Advancement leaders are good at setting goals.
We have dollar goals, donor number goals, annual giving, major giving, planned giving, and campaign goals. We have stewardship goals, constituent event goals, and database health and hygiene goals. In fact, because the outputs of our work are so easily quantifiable, there can be a problem at times with having too many goals. Or, we can establish goals that are at cross-purposes with one another.
In general, though, goals are helpful. They provide us and our teams with focus. They help define how we should be spending our time most productively. They provide a strategic rationale for why we can’t follow every idea, suggestion, new activity, or initiative. And, they offer a measuring stick for evaluation.
So, while establishing and monitoring goals are part of most every successful advancement leader’s toolkit, a separate but interwoven question can easily go overlooked:
Who owns the success of your program?
We are not talking, here, about the team members responsible for implementing the strategies and tactics to achieve the goals. Instead, we are asking a different question – a question of success accountability:
Who has become so emotionally invested that they hold themselves
accountable for your program’s success?
Far too often advancement leaders look at their team members and assign both responsibility for program strategies and accountability for program results. But, the truly effective advancement leaders delegate accountability for success far more broadly than to team members alone.
The best advancement leaders regularly invite Board members, through both formal and informal discussions and activities, to better understand their roles in the advancement program so that these individuals proactively ask, “how can we help reach our goals?”
The best advancement leaders consistently involve major donors in early discussions and decision-making about new capital projects so that these individuals are encouraged to ask, “when are we going to make this dream a reality?”
The best advancement leaders effectively communicate and educate across the institution so that non-advancement colleagues begin to ask, “can I go with you to visit a donor?”
Yes, advancement leaders and team members are the primary individuals responsible for implementing the program successfully. But, when we increase the number of people outside of the team who emotionally invest to the extent that they hold themselves accountable for the program’s success, we not only increase our chances of meeting our goals, we also build an inclusive culture that changes the aspirations for the program itself.
A critical attribute found in the best advancement leaders is the willingness to strategically invite others to embrace a stronger sense of ownership in the program’s success.
So, who owns the success of your advancement program?
This article was originally published in our March 2022 Gonser Gerber E-Bulletin. To learn more about our Bulletin, or to subscribe to our mailing list, visit our website https://www.gonsergerber.com/services/institute/bulletin/.