Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 11, 2020.
The shift to virtual work environments happened at record speed. Who would have thought a few months ago that we’d be approaching donor engagement and gift discussions so differently? As we’ve hunkered down into our home offices, we’ve adapted to social distancing’s new rules of engagement — webinars, Zoom calls, and telling our stories digitally.
This new reality has also forced fundraising supervisors to develop new ways of leading their frontline teams. Some fundraising managers are finding novel ways to motivate their teams to remain active while continuing to hold them accountable. But others are still adjusting.
It’s important for managers to focus their teams to ensure they sustain momentum as their organizations become more reliant than ever on them to raise money. Managers can adapt proven practices and techniques to demonstrate to their fully remote teams that they can be thoughtful, supportive leaders committed to their frontline staff’s success.
Here are four ways to continue successfully managing fundraisers who are working remotely:
1. Manage to metrics
There is no doubt that the events of the past few months have impacted fundraisers’ ability to meet their goals, particularly in the short term. In response to the most recent survey by GG+A’s SurveyLab, 31% of respondents revised their gift officer performance metrics for June while 51% decreased their fundraising goals for the month. As for fiscal goals, 47% predict coming in under goal this year, and 53% have decreased goals for next fiscal year.
In periods of uncertainty, it is not enough for managers to rely solely on their goals and metrics to gauge the progress of their gift officers. They owe it to their teams to develop a deeper understanding of their assigned prospects so that they can help them maximize successful outcomes during this time.
2. Increase one-on-one engagement with fundraisers
It is more important than ever for managers to be an active presence in their team members’ work lives.
The shift to working remotely has been jarring for some—especially in the wake of a pandemic that blurs the lines between our work and home lives.
That is why we recommend managers dedicate “sacred time” to portfolio reviews with their individual frontline staff to ensure they remain attuned to the lessons their gift officers are learning and the obstacles standing in their way.
These reviews send several important signals to managers’ staff. First, it reminds fundraisers that managing their assigned prospects is their primary responsibility and that we expect them to remain focused on that work. Second, and equally important, it signals that we are personally invested in their success. And third, it allows managers to better interpret the status of the institutional pipeline and to forecast results.
3. Conduct group prospect strategy sessions
Managers need to maintain cohesion and discipline among their teams given that they are all isolated from each other. That is why we recommend fundraising managers host group prospect strategy sessions with their frontline officers, in addition to one-on-one time.
Fundraisers can learn from each other, as many of them are experiencing the same issues as they adjust to remote prospect engagement and the evaluation of their prospects’ readiness for gift discussions. Managers can assist in developing “mass customization” strategies that team members can employ for different segments of their assigned prospects, in addition to more tailored strategies for individual prospects. Strategy sessions allow managers to help fundraisers understand how to build an “arc of engagement” that weaves strategic communications, institutional and volunteer partners and other engagement opportunities along with remote donor visits into the cultivation process. This helps to thoughtfully and effectively deepen connections with prospects that lead to gift discussions.
4. Leverage technology
Managers should use the prospect management tools that many organizations have invested in over the last few years.
Grenzebach Glier and Associates’ research suggests that fundraisers have the capacity to manage up to 75 active prospects at one time. Developing that many relationships is only possible when fundraisers can effectively leverage their prospect and portfolio data using dashboards, portfolio reports and other analytics tools to keep them organized. It has never been more important to track the readiness stages of assigned prospects by staying informed with fundraising forecasts.
By using Zoom or other video conferencing platforms, managers and fundraisers can review portfolio reports and prospect analysis together and embed this practice into a process that will serve them well in the long term.
There is no doubt that the past few months have presented managers with unique challenges as they look to assist their frontline officers in navigating uncharted waters. If managers seize the opportunity to apply techniques that bolster their teams’ productivity, it may well reinforce practices that will remain in place after the pandemic passes.