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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

The revolution in ‘fundraising’ EVENTS – how not to raise money

In Discussables, Rants on October 7, 2009 at 9:49 am

Nonprofit fundraising has become known to the common masses for its ‘fundraising’ events and its sale activities. Talk to any layperson about being in ‘fundraising’ and they respond “Oh, you must be good at planning events!” or “I was never good at selling cookies”.

Events are commonly misunderstood. Possibly the misunderstanding comes from the saturation affect: the daily arrival of invites, ads and press releases on what black tie gala, or hayride and cookout is being hosted for which group, how much they raised or plan to raise, and who attended. The misunderstanding is that events are hosted to raise funds.

Too often the reality is, the money raised is minimal compared to the expense, the attendees learn little about the organization as beneficiary, and the event is seen as a burden on the supporter- an obligation that must be born to show support and that most donors would just as happily support the nonprofit in other ways, ways more lucrative and efficient to the nonprofits mission.

Disagree? See, as evidence, the recent results of the cancellation of such ‘fundraising’ events due to economic stress. One nonprofit board member, Nancy Jarecki, speaking in an article in the Nonprofit Times, observes “It’s kind of strange, when people are almost not required or obligated to get that event invitation in the mail, that expectation that they feel like they’ve got to do it, they still write the check,” Jarecki said. “They tended to still give, but on their own. They didn’t have the pressure of buying a $1,000 ticket”

In the same article, Carol Kurzig executive Director of the Avon Foundation notes “In general, in our experience, individual donations are holding very well and have increased significantly this year”

And in a study conducted in 2007, the nonprofit watchdog group, Charity Navigator concluded “…special events are inefficient in comparison to overall fundraising activities” and “Many health charities would benefit from shifting their fundraising focus away from special events.” Most disturbingly, the report went on to discover “A large percent of charities are reporting their special events data incorrectly, with no recourse from state or federal regulators.” But that’s a topic for another post, I digress.

So, the question then becomes- Why? Why are nonprofit leaders across the nation continuing to perpetrate this crime on the donating public? Why do they continue to reel head long onto the path of wasted money and large headaches in pursuit of raising funds, if the results are poor return on investment, bad donor feelings and a weak economic model in a stressful economy?

1. Perception

Unlike our corporate sisters, nonprofits have been indoctrinated into believing that they must perform to the expectation of the masses, allowing the public to lead the development and performance of the NPO, rather than driving performance and perception from their core product line. Public opinion sways management more than outcomes when it comes to fundraising. Maybe it’s because many fundraisers come from the service delivery field, where public need and opinion rightly DOES drive program. Maybe it’s because our Board of Directors often do not have sufficient experience in philanthropy to be governing such decisions. Maybe we just don’t know how to stop.

2. It’s easy

Okay, hosting events is not really easy. They’re a heck of a lot of work- volunteer coordination, set up, break down, mailings, registration tracking, and more mailings. And all of those decisions. Hours and hours of time and resources, for months on end, to produce a three hour event. But what makes them easy and attractive is the group nature of the solicitation. No one is on the end of the limb. No one is in the spotlight asking for the gift. The ‘ask’ is not from a philanthropic place, it’s from a sales place. And a sale is an academic activity, it’s understandable, it’s American. I give you this, you give me that. It seems fair. But compared to cultivating and building a relationship with a real person – mano a mano – to ask them for money, well bring on the flower choices and dinner menus. Let’s have a party.

3. It draws daily attention

Show me the society page that has picture upon picture of Mrs. Jenna Moneybags and the Executive Director of the We Need Your Help nonprofit organization with the head line “Years of Cultivation and Stewardship Pays Off: Large ask gifts WNYH organization with $100,000 for their children’s ward.” Valuable philanthropy just doesn’t get that kind of everyday publicity or pictures and smiles. It doesn’t market.

4. It feels good

Volunteers want to help. Planning events gives them something to do.

All of which, while being valid and understandable, still doesn’t answer the question why do we continue.

I propose we place a moratorium on all new ‘fundraising’ events, all expansion of  ‘fundraising’ events, or even, the continuation of dying ‘fundraising’ events. The economy seems to be helping us do just that.

I next propose we educate our boards in a way that helps them become more effective in governing philanthropic decision. Let’s start with the wasteful nature of events as fundraisers.

In tandem, we need to provide academic educational opportunities and tracks of learning and growth for fundraising professionals. More academics on developing relationships, cultivating constituents, stewarding donors and less of the ‘how to host an event’ training is needed. And it needs to be qualified in a tiered way that allows the development of professionals along lines of experience, from entry level to experienced professional.

Finally, let’s develop a mental picture of what events can actually do for us: engage volunteers, bring awareness, and satisfy public perception. But they don’t raise money and so therefore are not ‘Fund Raisers’. If we build our events using these three core beliefs, I reason that waste will be reduced, donor market share will increase and philanthropic profits will rise.

