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  • Karen Osborne

The HYBRID Development, Advancement, and/or Nonprofit Office

Are you trying/planning to manage a hybrid team — some working from home and others working in the office? A report by The Wall Street Journal (March 21, 2021) came to two conclusions.

  1. Remote work is here to stay.

  2. It shouldn’t look like the improvised approach you hastily threw together in the face of the pandemic.

Employers’ views have changed, according to the same report, on what percentage of their workforce can telecommute at least one day a week.

What percentage of your workforce do you anticipate working remotely at least one day a week? Will you allow/encourage more days a week? How will this affect your recruiting of new staff and retaining current staff?

As you think about the hybrid office, how should your (major gift) (advancement) (development) (nonprofit) office be structured? What new skills do you need to manage it successfully? What are the challenges you’re bound to face or are facing and what are good, achievable solutions?

Below find food the thought and action.

1. Clarity, Fairness and Transparency

Set clear guidelines and apply them fairly and transparently. You want every member of the team to know who, when, and why team members are working remotely or are required to come in. The same clarity and fairness should apply to why and when certain meetings and activities most be in-person.

2. Ask Questions and Listen to Understand

Seek your employees’ opinions as a group and

understand their individual circumstances privately. For example, create a list of the types of work and meetings that substantially benefit from in-person interaction. Make a second list of meetings and activities that work fine remotely. Share with the team, answer questions, and seek their input, opinions, additions, and deletions by asking generative questions.

  • “What are the dilemmas/opportunities if we move in this direction?”

  • “What assumptions do we need to test or challenge?”

  • “What are we missing?”

  • “How would that substantially enhance our productivity (our job satisfaction) (or mission and vision)?”

In individual meetings, gain an understanding of each team member’s circumstances. Someone might have a long commute that could be mitigated with flexible hours. Another might find certain days working from home highly productive but other days (children are home early, spouse is working from home), less so. Understand employee’s benefits from remote work as well as struggles. Keeping fairness in mind, this information will help your hybrid work plan be productive and pleasing for individuals as well as the team.

3. Collaboration

One of the issues we hear a lot or uncover often during assessments of (advancement) (development) (Nonprofit) teams is silos. The annual giving team or officer doesn’t share regularly with the events officer or know what the major gift officer is up to. Everyone is working hard, head down, on his or her assignments missing the power, joy, and efficacy of collaboration and co-ownership. And this was true pre-Covid. Working remotely can add to the isolation. Hybrid offices can make collaboration easier for some, and much harder for others.

  • Encourage and reward small group collaboration.

  • Include questions about this while you are brainstorming how the new plan will work (see 1. Above)

  • “What are the benefits, from your point of view, of working collaboratively?”

  • “What are the drawbacks?”

  • “What gets in our way?”

  • “How might we fix these problems together?”

  • “What role could you play?”

  • “How could we recognize and reward collaboration among units (teams, staff members)?”

4. Relationship Building

This is a huge part of your job. You are building relationships internally and externally and that requires knowledge, thought, asking questions, and listening, strategy, and execution. Before finishing your hybrid workplan, have a deep discussion with the team around relationship building.

  • “To what degree have we factored that into the discussion?”

  • “What impact might the decisions we are considering have on our relationship with (team members, your supervisor, the CEO, program staff (faculty members, physicians, curators, etc.), donors, potential donors, volunteers, alumni, friends of the program, customers, community leaders and influencers?”

  • “Can we operate in the ways we are considering and still be donor and customer centric?”

  • “How does this affect our DEI goals and strategies?”

  • “What impact does this have on our community-facing efforts?”

5. Draft a Plan

You’ve gathered a lot of information, ideas, challenges, and opportunities. Now it’s time to put your plan together.

  • Re-read your mission, vision, values.

  • Assess your goals and progress to date.

  • Examine your data (both what you collect, how, and what it tells you)

  • Start with a strong why statement. Why are you moving to a hybrid office? Be sure to link your decision to the mission, vision, values, and goals.

  • Draft SMART goals for the hybrid plan (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)

  • Draft the guidelines.

  • Identify action steps, who is responsible for each, by what date to achieve the new structure.

6. Share and Seek Feedback

Circulate the plan and ask for feedback. Consider using an online survey for this final step. Discuss any trouble spots with team leaders. Decide. Build in a review date and process.

If you have any questions, contact us. We’re happy to answer any questions you have. We can also help facilitate the brainstorming session, interview staff, draft the plan, solve problems, provide training for asking questions and listening, and strengthen management and leadership skills.

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