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19th November 2020

A day in the life of Corey Harris, fundraiser relationship manager

Published by Corey Harris, Fundraiser Relationship Manager at The Professional Fundraiser on LinkedIn, 27 October 2020 

I was going to write “a day in the life…” article to bring to life and give people a flavour of what it is like to be a Regional Relationship Manager for The Professional Fundraiser (TPF). I hoped this would show how the role differs from that of a conventional campaign manager role prominent within other charity agencies.

For this role, TPF hired senior managers from other industries to apply their expertise of managing “Relationships” with field sales agents, the client partners they work with, and all other key stakeholders within the business. The person needed to be like an “Account Manager” to the self-employed fundraisers, who was also skilled in managing people remotely. So, as I sat staring blankly at the screen trying to formulise what a typical day looks like, I realised (after much procrastination) there is no such thing as a typical day. I have spent whole days resolving issues related to IT, venues, and resources, I’ve also spent whole days picking up and delivering kit, collateral, gazebos, and people! So, a snapshot of “a day in the life…” would not do justice to the rewards and challenges experienced within the role. So, as three is the magic number, I thought I would share the three activities I dedicate most of my time to which have a positive impact for the charities I work with.

Relationships

I’d just put the phone down after a conversation with a fundraiser, providing feedback from a mystery shopper visit they had, and talking them through a fix to resolve an IT issue they’d been experiencing. We then discussed the intricacies of one of their successful donor sign ups (great best practice idea - I will be sharing that one with the team!). Finally we spoke and laughed about the adventures they had during their weekend off - all of this is not unusual. A massive part of what I do is maintaining and enhancing the relationships I have with the fundraisers and venue planners within the business. At some point during a working day I will nurture a relationship by resolving (or helping to resolve) an issue, have positive and challenging conversations, and have a fun none related work conversation with fundraisers or venue planners. Working with self-employed fundraisers is an enlightening experience. You are constantly kept on your toes and the conversations you have are richer and have a more intense flavour to them than most. Telephone conversations usually centre around checking a fundraiser has everything they need to do the best job they can, and contributing to the resolution of a query they have. Our face to face visits provide a great opportunity to observe, coach and motivate a fundraiser, and to use the data we have at our disposal to deliver constructive conversations and drive the right behaviours. My aim is to ensure that at the end of all our interaction I leave a focused and motivated fundraiser who has the sufficient skills and mindset to work well, raise money for their charity, and earn themselves a good living. 

Strategy

“I’ve noticed when working for this charity I get a much better response from potential donors when I lead with the impact the donation will have rather than the reasons why the charity need their donation”. This little gem was gathered from a conversation I had with a fundraiser. A simple switch in the structure of a fundraisers presentation had a profound impact on their sign-up rate. I observed this myself and made sure this change was rolled out to all the fundraisers working on this particular charity campaign, which then positively impacted the charities overall donor sign-up rate. Myself and my colleagues who also hold a Relationship Manager role, consciously try to ensure that our actions and outcomes have a positive impact on delivering the companies/charities goals. This could be an amendment in the structure of a presentation (as above), a focus on a particular product that a charity wants us to concentrate on, or improving how fundraisers deliver key messages to our customers. Delivering the company strategy is at the forefront of our mind when we communicate to all stakeholders in the business. But formulating the company strategy is not just a top down process, in order to think strategically, our company requires a deep understanding of what is happening in the frontline of face to face fundraising, and use this intel to help formulate and amend (if required) that strategy. Therefore, feeding back upwards is a vital part of what I do. I am the conduit between what is happening in the field and the office, as at some point the two-way flow of information, process and strategy usually goes through the Relationship Managers in-tray. Now I’ve heard some great ideas and I’ve heard some real left field suggestions too (listening to all with a none judgemental mindset) which is why it is important to filter out the noise and present back tangible (and some left field) ideas and improvements to the senior leadership team in a succinct and meaningful way.

Adaptability

You may as well crumple the job description for a Relationship Manager up into a ball and kick it into the dustbin like a Jack Grealish volley. In this role you must have the willingness to get stuck in, help out and do whatever it takes to ensure our fundraisers can work to the best of their abilities. This is the main reason why I could not write “a day in the life…” article (how boring anyway) as no two days are the same (it’s not just a turn of phrase, it’s the absolute truth). Logistics, handy man, delivery driver, trainer, coach, marketing guru, cook, baker, candlestick maker (ok maybe I’ve gone overboard a bit with the last couple), but I have done all these roles and more since I’ve been at The Professional Fundraiser and this is probably one of the main reasons I enjoy the role so much. Versatility and adaptability is a must, you have to think of the “big picture” all the time and understand that all the different roles you undertake work towards our fundraisers being equipped and motivated to raise money for their charity.

It’s a ride..

In short, the role of a Relationship Manager is an art, you need to hone your technique to help you deal with and react to a variety of situations. The situations are so varied and the different personalities you deal with are so vast, that there is a need to be flexible and supple in your actions and be able to absorb negativity, challenge situations, and provide solutions in a positive and constructive way. No two days are the same, some are completely focused on fundraisers others are completely involved in contributing to the direction of the business. It’s never dull, it has its ups and downs, sometimes it’s fast and you can feel a little overwhelmed, but if you can go with the flow and try to enjoy those moments, its completely exhilarating… just like a rollercoaster ride.

In my eyes, the “big picture” then, is knowing that what you do contributes to improving the lives of vulnerable people and animals.

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