Growing Relationship Management: Checks and Balances to Ensure Success

In a recent blog post, BWF Managing Associate, Bond Lammey, wrote about the value of establishing a relationship management policy. The relationship between a robust major gift program and an effective relationship management system has long been viewed as closely correlated.

The challenge often isn’t establishing a relationship management policy, but figuring out how to put the guidelines established in the policy into practice. Are there elements that look good on paper but don’t translate well into practice? How do you enact the changes proposed once the basic infrastructure is in place?

Supporting your relationship management policy with checks and balances after roll-out can lend stability to your policy and transition it from a document into an essential process that will adapt along with your organization. Three key checks and balances are outlined below.

Audit Reports. Most relationship management policies require data review and auditing to ensure that the policy functions as intended. For example, if your policy outlines the difference between an “active” prospect move and a “passive” one, and suggests that gift officers will only receive credit for “active” moves, do you have mechanisms that allow you to assess “active” versus “passive” prospect moves? To put the policy into action, do the following:

  • Meet with your report developers and discuss all the audit reports you need.
  • Assign a lead on your team who is responsible for reviewing audits and conducting clean-up.
  • Some organizations set aside one-day a month where everyone dedicates time to data clean-up activities.

Conflict Resolution. Many policies lose their efficacy if, at the first sign of a dispute, a party who feels a decision was made against their favor can process their grievance the same way as before the policy. Shifting this mindset will require partnership between development leadership and prospect development to accurately identify common concerns and develop a strategy to address issues.

  • Designate one point-person to respond to all disputes and make sure all concerns are directed to that individual.
  • Create one consistent message for anyone within development leadership and prospect development to use to address common concerns.

For example, one organization knew their policy was a success when the chief development officer directed a fundraiser who had concerns about a prospect assignment to prospect development rather than resolving the issue herself.

Metrics Alignment. If the key elements outlined in your relationship management policy aren’t consistent with the metrics established for gift officers, the policy won’t succeed in being actionable. Consider your visit goal and portfolio size limit. If gift officers are limited to no more than 90 prospects in their portfolio but are expected to complete 200 face-to-face visits in a year, is this an achievable goal? Putting your policy into action compared to your metrics might take a concerted effort, but the time is well spent if gift officers perceive that the policy will help them achieve their goals rather than just serving as another set of rules they have to follow. Consider the following division of labor:

  • Advancement services/prospect development: create reports that review progress against fundraising metrics.
  • Prospect development and fundraising leadership: meet to review progress, analyze or interpret the results, and arrive at actionable outcomes and key takeaways.
  • Fundraising leadership: incorporate these outcomes and key takeaways in 1:1 meetings with gift officers.

These checks and balances are essential to ensure your policy is actionable after roll-out. Even if your policy has been in place for two weeks or five years, incorporating additional elements around reporting, dispute resolution, and metrics alignment will transform it from a document to a systematic process that will help your organization achieve its goals.

BWF Client Advisory originally published June 1, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.


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