March 2, 2021

Telling stories

One of the most meaningful and important insights for life … and for fundraising, too.

First, a comment from author  Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“Everything is a tale. What we believe, what we know. What we remember, even what we dream. Everything is a story, a narrative, a sequence of events with characters communicating an emotional comment. We only accept as true what can be narrated.

This statement means so much to me…And to you, too?

Isn’t life a story? A series of stories? Isn’t every experience described via a story? How do you share your life experiences and moments in your job and narratives of your life moments?

Now think about fundraising. How do you invite gifts to your cause? You tell a story about the children you serve, the trees you save, the horror stories about injustice…

Think about the emotional content that connects people together. Honor and respect emotions … the feelings expressed through stories.

What story would a donor tell you about his/her/their gift … responding to that story about the charity you fundraise for? Think about the emotional content that connects to others and to each other.

Everything is a tale. And, a tale depends upon emotions.

Yes, emotions. Emotions are the key decision makers.

Carl Gustav Jung told us, “There can be no transforming…of apathy into movement without emotion.” And Canadian neurologist Donald Calne tells us that neuroscience and psychological research prove this “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leaders to action, while reason leads to conclusions.”

 

 

 

February 7, 2021

A fundraising checklist

What if we developed a checklist for fundraising? Or a different checklist for different angles of fundraising?

Let’s see…what could the angles be? Hmmmm…

Donor newsletter checklist

First solicitation letter to qualified prospects

Direct mail solicitation letters

Personal solicitation checklist

And and and…

Oh, here’s an idea!! Checklist for what words we will never every use in our organization. Maybe the formal title is: Forbidden words!?

Checklist for what we will do every single year with donors … no matter how tired we are or the boss is or anyone else in the organization!!

I could go on and on and on…

I think I’ll start with the Forbidden Words Checklist. Or maybe it’s actually Forbidden Concepts and Words Checklist. So here goes:

  1. Evil concept: That some donors are more important than others.
  2. Forbidden words: Major donor. Major gift.
  3. Evil concept: Most important fundraising measure is “How much money did we raise?”
  4. Evil concept: Recognizing donors by the size of their gifts.
  5. Evil concept: Give – Get – Or get off!
  6. Evil concept: Recruiting board members because of socioconomic status (GIVE). Recruiting board members because of their connections (GET). The only value a board member has is giving and getting money. And gosh…Those are often white males. To hell with the value of diverse life experiences. So just get off!

Let’s see. Let’s try to focus, for a moment, on the Forbidden Words. Hmmm:

  1. Forbidden words: NOT using “you” enough.
  2. Forbidden words: Any word that’s informal. For example – Wow! Soliciting a gift is a formal business letter. Proper grammar. Proper verbiage. Etc. etc. (I’ll bet you’ve heard this often enough to bore you by now! Read more from Jeff Brooks and Tom Ahern. Share Jeff Brooks’ blog with your boss and your board members.

A final thought for this moment: Always remember, fundraising leaders must be gracious teachers. You’re teaching your boss and other staff and the board and board members.

A key job as a fundraiser is to anticipate and pre-empt. You anticipate that your boss or a board member(s) will not know this stuff. And that’s okay. They don’t have to know the body of knowledge and research and and in fundraising. That’s our job as fundraisers. But they do have to listen to us!!!

So what do you suggest? What other checklists do we need?

January 13, 2021

An idea I have

I’m reflecting on my 32 years as a full-time consultant. (On January 1, 2021, I started by 33rd year as a full-time consultant.)

Wow! How marvelous have these working years been!!!!

So I have this idea: I’ll compile lots of my writings over the years… And then post bunches of pages in a “compilation” book… Online.

The compilation will be posted on my website and announced in my newsyletter and on this, my blog.

Different articles and resources from different years…on different subjects…

I’ll probably even recruit someone to do a really cool cover.

But the document itself will be a downloadable PDF. And I’m thinking for free…As a gift to everyone I’ve learned from, worked with, whatever…

What do you think?

