Thursday, December 19, 2013

Last Blog Post... of 2013!

Holiday Greetings to each and every one of you near and far!
It's been an eventful year in my personal and professional life and I thank each and every one of you for joining me in the journey. Here are some quick hits I thought I would cover with you and then wish each of you a Merry Jolly Happy.


  • There is now statistical proof that Tchotckes reduce giving, a present unto itself.
  • Donor Relations Guru® is now officially trademarked by the US Patents and Trademark Office!
  • We had quite a year with the webinars and over the holiday I will be building the schedule for the rest of 2014. For now, here's what we have: www.donorrelationsguru.com/webinars
  • The Pulse of Donor Relations study had 915 respondents and was a huge success! Results can be found here and the study will now be done every two years: www.donorrelationsguru.com/pulse
  • We have a thriving LinkedIn group here with over 1400 professionals and growing!
  • The variety of resources for you continues to grow. If you need samples of anything, please check here, if I don't have it, send me an email and I'll go get it for you!
  • I hope to see many of you in person as I have a robust travel schedule for the Spring:
    • January 29-31, 2014 CASE I, Boston, MA
    • February 12-14, 2014 CASE VIII, Vancouver, CA
    • February 16-19, 2014 CASE III, Orlando, FL
    • March 13, 2014, Northeastern Annual Giving Conference, Pleasantville, NY
    • March 14, 2014 ADRP NYC, New York, NY
    • March 18-21, 2014 TriState Camp Conference, Atlantic City, NJ
    • March 23-24, 2014 AFP International, San Antonio, TX
    • March 25, 2014 Big XII Development Conference, Austin, TX
    • April 6-9, 2014 Ellucian Live!, Anaheim, CA
    • April 9-12, 2014 NAYDO, San Antonio, TX
  • Here are some blogs you may have missed, I think they are the highlights of 2013, there are more great thoughts in the works for 2014, I can't do it without you so if you have a topic you want  me to cover, please place it in the comments below!
    • Thank you all so much for your readership and your dedication to the fundraising profession. I am so happy to provide resources and thought leadership to you. In 2014, be on the lookout for more, including the first ever DRG book!

      Happy Holidays!

      Cheers,

      Lynne

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 #GivingTuesday Challenge


It’s that time of year again to be more charitable than normal! 

I have given all morning until my credit card coughed up some blood.


Also I have some observations I’d like to share with you.

We STILL are not putting enough thought into our giving websites. 

Here's my post on why our online giving sites are failing and how we can fix them!

So I’ve some sceenshots from the gluttonous gving that should tell you a story:

The TRAGIC:







The MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:






The GOOD, BETTER, BEST:








 BRILLIANCE!!!



Who have you given to?  How were their online giving pages? 

How much did you spend shopping this past week or on decorations or on food? I challenge you, yes YOU to give at least 10-20% of that back to nonprofits today- It's ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬


Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Memoriam and In Honor Gifts



Every now and then, life challenges us in ways unimaginable. This week, my friend's father passed away and I have been stewarding the family through the process. Was I prepared? Is this something I've ever done before? Nope. Did my skills in donor relations and stewardship come in very handy? Absolutely. As a part of the process, we identified two organizations and funds that would receive gifts in lieu of flowers or memorials.  It was a difficult process but in the end a very rewarding one. Do you have your ducks in a row for donors or families who choose your nonprofit to donate to?
If you don't, I highly encourage you examine your processes. When a bereaved family member or representative calls, who answers the phone and what is the process? Do you have something in place to make it less awkward and troublesome for them? What does your notification process look like? Can donors sends card or note from you to let the family know? Do you have notecards for families who want to send thank yous to the donors? Instead of just giving them a list of people who have contributed, why not also provide them with some beautiful notecards and a pen to help them complete their notes? 

I can tell you from a few days of experience that it's wonderful to have someone take care of the details for you, someone you can call at the nonprofit to ask questions and help you through the process. Are your notifications simply a modified receipt or is it truly a sensitive and meaningful touch point. Have you made sure that the donors who give in honor or in memory of someone don't receive a phone or mail solicitation the next month or quarter? 

