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Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

It’s Not What You Tell Your Donors, It’s How You Say It

In change management, consulting, Fundraising, nonprofit organizations on February 5, 2014 at 10:52 pm

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I’ve seen my share of “donor death” due to the academic delivery of every specific detail relating to an organization’s mission.  It’s not pretty. First the eyes glaze over and the face slackens, the brow slightly furrows, then the fingers fret with each other as the donor begins to avert his eyes. This is quickly followed by phone checking, paper rustling, and long loving glances at wristwatches.  When this happens, there is no question that the end is near.

When a donor goes into this death spiral, the organization must work harder to keep the donor engaged and interested. Hard work requires more resources and additional resources are expensive. It is far more effective for organizations to understand the dynamics of donor engagement before the meeting.  Spending a minimum of upfront time, determining how to tell your organization’s story in an effective and engaging manner rather than reporting your organization’s destination will pay dividends.

Nonprofits as an industry, we are in love with our science. We love the academics and inner workings of our profession. It’s our passion for the science of what we do that drives us to perform. But frankly, for our donors, it’s the pedestrian, everyday results they can relate to that fires their engines.  I am reminded of a 1970s advertisement produced by Crispin and Porter, that illustrates this point (see above). Telling someone you need to get to a destination is uninteresting and even boring when you compare it to sharing with someone your need to connect with humanity, your family, your loved ones. Same message, but a very different emotion attached to that message.

Check your language. Review your letters, materials, your website. Are you alienating and potentially killing off your donors with your technical speak? Are you telling them where you need to be, rather than sharing with them what or who you want to become. They don’t need the details or the destination. They need the information that will spark their emotions, encourage engagement, and keep them excited about your cause.

How to Start a Movement

In change management, Discussables on February 3, 2014 at 5:08 pm

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“Set yourself on fire with passion, and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

You can’t lead movements without passion for your cause. I don’t care if your movement is for profit or nonprofit, you have to be on fire for your mission, product, service, goals. This however has much risk.

First is the risk of being alone in your passion. We are a people hard wired to belong in groups, in tribes. Seth Godin makes a great argument for that in his book by the same name, “Tribes”. Being alone requires one to be unafraid, to overcome their fears of ridicule, judgement, rejection, or attack. Being alone means bearing through the anxiety of uncertainty and the prospect of failure. Will I remain alone? Will anyone join me? Is this truth? What if I’m wrong? Being alone in your passion for your cause also bears the possibility of alienation. Look at the scripture persona of John the Baptist. He was labeled insane and spent years wandering the desert alone because very few joined his cause for a very long time. But then, he changed the world.

Secondly, being on fire for your passion requires you to inspire others. To find just the right actions to get others to join you. The risk in this is doing the wrong thing. Is there such a risk? Is doing the wrong thing a permanent fault?

Finally, being on fire for your passion can hurt. Risking your emotional well being requires bravery and piety, putting aside your own needs for the needs of the cause. And yet everyday, we are inspired by people who HAVE set themselves on fire for their cause. And there is a formula, as evidenced in this TED Talk by Derek Sivers.

The formula can be condensed into this:

  • You can’t be successful unless you are ON FIRE for your cause.
  • Passion drives performance. Feel your cause and let it move you to action.
  • Passion is contagious. Mentor others through your actions, words are a dime a dozen.
  • Have patience. Passion hears ‘no’ as Not Now.
  • Develop and deepen your faith. Trust that what you believe in will have followers. Somewhere. Sometime. If one person believes it, there ARE others.
  • Embrace your early followers and empower them to own the passion and the cause. Leadership means stepping aside to enable the growing fire to burn freely.
  • Celebrate small victories. New followers are like gold, treat them to a joyous celebration.
  • Think allow, not how. Once the fire burns, controlling it can consume you. Know that your passion has ignited a cause and it’s ultimate outcome is driven by your tribe of similarly passionate people.
  • Most importantly, be brave.

A world driven by passion is a world on fire for change.

Lead or Follow?

In Board, nonprofit organizations on January 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

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.

Dan Pink on Motivation

In Discussables, Innovation, Research, Training on November 17, 2013 at 10:03 am

BestTED Talk ever, by Dan Pink. It WILL change the way you think about leading your work team, and just about anyone else in your life!

