Waiting for Disaster

March 4, 2015

“The health of a relationship, team or organization is best measured by the average time lag between identifying and discussing problems.” @JosephGrenny

How long does it take you to talk about a challenge with your team or a co-worker? One of the indicators of a healthy organization is how long it takes for problems to be discussed. I heard Joseph Grenny at the 2014 Willow Creek Leadership Summit and he had some great advice.

Joseph calls these discussions Crucial Conversations. I’ve been amazed at the impact this kind of dialog can have in an organization. Communication starts to open up, management is able to make better decisions, and gossip starts to become less prevalent in an organization.

So how do you have these conversations? You can find a lot of great information from his book, Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.  His key recommendations include:

  • Suspend Judgement (hold off on drawing conclusions)

  • Describe the Gap (use facts not opinions to describe the situation)

  • Get Curious (use open ended questions to seek to understand someone else’s perspective)

I think what’s most important is making sure to have these conversations and trying to keep an open mind when you do. Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” It is amazing the quality of dialog you can have if you really try and listen and understand someone else’s perspective.

Are you having crucial conversations?  Would love your thoughts @infosmallchange #ascblog


Never too late for New Year’s resolutions….

January 12, 2015

Oh boy.  Here it is.  2015.  For those of you whose fiscal years close in December, my hope is that y’all got to celebrate meeting or exceeding your fundraising goals, and that you threw a party and savored the success a few days at least, before diving back in.  And, for those of us whose fiscal year will close in July, my hope is that your year-end giving boomed fast and loud and you’ve got a crested and dense wave of momentum to ride into the New Year.  Followups,  thank-yous, coffees, lunches, getting to know you’s, all that great stuff.

As always, I’ve seen a ton of people making resolutions in their personal lives (many posted on social media) since we’ve got the fresh start of a new year and well, that’s what people do.  I don’t typically make any New Year’s resolutions but it occurred to me that thankfully, I learned a lot about leadership and development in this last year and, that I would be foolish not to implement some of these lessons.  So, I’m making some fundraising resolutions for 2015.  Here they are:

1.  I will be with more donors, prospects, and bridge-builders more often.  A no-brainer perhaps, but in no uncertain terms I’ve become increasingly convinced that the more often I’m sharing about my agency’s work, the better.

2.  I will work longer hours than protocol requires when it adds value and does not negatively impact my family.  Hey, I’m turning 40 this year, and I figure this is as good as it gets.  My time to shine so to speak.

3.  I’m going to readily acknowledge to those that need to know when and if I don’t know how to do something, or how best to move forward.  Pretending that I do, when I don’t, has never been helpful for anyone, ever.

4.  I will ask questions of creative, talented, and innovative development professionals and leaders and leverage their ideas, as appropriate, to enhance my own efforts.  Collaboration counts, big time, and none of us know it all.

5.  I will blog here, and use #ascblog @infosmallchange to try and create some buzz for us good folks out there trying to raise money for amazing causes and am sincerely hoping you will too.

Would love to hear what you are going to do differently in 2015?


Tooting Your Own Horn

December 30, 2014

This may sound a little cheap but I’ve found it invaluable. Succeeding as a fundraising professional is often more about managing perception that your actual performance and success. I am writing this for those of us that do not toot our own horn (not for the slackers that really don’t do anything).

I have found that one of the very best ways to keep the development office and my boss happy is to make sure that I am regularly talking about what I’m doing. Not every donor we talk to is going to give us $10,000 or even give a gift at all so it is important that people know we are working even if we are not bringing in money.

Give your boss a short update about some of the prospecting ideas you have been working on, write the name of the person you’re going to meet with on the schedule board before you leave. When times slow remind people, in an appropriate way, of past successes. People tend to forget the good work that we do when money is not coming in and it is helpful to be able to remind them of the value of the development office.


A Day in the Life of a Major Gifts Officer

August 12, 2014

One area you asked me to write a little more about is: What is it like to be a fundraising professional?  Many of you already know exactly what it is like in your specific department but maybe you are thinking about going into a different area.  Today I’m going to focus on Major Gifts fundraising.  There is more to it than flashy events, big names, and large gifts.

In the major gifts fundraising I’ve done I have spent my time doing three things: talking about asking for money, looking into asking for money, and asking for money.

Talking about asking for money: depending on where I’ve worked this has taken up the majority of my time in major gifts.  Because major gifts involves working with large amounts of money and often times influential people it can be a very political world.  Especially in the nonprofit world there is a lot of discussion around what the action plan with a specific donor is going to be.  This can be a very good thing as it allows you to gather information and insight from other people and come up with a more informed stronger plan.  But sometimes it means that you never ask for money at all, be careful not to fall into that trap.

Looking into asking for money: if you do major gifts work at a larger organization you will probably have a prospecting staff of your own.  Regardless it’s probably a good idea to do a little of your own research into who you will be talking about and where their money comes from (check out my section on prospect research).

Asking for money: this is a really general term that I am including the entire cultivation process in.  As a major gifts officer you will be writing notes to people, making regular phone calls, taking them on tours and many other kinds of cultivation activities.  Asking people for money is more than running a successful solicitation it is about building a solid relationship and understanding the passions of your donor.

Being a major gifts officer can be a really fun job, you get to meet a lot of really interesting people and hear about big things that are happening in your community.  I have been really touched by the hearts of a number of major donors that I’ve worked with.  These people can enact profound change in their community and often have a heart to make a difference.

I’m sure other many of you are Major Gifts Officers what is your experience like?  What do you do on a daily basis?  Leave a comment with a bit of your story.