Have you spoken with your development officers and front line fundraisers? Let's encourage everyone not to establish restricted or endowed funds in memory of someone unless you know there will be adequate gifts to fulfill the minimum. There is nothing worse than a memorial or honorarium fund that goes unspent or doesn't have enough money in it to award. Explaining that to a family is awkward at best. It's hard to tell a family that many their family member's death or loss won't raise the minimum, but it's better to steer them to unrestricted or scholarship or something and then think of recognition later to avoid those pitfalls. I've seen too many memorial gifts go wrong, it can reopen a horrible wound. 

Don't ask the family or representative to complete lots of paperwork in order to make this happen, especially in the beginning. Unfortunately death brings a great deal of paperwork with it, I was shocked by it, so adding one more thing is an undue burden to them. Help them and offer to be a resource but take the bureaucracy out of the process if possible. Many of these things sound like common sense, but you would be amazed at how many people get it wrong. 
What does your process look like? Have you been through this before? What are other tips and tricks you can share to help us all?

Lynne

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Great Gift Receipt Swap!

As many of you know, one of the things I pride myself on the most is providing a ton of free resources for others on my website. You can download thousands of acknowledgments, hundreds of reports, see tons of videos and other samples all here: http://www.donorrelationsguru.com/ssb
It's time to add to that collection folks! I am conducting the first ever great gift receipt swap! I have talked about receipts for your nonprofit twice: http://donorguru.blogspot.com/2012/07/you-say-tomato-i-say-tomato-why.html
and
http://donorguru.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-does-your-gift-receipt-say-about.html

So here's how it works: Email me a sample of your bank or redacted gift receipt for your organization to lynne@donorrelationsguru.com and I will compile them and post them like I do for the other samples. Let's build a huge repository of documents. So go ahead and flood my inbox- the deadline is November 27, 2013.

Thanks so much in advance for your contribution to help us all succeed.
Cheers,
Lynne

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Decisions, Decisions


As donor relations and fundraising professionals, we are often faced with many decisions, some of them in rapid-fire succession. I love decision making, for the most part and I find it is what defines me. I am able to quickly assess a situation and make a decision that can turn the tide and create change. One of my alumni board members enjoys the way I’m able to make “executive decisions” and quickly delineate the direction in which we should head.  I consider all of the facts as they are presented to me and then forge a path ahead.  That said, it seems like decision making is really easy for me. It is far from easy, I’ve just honed my skills in this area so I can help my organization and many others move forward.  Far too often nonprofits are paralyzed by decision making, we find ourselves making the mistake of decision by committee, or we make no decision at all, sort of like ready aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, and we never get to fire. 

Decision making isn’t easy by a long shot, we live in a world of grey areas and I am definitely a black and white girl. So here are some of the tools I use to help me make decisions and help others to do so as well.
  •      I always start with a simple foundation of ethics. Does this feel smarmy to me? Is there a gray area I’m not ethically comfy with? If so, decision is made, avoid it!
  •    I tend to try to take the emotion and the person out of the decision. Don’t make decisions based on people or emotions. It will always cloud your judgment.
  •      My mantra remains: If it doesn’t benefit the alumni or the donors, we don’t do it. Follow that and you’ll never go wrong.
  •     Respect the hierarchy and rank of your organization. If the decision involves someone who is truly above your pay grade, your considerations are amplified.
  •      Make a pros and cons list. It’s a simple yet effective way to determine the ROI and the impact of your decision. I have these everywhere. I’ve gotten so good at this I can do it in my head.
  •    Go to people you trust and ask them for their opinion, especially those who are your mentors or work in your industry but not directly in your organization. That outside opinion is so valuable, I use it often, even if sometimes you feel like you are venting, you’re really seeking advice, tap into that network!
  •      Ask someone who thinks completely differently from you how they would handle it. I’m not exactly known for my huge glug of empathy, so I tend to balance my opinion with that of others who know the softer side, those who think people and emotions first, not systems, strategy and process first. I find they help me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
  •      Trust your gut. Think with your head, especially at work, but don’t deny what your heart and gut tell you, especially in the case of human resources. You and only you know what the right decision is, and there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut, your first instinct is usually correct.


