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You have just been hired as the new vice president for development at the state’s leading public university.  You have earned this job from a national search with hundreds over very qualified candidates because of your expertise, experience and success.

You have prepared for this moment for a long time.  You have been very successful in the jobs you have held.  You have attended many conferences to continue to learn more about your trade.  You have a great network of colleagues around the country who you can seek out for advice and counsel

You are ready to begin this new journey and be the incredible leader that you know you are capable of being.  You are coming to a place that has been lackluster in its performance and the President and Board want you to be a “change agent” and build a culture that will lead to the creation of “best-in” class fundraising operation.

How do you make sure you get off to a great start?  Here are a few tips for you consider in your start as the new leader of your fundraising organization.  Trust me, I have begun the same journey on five occasions and the lessons I have learned will help you start on the road to success and avoid making early mistakes:

  • Listen and learn. Great leaders are exceptional listeners.  Don’t try to come in and impress everybody with your knowledge.  Let it come to you.  One of my favorite expressions is that you “command respect, you don’t demand it.”  Ask questions, get to know the culture and the environment, and get to know your colleagues and team members.
  • Communicate. Be known as a great communicator.  Set-up individual meetings with your team members.  Set up group meetings.  Be known as a leader who communicates well and keeps your team well informed.  Ask the team members for their input and recommendations for improvements within the operation
  • Establish a 90 Day Plan. Don’t try to come in and change the world in the first few months.  It’s exhausting and counterproductive.  Try to establish some reasonable goals for your first 90 days.  You are in this for the long haul and this is a marathon.  You want results and you want them pretty quickly but don’t force things.  Articulate your short term goals and make sure you are working towards achieving them.  This really helps manage expectations.
  • Look for An Early Success. At the same time, though, if you can have an early victory that will help establish yourself as a person who brings results.  And the more you can generate results, the more successful you will be!  Producing an early success is not a necessity but it you can produce a success story, something to showcase to your team and the Board, it will help reinforce to the organization that they made the right hire in you.
  • Meet the Game Changers. Relationships – internally and externally – will be a key part of your success.  You need to build a strong foundation with the people who will be key partners in journey as a leader at this organization.  Establish a rapport and make it a priority to grow these relationships.
  • Manage Up. This is an overlooked tactic in establishing a good start at your new organization.  You need a good relationship with your boss.  Get to know what your boss’ work style, how often does your boss want to meet, and what does your boss expect in your work performance.  You report to the boss and you need to make sure you are operating in a manner that your boss appreciates.  A good working relationship with your boss will make your life so much easier!
  • Make sure you breathe.  You will be in a hurry to get everything done immediately.  Everybody will want your time.  Everybody will want to meet you and talk with you.  Take some time to think, reflect and make decisions.  Block time on your calendar just for you!  And remember that you won’t be able to accomplish everything for everybody in the first ninety days.  Follow these tips and you will get off to a remarkable start as the new leader!!

About the Author 

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience.  He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership.  He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit.