The best time to fire somebody is during the job interview. Hire the right kind of people and you’ll never have to worry about firing folks. Don’t be one of those management superstars who thinks the first thing he or she needs to do to demonstrate their prowess is to fire someone. CEOs have made fortunes writing books about it. New football coaches always pick a popular player or coach and run them off the team. And, Yes, even Donald Trump had a hit TV show about it.
Trust me, it takes no leadership or courage to fire someone. The real manager takes broken people and molds them into great teammates. They know how to mend broken wings and sharpen dull blades. Most importantly, they motivate people to new heights not by shouting the words, “You’re Fired” but by leading by example.
Of course, I am not saying you should never fire anyone. In the fundraising world there are a few who cannot be retooled, and yes, you need to be tough and cut them loose. The real challenge you face is looking for the “signals” that the major gift PRO is all talk.
TWO WARNING SIGNALS:
- Beware of the major gift guru who says he has the secret black book with the list of his major donor friends who will fund your charity. Outside lists of major donors to other charities (assuming your “guru” is telling the truth) are not the best place for you to prospect for major donors. Just because a wealthy donor writes a big check to another charity does not mean that they will write a big check to you. Major gift “specialists” who peddle their “black book” are a dime a dozen. I call them butterflies and bumble-bees because they move from flower to flower (organization to organization) and sting a bunch of people along the way. They usually string the charity out over a couple of years by saying it takes 18 to 24 months to get a major gift. The charity in good faith pays them for a 18 months or more, but as they approach the end of the timeline the major gift guru takes their last paycheck, gathers up the “black book” and heads down the road to the next charity. Be careful…. Or should I say, “bee careful, don’t get stung!”
- Beware of the development professional who spends more time at the water cooler talking about fundraising than in front of donors “doing” fundraising. I have met hundreds of fundraising “pros” who haven’t raised a nickel in decades. They have become a “manager” of the process and check out of the real business of fundraising. Even the best fundraising program managers still do donor visits, as a matter of fact, they insist on it. The true fundraising professional is driven to stay in the field and stay in front of their supporters and financial partners. If you can’t light a fire under your fundraising managers, trust me, get rid of them. They have checked out and mentally retired… so give them their wish.
Remember the goal is not to fire… the goal is to hire. Hire based upon real fundraising experiences. Not only check their employer references, but check their donor references. I’ve never hired a fundraiser that I did not ask them to provide me the names of some donors who’ve given to the charities or candidates they’ve worked for. If your applicant cannot come up with a few donor references, run away fast. It means he or she has never really done the job they are applying for.
Hire the right people… so you don’t have to fire anyone every again!