Building Allies

December 30, 2015

I find the first few months are so important at a new job. I recently read the book The First 90 Days. One of the key items that the book talks about is building allies. This is so important for us in fundraising as we often end up touching the entire organization. We call on people at every level in the organization for information, ideas, and assistance. Here are a few ideas I had, and I’d love to hear some additional ideas from you.

  • When I first started I began to try to figure out where natural ally relationships would be. Orientation is a great place to start. Everyone in this group has being new in common. As a new employee you want to find your way in the organization= you don’t know the existing attitudes (positive or negative), and have little ingrained thinking about the organization.
  • Your immediate work team is a great group in which to build relationships. They already know good people to connect with and build solid relationships.
  • Natural internal partners. Who does your team work with regularly that you might want to take a special effort to get to know?
  • The executive team. A good time to meet them is when you are new, as they want you to be excited about the organization and know you are not going to ask anything of them. (Some bosses feel pressure if their staff talk with/meet the executive team. A good practice is to ask your boss if he/she would be willing to introduce you.)

Where do you find allies? How did you build up your relationships internally and externally? Building allies is happening all the time. What are you doing to continue to develop ally relationships in your organization?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Party On.

April 20, 2015

Alright, you’re in good shape.  You’ve identified some champions for your organization and you’re excited, encouraged, and relieved that you’ve got some folks to help broaden and diversify your support network.

There are a number of ways that your champions can actively participate in the acquisition of new donors.  One of the most traditional and familiar ways that is hosting or captain(ing) tables at our galas and auctions.  This is KEY.  But, for champions, this can be just the tip of the iceberg.

I was having coffee with a new supporter the other day, and I was guiding her through some ways that she could continue to partner with us, having recently given generously as a guest at our auction in November.  We talked about her hosting a table herself this year, attending our spring awareness event, scheduled a time for her to check out our new Drop-In Center on a tour.

Then, she said, ‘and what about if I just invited some folks I know to over to my house for food and wine and you could just share a little bit about REST and leave some giving envelopes?   Just like a party with a purpose?’

The clouds parted, sun beamed in, the music resounded in the back of my mind, champion stuff is happening!  The House Party model that my friend above suggested is one of the most effective, valuable, and fun ways to mobilize our champions to help us acquire new donors.  The model is simple:

  • Champions invite folks to their place for a party lending expectations regarding the little bit of ‘purpose’ behind the party
  • Guests arrive and mingle, we mingle too
  • Drinks and food are served
  • After an hour or so, we invite our champions to share why they care and why they give to our cause
  • We give our 5-10 best overview and let folks know that we’ve left a response card for folks who want to learn more or give, and invite questions
  • We thank our host (champion) for the few minutes, and mingle more
  • At the end of the night we collect the envelopes
  • Following week, we thank our champions, gather feedback, talk about doing it again next year, and send thanks and followups to those that gave or want to learn more

Easy, straightforward, scalable, fun.

Are you game for doing parties like this?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Colored Shirts

March 11, 2015

There’s no doubt about it, color makes everything more fun. Would you rather sit in a dark and colorless room or a well lit one with a vibrant painting?  We are all drawn to color.

Color also makes you more noticeable. I am so glad that we are moving away from a culture where men can where only grey and blue. You watch a show like Mad Men and the only difference in their suits is the cost, the color schemes are all the same.

I’ve always enjoyed wearing colors because again, its just more fun. But, there is some practical value here also as color is more memorable for donor meetings. You will remember the donor rep you met with who was wearing a red shirt over the donor rep who’s wearing a grey or blue. What about at an event? You want to be picked out in a crowd and easy to find.

Don’t get me wrong I still wear greys and blues. But it can be fun to mix it up a little bit. Our female counterparts figured this out a long time ago and have been doing it for a long time.

But let’s not stop at color. I try and think about who I’m meeting with and dress accordingly. Sometimes a tie or a suit jacket just isn’t the right thing to wear. I spend a lot of time with IT professionals wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work. When I wear a tie to those meetings it makes them feel awkward.  So, I’m thinking about what I wear because it can add some value.

What do you think? What do you wear to supporter or prospect meetings? Have you noticed color?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


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


The Power of One

February 23, 2015

Every board I’ve worked with has board members who are more involved and board members who are less involved. Some of your board members are doers and others are not. If you have a smaller board of 5 to 10 people, then you probably have a board that is almost full of doers. If you have a board of 25+, then you probably know which board members are doers, which ones are only there for the meetings, and which ones you are surprised if you ever see.

Every development person loves the doers on their board. I’m not talking about the doer that gets in the way and is always pushing their own agenda. I’m talking about the doer who wants to help out and is always the first person to volunteer. Finding a way to sustain that kind of engagement is important. You want your board members and volunteers to have a good experience; those that are doers you want to have an even better experience so they will keep helping. Do not overwhelm these people with a thousand different projects and a dozen different action items that is a guaranteed way to burn a volunteer out and keep them from volunteering again.

Give your doers one big task at a time to accomplish. If you must, give them two or three; but don’t give them any more tasks than that. When you give someone just one task you will find that the task gets done quicker and more comprehensively. The less tasks the higher likelihood they will be accomplished. Fewer tasks also mean you have an opportunity to thank and praise your volunteers more often for their essential work. This creates a cycle of good experiences where volunteers know you appreciate the work that they are doing and feel a since of pride that you can count on them to get the work done.

How is your Board doing?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Ice Breakers Part Two

January 14, 2015

A couple of years back I posted about Icebreakers that we use in conversations with donors, prospects, board members, etc. You provided some really great ideas and feedback and I thought I’d include a few more that I’d heard from you and that I’ve used since my initial post.

  • What is the heart behind your gift?
  • Do you get joy from your giving?
  • What about our mission resonates with you?
  • Why do you give, what motivated you to reach out to us?
  • Are you a recipient of our services (have you been the the museum, listened to the radio station, been taken care of at our hospital, etc.)? What was your experience like?
  • One readers mentioned using directive statements like, “Tell me about your weekend,” or, “You need to give me the story on that necklace, it’s amazing,” or “We may know someone in common–here’s who I know at xyz corp.” (Thanks Chris!)
  • Did your parents participate in charity when you were growing up? Such as giving to a place of faith? (Thanks Beth Ann!)
  • How did you begin giving in the community? Did your family set an example? (Thanks Beth Ann!)

What questions are you known for asking? Do you use ice breakers when talking with board members and potential donors?


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?