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Donor Participation Project

Establish Ground Rules and Expectations

Effective fundraising teams operate with a shared sense of purpose and trust. As a leader, it’s your role to establish the ground rules and expectations that will build this foundation. Craig Evans, associate dean for development at Johns Hopkins University, recommends facilitating open conversations with your team to determine the guidelines you’ll follow.

Start by asking your team what rules and expectations they believe are necessary to feel supported in their work. Encourage honest and thoughtful responses by assuring team members there are no “wrong” answers. You may get suggestions like “assuming good intent,” “active listening,” or “asking for help when you need it.” Share a few of your own ideas to get the discussion going, but let your team shape the overall list.

Once you have input from the whole group, work together to refine and finalize your ground rules. Review these at the start of each year and when new members join your team. To make the rules feel official and help them guide daily actions and decisions, print and frame copies to display in your office. Refer to them at meetings and in performance reviews as well.

Repeat this process to determine what your team members expect from one another to foster a collaborative environment. Then, ask them to share what they expect from you as their leader. Be prepared to listen with an open mind—you’ll likely gain valuable insight into how you can better support your team. Share your own expectations for them in return to ensure everyone is on the same page about their roles and responsibilities.

According to Evans, the time required for these conversations will be well worth your investment.

Ground rules and mutual expectations “become operational” and help build trust within your team. They also make it easier to address issues by establishing a shared standard of accountability. Most importantly, inviting your team’s input shows them you value their needs and opinions. Overall, taking this inclusive approach will help you transform a group of individuals into a highly effective fundraising team.

How’s this? I focused on highlighting the key benefits of establishing ground rules and expectations, explained the specific process Craig Evans recommends, and provided an example to illustrate how this applies to a fundraising team. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or expand the article in any way. I’m happy to refine and improve it further.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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