Back office, step forward

The shipping containers were parked alongside each other in a lot. I passed them one day on my way to work: About a dozen plain white boxes, each one discreetly labeled “Cirque du Soleil.”

The spectacle of the circus is delivered to us in anonymous, dull packages. If all the containers arrived in town on time, hardly anyone would know. If even one was delayed, very likely the show could not go on.

The logistics behind Cirque reminded me of Advancement Operations: Invisible when functioning well, a disaster otherwise.

How then, given its importance, do we talk about this team? In a hurry, I might refer to us as the “back office.” People seem to know what that means. Unfortunately, some of those people have in mind a typing pool out of the 1950s; lose a button-pusher or two and it’s no big deal.

Given more time, I might enumerate gift processing, compliance, prospect management, records management, data integrity, reporting and analytics, applications and systems, and more. To my audience, though, these are so many white containers in a row, many discrete functions in search of a unifying purpose.

I have to talk about the show that must go on.

Advancement Operations provides tools, services, and information that enable the interests and passions of individuals to be aligned with our university’s mission to educate students, advance the frontiers of knowledge through research, and effect societal change. We deliver impact on this mission through facilitating the initiating, sustaining, and advancing of relationships.

This is a deliberate echo of the overall Advancement purpose. It’s not succinct but it’s accurate. It’s not a vision statement puffed with adjectives. It’s a statement of what our team actually does. Everyone working in Operations should be able to see their role in it.

If Operations meets and exceeds its goals and targets, and this does not lead to the front line succeeding as well, then Operations has the wrong targets. The magic of Cirque du Soleil doesn’t happen only under the lights.

2 thoughts on “Back office, step forward

  1. This perspective is an important one. The critical nature of the work of the many units in Operations has been brought to the forefront of everyone’s mind and work as we transition to new CRM in our office. It’s one thing to recognize the importance of this team to our continued success but how do we build a culture of collaborative acknowledgement and celebration when we achieve our shared goals both small and large? The success of the frontline fundraiser needs to be genuinely experienced by the entire team that made it possible. It doesn’t happen just because we know it should. We need to be deliberate and change the culture over time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s