silo-vertical-199x300.jpg

Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos

Ask someone on the street if there are too many nonprofits addressing the same causes. Most likely, you’ll get a resounding “yes.”

When there’s a crisis, folks are confused as to which relief agency they should give their money. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, they aren’t sure which organization will make the best use of their donation.

This confusion leads to “drop in the bucket” donations. Folks want to at least doing something, but don’t want to risk throwing their hard-earned money into a black hole.

This behavior stifles the entire nonprofit sector. Folks don’t trust their philanthropy will be effectively stewarded, so don’t give as much as they could. Even worse, folks with track records of investing — philanthropic (aka “social”) entrepreneurs — sit on the sidelines waiting.

Waiting for what?

Waiting for the social benefit sector to do something that, up until now, it has not done well. 

Details

10 Email Hacks to Increase Nonprofit Productivity

We live in an age of information overload.

As a result, many of us (me included) have gotten into some really bad habits in an effort just to “keep up.”

These habits are not only killing your productivity, they’re killing you!

So today I thought I’d take a step back from offering fundraising tips and tools, and offer up some brass tacks advice to lighten your load.

And I want to take on the killer of all time sucks.

Email.

Details
Rose inside book. Pages shaped like heart.

Nonprofit Fundraising: Do You Know Semantics Matter?

Rose inside book. Pages shaped like heart.What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” said Shakespeare.

But, would it?

Seth Godin thinks words matter. As do I.

“That’s just semantics”

Just?

The meaning of the word is the reason we used the word.

If we don’t agree about the meaning of the word, we haven’t communicated.

Instead of, “that’s just semantics,” it seems more productive to say, “I’m confident we have a semantics problem.”

Because that’s all of it.

The way we process words changes the way we act. The story we tell ourselves has an emotional foundation, but those emotions are triggered by the words we use.

Not just.

Especially.

— Seth Godin

What do you call the folks who respond to your fundraising appeals?

Are they donors?

Maybe that’s okay. Or perhaps

Details

Hold these 4 Nonprofit Fundraising Truths to Be Self Evident

DeclarationOfIndepenceI’ve created for you a little “Declaration of Fundraising Independence” to help you become a fruitful philanthropy facilitator from this day forward.

This Declaration incorporates what I consider to be essential fundraising truths — four pre-conditions which must be met before you’ll be able to successfully exercise your fundraising strategies. Within these four pre-conditions are additional hidden truths (don’t worry; I’ll call them out for you).

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all charities are created equal, that they are endowed by their constituencies with certain unalienable visions, missions and values, that among these are visions, missions and values that some, but not all, members of the public share. That to secure these visions, missions and values, charities are instituted among the public, deriving their just powers from the support of the public. That whenever any form of charity becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to fail to support it, and to instead support those institutions as to them shall seem most likely to effect the safety, happiness, goodwill and public benefit of the populace.

Fundraising is not an end in itself. It serves noble ends.

(1) When those ends are ones valued by the people, and

(2) When folks trust you’re doing an effective job meeting needs they believe must be met, then

(3) You earn the privilege of fundraising and, in fact,

(4) You assume the responsibility to fundraise to assure those who rely on you to meet these needs are not left high and dry.

So… this is where you get your Declaration of Fundraising Independence.  You are ‘free to fundraise’ once you’re able to make a case to enough people that you deserve to exist.  For this to be the case:

Details

Impatience is Virtue: Key to Sustain Nonprofit Relevancy and Fundraising Effectiveness

The late Jerold Panas*, fundraising guru and author of a bunch of books (two of which, Asking and The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, I frequently use with boards to inspire philanthropy), left us with a gem of a final article published on the Guidestar blog: Nurturing Your Potential as a Fundraiser.

It got me thinking.

All of the traits Panas lists (he calls them “verities” that distinguish consummate fundraisers from those who, I presume, just dial it in) are important. I encourage you to read the full list (or even the full book from which they’re excerpted: Born to Raise: What Makes a Great Fundraiser Great).

Today I want to focus on one trait that particularly struck me.

Impatience.

Details
cat in tree

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Useful Life Advice for Nonprofit Fundraisers

I happened recently on an article in the New York Times where the author, David Pogue, asked readers for their very best ‘life advice.’ I enjoyed it so much, I want to share some of my favorite pieces of wisdom with you.  And, of course, I’ll suggest how this might apply to your nonprofit work and work/life balance.

Let’s begin!

Are you over-worrying about a cat stuck in a tree?

cat in treeNot every problem needs to be addressed immediately. Some will work themselves out.

