regularly and liberally use the acronym MGO to define a function. But we would never suggest it be in a person’s title. More on this in my next post.
  2. There are multiple reporting relationships. What!? A person can actually report to two people? Nope, it doesn’t work. But I can’t tell you how many job descriptions I have read that have dual reporting relationships. Yes, you can have a situation where an employee provides advice and service to one person and reports to another. But in this case there is ONE reporting relationship. Having two bosses never works.
  3. There is a purpose or objective statement that has nothing to do with the purpose or objective of the job. OK, what does “will enhance the organization’s image and standing by relating to prospects and donors” have to do with a MGO job? Nothing. Of course the organization’s image and standing will be enhanced by the MGO’s work. Of course the MGO will relate to donors and prospects (very few, I hope). But is this really the core objective of the job? No it isn’t. I will explain why in my next post on the anatomy of a good major gift job description. But for now, haul out your job description, whether you are in major gifts or not, and if there is a purpose or objective statement, ask yourself: “is this really what the objective of my job is?” More than likely, it isn’t.
  4. Including sections on organization purpose, values and rules. Goodness, I don’t know who came up with this stuff, but I have in front of me a job description that occupies a full two pages with the organization’s history and purpose, its values and its rules of conduct. Two pages! Right in the job description!! What does this have to do with what the employee does? OK, OK – yes, the employee does need to know about the organization’s history (I think) and its values, and what is a no-no (or a “yes-yes”) as relates to behavior. But put that in another document. If HR needs the employee to sign that they have read it, fine. But don’t load all of this stuff in the job description! This just confuses the employee, boggles her mind and starts her off un-focused.
  5. There are more than 5 categories of work under “Responsibilities.” I know that you may be a very detail-oriented manager and that you have a compulsion to write down every detail related to an employee’s job description. But don’t you agree that listing 23 items (I read one that had 31) is a little much? Seriously. Most of these job descriptions – the ones that have long lists under the “Responsibilities” section are really telling the employee HOW to do the job. They are not defining WHAT to do, which I thought was what a job description does: it tells the person WHAT they are responsible for. OK, so you just have to tell the employee how to do the job in addition to what you want them to do? Fine. Put that in another document, along with the organization’s purpose, history, values and rules of conduct. Label it: “How I suggest you do your job” because that is what you are doing. Have the employee sign it so it is really clear. Whew! Got that out of the job description.
  6. Lack of an accountability/evaluation section. This one item is the most mind-boggling, logic-twisting, counter-intuitive omission in most job descriptions. No accountability or evaluation section! Nothing that tells the employee, right up front: “here is how we will measure your job performance.” I have no idea why people leave this section out. With some clients, when asked to write their job description, I have included this section only to have the manager say: “We took that out, Richard. We don’t include that in our job descriptions.” What!?! And then the manager wonders why the employee doesn’t know what key results are expected of them? This is crazy. Does your job description clearly outline how you will be evaluated? If not, do you know how you will be evaluated? If so, how do you know that?

I find these six items in most job descriptions. And it is really irritating. Job descriptions have become so complicated. And I believe that they are the reason so many employees start off wrong in their jobs and find themselves doing work that is off-target and unproductive. I am fully aware that HR/legal requirements have a bearing on the job contract. But put all that stuff in other documents and make the job description simple and to the point.
It will result in a happier and more productive employee.
A note to our readers in the UK – please join us in London on 3 June for a workshop on how to make sure you’re managing the right donors. Click here for more information!