What are your decision making tips? Have you ever faced an impossible decision (I’m facing one right now in my personal life)? What is your decision making process and how do you cope with the ramifications? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,
Lynne

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The career path of a fundraising or donor relations professional is an interesting one.    After last week's blog it becomes even clearer to me that many of us view our profession in quite contrasting lights. I can honestly say that I have never met anyone in the industry who grew up dreaming of being a non profit fundraiser or relationship professional. None of us majored in it in college. But here we are. And where are we going? I had the pleasure of meeting a young lady on a client visit, she was an undergraduate and was also our server at dinner. She planned on a career in nonprofit work by majoring in marketing and minoring in social work. Smart cookie.

 Many of us never thought of our career trajectory when we got into this field, and now we find ourselves faced with interesting realities. Like any profession, ours has devolved into a serious career choice for folks and many  are now majoring in philanthropy in college. But what does our career path look like? 

As I quoted last week, the fact is in the US the average lifespan of a fundraiser currently stands at 16 months. You can see that fact her in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. So that's the average, meaning some stay much shorter and some much longer. So how do we know when is the right time to stay or go? It's no good to be seen as a job hopper (the "haaaper" commercial pops into my head) but can you also hurt your career by sticking in one position too long? The answer is a resounding YES. 

The donor relations world at the top has seen some interesting position shifts in the past 18 months with those at the top leaving jobs for others, being phased out, or moving upward significantly. This begs the question, when is loyalty too long? It's a fact in our business that in order to be compensated well, you have to leave or seriously threaten it? But what are other reasons to leave? Certainly new challenges and different types of organizations are a good reason. Stagnancy in leadership being another, but so is a change in leadership. 

There is a growing sense of impatience in the business with the demand for doing more with less, wanting the new shiny thing from our leadership. So what's the solution? Pick it up and pack it up in order to advance. Yup, most often that's the reality. So how do we retain top talent? How do you build loyalty and long tenures without accepting complacency. How do you stay somewhere more than 5 years and not be seen as the "dinosaur" in the office? How do you keep talent and not let it get poached? In certain markets like Boston, DC and New York, the revolving doors spin wildly as organizations poach talent in a competitive race for dollars and donors. 

Speaking of donors, what is best for them and our organizations? How does one balance their need for personal success and fulfillment with that of a mission you believe in? These are issues we should be discussing at conferences, in blogs, and at gatherings. We should work to advance our profession and realize that it's just that, a profession and a vocation. How do we beat the drum for change without losing sight of the overall goal of inspired philanthropy? Who helps us mold our career trajectories and paths to success if it's not us? I would love to hear your thoughts as we continue these important discussions.

Cheers,
Lynne

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dear fundraiser, an open letter from your friend in donor relations




Pardon me for writing you a letter, I hope you'll read it and it will start a discussion between and among us. You see, I feel like we need to talk. I know I know, you're off to visit a donor and don't have time, but read this on the plane on the way there.

I'm here to help you. I want you to be a fundraising rock star. I want us to be a team. Let me tell you how I can help you, and maybe how you can help me. You can even write me back in the comments below.

First, I'm here to help. I come from a place of yes, and I want others to as well. I'm excellent with details and rules and can navigate bureaucratic nightmares swiftly like a water moccasin. I'm a people pleaser who just needs a little positive affirmation and some team work and wow can I move mountains for you. I seem to be able to pull of the impossible, and deliver it with a smile. Behind the scenes I'm sometimes exhausted and frustrated, it's just reality, but I sure do love what I do.

Here's where you can help me help you.

Put information in the database and communicate that information. It will help everyone, not just me and you, and is a good thing for our organization. Unfortunately your average lifespan at an organization is 16 months. What you leave in your wake after you leave is me, your teammate. I need that information to help you write acknowledgments, plan great events and steward gifts effectively. If I don't know your donor's wife is allergic, I may mistakenly send her flowers because it's a nice thing to do.

Invite me to meetings from the beginning. I really need that seat at the table and that trust of you to bring me in the loop. I promise to be quiet and listen unless I have something really crucial to add. I'll never take credit for your idea or hard work, I just want to be there so I can help you from the start instead of being brought in too late at the end and creating a less than stellar product.

Don't assume I don't know what it's like to raise money. I do. I get it. Alumni and donor relations isn't a default for those who can't fundraise. I love my work and I want you to understand what drives me to help make fundraising successful at our organization. I actually have some great fundraising thoughts and want to help you.

Help me brainstorm on ways to help you engage and delight your donors. Please don't just drop an idea on me and walk away. Donors want three things: access, information and experiences. They don't want coasters, tote bags, pens, honor rolls and stuffy dinners. I can order a really thoughtful gift for your folks, but it won't have our logo on it. Allow me to be a creative professional and use the unique qualities of that donor to help surprise and delight them. See why it's important you communicate that information to me?

Events don't fix anything. In fact, they're often drains on resources. They're not fundraising magic bullets to fix the fact that no one has visited these folks in a while. Events don't equal engagement. Let's work together to come up with another option for us to engage and recognize our donors. There's only so many heavy hors d'oeuvres a person can eat. Also, don't ever say the following words, "golf tournament" please and thank you but NO.

Please let's not promise anything to donors unless we know if it's possible. Let's review the gift agreement together and make sure we can deliver on the things the donor wants. Having to undo a promise is awkward and just no fun.

Finally, there are rules to fundraising. They're there for a reason. AFP, CASE, IRS, etc etc.. If I bring up these rules, don't fight me. I don't like them either. But they're there for a reason. They help protect you, me and our donors. No one wants to feel smarmy. We want giving to be a joy, but it does involve paperwork. So help me get you and your donors through it. My goal in life is to never end up on the 11o'clock news, I promised my mom. Help me keep my promise.

Please reply and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you.
Don't worry, it's not just you I'm writing to, in the coming weeks I'm going to write a letter to the following folks: my VP, my boss, direct reports, the data team, and others.

Cheers,
Lynne

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On boarding new fundraising professionals

As many of you know, I recently started a new position. One of the things that fascinates me every time I start a new job is the on boarding process that the employer offers. By far and away the best employer I ever had at this was Walt Disney World. Ever since then, every university I've worked for hasn't done so great. I'm currently working with a client to help them develop their training programs for support staff and development officers. It's been fascinating. What is your on boarding process? Do you feel like you were trained properly when you arrived at your job? Tell me your story in the comments below.
Here are some of my observations:
1. I don't need database training in my first week. I need someone to show me where the bathroom is and how to work my phone. Seriously.
2. In my first week I want to be introduced to those that can best help me be successful. Give me time with them so I can learn what they do.
3. In my first week give me a real life view of organizational culture, explain to me the meetings that I might not know about.
3. In my first week give me an entire half day to figure out my office setup and get organized.
4. Pair me with someone who can help me navigate the channels of bureaucracy and be there to answer questions when I have them, no matter how large or small.
5. Have someone take me to lunch and explain the unwritten rules, pet peeves, and quirks of my new leadership so I don't "step in it" in my first month.
6. After I've settled in, then set me up with formal training and give me a chance to have input in the order and intensity of those trainings. I may not need excel 101 or to spend 3 hours learning how to use outlook.
7. If you work in an area of particular interest, especially like donor or alumni relations, become a part of orientation and meet with every new employee as a matter of course. Be a resource for them. Help them out when they wander the halls or need a good pen.
8. For all that is holy, if I've relocated to a new place, offer to help me locate simple services that make my life easier. Sometimes it's so awkward to ask. I've been so fortunate in my relocations to NYC and Charlotte that people helped me in innumerable ways and I've taken them up on their offers and it was amazingly helpful.
9. Invite me to more meetings than you think are necessary on order to find the landscape. Then after I attend a few, let me choose from there.
10. Finally, have a plan in place when someone arrives. Without a plan to follow through on all the details, I have a chance of seeming disoriented and lost.

