As much as we may wish not to admit, meetings matter. The types and number of meetings you hold is a key component of your development program’s infrastructure. Too many meetings and the team doesn’t have enough time to visit with donors. Too few meetings, or meetings with no understood purpose, and a team, within months, can dissolve into frustration and negativity.
I believe there are 3 types of basic meetings that every development team must implement in order to keep the program running smoothly and exceeding goals. Before we get to the meetings, though, I want to list 4 key guidelines for all standing meetings.
- All meetings should be as short as possible while achieving their stated purpose. Typically, this means no meetings are scheduled to go beyond one hour.
- All meetings should have a written, distributed agenda.
- All meetings should be “calendar sacred,” meaning that they are scheduled and only rarely skipped or moved. They hold priority.
- Meetings should be scheduled together to occur during one part of the week. Typically, having meetings grouped together at the front end of the week is most advantageous. This allows for the remainder of the week to meet with donors.
If you follow these guidelines for each of your meetings, you will notice marked improvement in productivity during and beyond the meetings.
Now, let’s move to the types of meetings each development team should implement. There are 3:
- General Information Meeting – The purpose of this meeting is overall team communication. This is the meeting with the entire team (teams with over 25 people should divide this meeting up based on smaller work teams). I encourage teams to hold this meeting once per week, preferably first thing on Monday morning. Each team member reports on the top 2-3 items they will be working on during the week, with special emphasis on any projects/initiatives that involve others around the table. The VP or DOD leading the meeting alerts team members to any organization-wide developments that are important for development professionals to know.
- Prospect Management Team Meeting – The purpose of this meeting is to discuss major donor strategy and outcomes. This meeting is with every person on the team who is an identified Prospect Manager and manages a portfolio of donors. I encourage teams to hold this meeting either every other week or monthly. During this meeting, key successes (i.e., major gift commitments) are communicated and each Prospect Manager discusses her top 3-5 most recent activities with donors and her upcoming plans and strategies for 3-5 donors she will be working with next.
- Individual Meetings – The purpose of these meetings is to strengthen the relationship between individual staff members and their manager. This meeting should occur once every other week. The agenda should change each meeting based on the team member’s annual work plan. This meeting gives individual team members an opportunity to discuss any professional as well as personal issues that may be challenging. Mentoring and coaching happen best during this meeting.
In addition to our work with major donors, as leaders we should bring passion, creativity, and organization to our teams. Implementing these 3 meetings, based on the guidelines above, provides us with the structure to achieve results, increase morale, and enhance the sense of synergy among all on the team.