Making the most of your first 90 days
Posted on: May 15, 2013 at 10:59 am

By Joyce Penland, CFRE

Fundraising guru Jerold Panas opines that the only reason fundraising professionals should spend much time behind their desks is if they have a safe full of money located there.  Otherwise, they shouldn’t become too comfortable in their desk chairs.  This is especially wise counsel for executive directors and development officers in their first 90 days in a new nonprofit.

Savvy new hires will make the most of their “I’m new around here” status by getting out of their offices.  Here are some tips we’ve amassed through our work with new executive directors, development directors and other fundraising staff.

Make appointments with each of your board members.

  • Ask them what inspires them to serve on your board.
  • Ask their advice on how you can be most effective in your new role.
  • Seek their help in opening other doors for you.

Ask for a list of the organization’s Top 50 donors and visit with them in their offices and homes to introduce yourself and to seek their feedback.

  • Ask them what motivates them to support your nonprofit.
  • Take the time to learn about previous meaningful relationships they’ve had within your organization, so that you can build upon that foundation.

Learn everything you can about your organization’s operation by talking not only with your staff and boss, but also with the clients you serve.

  • If you’re in a university, talk with faculty, alumni and students.
  • If you’re in a homeless shelter, talk with the men and women who are no longer on the streets.
  • If you’re in a hospital, talk with doctors, nurses and grateful patients.  These powerful stories will become the heart of your discussions with prospective donors.

Make time to visit oneonone with the staff you may have inherited.  Ask them to share their résumés with you.  All too often new directors overlook the talent within their own staffs because they haven’t taken the time to “mine” the diamonds they already have.

The effort that new hires take during their first few months on the new job will likely lead to greater professional success for them personally, and greater involvement and investment by donors in the causes they represent.  Seasoned professionals, who have been with their organizations long beyond the first 90 days, can utilize these tips to maximize their fundraising effectiveness as well.