I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks so much
Cheers,
Lynne

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Big "C"

In a few weeks I'm headed to be a part of a team faculty for a conference on the modern fundraising campaign in higher ed. And next month's DRG November webinar is about donor relations in a campaign. It seems like the "C" word is everywhere all the time. For many of us in regards to a comprehensive campaign, we're either in one, around one or on one. The business of fundraising always seems like the business of campaigns. I'm not sure they're always necessary, but our boards and leaders seem to love them.

So how many of you are around a campaign and what phase are you in? Do you have a comprehensive campaign plan for donor relations? If not, how do you plan on effective implementation? So many times I receive calls from folks who say to me, we're wrapping up a campaign, and now we need stewardship, what do we do? Unfortunately, backpedaling and being campaign reactionary is often unsuccessful and appears haphazard. It also places a heavy burden on donor relations.


The best way to move through a campaign with donor relations is side by side with your feasibility study, campaign counsel, and in partnership with your leadership. You need to be there in the beginning so that you are consistently placing strategic donor relations at the center of every activity from launch to closing. Again, it's about putting yourself in the conversations and showing the value of donor relations. Often times, consultants and leadership are too focused on the pursuit of major gifts and don't always have the perspective of the other parts of the giving cycle because they are keenly focused on reaching the goal. It's not just about reaching the goal, it's about what do we do to reward those who got us there and how do we think about the folks for the next campaign and preparing them to feel amazing  about their philanthropy.


Part of our role is to share the attitude of gratitude with others, from volunteers to constituents to leadership. It starts with you. It starts with small steps that lead to hugs success. So here are some tangible action items. Perform an audit of your activities. Are they all best practices and benchmarked with peer organizations? Are all of your funds organized, properly spent and stewarded? Is your acknowledgment process efficient  and sensible? If those foundational bedrocks aren't in place, how can you do other things?


Let me know where you are in the campaign process and how I can help. Don't forget about our donor guru linked in group, a great resource for advice and questions. And hopefully, I'll see you soon on a webinar or in person!
Cheers,
Lynne

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bench Marking Form and Etiquette to Help Increase Your Response Rate


Another great post from my friend, mentor and all around fantabulous lady, Debbie Meyers at the University of Maryland- Enjoy!

Like many things in life, bench marking has its good points and bad points. On the one hand, after hours of research and analysis, it may end up telling you what you already know or nothing you need to know. But it can also provide you with an idea or two about how to proceed with your project, or validation that you are indeed doing the right things the right way.

And let's face it: sometimes we don't have a choice. The boss says bench mark, so we bench mark. End of story.

Regardless of your situation, here are some questions you should consider asking yourself before you start your bench marking journey.

1. What am I trying to find out, exactly?
Sound like a big duh? Not really. A common request for information involves giving societies, where we are asked to help the bench marker "understand how peer institutions establish various levels of giving and the respective benefits for each level." It may be semantics, but I don’t think that’s what you want to understand.

To find out what you’re trying to find out, ask yourself that question, several times, until you are crystal clear on your task. Your conversation with yourself may go something like this:

Q: Why am I asking other organizations about levels and benefits?
A: To see how they do it.

Q: Why?
A: Because I want to make sure I’m following Best Practices. (In capitals, because it is now the holy shrine at which everyone in our profession now worships as we strive to take our programs to the Next Level – but that’s another blog topic)

Q: Why?
A: So I can ultimately figure out how make my donors feel recognized and appreciated.