What Flag Day can teach us about Passion, Brand Identity and Advocacy.

In Discussables, Random on June 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm

“The “Stars and Stripes”, the official National symbol of the United States of America, was authorized by congress on Saturday June 14, 1777 – the fifth item of the days agenda. In Waubeka, Wisconsin, in 1885 Bernard John Cigrand a nineteen year old school teacher in a one room school, placed a 10” 38 star flag in an inkwell and had his students write  essays on what the flag meant to them. He called June 14th the flag’s birthday.” – The National Flag Day Foundation

Flag Day was not officially established until 1926, by then President Woodrow Wilson. It would take another 33 years for congress to establish an act proclaiming National Flag Day.

Although not a noticed national holiday, it speaks volumes about the simple passion that a symbol can engender in the spirit of mankind. The flag of the United States is the most recognized symbol in the country and one of the most recognized flags in the world. It’s not the colors- many other countries host red, white and blue in their flags of origin.  It’s not the shapes, stripes and stars abound as well. It’s the passion behind the symbol that drives the recognition.

And that passion drives advocacy- the advocacy that lead to June 14th being established as National Flag Day by an Act of Congress in August of 1949.

Symbols are just pretty pictures without Passion. Passion is just a strong emotion without Advocacy. All three working in beautiful union can move mountains and congress and establish unthinkable outcomes.

Use these mid winter months to GROW, not slow, your organizations philanthropy

In Retail ideas, strategic planning on January 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Most nonprofits experience a significant lull in donations and donor activity in the months of January and February. The post year end doldrums.

Donors are slow to give, having distributed their 2010 charitable contributions during the ebullience of the holiday season.

Consumers are recovering from gift purchases.

The weather makes for hermits, with snow, ice and early nightfall urging more indoor, stay at home activities.

And snow birds have fled for warmer climates, leaving their local neighbors and friends to fend until spring.

This is the perfect time to grow your philanthropy program!

No other time in the calendar year do you have the potential to capture your audience’s undivided attention.

With all of the inactivity your donor and prospective donor is engaged in, you can offer a variety of options to help keep them entertained and informed, from the comfort of their warm living rooms.

  • Give them good reading for a cold winters night. January and February are the perfect time to send out newsy information on your group, your past success, your future plans.  Make sure your communication is meaty and news worthy, capturing the weather dulled eye of your constituency.
  • And to make sure those e-newsletters get to the right place, this is a perfect time to clean up your database.  With the reduced number of donations being processed and less visits to be made, your staff should spend time tidying up. Use an email verification software provider or staff can correspond and validate emails themselves. Capture address and phone while you are at it.
  • While you’re assessing, audit your grant programs, ensuring that you are on track with grantors expectations.  Send love notes to all your grantors, with New Year greetings and a true note of appreciation for what their funding has provided to your clients/mission.
  • Spruce up your website, e-newsletters and social marketing plans for the coming year.  Increase the frequency with which you are sending e-notices on your organizations marketing efforts, driving traffic to your newly spiffed up site.
  • Your staff has unique insight and talent, let others know! Identify media outlets and negotiate opportunities for your staff to contribute articles or podcasts on activities of interest, connected to your mission. A schools newsletter might appreciate a guest blogger or author writing about the importance of home support in education. A local grocer might find an article from an expert in the field of nutrition, valuable in their marketing to their customers.  Nows the time to get those pieces written and published. And don’t dismiss national journals. They need good writing too.
  • Lay the ground work for your spring appeal. Collectively send out notice to your annual donors, giving them insight and a sneak peak at your case for the spring and summer months.
  • Train your board. Your board meets regularly and has clearly defined agendas. Make the January or February agenda one that focuses on philanthropy.  A little bit of elbow grease and knowledge sharing by the board, will prepare them for an active and engaged year.
  • If you are planning a feasibility study, plan to launch it now. Most study participants can be reached by phone or online, so travel is less necessary.  Staff has more time to devote to feasibility study efforts. And the sobering months of January and February will flavor the feedback from your constituents, providing a more realistic and conservative view of your organizations ability to raise those funds through a campaign.

Engaging Your board In Fundraising: Framing Your Perspective

In Discussables on October 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

So in my last post we talked a little bit about Passion in your Board being the driving force for Philanthropy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets bring it back to the beginning.

