Mentoring Your Staff

October 27, 2010

Before you start a mentoring relationship with your staff, you should know for sure if they are interested in being mentored. A mentoring relationship can be of extreme value to an organization, to you, and to your employees, but it can also create conflict if it is unwanted.

There is a difference between training and mentoring. All staff need to be trained in some manner for the job they will be doing. No two organizations do everything the exact same way and there will always be a period of time to train a new staff member in the ways of the organization. Training is not mentorship. Mentorship is a relationship where one person has decided they want to share some of their lessons learned for the benefit of someone else. Mentors should model by example and should be willing to share both their strengths and their weaknesses. It takes a special kind of person who is willing to be very transparent to be a good mentor.

On the other side you have the mentee. This individual should be willing to swallow his pride and be eager to learn the methods and techniques of the mentor. He should be willing to put in extra work to be able to really think through and apply what they are learning. A good mentee is being challenged and is given opportunities that are out of his comfort where a mentor can help him grow, in a safe environment, into a role. As a mentor you must always be a mentor. You can’t turn it on and off. One minute you cannot expect your staff member to try your techniques and be challenged by your way of thinking if you are not willing to provide true opportunities to grow and stretch their abilities.

It is important that this is a mutual relationship or it is possible for the mentor and mentee to resent each other. One might feel taken advantage of; another might feel micromanaged. But, both parties will feel disrespected, and that respect can be hard to gain back.

I imagine that you have had mentor mentee relationships. What tips do you have in making them successful?


Question: Objections?

October 20, 2010

Each organization seems to have the classic question with which it has to deal. At a community college it was, “Why should I give you money when you are a government funded organization?” I imagine a number of government related organizations and advocacy groups get the, “I pay my taxes isn’t that enough speech.” Or, an arts organization might hear, “I like to give to social services for feeding and clothing people.”

What kinds of objections do you have at your organization? What responses and techniques have you used to overcome them?

Effective Use of LinkedIn

October 18, 2010

While most non-profits realize the benefits of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, far fewer organizations fully realize the inherent power of LinkedIn.

As one of the original social networking platforms geared primarily toward professionals and businesspeople, LinkedIn can provide your organization with networking and marketing benefits, no matter the size of your non-profit. Here’s how to effectively use the LinkedIn platform to increase your organization’s reach and profile:

Establish a Presence
Non-profits should establish a solid presence on LinkedIn by creating a “Company” page with up to date information on the organization. Some examples of well written non-profit company pages include The American Red Cross and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Be sure to upload your logo and include current information on the page.

In addition to setting up your company page, appoint a key employee as your LinkedIn “voice,” the person who will, through their LinkedIn profile, moderate your activities on the site.

Start to Network
After your home base is set up, it’s time to start networking on the site. The first thing to do is to encourage your current supporters, board of directors, staff, volunteers, donors and friends to “connect” (the LinkedIn version of “friending”) with the staff member you appointed as your on-site point of contact, and to “follow” your company page.

In addition, use the “Groups” feature to join several groups that are closely related to your mission. You should also consider joining local business and non-profit groups in your geographical area.

Finally, search the “Questions” feature to find LinkedIn members who are asking questions that your organization is uniquely qualified to answer. Serve as a good resource on the site, and seek to connect with the people you help for a longer term relationship on the site.

Market Your Page
As with any social media outlet, you’re non-profit will reap the most benefit from LinkedIn if you actively market your LinkedIn page to people who are interested in your organization. This means asking people who stop by your website, read your e-newsletter, or otherwise show that they are interested in you to “connect” with you on LinkedIn and follow your company page.

You should also ask your supporters and those who are already connected with you on the site to spread the word to their colleagues and friends.

Using Status Updates
LinkedIn allows your organization to write short, Twitter-like status updates that will appear on your profile and on the update pages of everyone who is connected with you or following your company. This is one of the most powerful features of using LinkedIn for your non-profit. Use it wisely.

Remember, each status update cold be read by hundreds or thousands of people. Resist the urge to update your organization’s status ten times a day. Instead, use the status update line to push relevant facts and asks to your supporters. Reach out to them once per week, twice per week, or once per day to keep them informed and to ask them to take action (such as visiting a certain page on your website).

Starting Your Own Group
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, gotten your supporters involved and connected, and reached out to build new relationships and networks, it’s time for the LinkedIn coup de grace: creating your own group.

Using the “Groups” feature, create your own LinkedIn group specifically for the use of your supporters and friends. Post relevant information there, ask questions, and upload pictures and logos. Invite all of your followers to join you there and get involved in the discussion. Starting your own group is a great way to open your LinkedIn network up to a real dialogue with your supporters and friends.

How You Benefit
What can your organization expect to gain from the time and effort you invest in the LinkedIn platform?

First, LinkedIn will allow you to draw your current supporters closer by engaging them on yet another level and in another place where they congregate.

Secondly, and more importantly, LinkedIn will help you in gaining access to your supporters’ own networks and Rolodexes. As you engage on the site, encourage your supporters to start helping you reach their own connections on LinkedIn.

Joe Garecht is the creator of The Fundraising Authority, a free source of fundraising advice and tutorials for non-profits of all sizes.

Staffing Your Events

October 13, 2010

I’m going to make it a priority that every event I run includes a junior staffer that can answer the door, take coats, pass out nametags, and watch for overall event logistics. These tasks are essential to the proper welcoming of every guest, but it can take a significant period of time at each event. If an event starts at 6 pm, I find guests won’t often arrive until 6:45, right about the time the program is about to begin. After the program is finished, a slow trickle of guests starts to flow out the door. I have always enjoyed greeting guests as they arrive and taking a few minutes to say hello and making sure they feel welcome.

But staying by the door means my conversations can only last so long. As you well know, there are a lot of important conversations and interactions that happen at these kinds of events. Often we will come into an event wanting to have a couple of specific conversations with guests and this is really hard to do if you are coordinating event logistics.

Including a junior staffer provides you a number of additional advantages. This staff member can remind volunteers and individuals participating in the program of any last minute changes. Sometimes there are components of the takeaway packet that this individual can help put together. They can also be great for snapping some photos.

What techniques do you use on the day of the event? Another approach I’ve used if there are a handful of staff at an event is to take turns being assigned to the door or working on a component of event logistics.

Volunteer, Staff, to Guest Ratios

October 11, 2010

Events work their very best when they bring distant people closer to your organization. This is a bit different with recognition events, as their sole purpose is to acknowledge those donors who are present. The traditional cultivation event is meant to introduce people to your organization or pull an existing relationship closer. Regardless of how you look at events, events are always about the guests.

Events can be a lot of fun and are often a focal point of activity for any organization. It is a good practice to make sure that every volunteer or staff member at an event has a specific purpose. When you start running regular events and everyone starts talking about having a good time and how fun the event was, many volunteers will want to start attending just to be at the next event. If you are not careful you will find you have as many volunteers as you do guests.

One good technique you can use is to let your board know that only board members who have prospects attending an event can attend. You don’t want the place of a new prospect to be taken by someone internal to the organization. This technique also encourages volunteers to invite their friends and to connect new people to the organization.

Do You Like Your Leader?

October 6, 2010

Employees can tell when their boss is frustrated with leadership. And, leadership can tell when you’re frustrated with them. As good as we think we are at hiding our emotions or feelings, our staff and co-workers know us well enough to determine our true feelings. How we feel about our leadership guides our work.

If you have employees that are struggling with finding motivation or are frustrated with the overall organization, your view of leadership will shape their responses. We look to our leaders to provide us support and answers for the work that we do not understand or need help doing. Staff will often rally behind their leader’s opinion of the rest of the organization. If those in leadership are frustrated with specific areas, it is likely that others will mirror that opinion.

Often leadership has some idea of your feelings. When people feel comfortable with each other they want to work collaboratively; when they are not comfortable, they lean on their organizational structures and silos. This latter kind of environment is not conducive to productive work or free flow of information. This is especially important when it comes to Major Gifts. Leadership has a key role to play with your largest donors.

We Reflect Our Leaders

October 4, 2010

I’m coming to realize I am starting to think like my boss. We watch those in charge of us and intentionally and unintentionally start to make the same assumptions and decisions. I will often run an event or create a proposal and, in the back of my head, hear the voice of my boss giving me a pointer or direction. I’ve found that the mental checklists that I’ve created match very closely to the notes I take away from my meetings.

Most people will find the most comfortable path to get a job done. In an office environment, there are often times unspoken systems that everyone follows. It is valuable to know what those systems are and to know which skills of your leaders you want to reflect. When you know what they are, it helps you to learn to match their strengths and steer clear of areas of weakness.

It’s a good practice to think about your immediate reaction to high stress situations and conversations with people. Think about how you have traditionally responded and think about how your leaders would respond. Think through how co-workers respond to each method and evaluate which technique you want to use.

Have you found it to be true that you reflect your leaders? Do you do things similarly to your boss because you’ve worked with that person for a long period of time, or maybe because it’s the path of least resistance?