Two is always better than one when it comes to things like puppies or vacations or pieces of cake (maybe even glasses of wine) but what about fundraisers in the same role at the same time? This was the situation for me when I started a new role in an arts organization after spending three years at an academic institution. I was excited to return to being a full-time major gift fundraiser with great opportunities in front of me at a transitional time in the organization. One unexpected element was learning that it would, in fact, be two of us starting the same senior role, two weeks apart. After a brief pause, and a request to meet my double, my surprise became delight and things began to fall into place.
My soon to be desk-mate Steven Endicott and I had worked together earlier in our careers and we had stayed in touch through new jobs, moves across the country and back, professionally and socially. I had great confidence in the fact that we shared philosophies around donor centred fundraising, program analysis, solicitation and stewardship strategies. So we got to work. Our titles were the same, our portfolios were equal in size, we met donors and prospective donors together, we planned and then planned some more. Oh, and we raised money! A lot of it!
I can easily say, we made each other better. Our strengths are different and our differences compatible. We encouraged each other in the best ways we could, challenged each other positively and genuinely wanted the other to be successful. After about ten months in the roles together, we decided that it would be valuable to evaluate what was working, what was not working and how we could continue to grow and develop not only our roles but the program for which we were responsible.
Janice Cunning and I have been working together for a number of years. I asked during one of my coaching sessions if we could bring my co-leader into a future session to discuss our partnership. Janice agreed and worked with us on creating a designed alliance. I would like to share it with you as this served as our commitment to each other as we moved forward.
As Directors, we commit to the following:
- Recognizing, finding and harnessing our unique strengths and using them more intentionally
- Recognize criticism as it is happening and find efficiency in releasing that criticism. Work together to encourage the release of items not supporting our goals and how to address together the ones that do
- Add opposition – challenge each other more to make it better and prepare for other outcomes
- Commitment to clearing conflict– ask, be upfront, get it out in the open and be confident there is no judgement (especially of self)
- Appreciate and lean into each other’s strengths
- HAVE FUN – laugh (a lot!)
- Check in on each other, how we are doing/feeling and determine how to assist if feeling off-track
- Help each other to remain focused and continue to “swim in our lanes” to achieve our goals
We got really good at checking in on one another and ensuring that we were working to our values and achieving the goals we had set out for ourselves and each other. Donor confidence increased as the donors knew they could reach out and discuss their giving, or any concern, with either one of us. With two, more potential donors were identified and more often than not, solicitation and stewardship plans were co-developed. Each of us had a perspective on a donor’s commitment, interests and/or potential. Together, we would co-construct the best proposal or plan for their investment and the best alignment with the organization. One would take the lead and the other provide input.
Situations change and an exciting new opportunity became available for my colleague and friend. I was thrilled when Steven took on a new leadership role as he will do great things with that organization. I am very proud of the work we did together and the change we were able to affect. During our time together, I believe I personally did some of my best work as a fundraiser.
It was a situation and a circumstance like none other I have experienced in my career. The timing was right and the combination was powerful. Together, we achieved many of our goals and set the stage for more. Two was definitely better than one – and this one is much better for it.
Dawn Marie Schlegel is Director, Donor Relations & Engagement at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. When not attending performances of this fantastic orchestra you will find her walking her dog, planning for the next travel destination or curled up reading one of the books on her long reading list.