 

December 7, 2020

Seth Godin is soooooooo wonderful

Always remember: Donors give through your organization to fulfill their own aspirations.

And Seth Godin describes that truth so well in one of his bestest ever blogs. Posted on April 14, 2013. And since that date, Seth’s brand blog – printed out of course – has been taped to the fill cabinets just behind my desk.

Surely I’ve told you about this most beautiful blog that Seth has written. And if I have previously, let me share it again. Definitely it’s time for all fundraisers – and their bosses and work colleagues and every single board member – to understand and embrace this.

= = = = = = = = = =

“The brand is a story. But it’s a story about you, not about the brand.”

Why prefer Coke over Pepsi or GE over Samsung or Ford over Chevy?

In markets that aren’t natural monopolies or where there are clear, agreed-upon metrics, how do we decide?

Yes, every brand has a story – that’s how it goes from being a logo and a name to a a brand. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. The story makes us say “we love Google” or “love Harley”…but what do we really love?

We love ourselves.

We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.

We can’t easily explain this, even to ourselves. We can’t easily acknolwedge the narcissism and the nostalgia that drives so many of the apprently rational decisions we make every day. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not at work.

More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. Extension of our personality, totems of our selves, reminders of who we are or would like to be.

Great markets don’t make stuff. They make meaning.

= = = = = = = = = =

So which organizations do you give through to fulfill your own aspirations?

What is the story you want to tell about yourself…share with others about yourself…confirm and reaffirm who you are?

Shall I tell you someday about my aspirations as a human being? And how my giving reflects those aspirations? And the story from Papa Georges, my dad? And Tom and I took dad’s statement and made it into our family slogan? (And by the way, the word “slogan” derives from slough-gairm, the Scottish Gaelic word for battle cry.

 

 

November 16, 2020

Fun and sweet and kinda strange things about fundraising

*** Have you see this video of Simon & Garfunkel’s SOUND OF SILENCE…

It’s the cuteness factor!! The animals… and even adults hugging animals. Enjoy! And then think about the biological cuteness factor in humans … And how you apply that to fundraising!!!

All fundraisers should be familiar with biology’s cuteness factor.

 

*** How about Jeff Brooks’ blog about oxytocin, the hormone that increases altruism, generosity, empathy and trust. AND!!! Decreases fear, anxiety, and stress.

Guess what? There’s another chemical that does the good things: alcohol.

Jeff isn’t suggesting anything icky or bad.

But science is telling us something…And Jeff reminds us: “Charitable giving is a deep. elemental act for human beings. It’s related to parental love, romantic love, and our ability to relate to others on many levels.”

 

*** Ah yes, philanthropy…. Love of humankind.

November 9, 2020

P.S. to Sunday’s blog “Gone So Long”

Special thanks to Wendy Weinstein who responded to my blog’s return with these 2 marvelous quotes to join those that I had posted. Wendy is the Director of Development at the Clay Art Center, Port Chester NY.

Thank you thank you, Wendy…For these glorious additions.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (From our beloved Martin Luther King, Jr.)

And from the brilliant author Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

All this is leadership and social justice. Fundraising and donor centrism and governance and management. And life, too.

August 3, 2020

Thinking about reading and writing and my frustration/anger/sadness

I’ve always been an avid reader.

When I was young (maybe 9 or 10 or so years old)…My mom kinda yelled at me: “Simone! Put the goddamn book down and go outside and play.” I think maybe I asked her if I could take the book with me. Just imagine her response.

Until my mid teens…every summer I would ride my bike to the library and take out 7 books. Get a glass of lemonade and go to the basement where there was a couch and it was cooler than outside or upstairs – and no one came downstairs to bother me. I’d read a book a day.

What was I reading for fun then? Probably lots of the same stuff I read now for fun : Romance novels but only selected romance novelists. Sci fi fantasy – but that’s new – since I was student teaching and an 8th grade student explained why sci fi was so cool. Spy, thrillers.  That’s my fun time.

