As a fundraising leader, building a positive culture is one of the most important things you can do. Your team culture impacts morale, productivity, and staff retention—all of which drive your organization’s success. Craig Evans, associate dean for development and external relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, shares some advice for developing a healthy team dynamic:
Establish ground rules and define expectations.
Sit down with your team and determine guidelines for how you’ll work together. Discuss what you each expect from one another and from leadership. Revisit these rules regularly and hold each other accountable. When done right, ground rules can transform team dynamics and set the tone for a supportive culture.
Prioritize check-ins and communication.
For remote or hybrid teams, check-ins are critical. Hold weekly virtual coffee breaks or meetings and do quick “electronic drive-bys” via messaging to stay in touch. Ask open-ended questions to see how people are really doing. Look for ways to strengthen relationships, not just tasks.
Gain buy-in through transparency.
Explain your reasoning behind new initiatives to get team support. Educate senior leadership on approaches that work. Share wins and lessons openly. When people understand the why behind decisions, they’ll be more invested in success.
Reflect daily on your leadership role.
Each day, ask: What does my team need to hear from me? What do senior leaders need to know? What can I do to support my team? Look for ways to empower others, not just command them. Your team’s morale depends on your ability to step back and consider their experience.
An intergenerational team takes work.
Focus on shared goals and an open environment where all feel heard. Help younger members develop through mentorship. Discuss challenges candidly to build trust despite differences. When you hire, consider soft skills and culture fit—not just expertise.
With the right mindset and tools, you can build a fundraising team that accomplishes amazing things. But never stop reflecting on how to strengthen your leadership and support your team. Their success and the organization’s impact depend on it.
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