You’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, have you?” When Alexandra Aulisi’s cat couldn’t get down from a tree, her grandmother reassured her with those words, predicting (correctly) that the cat would come down on his own. “This advice made me realize that, sometimes, you need to shift your perception of a problem to see a solution,” Ms. Aulisi noted.

David Pogue, NYT

While it’s tempting to drop everything (e.g., whenever a new email appears in your inbox, especially if it’s someone asking for help), it’s important to assess if this situation actually requires a rapid response. If not, you have options.

ADVICE/OPTIONS:

1. Lil’ Bo Peep: “Leave it alone and it will come home.”

Ever been on vacation and noticed a flurry of emails, back and forth, forth and back, from members on your team?  Often by the time you’ve returned the ‘problem’ – as urgent as it may have seemed at the time based on all the email hyperbole – seems to have evaporated. I’m not suggesting you ignore legitimate, pressing problems; just use common sense and exercise judicious restraint, as appropriate.

2. Could someone else handle this?

I’ll never forget some excellent advice I received (actually from one of the donors I worked with during the years I was a young parent).  While I was stressing about potty training, she told me: “Have you ever seen anyone at college who still wears diapers?  If you don’t potty train your son now, never fear.  His college girlfriend will!”  It was silly, yet made a whole lot of sense. I didn’t need to oversee and micro-manage every little thing. Sometimes things happen on their own time frame. This was a reminder that patience can be a virtue.

Are you having trouble getting started?

Details
Clouds and sky

To Be or Not to Be: What Goes in This Year’s Nonprofit Work Plan?

I’m wagering you’re too busy.

That means you’ve little space for adding new projects to your work plan for the coming year.

Never fear. Help is here!

First, let’s clear out some space.  

I’ve participated in many a planning session, and seldom do I recall – if ever – really focusing first on what we could stop doing to make room for new endeavors.  If this sounds familiar, you’re likely also familiar with the unfortunate consequences.

There are some things that really should not be part of your work plan moving forward. Or, at the very least, they should be pared down. Quite. A. Bit.

Here’s how you know you need, as Marie Kondo might say, to tidy up.

  • Do you try to stuff too much into your work plan and end up doing nothing as well as you’d like?
  • Do you allow daily clutter to crowd your inbox so you’re often responding to the little issues rather than the big ones?
  • Do you keep working on things that no longer have the payoff they once had, causing you to miss out on newer and more cost-effective opportunities?
  • Do you allow inertia to divert your focus towards ‘make work’ transactional stuff that satisfies your need to feel ‘busy,’ while you know it’s not really transformational work?
  • Have you allowed your job to become overloaded with tasks you don’t enjoy, to the point where you feel a bit like a lobster in a pot?

What if you were to look at your work plan this year from the KonMari perspective?

Details
Overwhelmed office worker

How to Calm ‘Busy’ Nonprofit Overwhelm Syndrome

When I managed a nonprofit team I inevitably had staff who struggled to meet deadlines. So I’d ask them to keep track for a week of how they found themselves spending their time.  My boss, generously, even made funds available to send folks to time management courses.

It seldom worked.

Because most traditional time management advice involves cutting out unnecessary activities. Some of this is possible, but many nonprofit workers simply have too much to do in too little time. The “unnecessary” is sometimes hard to find.

Recently I happened on an article in the New York Times by Adam Grant, Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management. In it, he talked about someone who couldn’t find any tasks to drop from his calendar:

This is going to sound like a joke, but it’s not,” he confessed. “My only idea is to drink less water so I don’t have to go to the bathroom so many times.

Oh, dear.

But Grant offered an interesting solution; a reframing of the conundrum.  He suggests that time management is actually part of the problem, not a solution.

Details
Jar of penny coins

ONE Amazingly Simple Smart Fundraising Strategy

 

Invest more.

That’s it.

It’s simple. And it works.

You see, penny-wise fundraising may seem smart.  You may pat yourself on the back for working “lean and mean.” But, in actuality, lean and mean is the antithesis of how a nonprofit becomes successful.

Penny-wise fundraising ends up being nothing more than mean.

  • Mean to the people to whom you pay pauper’s wages.
  • Mean to the staff you overwork.
  • Mean to the volunteers you burn out.
  • Mean to the clients you can’t afford to help.
  • Mean to the donors to whom you’re unable to offer satisfying philanthropic investment opportunities.
  • Mean to the community you can’t afford to serve.

Penny-wise fundraising takes you down exactly the wrong pathway.

You May Think You’re Being Smart, But You’re Not

Penny-wise fundraising reveals an underlying attitude fundraising is a “necessary evil.’  So… why not invest as little as possible in it?

Sadly, this approach to fundraising is doomed to failure.

Details