How did 16 regional fundraisers from HOPE International, each working from remote offices, increase annual giving by an average of 17 percent? (The answer may surprise you.) These results are the byproduct of creating a culture of healthy communication, one of our 8 factors of a flourishing workplace, and implementing it consistently, clearly and creatively, regardless of geographic challenges.
HOPE International has enabled thousands of individuals in 17 developing countries to break the cycles of physical and spiritual poverty, thanks to its business training, banking/saving services and small loans.
This world-changing organization relies on 16 regional development team members across the U.S. to raise the bulk of its working capital. But HOPE’s strategically-located, yet stand-alone satellite offices made regular face-to-face meetings impossible. How could HOPE retain its donors and meet its ambitious fundraising goals without consistent encouragement and accountability from development leadership at its home office in Lancaster, PA?
By turning lemons into lemonade, HOPE employees experienced a high level of transparency and trust that, today, exemplifies its flourishing workplace culture. How did it they do it?
The answer, says Vice President of Development Christ Horst, sprouted from a question every employee at every level wants to know the answer to: “Am I doing a good job?”
“We took that question to heart for each of our employees, particularly our regional fundraising representatives, and combined it with Ken Blanchard’s conviction that the most critical thing a manager can do is establish regular, one-on-one meetings with one’s direct report in which the employee sets the agenda.”
HOPE’s President and CEO Peter Greer, along with Horst, decided that the geographic remoteness of their offices must be leveraged to actually work in their favor.
Because we’re not working in one central site, we had to be intentional about what we talked about. The absence of daily face-to-face conversations made clear communication and accountability essential.”
To that end, Greer, Horst and senior leadership created a simple, clear protocol designed to translate their field representatives’ responsibilities into successful fundraising results.
The key elements included:
- A specific monthly goal for each rep to host and report on at least 30 face-to-face conversations with donors each month.
- A weekly check-in phone call with Horst for the first six to nine months, offering guidance, insight, skill building and affirmation.
- The empowered accountability for each rep to set the agenda with his or her supervisor for these conversations.
- A monthly all-team conference call that lets regional fundraisers share remarkable best-practice stories with their counterparts.
- Creative tools and exercises like “Postcards From the Future,” made popular by Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard.
Says Horst, “Behind these intentional and highly effective expectations is one very positive premise at work for each employee:
Our starting point assumption is that when you join the team at HOPE International, you’re going to thrive. And as you thrive, we all flourish.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Since completing its first Best Christian Workplaces Institute employee engagement survey in 2012, HOPE International has:
- Scored in the top 10% of para church and missions organizations with exceptional, flourishing levels in the areas of Healthy Communication, Inspirational Leadership and Outstanding Talent
- Grown its fundraising by an annual average of 17%
- Expanded its work into three new countries—Malawi, Zambia and Burundi—a 20% increase.
Says Greer, “These outcomes can be attributed, in large part, to the new levels of accountability, transparency and trust that are developing as we execute and fine-tune our regional representative strategy.”
How do you create healthy rhythms of communication for your team?