Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Seat at the Table

How to earn your seat at the table without a hissy fit…
Many donor relations professionals comment that they do not have a presence at important meetings, or don’t feel that they have a seat at the table. I hear all the time “she was well meaning and well-intentioned but couldn't translate that to leadership”…

How do we expect senior leadership to take us seriously when every email begins with 'I feel that'? It's important to be emotionally aware but not emotional. Passion can impede progress if not expressed in the right manner. It’s time to take the emotion out of the situation and earn your seat at the table. Bring the value to them, show them the reasons why you should be present, other than, ”everyone else is sitting there, why not me?”

 What kind of contributions can you make at a prospect management meeting, at a major gift strategy meeting? Sometimes your contribution is to be a good listener. My old boss used to call those “listening meetings”, meaning I should be pleased I was at the table but my primary function was to listen and absorb. 
One great way to earn a seat at the table is to involve yourself in the onboarding and training process at your organization. Do all new hires meet with you and/or your team within their first month? They should. It is important for you to be able to communicate the power and effectiveness of donor relations to the overall organizations to your teammates both new and old.  Also, are you providing them with resources for their professional development? You can provide them with links to the latest donor studies- there are some here for you to share. You need to be the expert in the field, well informed and on top of the donor numbers, information, and strategy. Try to avoid being the place your teammates go to when they need an item, a choice of linen, or a blank notecard. These things are helpful, yes, and you can be the expert on those as well, but first they should know you are a professional in your field.

Another approach: what about building the table and inviting others to it? If you sit around in your office waiting for an email invite, you've got it all wrong! Get out there and have a conversation, prove the value of your seat, even if it’s on the fringe at first, and then show them the impact of your presence.  It’s our responsibility to be proactive and strategic, you can’t wait for an invite to the party, you need to have a party of your own! We need to move beyond the idea that donor relations is a back office profession. We carry portfolios of donor visits, we should be known across our organizations or campuses as a visible part of the fundraising team. If no one knows your face or name and you sit behind emails all day, you are setting yourself up for failure. Put on your extrovert hat and get out there!
I would love to hear your approach to obtaining your seat at the table, and bringing donor relations to the forefront. Help inspire your peers as well. You can post questions here or in our linkedin group as well. Join us today!

1 comment:

  1. David Arnold, Wake Forest Baptist Medical CenterJuly 31, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    As someone once said, "If you're not at the table, you may well be on the menu."