Tagged: philanthropy

Patience and Trust

BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY

Twenty-two of the dogs most in need of care after being rescued from Michael Vick’s horrifying dogfighting ring were sent to Best Friends Animal Society for rehabilitation. Each of those dogs was special, but from the start there was a standout: Lance. The best dog trainers in the world worked with the 22 dogs, and over time, each passed the court-ordered Canine Good Citizen test and was placed in a loving home. Except for Lance. Even though a wonderful family was interested in adopting him, he was not allowed to leave until he passed his test, and he had so much anxiety that every time he took the test, he would freeze….

Best Friends Animal Society 

The Secret of Fundraising Revealed

telling-a-secret

The one question I receive consistently in working with nonprofits is this “Sondra, what’s the secret to fundraising?” While my ego would like to answer with some profound, deep, complex revelation, it’s really much more simple than that. The secret to fundraising is in how we treat others. It’s about respect.

Turn your clock back to 1950, a time when respect, courtesy, grammar, and poise were paramount. Sensitivity, decorum, and grace were at one point held in high regard. It was a reflection of your character to be considerate, conscientious, forthright, and restrained.

Now take that picture, and apply it to your philanthropy.  How do you speak with you donors? With your board?  With your team? Do you hold true to your promises, your word? Ask yourself, are you showing true gratitude for the gifts your receive? How have you shown your gratitude? Have you called the company right after receiving the gift, do you ring them every month to tell them how your work is proceeding, are you happy to make time to visit them periodically, just because they went through the trouble and consideration of supporting you?  And it doesn’t need to be a company, how about a person? Think about the last gift you received. How did you respond? Did you open the envelope and send it to finance, to work out the details of posting and sending your form thank you letter? Our ancestors would have done more than that. They would have valued the generosity of that gift, put on their coat and hat (yes, they wore hats back then) and visited that donor. Even if the donor had no time for them, the action meant everything- the donor knew his gift was not only received but tremendously valued.

One of the barriers created by our technological age, is the deterioration of face time. The lethal combination of too much to do, too little time and the convenience of electronic interactions, has made us shallow and self absorbed. We focus on getting through the actions, ticking off the to do’s, but missing the point of the light of day. In our field, that light of day is spent 99% of the time in conversation with, appreciating, and showing our enormous respect for our donors.

Phone that donor. Respond to that email for your sponsor. Better yet, initiate that interaction before they have to – find a way to make them the center of your day, every day, and you will have discovered the secret of fundraising.

Lead or Follow?

lead or followDoes this sound familiar? You are leading your board in a discussion about strategy for fundraising, outlining what is known about your organization’s current philanthropy program. As you ask them to take some time to review the strategic imperatives recommended from the findings, one member raises his hand and says “I think we should just do two mailings a year, no more, and then focus on doing more events. And I think we need more publicity, no one knows about us, that’s the big problem.”

 Somewhere along the line your board was lead to believe that their role is to problem solve. And by problem solve, I mean to direct the organization’s fundraising. And by directing fundraising, I mean doing your job. But, if this sounds all too familiar, how do you refocus your board on the important role they play in governance and oversight?

Getting boards focused, all looking in the same direction, and looking towards the bigger picture is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude, I suggest bringing in a professional. If you are up for the challenge, however, you need to begin with a self-assessment. A self-assessment must be completed and reviewed by the board, and it is only through this effort that they will find the necessary solutions hidden in the information they uncover as they move through the process. Finding an assessment tool is easier than you think. There are a lot of boxed self-assessment tools out there, and Harvest Development Group offers one on our website.

Keep in mind that it is important that the assessment process is driven from within. Board leadership should be suggesting and encouraging the process, not you or the organization. Assuming you have a good working relationship, with authentic dialogue and shared vision with your chairperson (if not, that’s another blog post), then having a candid conversation about the challenges you experience working with the board, accompanied by justification, both qualitative and quantitative, is the starting point. Suggest that the organization will benefit from a board self-review, just as the rest of the organization is reviewed annually. If everything else in a nonprofit is to be measured, it is unwise to exclude the board. With the chairperson leading the effort (or a board development committee, if you are that sophisticated), the medicine may go done a tiny bit easier. Expect some resistance and some sensitivity, because no one likes to be judged, least of which people who have come to not expect it. Once your board is committed to the self-assessment, ask your chairperson to recruit an Assessment Committee who will:

• Review the self-assessment tool and make recommendations on changes. You should provide them with findings showing why certain assessment sections are necessary

• Communicate to the full board the reason for the assessment, the process and the expected outcomes

• Implement and calculate the assessment

• Report on the findings and lead the discussion of the board on the actions to affect change.

