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Sound Management Trumps Organizational Design

executive thinking

This is not a sexy topic, but it addresses a central and often minimized issue facing many advancement operations and nonprofit organizations. After many years of working with an array of organizations it is clear to me that, all things being equal, you can have the most rational and defendable organization design and yet not be successful. Or, you can have an operating design that defies explanation, and yet be successful against all odds…because, though flawed, the operation is being well managed.

The saying goes…if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. There is a lot of truth to this, especially in the advancement field. Our metrics are pretty straight forward, at least as far as the CEO and the CFO are concerned. How much cash have you raised and how much are your pledge receivables? And, by the way, how much did you spend to do it?

We all know that there are many more variables to track and measure that would help a manager to manage. Different shops measure different things, and that is fine…but at least they are keeping an eye on the data through regular management reports. Are you?

Though too many shops barely do the minimum in terms of tracking measures that help to forecast the future and provide a basis for decision making, it is not enough to do the tracking and cut the reports. I have seen operations that are awash with reports but with little or weak management to effectively respond to the data.

Accountability needs to be assigned to those staff members responsible for their outcomes and they need to own their “numbers” by arriving at them jointly with management. And as basic as this may sound – supervisors and the CEO need to help staff to succeed and to hold them accountable for their numbers… and the whole team accountable for overall results. Whether you are measuring 5 key metrics or 20, these measures must talk to you and guide you and your team.

Here is where the management part comes in. How do you help your staff and team to succeed? Do you:
· Encourage them and provide the resources, feedback, encouragement and accolades needed for success?
· Leave them alone to their own devices and let them sink or swim.
· Intimidate and threaten job termination?
· Set deadlines for accomplishing tasks and hold people to the due dates?
· Have an incentive compensation program that encourages individual and team success?
· Avoid conflict and give good performance evaluations when they are not warranted?
· Use a Performance Improvement Program model to be sure staff members know they are under scrutiny but have a pathway for success?
· Demonstrate leadership and make the hard decisions?

Many good fundraisers have advanced their careers into a management role, but have not received management training. Even though most good fundraisers are great with people, they are not always as strong with having to manage many more moving parts than they are use to doing.

While fundraising and making goals are usually the top line conversation with leaders, we cannot short change the importance of strong management and executive leadership. Just think what can be done with strong management and a great organizational design!

Your takes:

1. If you are a supervisor of people and a fundraiser, get the training you need to be a good manager.

2. Before spending money on creating the perfect organizational design, invest first in management training.

3. Make sure your operation’s success is not happening in spite of how things are being run.