Last month, I wrote about the recent report on the challenges fundraisers face, and their widespread desire to leave their jobs and potentially the industry. A dynamic that wasn’t documented in the report, but that I hear about from clients frequently, is competition. As fundraisers strive daily to meet ambitious goals, the sense of competition builds.

Some leaders think this is fine, maybe even positive. That competition builds motivation and increases excellence. But those leaders are wrong: the short-term gains brought about by competitiveness quickly pale in comparison to its other side effects – resource-hoarding, short-sighted donor strategies, and a disruptive culture.

Lifelong donor relationships built on incredible generosity require a cooperative, collaborative culture. The easiest building block for this culture is a defined, widely shared gift credit policy that incentivizes all the right behaviors. How would a policy that includes the items below support your team’s best performance?

Collaborative Strategies for Shared Credit

The best gift credit policies expressly address the many scenarios that may arise in an advancement shop. This policy would specify providing 100% of gift value to every team/individual in the scenarios outlined below.

  • Major and annual giving: Gifts that arrive via an annual giving medium (direct mail envelope, online, event donation, etc.) from a donor who is being actively cultivated by a frontline fundraiser – especially if there is something unique about that gift (i.e. it is larger than the usual giving pattern, it is the first time the donor has given through this medium, etc.).
  • Major and planned giving: Planned gifts that are secured after a frontline fundraiser brings a planned giving officer into a donor relationship to discuss giving vehicles.
  • Foundation and corporate and/or major giving: Donations received through a formal grant application process, wherein a frontline fundraiser built a relationship that opened the door to application process, and a foundation giving team member wrote the grant application.
  • Multiple major giving team members: Donations that are made after two or more frontline fundraisers provide significant support to a donor strategy.

Exceptions to Shared Credit

There are scenarios when shared credit is not warranted, including:

  • Employees crediting their manager: The role of a supervisor is specifically to provide guidance, insight, and resources for their team members to be successful. Supervisors are acknowledged for enabling success across their team in other ways, including the seniority, title, and compensation of their position.
  • Information sharing: Fundraisers often consult their colleagues for feedback and information as they develop and implement donor strategies. Openly sharing ideas, contacts, information, and more (e.g. editing a written proposal, introducing a campus leader to another fundraiser so they can participate in a strategy, etc.) is expected as a part of basic collegiality.
  • Passive interactions: Fundraisers can maintain a relationship with a prospect and not contribute substantively in a strategy to secure a gift. If a fundraiser sends a birthday card, chats with the donor at an event, provided some limited insight to the strategy but did not directly participate in that strategy in an ongoing/essential way (“Oh, I heard them say they’d like to see their name on something.”), then credit should not be shared.

It is absolutely true that gift credit is an important indicator of a fundraiser’s success. A clear and inclusive policy for assigning credit incentivizes the collaboration and donor-focused strategies that ultimately inspire the greatest generosity for your institution. Does your team know that they will be rewarded for acting in service to the greatest possible generosity?

At KDD Philanthropy, we believe that all stakeholders can make shifts in the workplace environment, and we offer team trainings and individual coaching to support shifts in culture, accountability and opportunity.

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