Tai chi, is the ancient practice of war by submission. Letting go, allowing leadership in others, encouraging action through quiet movement, can change the board’s role in the organization, improve their performance and enhance the value they bring to your mission. In the end, they will be proud to be a part of your effort.

The Long Tail of Events

Spirited presentation this morning at the Ct Philanthropy Day Conference, around the translational opportunities with Events. It just takes a new perspective, for everyone, to make what has become a drudgery of futile transactional activities (events) into an amazing value added Long Tail translational opportunity!

Let me tell you what I mean by Long Tail. Webster defines Long Tail as:

A frequency distribution pattern in which occurences are most densely clustered close to the Y-axis and the distribution curve tapers along the X-axis. The long tail refers to the low-frequency population displayed in the right-hand portion of the graph, represented by a gradually sloping distribution curve that becomes asymptotic to the x-axis. In most applications, the number of events in the tail is greater than the number of events in the high frequency area, simply because the tail is long.

Did I lose you yet?!?

What it’s saying simply is the value of what is at the head (left) of a graph is not equal to and is less than the value of what exists collectively within the long line to the right. Here’s what that looks like:

Long Tail Graphic

Long Tail Graphic

In our theory on the Long Tail of Events, that equates to the Event itself being the head and the value from that event being greater than the event, that’s the tail.

Got it?

Measuring the value of our events is a long term view- we don’t measure the value of our acquisition appeal against that single appeal. If we did, we would determine that our ROI was a negative and we would stop. We measure the value of our acquisition appeal against a long term view that includes the cost benefit of collecting new prospects in our major gift pipeline and the cash value of those major prospects over time. Similarly we don’t measure the value of grant writing against a single grant submitted. Losing proposition financially. Instead we measure the value of grant writing against a long term aggregate of return on investment.

Then why do we allow our organizations to continue to measure the value of an event against itself as a single activity?

To expect your event to have a long-term financial value to your philanthropy requires a different perspective on event planning. It changes the way you think about and plan objectives for your events. It turns your inviting process on its head, giving a you a laser focus on attendees, and it places your board central to the development of this Long Tail. It demands data driven strategy on donor engagement and a commitment to numbers and dates as deadlines.

It can be done.

We’ll be developing a webinar on the Long Tail of Events in the coming months. We’ll show you what we mean and I guarantee you’ll walk away wanting to chase the Long Tail.

 

Shaping the future of philanthropy

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Shaping the Future of Philanthropy

From the Foundation Center, this series is interesting and provides insight into the next generation of philanthropists: young people from families of wealth. Despite my misgivings listed below, it is well worth the time invested in listening to the series.

It misses the mark in my opinion on two fronts- it focuses too narrowly on the next generation of philanthropists from a very small slice: those families already heavily invested in philanthropy. I would argue that many leaders of the next generation will find their own path in philanthropy and I would want to know their thoughts as well.

Secondly, it is disappointing in who they interview….. many of these individuals are not necessarily the key age demographic I would position as the next gen of philanthropy. I had hoped for a younger crowd, but many leaned more toward 40 years old.

However, its a start! I suggest listen to this one and then migrate out to the website at Grantcraft.org  to hear the remainder of the podcasts.

Nonprofit work is all about the money

I was lacking motivation for this weeks blog post, as I tapped away on my keyboard under the weight of research reports, feasibility interviews, resume reviews, re-branding our website, launching the tech start up Donorfull….. I needed something to fire me up.

And then it hit me.

I’m reading idealist.org’s latest report on jobs. According to their recent Job Seeker Report for 2012 , 68% percent of nonprofits are seeking Program staff while only 36% of nonprofits are seeking Fundraising staff.

And there it was. Really? Program staff gain twice as much height on the needs scale for nonprofits filling positions as fundraisers? So explains the current financial state of the nonprofit sector.

When fundraising is relegated to the nice to have, but first focus is that we help people position within the organization and not the ‘essential revenue stream for our ongoing survival and growth, show me the MONEY!‘ position it should be, then the whistle you hear is not the finish line of success, but the train of demolition.

Now, possibly, it could be that the nonprofits who were interviewed as part of this study, are fully booked and have the BEST fundraising teams imaginable. Maybe their philanthropic coffers are over-flowing and they have to turn donors away to sister organizations down the road, just because they don’t want to eat all the cookies.

