Effective Onboarding for Advancement Staff

Effective Onboarding for Advancement Staff

May 19th, 2011

by Dan Schipp 


Johnny has been on the job – Assistant Director of Annual Giving – for nearly a year . . . and he just doesn’t seem to be getting it. 

He doesn’t appear to comprehend how annual giving fits into the overall picture of development.  He doesn’t seem to know where to focus his efforts. And he keeps bringing up ideas that just don’t fit the culture of the organization. 

Why is Johnny failing?  Perhaps, it has something to do with how Johnny was brought on staff.

Too often organizations and institutions do not pay sufficient attention to getting their new employees started off on the right foot. Effective onboarding is much more than a meeting with the Human Resources administrator and a tour of the campus or office. 

A quality, comprehensive onboarding experience is a long-term process that begins before an employee’s first day on the job and continues for several months.  Onboarding is more about positioning employees for success and retaining talent than getting them settled in their new jobs.

A well planned and executed onboarding process serves several objectives, including:

  • promoting an understanding of the organization’s culture, values and priorities
  • building positive relationships within the organization
  • reducing new employee anxiety
  • setting performance expectations
  • decreasing the learning curve

What are some things to keep in mind when bringing on board a new worker in an advancement office? 

In addition to the usual steps — sending a letter of welcome before the employee’s first day, thoroughly preparing an office, and creating an onboarding plan/schedule (perhaps for the first six months), I suggest the following actions:

  • Compile an orientation binder that includes:
    •  the organization’s mission and vision statements,
    • case for support, 
    • organizational and advancement office strategic plans,
    • job descriptions for everyone on the advancement staff,
    • organizational charts for the advancement office and the organization as a whole,
    • brief biographies of organizational leadership, board members and advancement staff,
    • brief history of the organization,
    • fact sheets on the organization and the advancement office,
    • advancement performance dash board, and
    • office policies and procedures.
  • Arrange for the chief advancement officer or another senior advancement officer to meet with the new staff member several times over the first few months to discuss the organization’s history, culture, guiding principles, and philosophy of development.
  • Assign someone on staff to serve as an onboarding peer to be available to the new staff member to provide support and facilitate introductions to others in the organization.
  • Schedule orientation meetings with advancement staff members to have them explain their responsibilities and advancement objectives.
  • For someone taking on personal solicitation of gifts for the first time, arrange for a major gifts officer to accompany the new staff member on several calls and model how to cultivate and solicit gifts for the organization.
  • Schedule frequent meetings between the new staff member and her supervisor to discuss expectations, to review progress, and to assess the challenges and opportunities in the new staff member’s area of responsibility.

What would you add to this list of steps to take to ensure a positive onboarding experience for a new advancement staff member?

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