What else do I read now? When I’m learning and enhancing my craft and stimulating my brain? Business books. Some of my favorite authors: Business books NOT specific to the nonprofit sector/philanthropy: Seth Godin. Jim Collins. Peter Senge. Malcolm Gladwell. Chip & Dan Heath. Peter Senge. Daniel Goleman. And and and and ….

For the nonprofit sector, I think I might require all staff to read  John Gardner’s monograph Building Community. I’d require all senior staff to add these two monographs: Ken Dayton’s Governance is Governance Is Governance and Jim Collins’ Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

So this blog is recommending just a few of the books that I’ve found most useful/helpful/special/important to me. I think all of these are particularly important to any senior professional in any field – including  the nonprofit sector – especially the CEO and CDO. If I were a CEO or CDO today, I’d insist upon a Book Club for senior staff.

By the way, none of the books recommended below focus on the nonprofit sector, governance or fundraising. But I’ve found all of these useful, helpful, still relevant, hugely meaningful…whatever…to my decades of work in the nonprofit sector.

And here’s more reading for the top-notch professionals. The non-siloed thinkers. The lifelong learners. Those who integrate various schools of thought and fight silos and use conversation as a core business practice and read across disciplines and….

The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, Shankar Vedantam

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle

Permission Marketing. The Icarus Deception. Seth Godin (And there are many more! I just picked those 2 for this moment.)

The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge

Good to Great, Jim Collins

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individiuals and Businesses Succeed. Brian Miller & Mike Lapham

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, Howard Zinn

Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money For Social Change, Collins, Rogers, and Garner

And these 2 books by Mike Edwards do focus on the nonprofit sector….. Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World and Civil Society.

If you live in the USA, have you read any of these books? And if you live in another country, how does any of this pertain to your country? These books are about society…so they certainly do apply to the nonprofit sector, too.

  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America? Barbara Ehrenreich is the author. The book was published in 2001…a New York Times bestseller. And while those 19 years have certainly shown some changes and new stuff and and and… the overall story is pretty much the same…and even worse in some cases. Check out Ehrenreich’s “sequels”. Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005). And This Land is Your Their Land (2008).
  • And here’s another useful book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Joel Bakan.

Okay. I have to stop now. So many. So much.

I just get so tired of hearing so many people whining about having no time to learn more…read…visit the meaningful and learnful stuff on the Internet. Blah blah blah. If someone isn’t a lifelong learner, how can that someone be a professional?

I believe in lifelong learning – and I don’t see enough of it. I actually read a note somewhere sometime from a consultant who said… “I don’t read books anymore. I’m a consultant now. I know this stuff.” (If I could have found this person, just imagine how I might have responded!!!)

Okey dokey. Enough now.

P.S. Happy birthday and bonne anniversaire, my Tommy…

June 15, 2020

I’m too angry & frustrated. So here’s another thought…

I’m just too angry and frustrated. And this is about boards and bosses and ignorance and… [But there is a P.S. at the bottom about recent happenings in this racist US of A.]

Me (and you) are righteously angry towards board members and bosses who think they know more about fundraising than the fundraising staff. You and I are often appropriately angry towards board members who pay attention to body of knowledge and research expressed by lawyers and accountants and doctors and… But ignore and insult and trespass against resesarch and body of knowledge from fundraisers.

I’ve ranted about this forever and ever and over and over…

But here’s a new thought. A more gracious perspective. I don’t always have to be so angry!!! So here goes. What do you think?

We have to get across to all staff and all board members — everyone in every single nonprofit around the world — that a competent nonprofit organization does NOT need fundraising IDEAS.

Like any profession and professional, there’s academic and practitioner research and multiple bodies of knowledge about what/why/how to do fundraising. Fundraisers don’t seek new ideas. Like any competent professional, fundraisers read and study and learn. Fundraisers are lifelong learners following the international leaders in the field…reading the research. Etc. etc. blah blah blah.

