March 9, 2015

Are you keeping your donors? Are you democratizing philanthropy?

Have you read my book (co-authored with Tom Ahern) about nurturing relationships and communicating with donors … all in a donor-centered manner … in order to keep your donors? After all, loyalty is the Holy Grail of Fundraising. (Thanks, Roger and Tom, you agitators!)

Have you read the final chapter, Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma? Available in the book. And available in my Free Download Library.

Here’s what a Connecticut colleague said about the book:

“While your donor-centric world view greatly influenced me, it plays a poor second to your barely-below-the-surface passion for social justice. I admire what you wrote in your book Keep Your Donors on the topic. That you had the guts to write about it at all. Especially in a book that philanthropists of all political stripes would read, on a topic about the mechanics of growing philanthropy.

“God forbid you should write anything that isn’t carefully neutral, studiously focused on charity and on praising change generically and innocuously…. I was inspired by your willingness to let a part of your passionate self get captured in black and white – a part that most believe could alienate a decent portion of your customer base.”

March 2, 2015

Delicate mission-driven ears…

“Let’s face it, many boards don’t fire their board members simply because that word ‘fire’ sounds too harsh for their delicate mission-driven ears!”

So said Susan Schaefer in our email exchange.

Delicate mission-driven ears… I love love love that phrase!

What else won’t the board and its members NOT do because of their delicate ears? Ask cage-rattling questions that should be asked? Actually disagree at a board meeting with each – and even argue!!

Dysfunctional politeness…Avoiding tough conversations…Fleeing from the true questions that should be asked and probed and answered… All because of delicate mission-driven ears?

Always remember: Delicate mission-driven ears kill organizations…mostly gradually. And those delicate mission-driven ears, coupled with delicate eyes and tongues don’t even notice that you’re slowly going out of business.

Thank you, Susan!

P.S. Check out Susan’s books at CharityChannel Press. And speaking of boards – as this blog is – check out Nonprofit Board Service for the GENIUS by Susan Schaefer and Bob Wittig. Just published!

CharityChannel Press is a great publisher with great books and great authors. If you’re working or volunteering in the nonprofit sector, check out the “In the Trenches” series focused on fundraising and boards and and! And check out the “For the Genius” series for regular people like all of us… about caregiving and wine and online poker and joining a board and more!

January 28, 2015

Stacks of magazines! I’m so far behind…

I’m so far behind in my magazine reading. Ah Harvard Business Review… I love you and miss you. And there you are… all stacked up on the shelf. I’m so sorry I’m so far behind!

I have snow 2 feet deep in my yard. Generations of deer preceded us on this land where we live. The current 3 large adults are desperately foraging in the snow that’s swamping their bellies.

I have lots of work to do. But I’m distracted by the stacks of magazines. So I’m skimming to see what to keep:

From AFP‘s Advancing Philanthropy, Fall 2014

  • “More than the sum of the parts…What makes a fundraiser?” Paul Lagasse.  Could be useful for my masterclass in Australia in a few weeks.
  • “The Development Committee Workbook: Managing Your Volunteers to Success,” Michele Berard, MBA, CFRE…from here in RI.
  • “Analytics, Schmanalytics – It’s More Than Just Data,” Gilman Sullivan. It’s staff’s job to translate data / information into trends and implications. Come on people. Let’s get it together!

From AFP‘s Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2015

The whole issue focus on creating a culture of philanthropy. YIPPEE! I’m taking this on the plane to Australia ’cause it’s one of my favorite topics…organizational culture…philanthropic culture…

I first wrote about a culture of philanthropy back in 1996, in the first edition of my book Strategic Fund Development, published in 1997. The book is now in its 3rd edition — and that philanthropic culture (along with organizational culture) is still there. And there’s a handout in the Free Download Library on my website, too.

I’m taking this issue of Advancing Philanthropy on the plane to Australia. Articles by Karla Williams, MA, ACFRE and Andrea McManus, CFRE, great people in our field. Articles about the philanthropic culture affecting morale and boards and donors and fundraisers. This issue is a keeper in my library.

December 8, 2014

Your nightmare lives! Bad board members and what to do…

Do you dream about some bad board members?
Do you feel a flush of anger when you’re calling one more time to see if those board members did what they said they’d do?
Do you wish your governance committee would talk gracefully confront the bad performers?
So here’s the bad news: Look in the mirror first. The problem may be your leadership.
And here’s the good news: You can help fix this. Read my book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others Succeed.
Read my book. Share it with your boss. Share it with your governance committee. Read it on the beach. Make it your New Year’s Resolution. It’s short. It’s a fast read (maybe 1 hour?!) It actually makes you laugh. And frown. And cheer!
Maybe your bad board members aren’t intentionally bad. Maybe they just don’t know what the job is. Maybe they don’t realize there is a difference between the board (the group that does governance) and the individual board member (that does the right stuff outside of board meetings).
  • Does your organization have a board-adopted policy that defines the role of the board and the performance expectations of board members?
  • Does your organization use a top-notch recruitment, screening, and evaluation process for board members?
  • And… Do you know enough to enable all this to happen?
  • Visit the Free Download Library on my website for samples.
On the other hand… Oh dear… Maybe you have a bad board member who is, actually, intentionally bad. The board member just doesn’t care what the expectations are. The board member is disruptive and doesn’t play well with others.
It’s a tough life. We all encounter people like this. So every organization needs a process to fire lousy board members.
Yes, there is a process. Yes, your organization can do this if it chooses to do so.
And you can help guide the process by knowing how to do it…and what to watch out for…
  • Start a conversation with your boss about the effectiveness of your organization’s board – and the importance of the board (and board member) effectiveness.
  • If you’re the boss, get your thoughts together and talk with the governance committee.
  • Adopt the board job description.
  • Adopt the performance expectations of board members.

Read my book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others Succeed.  Share this short, easy-to-read guide with your governance committee.

Let’s get it together. Lousy board members harm good organizations. Lousy board members make good board members leave. And none of this helps those you serve.
December 1, 2014

Overhead madness

MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The back and forth at the Agitator (Belford and Craver) …. and all the marvelous comments from people all over the world.

The back and forth at the Critical Fundraising Blog …. at the new Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy in the U.K.

Everyone in your organization should read this… THE WHOLE THING! It’s the comments that count. The original Agitator column stimulates the comments.

I’ll say it again: Read the whole Agitator thing! Now, read the whole Critical Fundraising thing!

And let’s join voices and tell the truth and explain. Explain through stories and metaphors. Don’t explain through data!

Convince some donors and get them to tell the story about why overhead matters.

Let’s launch a donor fight FOR overhead.

Keep up the critique of those silly watchdog groups who made this the center of their evaluations. Then after their leadership in furthering this fiasco… these watch doggies changed their tunes and said something like “of course, overhead isn’t bad; it’s necessary.” (Although they didn’t actually say they had helped further the fiasco and were sorry.)

Join the fight FOR overhead. Tell stories. Get your donors to tell stories about why overhead matters.

October 24, 2014

Fundraising from Valros, France

Hi. It’s moi (me) again. Yes, I’m still in France. The guests have left. (We had such fun with sister and cousin and their respective in-law partners.)

So now it’s email every day. And I read a lot and then I want to share with you. So here goes….

Some more research:

  • Ah, fundraising and technology. Check out this research,  2014 Fundraising Technology Trends. In this study with fundraisers, 80% believe that “better technology leads to more effective fundraising.” You’ll also find info about specific tech strategies, software, etc. — all focused on fundraising.
  • Did I already tell you about the newest research from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative? Check out their  “Nonprofit Fundraising Study – Mid-year Update (January – June 2014).” This regular study reviews charitable gifts for Canadian and U.S. charities.

Here are some keepers for all us nonprofit organizations, we leaders, us fundraisers… And some short little things to read and share with your colleagues. Please. Please. S’il vous plaît. Share these with your staff colleagues at an all-staff meeting. Help your program staff and the receptionist and the janitor understand staff.

Short little things to read. Good powerful little things to share. Please please please ….. S’il vous plaît. Share these things with your staff colleagues … Like at the all-staff meeting. This stuff is great to help your program staff and the receptionist and janitor understand stuff. And for your board members, too.

All these people are your ambassadors and your partners in philanthropy and fundraising. Ambassadors… So here’s a great one about brand ambassadors from Seth Godin. I hope you read Seth regularly. Yes, his comments are useful for fundraising and any business and pretty much most lives. Everyone is a brand ambassador for your charity. Everyone!

And there’s more! 

Every single one of these items could be a good conversation starter at your organization. Leaders stimulate conversations. Leaders bring in strategic and cage-rattling conversations to generate perspective and engage in meaningful conversation.

Yes, there is time to have these conversations. Yes, there is time to use conversation as a core business practice. If you cannot find / make the time… then what are you doing?!

Okay. That’s it. Back to vacation.

June 20, 2014

Board meeting attendance – important or?

Attending board meetings – and participating! – is vitally important.