In order to be open to new ideas, its essential we frame our own perspective on the boards involvement in fundraising.

Whats important to know is why bother? We all know that it is often easier to just do it ourselves. The board asks too many questions, is too resistant. Doesn’t believe, isn’t invested, doesn’t even give themselves. They are too judgemental, demanding and disconnected. They are naive and lack the fundamental education to be effective. They are more interested in the type of potatoes to serve at the next gala, or the color of the napkins. Maybe what time to tee off at the golf tournament, or whether its a scramble or best ball format.

Is this how you see your board?

A board’s legal role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the nonprofit organization. By their position, their involvement in fundraising is expected. Additionally, their presence on your board puts them on stage. The community is watching. If the community sees a board not raising money for the organization, then the community sees an organization that matters little with regard to their own donation. If the board isn’t involved, then why should they be. Board involvement in fundraising (not only giving of their money but being involved in raising it) validates the nonprofits mission. Nothing will kill an NPO faster than an invisible board of directors.

Also, no organization is an island. It would be virtually impossible for one Exec Director and a fundraising staffer to go out and raise all the money needed to survive. Its a Sisyphean endeavor. But with the board invested AND involved we have tripled and quadrupled our opportunities to get the job done. The network of your board and their networks network, act as a funnel flipped on its side to share the burden and increase the return.

Legal accountability, organizational validation and increased outreach/expanded return, three solid reasons why getting your board involved is critical to the success of fundraising in your organization.

So if its this important, then why cant they get out there and help?

Well here is the reason. And you’re not going to like it. Maybe I’ll lose my followers at this point, but the reality is:

Most board issues are not about the board, but about us.

There, I said it. And for those of you still reading, here is why.

If asked, here is what board members will say about why they are resistant to getting involved in fundraising. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a good representation of some of the most commonly heard complaints:

No education

Too overwhelming

Too embarrassing (no skill)

Not aware what they were signing up for

No money themselves

Fear of rejection

Or fear that they are asking too much of someone, something the other can’t part with.

Lack of confidence in plan, process, person, organization

Disinterested

I had a board member say to me once, she would rather shrivel up and die, than ask for money. That’s hard core resistance.

What they say and what they feel are actually two very separate things, but connected. Most boards resist fundrasing because we have not done our job in leading and administering the fundraising effort. We too often lack concrete goals, lack clarity in board roles, we offer hazy expected objectives/outcomes of their efforts, we develop poor organization of the donor pool, we lack research on prospects, we have ineffective communication of organizational success, and so on and so forth. When they say its overwhelming, we have to ask- Are we being clear and concise in our goals? Is the prospect information simply understood, specific and relevant? Is the process organized and direct, with concrete outcomes, strategy and actions steps? Do we have valid measurements to share? When they say they are embarrassed, have we done our job in bringing the mission into the board room, developing passion, choosing the right board members? I can hazard a guess that the early board members of Susan G. Komen Foundation were not embarrassed about fundraising, as they had the passion for the mission, they were the right people for the job.

Being responsible for our board not fundraising doesn’t make us bad or not worthy of support. It does make us take inventory of our internal operations, our strategy, our board development and our leadership, in developing the best possible framework for the board to fundraise within. And thats were our control comes into play.

In my next post we will talk about some of these controls, starting with developing our board of directors to be an engaged, passionate board.

Passion, in the boardroom, gives birth to a fundraising high

In Discussables on September 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

Fundraising for an organization on which a person serves as a board member is a core component of their role. Why? Because a boards role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the protection of the organization.  According to a Grant Thornton report from 2008, boards spent 30% of their time on Strategic Planning, followed by Fundraising at 21%. That’s more than 50% of the board’s time spent on governance and raising money.

That’s the official requirement.

“When non profit board members are fired up about the real change they want to make in the world, they are more willing to embrace fundraising.”  – Gail Perry

But there is something more real. More authentic. Something of which I hope you can relate, because the power that comes from having board members with passion is beyond measure.

Passion=Philanthropy

Passion drives philanthropy. Philanthropy drives fundraising.

Fundraising is not about talking your friends out of their money….its about giving them the opportunity to get involved in something important to you, something that will give them satisfaction in successfully making a difference, having their investment show results, feel rewarded.

