For many academic leaders, time for fundraising must be juggled with addressing program issues, attending to student needs, and responding to the demands of a wide range of faculty members, in addition to serving the campus and community.
Enter: The “standing meeting.” What does the term “standing meeting” mean? By some definitions, it is a meeting that is fixed, established, or immoveable.
Many development professionals confide that the only times they have scheduled on their deans’ calendars are “standing” meetings. Whether based on tradition or perceived convenience, this meeting format can actually hinder development efforts because it limits the ability to nimbly respond to opportunities.
Consider taking a different approach to meetings with your dean. Perhaps “standing” could be taken more literally: a short meeting that is held while the participants stand.
Research shows that meetings structured to last around 20 minutes can be exceptionally productive.
Why the 20-minute meeting? It requires you to be focused and succinct, and it is more likely to be a block of time that can be made available on short notice.
Here are four important tactics for optimizing the 20-minute meeting to help you and your dean become more productive.
- Ensure that the dean’s calendar controller understands the importance of the opportunity you wish to discuss. Explaining the strategic implications of moving forward versus inaction can help convey the urgency of getting on the dean’s calendar. In an efficient and effective academic unit, everyone must be on the same page, understanding their roles in inspiring philanthropic investment that strengthens the unit and provides additional opportunities for faculty, staff, and students.
- Have a goal-based agenda. Be specific about the desired outcomes of the meeting. Will it include a decision on item #1? Assigned follow-up for item #2? Additional research for item #3? Focusing discussion on a number of topics also facilitates a sense of accomplishment when decisions are made.
- Send a limited amount of required reading ahead of time. Just like a professor who teaches in the college would expect students to come to class having read the required material, you and your dean should be clear about expecting your dean to have read what you “assigned” ahead of time. Written information should be tailored to your dean’s personality profile and pertain only to the agenda item(s).
- Recommend a course of action and ask for feedback. The dean relies on you, as the development leader, to provide sound strategy based upon your standing as a competent professional.
By limiting the need for long meetings, you free up time for your dean to accomplish more of their other work, thus making them more likely to have a 20-minute time slot available for you.
So next time a great opportunity for donor engagement requires a quick decision, rather than settling into a cozy chair around a conference table, consider conducting a high-value conversation while standing in a hallway, or even while walking with your dean to their next meeting across campus.
For additional best practices to position you and your dean for success, consider attending Professional Fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders.