Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Two Great Announcements!

I have big news to share with you this week,  so please forgive me if this is a less than normal blog post.
First, I am pleased to tell you that the Donor Relations Guru webinar series has now officialy been approved as a CFRE certified provider of continuing education!
I am very proud of this certification and I also hope that it will help spread the good word of donor relations far and wide. You can now earn one point towards your totals for each and every webinar. Thanks goes out to those of you who encouraged me to apply.
Here is the link for the webinars for you to check out or share:

Second, the Pulse of Donor Relations survey has taken wings, with more than 700 respondents so far.  I hope you will join us, ask your whole staff to take the survey, and forward it to your friends in the industry.  The information being collected is rich and vast, and the first of its kind in our field, truly groundbreaking.  My goal is to have 1000 respondents by the time I close the survey in two weeks or so.

Here is the link:

Finally, It's district conference time, please come see me or let's chat in person when I come to your city, below is a schedule of where I'll be until May! I hope to see you soon.
  • January 30- February 1, 2013- CASE I- Boston, MA

  • February 17-20, 2013- CASE III- Atlanta, GA

  • February 21, 2013- AFP San Antonio- San Antonio, TX

  • March 3-5, 2013 CASE II- Pittsburgh, PA

  • March 8, 2013 ADRP NYC- New York, NY

  • April 6-9, 2013 Ellucian Live!- Philadelphia, PA

  • April 10-13, 2013 NAYDO- Vancouver, BC

  • April 23 -24, 2013- American Museum Membership Conference, Atlanta, GA

  • May 14, 2013 AFP Jacksonville- Jacksonville, FL


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Donor Relations Mantra

Many times when I go to visit folks on their campuses, I learn a great deal about my own perspectives on donor relations than in my everyday work. I think sometimes we are so close to our own work, and we care so much that we can often get lost in the forest of ideas. Often, it's a simple spark, a basic idea or mention of something that delighted a door that sparks the greatest ideas.  As I interpret what choices to make as we innovate or take on new projects I have a very simple mantra that guides all of my decision making.  I hope you will adopt something similar in your areas. My donor relations mantra is: "does this benefit our donors?" If it doesn't benefit a donor, we don't do it. You could cross apply this to alumni or constituents as you like. 
This mantra could also help those of you who have difficulty saying "no" to new projects or ideas. I think for many of us, we have people who are always saying, if you could just do this, or can't you add that, which is not only frustrating because people aren't being respectful of the fact that you have other things to do, but it also is a fundamental breakdown in the idea that donor relations is not reactionary but is proactive and strategic.
I won't add anything to our plate unless it benefits the donors, period. At the end of the day, that's our purpose and mission in careers and for some of us life.  At every turn, we must challenge assumptions that the activities we are performing are meaningful and strategic, the best return on investment and use of our time. The one simple line of if it doesn't benefit our donors, we don't do it, vastly simplifies this. 
What is your donor relations mantra?

In that turn, I hope you will join me in the recently launched Pulse of Donor Relations survey,the first of its kind which will greatly help others understand our profession. Anecdotal information isn't enough. 
Participation is vital as we evaluate the evolving role of donor relations. It take no more than 15 minutes of your time and will help many of your colleagues. Areas covered: acknowledgments, recognition, communication, gifts, policies, reporting, events and much more. Participants will receive results and a whitepaper analysis. We have over 400 plus participants already and our goal is 1000 so please share this with everyone you know! 

Join me here:

Thanks again and cheers,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shaking the snow globe and other change management techniques for success

Change is the only constant.

The nonprofit world seems to be in a hesitant state of maintenance, a vast veil of denial that holds it back from true progress. We seem to be an industry steeped and mired in tradition, often for no other reason than "we've always done it that way". As a change agent in my chosen career it can often be maddening to explain to people the obvious, that not only are we behind, but we avoid change at a clear and obvious detriment to ourselves and the causes we serve. 

When I first started my career I was a big proponent of rocking the boat and ripping the bandaid off type of change management. They work, they really do, they will just get you more comfortable with the guest chairs in HR and senior leadership offices than anyone really needs... HR always goes for the soothing fabric, by the way.

So over the past few years I have replaced the shock and awe technique with one I call shaking the snow globe. What that means is that much like a snow globe, All of the buildings stay the same but the environment around it changes. This theory of change management is much less scary to those who abhor change the way many nonprofits do. Here are some of my guidelines for how to effect change in a daily, sustainable way that provides a much more successful result.

Find your cheerleaders: this is important when your idea is new to an organization, buy in is crucial, fortunately you don't need it from everyone. Find some key influencers, find those who are of a similar mindset and have them help you do the tricky work of presenting an idea. With a chorus of well placed yeses, it goes over much more smoothly.

The truth hurts: this one is true more often than not. When you point out the obvious there are several reactions, defensiveness, stupor, hurt feelings and rage. You have to be prepared for all of these, and prepared to let the dust settle before moving forward. It's perfectly acceptable to tell the truth all of the time, I've learned it's in the art of the delivery. Some people need a wake up via cold water on the face, others need to hit the snooze button a few times before they're vertical. Either way, the truth will come, can you be patient enough for the epiphanies?

Feedback and evidence is vital to success... Especially if the feedback comes from donors: get your rubber duckies in a row before you present upward. Remember evidence and benchmarking is vital to success.

Also... Empirical evidence doesn't hurt, see this study on why giving donors items actually discourages from giving more! WOW! Finally someone has proven my theory that donors dislike tchotchkes as much as I do. Remember this the next time someone asks you for the latest in paperweights or ugly neck ties! Do your homework and have the facts easily at hand. For senior leadership, make some pretty charts and graphs.

Don't argue with crazy: seriously. Understand that with some folks you have to bless and release or as they say in the South, "bless your heart". Some people will never be on board with a new idea, even if it helps them, and that's ok, we're gonna have to let that go. Arguing with crazy makes you look bad, and no one wants to pick on the kid that just can't help it. Now if the crazy is at the top of the food chain... 

Don't accept no from a person who could never have given you a yes anyway... This is a great tip for those of you who call customer service. When the only answer is no, try to find someone who CAN give you a yes. Is IT telling you that automating something is impossible? Have you asked your peer institutions? Have you asked the software company? Sometimes a no comes from ignorance of the possibilities and sometimes it comes from a that's above my pay grade mentality, and sometimes it comes from folks who just don't know what's possible or probable. That's when I kindly say, "Supervisor" into the phone... Lol

If you try and fail, that's better than settling for we've always done it that way: failing upward is an art form. How can you practice the art if you don't try? After banging your head against the desk for a while you'll realize that it hurts. So other than a concussion what occurs, hopefully the realization that you own the responsibility to make it better, to effect change, to help others see the way. As a culture nonprofit is behind and always playing catch up, how do we rectify this without change? We can't. Calculated risk taking should be more encouraged and appreciated, but it starts with every one of us.

What will you do today to help embrace change?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback, as I'm completely open to change... Lol Cheers, Lynne

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Failing Up: What to do when you make a misteak (sic)

Yesterday I had an F+ kind of day. We all have them, and because we're human, we're not perfect, gasp! So I thought I would write a blog this week about what to do when the good goes bad (much cheaper than seeing my therapist). Most of what I learned about how to deal with failure, I learned from others, both what to do and what not to do. When you embrace risk the way I do, you must also learn to embrace failure. Part of the reason why so few things change is the fear of failure. So here are my tips on how to fail upward.

1. No matter what, stay calm. We can learn this lesson from many people who have nerves of steel in the worst situations, we can also learn this from watching someone panic aimlessly. When a donor slides most ungracefully down a set of concrete stairs in the pouring rain (it always happens in the worst weather) and begins to bleed, calmly call 911, and then go sit next to the person and calmly talk to them in the rain, dress, heels, makeup, and all until help arrives. Panicking doesn't help anyone, and believe me, you can't make it look good, so don't try.

2. The next lesson came to me from my first Vice President and mentor, Cynthia Wood. I was called to fill in unexpectedly for her Executive Assistant and the first morning within my first hour I took a call for her from the Chairman of the Board's wife. When I went to transfer it to Cynthia, yup, I hit the wrong button... Poof! Call gone! Cynthia didn't hesitate or take the time to berate me, she picked up the phone, dialed Mrs. Board Chairman's wife and quickly said in jest "You hung up on me!" She saved my ass, and made lemonade out of lemons. We never spoke of it, but I'll never forget it. It taught me a great lesson about leadership and about making a mistake, instead of wasting her time yelling at me, she just fixed the problem. When you've done something wrong, or when failure happens, work like hell to make it right or to compensate in a meaningful manner, it's not just good donor relations, it's the right thing to do.

3. My friend Debbie taught me a great lesson about falling on my sword and personal accountability. When you mess up, take the blame by putting on some of those big 80s shoulder pads and fall on your sword.   Admit it, apologize, and move on. In that order. The order there is important. A little humility goes a long way. I like to insert a step in there about venting... After this blog of venting, I'll be moving on... Lol

4. My friend and mentor Dawn also taught me a good one: being a Martyr is unflattering, but throwing someone else under the bus leaves tire tracks on you too. It's okay not to blame everyone in the universe when something goes wrong. It's completely acceptable to figure out what went wrong as a process, but not as a means to place blame. When the crucial conversation needs to happen, make sure it's in private and not public. Dawn always wore a bullet proof vest in public for her team, and never yelled or criticized in public to embarrass or demean. I can't tell you how invaluable that is, especially when you've experienced the opposite. Being humiliated or chastised in "mixed company" as my Southern friends call it is unforgettable and something you will remember not to do given the chance.

5. My Mom and Dad get credit for the next one: don't repeat your mistakes, doing the same thing again an again and expecting a different result just doesn't work. You'll never see me giving away or having potpourri at an event after watching a tipsy older donor eat it in front of my eyes because she thought it was snack mix; bark, orange rinds, and all... No Sir. Won't be repeating that mistake again. You think I'm kidding, I'm not... No really... We all have one of those stories, don't we?

6. Embrace failure, celebrate it even.  When I worked at Disney World, yup, pixie dust and all, we had a "Jeanius" trophy we would pass back and forth amongst the kitchen staff for the person who was the "smartest" that week. Basically it was an award for having the worst week. It was an ugly trophy but vastly meaningful. Because if you can't laugh about forgetting to add the sugar to an entire batch of 1000 sugar cookies, who can? The irony...

7. Fortunately for the vast majority of us in the fundraising world, if we make a mistake, no one dies. Usually, that is. I am appreciative for a job in which no one's life is in my hands on a daily basis. Because it's not life and death, we should have the ability to make mistakes, fail upward and land OK, bruises and all. As a manager, you have to let that happen too sometimes, even when you can see it ahead. In my entire life I have learned more from my mistakes than the rest of my experiences combined.

8. Shake it off and land on your feet like a cat. Resiliency is a great human trait, just like imperfection... Most of us don't know just how resilient we are until truly knocked askew. Be like Gumby and bounce back even better!

So these are just some of my tips for failure, what are yours? Did I make a mistake and forget something? I would love to hear from you.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

The hardest part of the job...

People often ask me what the most difficult thing I do is, and for me, and for many of you it's always the same answer... It's the people.

I can juggle many complex tasks, organize an event for tomorrow, listen to an irate donor until I've lulled them to happiness, and crank out work like you wouldn't believe... But the thing that keeps me up at night, other than my nightmares of angry talking tchotchkes, is managing people.

I'm not just speaking of direct reports or a specific department, managing people, in all directions is not only difficult but at times draining. For those of you that have the whole people thing down pat, congratulations, but I've never met you. For the rest of us, some things I have learned, I would love for my wise audience to add some tips to this:

1. If you have the opportunity, hire well, hire to your weaknesses, and then get out of the way. The pool of development talent can sometimes seem shallow and murky. Two written in stone rules for me; don't  hire anyone in development with a mistake on their résumé, no matter how small, and don't hire anyone who doesn't write you a hand written note after you interview them. Nope, email isn't good enough, they need to understand the power of a note, if you struggle with this decision, please read this fantastic book.

2. If you can, try to manage expectations, not just people. This one works well for me, as I am a very direct personality... In case you haven't noticed. This works especially well when managing up or someone who may not understand exactly what it is you do. Set a clear understanding of the outcomes, deadlines, action items, what you need, and if you're not in charge, you can always clarify in a follow up communication, enhancing your listening skills and their consciousness of your presence in the process. Don't be a martyr and be a powerful professional instead.

3. Understand that not everyone learns or communicates in the same way you do. I am an email first person, it is my safety zone for communication and I love data, spreadsheets and crunching numbers.  Some people prefer face to face communication and charts (those two seem to go together for some reason) or phone calls and anecdotes, learn about your audience and help adapt your style to them. Want it in writing? Good, you can always send a follow up email. In the same hand, hard to believe, but when someone shows you who they are, believe them. Most people are incapable of large sweeping change, hence the reason most New Years resolutions fail miserably, but people can adapt. I can never change who I am at the core of my existence, and I'm okay with that but I have learned to adapt or not, depending on the circumstance and consequence. How can you help someone adapt to you? For me, I try to disarm people with humor because I know I'm a big personality, and I also explain that I enjoy direct feedback.

4. Be the kind of boss and coworker you want, regardless of the situation.   I have learned great lessons from my many leaders. But my first leadership and management lesson was taught to me by my Dad, we were walking through one of the massive factories he ran when I was little and he greeted everyone by name, but stopped to chat with the janitor(now called a sanitation engineer).  I asked him why he took special time for that man and he said to me, "because I used to be a janitor, they know everything, and are the heart of the operation, treat them well and you can't fail." No truer words were ever spoken. We tend to get caught up in titles and hierarchy, especially in Higher Ed., the titles I choose to focus on are names.

5. Hire well. Sounds like a repeat, huh? Nope. Ask good questions during the interview process and observe behaviors that aren't direct, like how people treat support staff, servers in restaurants, etc. and how difficult they make it to schedule time with them. Some of my favorite interview questions that I've asked or have been asked of me: What does philanthropy mean to you? What kind of work fulfills you? Tell me the last book you read. When was the last time you made a mistake? Tell me about a time when you were a doer and a time when you were a thinker or observer. What has been your greatest learning experience on the job? I have plenty more, email me if you want a list.

6. If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit next to me. Just kidding, this is a quote from Steel Magnolias. But the thing I struggle with daily is learning to be more stoic (otherwise known as a poker face) and more quiet in meetings. This will be a lifelong struggle for me but I am getting much better. Doodling helps... No, seriously. But sometimes you can't help but be quiet because its best to not open your mouth. For those of you that have mastered this, let's hang out in silence together.

7. Finally, understand that with people comes that unique characteristic of humanness. We're not perfect, but we sure are interesting. Not everyone was made to be friends, but we can all try to work together in harmony,  and if you can't seem to make it work, look at yourself first and then ask someone you respect to help you. Some personalities are just not a good mix, no matter how hard you try. So you may have to bless and release some things.

I hope some of these rung true for you. I encourage you to share your tips, questions, and thoughts below. Happy New Year to you all, 2013 is going to be fabulous, I just know it... Pie chart and spreadsheet to follow to prove I'm right... :)