Rebecca’s First 47 Days

This Monday, March 28, I’m reporting to work in my new role as Chief Development Officer for Save the Children Canada.

It’s been more than a year since I left my last full-time staff position. Since then, I’ve been consulting and taking interim roles in order to find the perfect fit. So now I’m back on the charity side, where raising money is many seasons of planting, rooting, and growing the money tree. (Consulting for me was more about being brought in as an expert fertilizer and pruner, both seasonally and in times of infestation.) Both – staff versus contract work – is fundraising done by fundraisers, but each has a different engagement with the organization. I’m re-tooling my mind to this new mandate, a leadership staff position, which is typically walking into an immediate tension of expected quick wins plus demonstrating smart decisions and actions towards a sustainable long game.

This is my “first-47-days” plan. Your comments are welcome in the document. But why am I focussed on just the first 47 days, when books and management consultants talk about the first ninety or 100? Because in the first month and a bit, three things need to happen to inform success in months two, three and beyond:

1. Onboarding. From both a manager’s and employee’s perspective, I know the care given (or neglected) to welcoming and folding a new hire into the organization has overt impact on the person’s psychology and productivity. Onboarding is so much more than a first-day meeting with IT and HR to fill out passcodes and insurance information. It should be a celebration and validation of that person’s decision to join a family of sorts. And if an onboarding is insufficient, or, almost worse, the opposite (that it feels like you’re drinking from the corporate firehose for weeks) it’s difficult to recover from and catch up to get ahead, in both your outlook and credibility. I’m feeling great about my onboarding next week: SCC has planned many meetings and interactions, as well as has assigned me another senior colleague as an “onboarding coach” (to help me navigate the norms of the organization and provide a sounding board). This is how to do it!

2. Expectation setting and communication. As a new CDO, I know I’ll have a number of audiences I’ll need to be impactful with. Quickly. And as with donors, stakeholders, and family/friends, the two fastest ways for a relationship to break down are 1) not setting expectations and 2) not establishing a regular cadence of communication around progress towards the expectations. With my peers, team, and key donors, one of my approaches will be to develop a list of open-ended questions designed to gain information and insights to help me right away build strong and lasting relationships. With donors specifically, prioritizing visits with them in the earliest days reinforces their importance to the organization.

3. Allowance that I’ll still have no idea what’s going on for at least a month. And this is why I have a 47-day assessment plan, and not a 90- or 100-day final one. There will need to be time for me to do an assessment to be able to produce a real 90-day plan. And a fresh perspective is healthy – it’s both a window and mirror, though time-limited. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. And for that privilege, I’ll need to set expectations, gain support, and communicate regularly.

Here’s the roadmap spelled out for how I’ve proposed to spend my first 47 days. It’s crisp and strict in order to move me and my team from assessment to advisement, and finally, to action:

Week 1 (to April 1): Onboarding
-review the budget; Financial Planning & Analysis
-meet all the Resource Development team
-organization deep dive (history, positioning, culture, bragging rights, aspirations, goals)
-company intro
-emergencies (ie immediate revenue-generating opportunities)
– reconfirm how I am going to be evaluated

Weeks 2 and 3 (to April 15): Connecting and Learning
-regular 1:1 meetings begin with team (discuss goals & career plans; conversations around my questions/survey)
– Current quarter focus and status: $, brand, comms
– Save the Children Canada: meetings with Senior Leadership Team, rest of staff, HR/union, vendors, key donors, volunteers & board
– Save the Children International: link in with FR Directors’ group, Global Brand Team, Global Media Unit, Member Growth

>>>Deliverable: Observations & Plan<<<

Weeks 4 – 7 (to May 13)
1. Team: Team structure, hire vacancies (or reformulate), assess individual and department quarterly goals

2. Strategy: Team structure, hire vacancies (or reformulate), assess quarterly goals

3. Process: Define process & tools to build over next 3 months, create launch initiatives for new campaigns/activities and refine ongoing
4. Measurement: Identify must dos and Key Performance Indicators, implement early warning and trend measurement for KPIs

= 47 days

Like the ground bass in a Bach fugue, there are two other themes that will be constant and repetitive from March 28 until the day I leave the organization. The first: that it’s my responsibility to deliver on expected goals and campaigns right from the start. As CDO I don’t get a pass; there’s no newbie card to redeem. I alone am fully responsible. Secondly, having chosen to be the chief fundraiser for SCC, I’m of course already deeply committed to the mission. To be most effective, however, I must also be personally affected: to feel the brand under my skin, and have my own stories to tell. This is a priority for me, and I’ll make time every day to look, listen, reflect, and internalize the mission.

So now you know not only where to find me on Monday, but also what I’ll specifically be doing every day, for 47 days. Part two of this blog post will cover the second half (or final 53) of my first 100 days, and will lay out my/my team’s goal-setting process, decisions for investment, deciding what areas will give us the most gains, and how I’ll propose aligning resources to achieve them.

This is my plan, but nothing in resource development I’ve succeeded at before, or will again in the future, has been by me alone: I’ve had great teams, and look forward to supporting one again. I’ve also been astonished this year by a number of professionals who’ve supported me during my transition. To Alan Clayton, Dr. Sarah Giles, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Conan MacLean, Avon MacFarlane, Marilyn McHarg, and Justin Webb: you’ve each recently influenced me strongly and abidingly in the quality of your thinking and integrity of your own leadership. Thank you.

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