Possible, but unlikely.

In our experience, the number one issue we hear from our clients is “we need good fundraising staff and we need more of them”!

And I have to imagine that our clients are not the only ones. I always respond the same. Fire More, Hire More.

It’s a simple equation, that moves you beyond the agony of wrestling with under-performing, poorly experienced or overworked development people.

So my question is, how long do you suffer, doing the same thing, operating the same way, before you see the light? What has to happen to bring the solution to focus- that better and more fundraisers equals more money equals more programs and clients served?

Innovate your organization by flipping your staffing on its head. Hire more fundraisers than program staff and email me the results. I want to know.

Innovation as a Culture…..

It all started with a statistic in 2006, repeated in 2011: Two thirds of all executive directors of US nonprofits intend to retire by 2016 (Cornelius, Moyers, & Bell, 2011).

That led to a thought: Filling those positions are Gen X and Y, who work so very differently and embrace a culture of Innovation

That led to a fear: Is our industry prepared?

That lead to a revelation: We need to focus hard on developing Innovative Cultures now, in order to weather the shift.

Innovate: Verb

1: to introduce as, or as if, new
2: to effect a change in 
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2012
 

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation builds on existing ideas. It is not to be confused with Invention. The Printing Press was Invented, the Kindle was Innovative.

If our Grandparents were Inventors, then Gen X/Y are Innovators. They may not own the market on Innovation, but lead the charge and drive the process. Their Innovative spirit causes them to see work differently, and for those working in the Nonprofit Sector, and stepping into the vacuum of leadership soon to be created, that could be a challenge.

The exiting generation of Boomers tend to believe work was for life and WAS life. After all, they created the ‘workaholic’ and ‘superwoman’ concepts. The Gen X/Y to come, view work and their work life much differently. They are traditionally seen as individualistic, self-reliant and skeptical of authority. They expect great workplace flexibility. They are tech savvy and seek diverse groups. The speed and ease of the Internet  and its subsequent vast knowledge base, has led the ‘Net Generation’ of Y and Xer’s to be flexible and changing in its consciousness and with how it is communicated. We can see how this is in great contrast to the current environment of the risk averse, staid and steady world of the nonprofit.

However, we have seen some break-outs in the industry, nonprofits that have jumped the fence to do things differently, and with great results. For these nonprofits, we see that Innovation provides bold, new approaches to the way they work; they have decidedly replicated and integrated what can be learned from other disciplines; and they have provided ideas and strategies to our industry on how organizations can better foster new ideas and solutions to challenges and mission need.

Which is just the type of culture required to manage through such a massive shift in leadership, that is pending in our industry in the coming years.

What is needed for your organization to jump the fence into a culture of Innovation and to stand apart and excel in the approaching change?

Here are some simple and manageable ideas to get started.

1) Create and/or Embrace Your Constraints:

An excellent line from Marnie Webb, CEO of TechSoup Global, reflects “Innovation happens when people work within constraints — in an environment of not enough — and they figure out how to do it anyway.”  (Webb, 2011).   Well, doesn’t that just describe the EVER PRESENT environment of most, if not all, nonprofit organizations? So lack of resources, lack of time, lack of experience is a benefit and not a detriment to your Innovation.

Inspire a spirit of can do in your team: Teach them to routinely say to the world, “I know you said we can’t do this, but we are  going to figure a way that we can.”  A fun way to do this is to challenge your staff each month with one new problem to solve. It can be simple or complex, but make sure there are no single ‘right’ answers expected, and that all respondents get an encouraging word about their creativity in designing a solution. Take a look at the monthly responses and find one or two things that can be implemented from each, to make this activity actionable and inspiring.

2) Data is fuel for Innovation:

Research has had its day recently in the public square of discussion among the nonprofit set. It wasn’t until this recent decade though, that many nonprofits began to wake up to the fact that data drives exceptional performance. Metrics on outcomes of service and mission performance, as required now by grantors; benchmarks on philanthropy, collected and aggregated to drive decisions on fundraising expenditures; demographics on constituency that support political advocacy and marketing investments – all data driven for enhanced results.

Data drives Innovation as well.  How many experiments do you have currently going in your organization? What are you currently testing? If the answer is nothing, the future may look bleak for you. Testing gives you all the raw data you need to begin to get creative and innovate existing projects and services. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark.