“Locard’s Exchange Principle” or “Some armchair philosophy to start your morning”

In Random on September 30, 2009 at 9:34 am

When someone comes in contact with another person or place, something of that person is left behind, and something is taken away.
“Locard’s Exchange Principle”

Edmund Locard was a 20th century forensic scientist and director of the first crime lab in Lyon, France in 1910.
His theory postulates that wherever two things meet, evidence exists of their meeting. In his case, he was speaking in terms of crimes against humanity.
But in recent years, his theory has been used in terms of more positive meetings as well. Although it continues to be used in crimes, including white collar crimes of a business and financial nature, it has been applied to explore interactions that result in the advancement of positive outcomes: mentoring, coaching, management, consumerism and philanthropy.

How does the theory apply to you in a positive way? What ‘fingerprints’ exist due to your personal contact with others. Globally it is evident that the work of nonprofit organizations change individual lives. But Locard was speaking on a more singular interaction, the one on one imprint of a conversation, written communication, action.
A mentor hypothesized yesterday that “relationships are the conversation”. That everything else before and after: your thoughts, inner dialogue, intentions are not a relationship, it exists only within the communication you are having with the other person. And to review that communication, in the moment and after, to assess your relationship.
How often do we think in terms of communicating with the intention of enhancing the relationship? Of the relationship as a means of leaving an imprint, of employing Locards theory?

I for one believe Locards theory can be applied universally. Maybe it deserves a plaque above our desks, on our walls, on our hearts, to help us remember that we are not moving through this world alone, but in connection and concert with everyone and everything around us. And that we are leaving an imprint.
Talk about authenticity.

Visionary Leadership

In Discussables on September 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I’ve been asked to speak on visionary leadership.  I’m still deciding if I have anything cogent to say on this topic.

The term “visionary leader” is tossed out like so much corporate slang today. But is it an accurate representation of the sentiment hoped to be communicated?

The encyclopedia defines leadership as an individual’s capacity to motivate others to seek the same objective.  Well that’s a bit short sighted. Using this as a strict term, Hitler would be classified a leader.  As would Satan.  Not my perception of what the word leader should conjure up.

Lets try visionary. The dictionary defines visionary as one who is given to impractical or speculative ideas; a dreamer. Not much better.

What is being communicated when we speak of visionary leaders? Certainly not impractical dreamers, Svengali’s leading others to senseless ends.

Perhaps we can find a better term, based on our longed for attributes in leadership, those characteristics that are valuable and inherently humanistic.

Suggestions?

I’ll start us off:  West Point Academy writes that they build  “Honorable Leaders”.  The dictionary defines honorable  as adhering to ethical and moral principles. 

I like that.

Others?

Truth, purity, unselfishness – wherever these are present, there is no power below or above the sun to crush the possessor thereof. Equipped with these, one individual is able to face the whole universe in opposition.’ Swami Vivekananda

Ken Grimsley on Workplace Stress

In Rants on September 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm

job surveyFrom Ken Grimsley:

Working in diverse corporate cultures with the Fortune 100, small businesses and nonprofits as consultant and staff member, I’ve seen some vivid examples of stress.

Other than the impending terror of losing a job with a bloated mortgage and work overload beyond reason, here’s my Top Five (can you add more?):

1. Gossip. Triangulation and back-biting is only slightly less brutal than a dog fight. Several women executives have told me that it’s far worse with women employees, but I’ve also seen it with men. Managers, Directors, VPs, and yes, eve in the C-suite. This insidious practice snowballs in and between departments faster than an Obama Tweet announcing tax refunds.
2. Process. Inefficient coordination that wastes time kills spirit. Result: stress from spending two hours to do a half-hour of work, or from revising work that was done improperly. This includes processes that are too dependent on a “rock star” leader (the latest unfortunate exercise of ego), or too dependent on an ill-defined group without a coherent process with accountable metrics.

3. Communication. It’s not just that this is an expertise of mine, it’s a real stress beast in large and small organizations. Poor communication from the C-suite, from team leaders, and among team members spells disaster. Issues become nightmares, objectives become barriers, and anxiety swells bigger than credit default swap debt. Having a workload without clear communication strategy is like having the latest Mac Pro notebook without the use of the screen, or having an iTouch you can’t touch. Effective communication strategy and tactics are indispensable weapons for battling the stress beast.

4. Leadership. Lack of a clear mission and an inspiring vision will start a Tsunami of doubt that will crash into a flood of stress. People will drown in ambivalence, lack of motivation, lack of hope, and lack of confidence that their position or company has meaning or a future. Leadership doesn’t come from the hubris of certain Wall Street CEOs gaming to profit from the loss of others (charging taxpayers a high price for the “free” market philosophy); genuine leadership proves itself through innovation and vision which inspire others to do their best. This leads me to…

5. Engagement. Without an engaged workforce that believes in its mission and understands the value of its contribution, stress from any number of sources will grow like weeds in a foreclosed Vegas suburb.

Other stress catalysts, my Top Ten:

1. Bad coffee. And too much of it.
2. A new manager with something to prove.
3. A supervisor who dates your former spouse.
4. A CFO who keeps getting calls from Treasury Secretary Geithner.
5. No windows combined with small cubicles that have too many plants.
6. Keyboards sticky with sledge from other users.
7. An “updated brand campaign” every other month.
8. Internal news bulletin that “a new change initiative will save time”.
9. Meetings. Any meeting. Ever.
10. Company parties that involve Karaoke.

Ken Grimsley