How to Engage Your Front Door Partners

How many blogs have you read, or conversations have you had, about engaging executive leaders in your work? Deans, star physicians, executives, program leaders … these are the first roles we think of when it comes to collaborating with partners in advancement.

But there’s another group of natural partners about whom we should be thinking. Not those in leadership roles, but those who are often the “front door” to the institution or to a leader who also plays an important role in building a successful culture of philanthropy.

Our “front door” partners are often some of our best allies, but only if we are intentional in cultivating this engagement. Intentionality can take many forms, such as:

  • Implementing a meeting to introduce yourself and discuss your role and the larger advancement effort to key new employees.
  • Finding opportunities to regularly share stories of wins, including a monthly email, department meetings, year-end celebrations and more. Be expansive in defining wins, such as updates for the database, assistance with scheduling an important meeting or helping a donor with a request.
  • Presenting at department/program meetings about how everyone contributes to the patient/guest/alumni/etc. experience and therefore can support generosity — or take it off the table with a bad experience.
  • When announcing a gift, share specific examples of colleagues who supported the process along the way, including those who did so behind the scenes.
  • Regularly sharing stories and context. For example, if a parent prospect interacts with program staff and then makes a gift, come back to program staff to share that they helped create an experience that supported generosity.

Think about your language too. How do you discuss donors and the fundraising process? Do you represent the meaningful, enjoyable elements of the work? Do you acknowledge the donor’s experiences with the institution as a whole, rather than with only advancement and leadership? These messages make a difference!

Underlying these opportunities is a simple concept: When we lead with openness and gratitude, we create a dynamic that others want to engage in. Take the time to ask yourself who the “front door” colleagues are to your institution and whether there may be more you can do to create an impactful partnership.