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. 


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!


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.

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.