It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start. Test something every week, every month and have a few tests going at the same time. Overall, testing does not significantly impact resources devoted to your project: You’re already completing the project with all the resources you have and need. Testing requires a simple tracking methodology.

A simple trial test, to get yourself and your staff acquainted with a culture of testing, is to develop a survey used with every donor/donation received. The survey can ask some common demographic questions, but also some quirky ones:  What color would you paint your car if you could paint it any color? What did you want to be when you grew up? What’s your favorite treat food?

The resulting data can be a rich playground for your team to get creative. What if more than 75% of your donors said Popcorn was their favorite treat food? How could you use this information to better your appeals, raise more money, sign up more volunteers, get more people to your programs? You could also take that quirky data, create an info-graphic and share with your constituency, giving them all an intimate look at the tribe they are part of in supporting your mission!

3) Free Access, Embrace Risk:

Let your staff play. Open up their access to the internet, create an environment of walking around to work, withhold judgement, encourage impossible dreams, create shared spaces for interaction. Let go of your organizational fear, and strict fence posts, and let your staff bloom! Additionally, inspire and ask you constituents and donor base to get involved. Create spaces for shared ideas, allow your donors to see their own giving histories, to watch projects unfold and to openly track progress of service delivery and program development.  Yes, even the warts and the odd parts.

Try this for one month: Using a cloud based program, like Dropbox or Google+, create a shared folder or a group for idea generation. Invite staff, board, donors, clients, to get involved. Post a problem or question of the month. Then encourage everyone to drop a comment. People love to give their feedback, so encourage that sharing on your real issues. Why not start with this question: What one thing would you change about us? Interact with the group, asking further questions, exploring responses, challenging perceptions.

4) Allow process, iteration, pivoting. Don’t kill the messenger or the message – massage it.

If you don’t give Innovation the time and attention it deserves, it will not produce and it will not gel as a culture. There are no bad ideas, only ideas which have not matured yet. Like a fine wine, an idea becomes innovative after taking some time to develop. Too often we rush to judgement on a solution, concept or strategy. Keep all ideas generative and don’t lose any along the way. Pop them open every so often, encourage follow through and push back on development on those that look promising or have some immediate potential application. Use data to tweak them along the way and send them out for more testing. Turn them over, look at them differently.  One of my favorite examples of this is asking the question: How is your_____________  like a ________? For instance, “How is your Nonprofit, like a Toaster?”.

5) Be sincere

Finally, don’t offer lip service on Innovation. It knows when you are lying and it knows when you are passionate about serving it well. Innovation is not a tactic, or a business management style. It is truly a culture, one which can only come from authentic, inspired and patient nurturing. Making it part of the spirit of your organization will yield powerful results.

Boss-man

Recently, I had the unfortunate opportunity to sit in the presence of a supervisor from my past, for an extended period, and listen to him speak. I was struck once again, even after so many years, of what an awful leader he was and obviously still is.

Then, this post this morning on twitter got me thinking about leadership in the nonprofit sector. 

Image

 

I’d give attribute for the picture, but there was none provided.

I was originally going to post today about innovation, and still will this week, but I think going back to basics about leadership is critical for any innovative approach to work.

So here is the translation of the above list for the nonprofit sector:

If you are leading your fundraising staff or a nonprofit team, then by definition you are-

