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The Summer Project You Need To Tackle

By Jan McGuire

Do you find that when one project ends, you’re knee-deep in the next project (or two)? Are you short-staffed and therefore, juggling more responsibilities than just your own? If you answered “yes” you’re likely a manager or a seasoned team member of a Donor Relations department.

Does your list of projects to tackle on some rainy day include properly documenting your department’s procedures and timelines? Or even just your own responsibilities? What would happen if you had to step away from the office before that rainy day came? Could your team members and colleagues continue to move forward with critical projects in your absence?

Sometimes we can anticipate that we’ll be away from work for an extended period of time – maternity and paternity leave come to mind. But as professionals, we need to expect the unexpected. We all know the old adage that “life happens when you’re busy making other plans.” To that end, we need to be prepared for life-events, such as unexpected medical emergencies, that may take us away from work. If you’re a manager of a department, chances are good that you have documented the responsibilities for each of your team members and that if needed, you could step in and help out. Even better, you’ve crossed-trained members of your team to ensure that key duties move forward when one person needs to be out of the office for an extended period of time.

But what about your own responsibilities? Could someone fill-in for you if needed? Donor Relations professionals are usually detailed-oriented, strategic thinkers with strong interpersonal communication skills and while our true value to the organization can’t be captured in a simple workflow document or event planning timeline, a critical list of “how-to” accomplish certain department procedures can be.

Do you have a general overview document that defines and explains your department’s core services? Do you have a more in-depth version or training manual for onboarding new team members – or even better, new AVPs or VPs? Do either of these documents include a section regarding your core responsibilities?

As a manager of a department, I had the luxury of adding team members over the past few years and the even greater luxury of empowering them to be the in-house experts for areas that I, out of necessity, had solely handled in the past. This allowed me to focus on new department projects and objectives. Sounds great, right? I thought so! But then I realized I was back in the same boat – I was the sole keeper of crucial project knowledge.

Allow me to pause here and tell you a little more about me. I’m a Gen X with Baby Boomer tendencies, I’m a Maximizer who’s also Deliberative and a Realtor who focuses on Individualization and Harmony. I absolutely love WRITING my to-do list on PAPER (gasp!) and not using all the technology available to me to make those lists because, let’s face it, crossing something off your task list is far more satisfying with a pen (or pencil, remember those?) than clicking a button.

So what does all that mean? It means–and this is probably true for many of you– that I’ve been focused on building a team, moving the needle on department goals, being accountable to leadership and yes, crossing things off my to-do list. Finding the time or making the time to properly document how I did some of these things is admittedly not my forte (remember, I’m a Maximizer). If I could turn back time, I would have done this along the way. Instead, I recently found myself trying to document 10 years of department knowledge. Yikes!

So I encourage you to stop and think about your daily and weekly responsibilities. If you’ve documented them, and kudos to you if you have, have you shared them with your newest team member to ensure they’re understandable and not too entrenched with department jargon? If you haven’t documented them, learn from my musings and schedule a few intentional rainy days on your calendar. You’ll be glad you did!

This post was written by DRG Group member, Jan McGuire.


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