AHA! Now you’ve got the right answer. If that’s the true reason, then why not ask your donors what would make them feel recognized and appreciated? But let’s say you need some validation that you’re on the right track in your levels and benefits. Remember that your focus on your donors, not the inner workings of the institutions you’re querying, and proceed to Question 2.

2. Do I have the right pool to bench mark against?
So your boss says, “Call XYZ University – everyone says they have an awesome donor relations program.”

But is XYZ the right fit? If I’m a small private institution, will I care about or benefit from how a large public institution does things, regardless of how awesome their program is or how many stewardship rock stars run their show? My levels are based on MY donors; your levels should be based on YOUR donors. Run the numbers and see where the logical groupings are.

Benefits don’t benefit anyone unless they are meaningful. Some donors want parking. Others want preferred seating at events. We are apples and oranges. So what kind of oranges would your donors like?

Identify institutions whose mission, size, staffing and donor base are as close to yours as possible. It never hurts to throw in some others, for they may provide you with some good ideas or aspirations. But your most meaningful data will be from your peer group.

3. Am I asking the right questions in a user-friendly format?
The best way to get an answer is to keep your questions simple and clear. That may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many questions I get that require me to pull data or analyze a report. If you want a timely and accurate response, keep it simple.

You may want to include an example, for clarity and consistency: something like, “We do it this way. How do you do it?”  Having a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions will most likely give you more information, and certainly more context.

Also, have someone outside your department read the questions to make sure you haven’t been in your own little world too long with this project.

4. Would Miss Manners approve?
Remember who’s doing who the favor. Professional courtesy is a wonderful thing, and many will respond to your survey just because they are professionally courteous, but it has to go both ways to work.

Take a few minutes to make your introduction warm, friendly and informational: here’s who I am, here’s what I’m trying to do, why and here’s why I chose you. (Great opportunity to flatter the responder!) Sometimes including one survey to a group, and letting everyone in the group see who else is in the group, greases the skids in a way that one-on-one doesn’t.

Make it easy for your responders to reply. Ask their preference in answering by phone or email. If your questions lend themselves to a Survey Monkey format, all the better. If by phone, let them know how long it will take. Offer to share results once the survey is completed. That gives them an incentive to participate and shows that you are invested in the project’s success. Include a response deadline, and offer to be available if they have questions.

Most importantly, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If one of your questions is something common like endowment minimums or naming opportunities, check the institution’s website and see if that information is already available. And do let the person know in the intro that you have already done that. You will earn huge brownie points.

After you finish and send the survey results back, it’s a nice touch to add a short summary of what you learned, ending the process on a positive note.

Happy bench marking!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leadership vs. Management

I've spent a great deal of time recently helping lead my new team. I've done this in a variety of ways, leading by example, setting high standards, and providing accountability.  I've been thinking a great deal about my leadership style and how in the past, the team wasn't led, they were managed.  There exists a large chasm between management and leadership. If you've ever experienced them both, you know the difference is palpable. Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.

In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership. You can't lead and micromanage at the same time, if you do, you must be exhausted.

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

 Many people, by the way, are both. They have management jobs, but they realize that you cannot buy hearts, especially to follow them down a difficult path, and so act as leaders too. I'm a great project manager, I do whatever it takes to get the job done, but I love to lead along the way. Managers are at times, Leaders, so the paradox never ends. Your task is to adopt the correct style when either leading or managing.

How do you see management and leadership in practice at your organization? How do they manifest themselves? Which do you prefer to be? I would love to hear your comments. 

Cheers,
Lynne

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anecdotal vs Empirical Donor Evidence- Which One Drives Your Strategy?

Sitting at an airport gate is a lot like looking at a donor spreadsheet. You never know what you're going to see. I'm sitting at a gate right now waiting for a flight an it's the best people watching ever. But I can only tell you what I hear and observe. All of that is filtered through my cynical, I travel too much, snarky lens. 