As philanthropy professionals, we want our boards to be excited about the possibilities for our mission and be eager to help create the resources to make it happen.

That means a lot of work for the organization in engaging our board. The organization will need to set strategy and keep it. Set goals and reach them.  Show results. Share stories on how they have changed lives. Be responsible to their clients and to the board for the organizations actions.  Prove their value through their work.

But it is also work for the board.

Board members have promised to steward and guide the organization and its donors, to be strong, passionate advocates about the work being performed and to harness that passion in gathering much needed revenue to continue to serve the mission. It is an essential requirement that they work toward developing that passion, through active participation in the organizations activities: presence at the board meetings, special gatherings, organizational events, and through donor engagement.

Passion builds Philanthropy, through enthusiastic and engaged leadership, the type that revs people up and makes them want to be a part of what’s going on!

A passionate board member:

  • Has no problem helping in ask for a large gift from a donor.
  • Picks up the phone without prompting to thank a donor he knows.
  • Introduces himself enthusiastically at events to donors and new friends, eager to share the mission.
  • Offers to write notes of encouragement on solicitation letters.
  • Gets excited and provides recommendations on fundraising success and progress.
  • Shares with her vendors and clients her experience at the organization and asks them to help her.
  • Invites neighbors and friends to a reception at his home to present programs stories and solicit support.
  • Invites an organizations administrator to coffee with them next time they are meeting a friend.
  • Makes their own personal financial commitment to the organization, because it feels good, they are excited to do so and they give sacrificially, leading by example.

And that my friends, is fundraising

This is a partnership between you, the philanthropy professional, and your board members. A team effort that when carefully nurtured, has been shown to move mountains. Be careful on who you pick to be at your board table: bad choices will never build passionate support no matter how hard you try. Give your board clear roles, expectations and measured outcomes to support their effort. Allow them access and authority to staff, programs, data. Encourage their results. Build their passion.

So, before we complain once more about the board that does nothing to raise funds, make sure you’ve invited passion into your boardroom, that you are igniting passion in your board members and that passion is driving your philanthropy.

Engaging your Board in Fundraising

In News on June 20, 2010 at 8:27 am

Boards are complex and can be your best friend and worst enemy.     A frienemy.

We rely on our board for governance, engagement, advocacy, financial authority and leadership. We ask their input, seek their counsel and require their approval. They come to us from the community,  some as a requirement and some as a favor. They are the voice of the people.

From the people, it should therefore be easy for them to go back to the people to ask for support.

But it isn’t always so.

Most executive directors and nonprofit officers will tell you that getting their board to raise funds is one of,   if not THE,   biggest challenge they face.   Its often uncomfortable for the board and the ED to talk about the issue. Fundraising by the board is alluded to in the ED’s reports, it is referred to in the board documents, but it is not always the reality.

We will be presenting an important workshop on September 29th in Boston on just this subject.   Not to be missed!

Hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Success, we will be speaking on “Engaging your Board in Fundraising”:

Your board can be among your most powerful fundraising assets. That is, if you use it correctly. Too often, the board is not involved in fundraising or views fundraising as a daunting task. The result is that many board members neglect their responsibilities, which are then left to staff members who have too many other responsibilities already. To address this problem, your board members need to be reminded of the importance of their fundraising responsibilities, and learn concrete tools and techniques that make fundraising a rewarding task.

Topics we will cover include:

  • Why board members fear fundraising, and what you can do about it
  • What board members need to know to start fundraising
  • Steps for energizing your board even when you are not on the board
  • How to deal with board members who won’t fundraise even when they know they should
  • Building and maintaining the fundraising partnership between the board and  development staff

You will gain fresh ideas to energize your board members about fundraising. The session is designed for beginning to intermediate fundraisers.

Click here for more information on the conference and to register. As conferences go, this one is relatively inexpensive but the material and insight you’ll gain is incredibly rich.

We will see you there!!!

Slow Money…Salvaged Soul

In Discussables, Retail ideas on April 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

Go here

Slow Money

Amazing concept and yet so…..organic? familiar? basic?

Principles of the Slow Money Alliance include:

In order to enhance food safety and food security; promote cultural and ecological health and diversity; and, accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Principles:
I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

VI. Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

Wow. Finally, a better way to measure our success as a society.