This is an excerpt from my book and focuses on fundraising teams but the theory applies to teams more broadly.
Fundraising strategies often have two downfalls that mean that they aren’t as useful on a day to day basis as they could be. Firstly, as a rather large document, once your fundraising strategy is written there is a danger that it sits on a shelf (albeit a virtual shelf these days) and isn’t referred to again other than the odd mention of strategy at meetings. Secondly, most fundraising strategies contain so many objectives that they cannot all be remembered and those objectives are rarely prioritised. That is why I was really interested to come across this idea of OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), which is widely used in the corporate world, in particular in technology companies.
I highly recommend reading the short book “Radical Focus – Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results by Christina Wodtke. I could only find it on Amazon as it doesn’t seem to be published in the UK. It is a fairly short book that shows you how OKRs work in practice but in the meantime I am going to attempt to summarise the principle for you in this chapter.
They key benefit of OKRs is that they enable the whole department or team to align behind the same objective for a period of time, making it more likely that you will reach that goal and preventing you from losing focus. The main principles behind OKRs are:
- Set inspiring and measurable goals
- Make sure you and you team are always making progress towards those goals as a priority
- Use a framework that makes you that you all remember what you are trying to accomplish and keep each other accountable.
Setting Objectives & Key Results
The Objective is what you want to do. Objectives are a single sentence and are inspiring – they should make you want to leap out of bed in the morning. Objectives are set as part of your annual strategy and align with your organisational vision. Each team has one objective per quarter and it should be achievable within that timeframe. The best objectives focus on things that your team can control.
Key Results are how you know if you have achieved your objective – they quantify your objective. Ask yourself – how would we know if we met our objective? Key Results involve numbers and should be stretching. It is typical to have 3 Key Results and they can measure things like growth, engagement, revenue, performance and quality – anything you can quantify in some way.
In the corporate world OKRs are stretch goals, used to improve performance and think bigger. A typical OKR might have a 50:50 chance of being achieved – but even if you
don’t achieve it, you will have pushed yourselves further as a team than you do currently. I would suggest taking a slightly more moderate approach in fundraising, only because the consequences of failing to meet financial targets are greater in our sector. You might want to start more cautiously and then get bolder as the team gets used to working with OKRs. They are a great way to build energy and motivation around some key goals.
Here is an example of OKRs across a year for a major donor team…
|Quarter 1||Recruit an incredible Development Board||· 80% of invitations to join Board accepted
· 10 Board Members recruited
|Quarter 2||Make our annual donor dinner the best yet||· All seats sold
· £1 million raised
· 30% of attendees new to us
|Quarter 3||Successfully launch new campaign||· Existing donors bring 100 new prospects to launch event
· Lead gift of £750,000 secured
· 5 new donor giving £50k+
|Quarter 4||Build amazing relationships with our major donors||· 75% of donors met in person or visited project
· 20% of donors introduce us to new contacts
OKRs then cascade down the team and each team’s OKR for that quarter are focused on what they need to do to help the overall Fundraising Team reach its OKR. So if your overall Fundraising Team objective for this quarter is “Turning our supporters into passionate advocates for our charity” then in the corporate team the objective might be “Make our account management of corporate supporters the best in the sector” and a community fundraising objective might be “Create a team of community ambassadors”.
Weekly progress updates
Weekly updates on progress by each team keep OKRs front of mind. The author of Radical Focus lays out a very comprehensive structure for these meetings but to start with I suggest that you stick to:
- Progress on last week’s top 3 priorities
- Top 3 priorities for this week
- Projects/activities for the next month (so that you can see what other teams are planning)
These could be shared weekly at very focused team meetings or on a weekly email update and then you can check in at a monthly team meeting.
You could also agree how you celebrate if you achieve your OKRs and how you debrief and learn each time. OKRs can take a while to get the hang of and you can adopt them to work for your team. Even if the only thing you get from this concept is the idea to focus the team on one shared objective each quarter that would improve the quality of your fundraising I think that could add a lot of value.
You can also set yourself personal OKRs. If like me you start the year with a long list of things you’d like to do, see and achieve then the focus of OKRs means that you can really get things done. This quarter for example my objective was to get this book written and I have set aside other things to make sure that it happened.
Want more practical advice like this? My book “Leading Successful Fundraising Teams” is now available on Amazon.
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