It's the same way for you and your donors. I can't tell you how many times I sit down with clients and I ask them why they're doing something the way they are and often times I hear this: "one time a donor (insert name here) said that they either did or didn't like it and so because of that we do it this way". 

We spend a lot of time dispelling myths and debunking those one off stories. We in the fundraising world tend to believe that as the gospel truth and then run with it. What many of us fail to realize is that those are the outliers, you know, like the lady who is sitting at the gate having a conversation with herself about how much she misses TWA. Far too often we plan for the minority and the majority suffers. 

We take those stories at their face value and never doubt the source behind them. Instead, we can combat this with qualitative and empirical data. I go back to my point of comprehensive donor and alumni surveys and feedback mechanisms. I'm headed out to a client now to present their survey data and boy is it a gold mine! After pouring over more than 1500 responses, I've found their medians, their donors desired and needs and figured out what they're doing well and what needs to improve. And of course there are the outliers, like the guy who hates the pickles in the cafeteria (I think he's TWA lady's future spouse). But we can now build an entire plan based on real data and analyze it for the deep truths buried within. 

No longer will they have to rely on stories and one offs to control their strategy. They have all the evidence they need. If you haven't done a comprehensive study recently, why not? How do you build your program without data? As you begin to fly the friendly (bumpy) skies of change, make sure you have real evidence to guide you as you make strategic decisions for the future.

As always I'd love to hear your feedback or if you have questions on the survey or data collection process, just post below!


Cheers,
Lynne

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to lose 250 million dollars- Ignore donor relations!

Greetings from my new home in North Carolina! I'm the new director of Alumni Operations at UNC Charlotte and the transition has been fabulous! Although, I must admit, it's difficult to write a blog while driving from NYC to NC so I apologize for last week's absence!
I'm hoping some of you have seen the headlines about Centre College in Kentucky losing a $250 million dollar gift on Monday, if not, here are just a few. 


http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/10/centre-college-loses-huge-donation

http://chronicle.com/blogs/bottomline/250-million-gift-to-centre-college-is-withdrawn/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323864604579065213798818506.html



This gift was larger than their entire endowment. It's a huge lesson for all of us and the rest of the fundraising world on the importance of donor relations. So here is a breakdown of just some of the things we can learn.

1. They announced a gift this large WITHOUT a signed gift agreement or first payment in hand. According to officials, they felt pressured to because people would find out in the business news wires. HUGE mistake. Always have documentation before you hit the media.


2. The deal apparently fell apart because they couldn't agree on terms of scholarships to be funded by the gift. Hence the need for a great donor relations and stewardship person in place. If they had this and proper policies and procedures, this would have been worked out before they made the ask for the gift. You can't just wing it. It is CRUCIAL to have fundraisers and donor relations and financial aid all reading the same book.


3. When the deal fell apart, university officials had one story, the representatives for the donors trust had a completely different one. Seriously? I'm slapping my head here, Doh! You know this is going to make news, make sure you are clear and transparent, admit fault and make sure there's no media squabble. The VP centre said it was just a misunderstanding of viewpoints, "He said views might differ because, as he colorfully put it, one's view of the elephant depended on what part of the elephant a person had a hold of." Seriously? Sigh.


4. This is a direct quote from the VP of university relations: “In retrospect, gosh, we should change some of this, but that was not the hand we were dealt.” Needless to say they need some better PR and crisis communication advising.


5. Learn from your mistakes and let the donor breathe after all of this. This would not be the response I would be looking for if I were leading the trust and were the donor's representative: Trollinger(VP),  who has worked with Tamine (donor)  in the past on donations to Centre, said he would not stop pursuing other donations from the trust.
“While this didn’t work out this time, I’ll be coming back to bend his ear and twist his arm, because it’s a compelling good we’re working toward,” Trollinger said.

What lessons will you take away from this unfortunate circumstance? I hope you will forward tense articles to every fundraiser and development professional you know. At least we can learn from the mistakes of others. I would love to hear your comments below.


Cheers,


Lynne