  1. Coaching employees: Providing them with opportunities to fail, to learn, to gain insight and to achieve.What I mean is: To fail is to learn. To learn is to gain insight. And by gaining insight your staff ultimately achieves. What not to do? If you want to be a BOSS and not a LEADER, then say “no” often, chastise and punish for failures, limit projects, micromanage, get in the way, direct often, maintain an air of criticism when things don’t go well and show distrust in their efforts.
  2. Building goodwill among your team: You are authorized to lead. You are not authorized to dictate. A good LEADER will build authentic camaraderie based on respect, admiration of skills and honesty. From this will flow goodwill. Building goodwill, while for those not comfortable with leadership may sound superfluous, is at the core of every well run and successful nonprofit organization. Goodwill is contagious, it inspires others to do well for others and to help each other in a supportive environment. You can always tell an organization that depends on authority and has bankrupted goodwill – no one is safe from backstabbing.
  3. Generating enthusiasm:   Fear. ::shudder:: Fear shuts people down. It causes people not to think, to become myopic and to distrust everyone and everything. It places stress on the nervous system and creates negative filters. Fear kills. And most certainly it brings fundraising to a screeching halt. Building fear in your staff may bring you the perception of respect, but it will not help you reach your goals. Alternatively, being a cheerleader, generating enthusiasm for the work you do, for the mission of your organization and for the opportunity to serve the community, elevates peoples spirits, spreads joy. Think about those who speak highly of a LEADER (not a BOSS) and you will hear words such as: spirited, supportive, honest, good-natured, humble, encouraging and fun!
  4. Saying “We” and not “I”: In an industry driven by data – number of donors, number of gifts, cost ratios, number of prospects, number of visits… saying “we” can feel risky. How will I be judged for my performance if I cannot ‘count’ my numbers? Your staff will only conspire to share the wealth of achievement if you model such behavior. Authentically identifying when a group effort has achieved a goal or supported progress is the most important way to break down silo’s. BOSS-men take credit for everything good and demand accountability from others for everything bad. Horrible Bosses do so with impunity.To address the personal performance issue for your management of staff, I always suggest to my clients they follow this rule: Praise all publicly, assess privately.
  5. Focus on solutions not blame: Throwing around blame reminds me of monkeys in a cage, flinging……..well you get the picture. See number one in this list and realize that blame inhibits good coaching interactions, which instills rigidity and fear and will eventually break down any fundraising effort. Innovation cannot exist in a blame filled environment. Skip the poo flinging and get your team focused quickly on the resolution.
  6. Lead by example: Sometimes, just sometimes, I question whether leaders in the NPO sector actually ever did any fundraising at all? Too many times, I find that leaders are really, really good at A) stating what they read about fundraising or B) demanding some crazy concept they derived as effective -most often based in myth and not reality or research. Good LEADERS learn the craft and then teach the craft through interaction, experience and modeling behavior.
  7. Develop people, don’t ‘use’ them: We all met this person in junior high school. Eddie Haskell, looking for favor to gain his own ends. That guy (or gal) who is transparently disingenuous and only calls upon you when they need something. Or worse, the BOSS  who places you between himself and a bad outcome. Invest your time in developing relationships with your staff, learn about their personal lives, their likes, their dreams, their fears. Don’t be afraid if they don’t match yours. And don’t be judgmental. CARE about people (Create an Authentic and Respectful Environment).
  8. Gives Credit: I have been on the receiving end of a BOSS who speaks at a podium, taking credit for all the hard work I and my team have accomplished in reaching a lauded outcome. I have also watched as a BOSS does the same to others. The funny thing is, the BOSS looks like an ass each time. Because the dirty little secret is- everyone knows who did the work. Everyone already knows who gets the credit. Don’t be that BOSS, unless looking like an ass is a personal goal. Giving credit is easy, and contrary to how BOSS-men think, giving credit takes nothing away from you. In fact giving credit gives credit to your leadership. Because, as we see in the previous seven points in this list, your leadership inspires great things from your team.
  9. Asks: I am going to unapologetic here when I say “Ask your staff if they can perform a duty, do not tell them to.” The measure of your success as a LEADER will be in their answer. Good leadership inspires people to say some form of yes 99% of the time – “Yes, right now” or “Yes, shortly”  or “Yes” with adjustments. But they will want to say yes, because, they want to be a part of this team, they want to lead, they want to perform, they want to please others, they want to excel, they want to work. If you still are hesitant about asking, then you probably have guilt about your leadership style. Change your dance steps and the people you lead will change theirs.
  10. Saying “Let’s Go!”: I think playing on a team sport during your formative years should be mandatory. Nothing inspires and teaches good leadership like a good sports coach. Or the military. Team is unified, it is collective, it is cellular in nature. It is not independent entities working as one. It is one entity working independently. The core of the team is we. The battle cry is “Let US go”! For your fundraising team, how often do you expect the directors to go around the board table and report on “their” area? Try this instead: before every staff meeting, have each director interview one other to determine how that area’s projects are doing? Ask them to focus their questions on primary data capture: how many mailings, what was the return, etc. Then request they ask followup questions such as “How could I help you in this project?”, “How can we as a team support the effort?” and “What did we do that lent to the outcomes?”. Then at your staff meeting, the interviewer gives the report on the project. Watch the dynamic change.

I am a firm believer that everything which happens in our lives has purpose. For me it was at one time being supervised by this BOSS, and then getting to see him in action again. It helped me realize that LEADERSHIP is more than being a big person at the top. It’s about being that BIG person that brings others to the top. Thanks for that.