So what is “attend” and “participate” ?

  • Attend most of the meetings. Inconvenience yourself if necessary! What’s most? More than 50%! More like 75%. (And I don’t care how busy or important you are. Attend or get off!)
  • Read the material. Bring the info to the board meeting. And talk!  Participate in the conversation. Offer your educated insights. Ask strategic and cage-rattling questions.

Corporate governance is a group activity. You attend and engage to be part of a group. Sending in your insights – without benefit of group conversation – are pretty much useless. It’s group conversation and group decision-making that matters.

How about those big donors? Or how about those really important community leaders? Hmmm…. Mostly I don’t care. Don’t talk to me about “political realities”. Instead, identify and recruit committed individuals who will – yes indeed – inconvenience themselves on your behalf. People who will follow good governance. People whose egos are not outsized.

Always remember: Being a big donor doesn’t make someone a good board member. Being a community leader doesn’t make someone a good board member.

Your Governance Committee – and the full board – need to talk about this stuff. Your organization needs policies that define the role of the board and the performance expectations of board members. And enforce these – the role and the expectations.

Staff and board leadership enable these proper behaviors. And when things get out of whack…When board members aren’t performing well… Then the Governance Committee steps in.

Graciously, professionally, objectively — enhance attrition. That’s when you help the board member understand that s/he isn’t fulfilling the performance expectations. The board member acknowledges the problem and offers his / her resignation. And you accept it with alacrity.

And if the board member isn’t smart enough to honestly see his/her performance, then the organization explains clearly and explains why resignation is necessary. That’s thank and release. But usually enhancing attrition works.

For more information, read my board blogs.(See the categories archived on my website.) Visit the Free Download Library on my website – and select from all the handouts explaining all this.

Read my book Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping Others Succeed. Get your own copy from Amazon or CharityChannel Press. Everything included in one slim, easy-to-read volume.

And do it. All of it! Then your board is stronger. And that makes your organization stronger. And that produces greater impact.

May 15, 2014

New on my website! Podcasts

Would you like to hear me talking about firing lousy board members? How about training your board members to solicit gifts? Or insights about board chairs (great, mediocre, and rogue!) Do you want to hear about good governance?

All of these workshops are now available as podcasts in the Free Download Library on my website.

You’ll hear me. And you can download a great handout.

All this is thanks to AFP International. Are you a member? Do you attend local chapter workshops and conferences?

May 8, 2014

Check out this fundraising cookbook

Do you need help training your board members to tell stories…ask for gifts…identify prospects…say thanks to a donor?

Do your staff hate fundraising, avoid relationship building … (and run away from the development staff)?

This cookbook of easy-to-use fundraising exercises can help. Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson give us a new tool in their new book: Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise More Money. 

Tom Ahern just pulled out an exercise from the book and put it in some workshop he is developing upstairs in his office. I like the Instant Donor exercise. And how about the Pizza and Beer (rating your prospects) activity. I can see using some of these for an upcoming client retreat and a summer workshop, both in development right now.

February 10, 2014

Overcoming barriers for board members

Read this useful book, Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully by Susan Howlett. Easy and fast to read. Very useful tips for your work with your board and its members.

Susan explores 11 barriers: Expectations are unclear. The Context is Cloudy. The Board Doesn’t Own the Budget. Trustees Aren’t Engaged in Governance. The Mission is Muddy. Goals Aren’t Driving Behavior. Outcomes Are Vague. The Fundraising Strategy is Ill-Defined. The Board Isn’t Being Used Optimally. Leaders Aren’t Equipped to be Ambassadors. Trustees Haven’t Seen Good Models.

And she has ideas about how to storm the barricade, topple over the barrier – or sneak around it!

Susan begins the book with a wonderful exposé about fear. Fundraising might be like a first swimming lesson, Susan says. She once watched a mom scream at her child: “Jump in the water!” But he wouldn’t jump. Instead, he stood on the edge of the pool and cried and screamed, “Noooo!” Mom promised that the teacher would catch him. Mom promised all would be fine.

But Susan reminds us: “What the mother failed to appreciate was that the little boy’s response was cannily appropriate. He knew he couldn’t swim and he had no proof that the teacher would catch him. He knew that when he threw things into water, sometimes they floated – and sometimes they sank to the bottom.”

I love Susan’s comment…”Cannily appropriate.”  Of course our board members are afraid of fundraising. You know it. I know it. Susan knows it. And if we’re honest, why wouldn’t board members be afraid? This could be a new activity for them. They aren’t experts like you’re supposed to be.

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