Have trouble getting your Executive Director to make their calls, schedule appointments with major donors, and other capital campaign-related tasks?
You’re not alone.
Executive Directors Often Mean Well, But…
I recently spoke with Marlene, a campaign director, whose Executive Director (Don) is wonderful in most every way, except — and this is a big exception — he had trouble actually getting around to the critical major gift calls he had to make for their campaign.
Marlene told me about her frustration with Don. They meet regularly to discuss the campaign. He dutifully makes lists of the calls and visits he should make. Marlene sends him follow up emails, making sure that he’s got what he needs. And then… nothing… or nearly nothing.
The problem isn’t that Don doesn’t care. He cares deeply and is passionate about making sure the campaign is successful.
The main issue is that Marlene is just one of many people who have immediate action items for Don. He is not only running the organization with five direct reports, but he’s also knee-deep in all of the plans for the expansion.
And every week, several people meet with Don in the same the way that Marlene does — adding things to his ever-expanding to-do lists.
It’s no wonder that Don has trouble getting it all done. And so, when Marlene finally reached her limit of frustration, she changed up her approach.
A Practical Way to Help Your Executive Director Get Campaign Work Done
Rather than having a weekly meeting that adds to Don’s list and then waiting for him to get it all done, Marlene stared to structure her weekly meetings as “Get Stuff Done” meetings.
The day before her weekly meeting with Don, she sends him an email with the priority items she has for him and a brief summary of each. Then, during the meetings (which are 90 minutes long), they go through the list together and knock off as many items as possible.
Allow me to set the stage for how this works:
- Marlene sits across the desk from Don with her computer, and he sits with his. The phone is between them.
- Marlene has a list of people to be contacted. She briefs him on each person.
- Together they decide how to move the work with each person forward. They plan to email some, text some and call others.
- Then, they start working down the list.
If they’d decided that a phone call is best, Marlene gives Don talking points and dials, then Don talks while Marlene takes notes and creates a new list of next steps.
If the person isn’t there, Don leaves a message that he’ll call back which goes on Marlene’s new list. She’ll take on the follow up and do as much of it as possible.
Some of the items on the meeting list require emails or texts to donors. They sit together and knock them out.
In some cases, Marlene will draft them while she’s sitting there and forward them to Don to add a personal sentence or two. In other cases, they’ll write them together. Don will send them out right there and then.
If there’s a proposal for Don to review, Marlene sits quietly working on other things in Don’s office while he reads the proposal. Then he gives Marlene his feedback — again, right there and then. Marlene takes notes and makes the changes and corrections when she gets back to her office.
The End Result of this Strategy?
By the time the meeting is over, they have cleared out most of items on the list. They end the meetings by making a new list that Marlene will prep for in the coming week. And again, they’ll use their next meeting to get stuff done!
Here’s what’s happened as a result:
- Don no longer feels guilty for not having gotten to his campaign work.
- Marlene is far less frustrated with Don and feels great to see the progress.
- Important campaign work is getting done in a timely and predictable way.
- More donor visits are happening.
- The campaign has gained more momentum.
If your ED can’t seem to get the fundraising work done, you may be able to get far better results by changing the way you use your meeting time.
This Works to Help Many Other Bosses, Too!
At Capital Campaign Pro, we recommend this strategy while you are in campaign mode. But it can work for you in many other situations too.
Just stop adding to your boss’s to-do lists and then waiting for action. Instead, use your meeting time to help your boss get the work done. Knock off one task after another. It feels great!
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