I think that board members (and often bosses, too) are trying to help those poor fundraisers by coming up with new ideas. But why? What’s that about? These bosses and board members don’t suggest ideas to accountants, lawyers, medical doctors, road construction workers, house builders…

Hell…I wouldn’t even offer ideas to tech experts and guitar players or my hair dresser or …. I figure they all studied. Read the research. Followed highly knowledgeable practitioners and researchers. Practiced and learned more!

I think some board members, donors, bosses, whomever… are trying to help by suggesting ideas. Bless their hearts. Bless their hearts? I actually thought that was meant graciously. Until a Southern friend of mind explained to me: “Bless your heart” is actually not a compliment. It’s more like “what the hell you moron?!” (I can’t remember where I read this moron statement. But it sure is cool.)

Where does this not-so-good helping hand come from? Why don’t board members, bosses, whomever realize that fundraising (and governance and management and…) are actually professions with bodies of knowledge. WTF?

I think there’s a whole lot of disrespect for the nonprofit sector. Let’s be honest. If any of us could have gotten a job in a for-profit … you know, a “real job”…we wouldn’t be working in the nonprofit sector. (Surely you’ve experienced that snide reference sometime in your life.)

So the BIG BIG message that we have to get out there to our bosses and board members and and and … The nonprofit sector is different than the for-profit sector. And also similar in some ways. And professionals in the nonprofit sector know the distinctions and similarities.

  • There is a body of knowledge in fundraising and donor-centered communications. Financing is different. Measures are different. (Just read Jim Collins’ monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors.)
  • Asking for gifts is not totally like selling. And your fundraising staff darn well better start learning about philanthropic psychology.
  • Without a culture of philanthropy, that nonprofit won’t thrive. It’s like Peter Drucker kept trying to teach us all [for-profits and nonprofits]: organizational culture will eat strategy for breakfast, lunch, and probably dinner too.

So back to the very big message that nonprofits and competent fundraisers and top-notch nonprofit leaders must must get out to their board members and others:

  • Fundraising is NOT NOT NOT about coming up with ideas.
  • Fundraising is about learning the body of knowledge…following the research…building the capacity and competency of the nonprofit and its employees and volunteer, including board members.

Thank you kind board members and bosses….The best fundraisers do not need ideas. The best fundraising programs aren’t looking for ideas. Follow the research. Now. Just do it. 

Hire well. And let the top-notch fundraisers do their work. Thank you!

P.S. I wrote this Simone Uncensored blog before George Floyd and yet another need to say that Black Lives Matter. I can’t even write about this “fucking country” although I’ve tweeted some. And unless you really know me and what I’ve done over the decades — not just writing but acting out — don’t you dare tarnish so many of us who you claim aren’t doing enough.

May 18, 2020

Keep learning

How about outlining a learning program for yourself? For other key staff? So much to learn. Let’s do it now.

Read SOFII, Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. Some of the great people of our sector…some dead…some still alive…and newbie greats, too.

Do you read The Agitator? Roger Craver is one of our greatest greats. The Agitator is daily, online, free. Read recent issues. But go back. Further back. Read years ago, too. Because there’s lots of stuff we should have already learned.

Do you read Mark Phillips? Across the water at Bluefrog?

Moceanic is an online learning program. From Sean Triner and Christiana Stergiou in Australia. And Jeff Brooks of Seattle is playing there lots and lots. Go there! Learn.

Check out the Veritus Group, Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels. Read their Passionate Giving blog.

You do know how brilliant Canadian fundraisers are, don’t you? Check out the AFP Toronto Congress presenters…past and next up. Visit some of these greats:

  • Agents of Good: John Lepp and Jen Love. And make sure to read the StarWars series.
  • Blakely.
  • Provocateur Vitreo
May 4, 2020

Need help with fundraising? And how about that legacy stuff!?!?

Check out Globetrotting Fundraiser, Ligia Peña, M.Sc., CFRE, MInstF

How about the Online Legacy Bootcamp? Next session starts in May! (The April sesson is sold out.)

Check out her blogs and free webinar about building a case for a legacy program…

Want a coach? Visit Ligia

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