Key elements of a hybrid onboarding curriculum for fundraisers

Over the course of one week in 2020, the entire advancement world went from working fully in-person to fully-remote, and there’s been an industry-wide recalibration ever since. Many teams have made a full return to the office; some teams have continued with a remote-first approach; and others have mastered the flexible, hybrid option to “work where your work is best supported.” The advancement team at the University of Virginia is leading the way. Read on for details about their flexible work policy and hybrid onboarding curriculum for fundraisers.

We recently chatted with Ashley Privott and Julie Featherstone at the University of Virginia about their team’s hybrid work philosophy. You can tune into the full 50-minute conversation here, or watch an 8-minute clip below.


The University of Virginia team has embraced a motto to “work where your work is best supported.” As of this fall, over half of UVA’s advancement employees work remotely.

As a result of UVA’s decision to intentionally embrace a hybrid work environment, the team has seen some incredible results in their donor pipeline and talent pipeline:

Cost savings and partnerships

  • Saved over $500k in leasing property
  • Additional savings in office services and supplies (paper, coffee, etc.)
  • Reallocated office space to other university departments needing swing space due to construction

Talent pipeline wins

  • Increased recruiting footprint, resulting in 20% diverse hires and 25% fully-remote hires 
  • Team of 3 fully-remote fundraisers (DXOs)

Donor pipeline wins through the fully-remote Donor Experience program

  • 34% donor reactivation rate (compared to 7% for prospects outside of a DXO portfolio)
  • 70% donor retention rate (compared to 9% for prospects outside of a DXO portfolio)
  • 222% increase in outreach activity from FY22 to FY23

As part of the intentional decision to embrace a hybrid work environment, the UVA team committed to bringing remote staff back twice a year for learning events. They implemented desk hoteling and drop-in workspaces at their UVA Charlottesville office. And they developed a comprehensive hybrid onboarding curriculum.

Many of our friends across the industry have asked questions about UVA’s hybrid work philosophy. Ashley Privott, Senior Director for People Operations, and Julie Featherstone, Senior Associate Vice President for Advancement Operations, have generously offered to share their Flexible Work Policy, which can be found here.

It all starts with onboarding.

We interviewed Ashley for a deeper dive into some of the key elements of their hybrid onboarding curriculum.

Q: Can you explain how you incorporate asynchronous learning into the hybrid onboarding process?

A: We utilize asynchronous courses that we created in the Articulate Rise platform to introduce the basics of advancement and our tools to new hires. We have two courses about advancement – an “Advancement 101” that is for folks who are new to advancement work and an “Advancement at UVA” module that everyone takes and covers things like how we are organized. We also offer 101 sessions for our suite of software tools asynchronously.

Q: How do you set up onboarding meetings for new remote/hybrid hires?

A: We set up each new hire with a series of meetings based on their role. For example, all fundraisers meet with the following:

  • Our Chief Learning Officer – to discuss their role, the tools they have at their disposal, how their performance will be measured, and tips for success
  • The staff in Prospect Management, Research, and Analytics that are assigned to their unit 
  • The Associate Director for Gift Administration to cover how gifts are processed at UVA
  • The Director of Gift Documentation and Compliance to cover how the gift agreement process works at UVA
  • The Director of Donor Relations, who provides an overview of donor relations at UVA
  • The contact from our Gift Planning team who is assigned to the new fundraiser’s unit
  • The Director of Annual Giving, who provides an overview of the University Annual Giving program
  • The Operations Leadership Team – all new hires meet with the OLT and we share an overview of what our programs are and how we work with different roles

Q: What does the training lineup look like with your hybrid onboarding program?

A: We offer both virtual and in-person training, depending on the program and outcomes needed. Some training and learning events are best held in person (hands-on software practice, events where networking is a goal, and sessions where breakout discussions are important) and we center those on our Collaboration Days, held on the third Wednesday of each month. 

Q: How do you maintain culture and connection with remote/hybrid employees?

A: We know how important it is for people to feel connected with the overall mission and to each other. There is a lot of research that has proven that “finding a friend at work” leads to better overall engagement. We have a few programs in place to facilitate connections among team members. We have a casual Teams channel with sub-channels for different interests and hobbies. We are launching a “Navigator” program with the primary purpose being helping new hires build their network and social circle at work. We offer our in-person Collaboration Days, held on the third Wednesday of each month

We also hold sessions on the history and traditions of UVA, our ACE program (which is an employee recognition program built on our values), and other key UVA programs that are helpful for advancement pros to know about (e.g. Admissions).

Q: What’s next for your hybrid onboarding curriculum?

A: One thing I am really excited about that we will roll out this fall, is a monthly email campaign with relevant and timely information that new hires need. We’ll be highlighting some annual traditions at UVA (like the Lighting of the Lawn in December and Final Exercises in May) as well as sharing things relative to their start date (for example, after 60 days, we are sharing information about professional development). We are using one of our tools that we typically use for external audiences, Marketing Cloud, to automate the emails through a Journey.

Our Donor Experience partners around the country have seen great success through a flexible approach to in-office, hybrid, and remote work. If you want to chat about how a fully-remote or hybrid Donor Experience program would look at your institution, please get in touch!

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