Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Not the Usual Post- A Must Read

Hello Everyone.

Today I am reposting a blog by my friend and fellow fundraiser Beth Ann Locke. You should read it, you NEED to read it- The original can be found here : 

I know personally of many incidents of this type of behavior happening in our world, both from coworkers and donors. It is our job not to tolerate this behavior. Beth is amazing for sharing and starting an important discussion. How do we change the culture? Beth and I look forward to your comments and hope this strikes an important chord with you. 

This is not my usual post.
It isn’t so much about fundraising as about my experience while a fundraiser and what has surfaced with the #YesAllWomen campaign that became viral after the recent murder spree in Isla Vista, California.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read JezebelThe Globe and Mail(which touches on the #NotAllMen issue) and a thoughtful piece in the Washington Post.
When I read the tweets and the experiences that were familiar and not unusual, I was moved to share.
TheTweet“This is what you do to me,” he said to me as he pulled my hand toward his crotch.  I was shocked and horrified. This did not feel like a compliment.
I shared my age because sexism is an issue for young and old. I thought by the time I was a 33-year-old professional woman who wouldn’t have to still encounter this type of violence.
I shared where it happened – in my office because it wasn’t the bar/ park/ college dorm/ crowded subway/ party/ concert/ beach /on a date … any place where it might or could be excused. By the way, there IS no place where forcing yourself on a woman is allowed, even the marital bedroom.
I shared this experience because I thought it might surprise many women and men. I’m pretty ordinary. I try to be very professional (some might call me old-fashioned). In fact, writing this in my blog seems a bit of a betrayal – too personal and way outside my professional persona. But these are real things that happen to ordinary people and they are, sadly, un-remarkable.
When I released my tweet, John immediately responded “Whoa…”
Sheena replied, “WTF?” and we had a longer exchange.
Ephraim tweeted, “Please tell me you got his ass fired…” We took our discussion over to direct message on twitter, where we talked more and he shared his own fears for his daughter, who is 14.
Rory said, “It is so brave for you to share that Beth.” I guess it is brave. Because now it is out there as a “thing about Beth” that people can know (in reality, it has been a thing about Beth that a very few people know, and something I can never un-know about myself).
I’m sharing this because it is also part of the story of having several short-tenured jobs. This causes hand-wringing in our profession, by experts such asPenelope Burk or documented as negative in the report Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising). And of course these reasons were not something I would want to share in any part of the job interview process no matter how the issue was cloaked. Although I guess I’m mentioning it now.
I was a single parent at the time and I really couldn’t afford to not be working – even for the luxury of not wanting to work with him.
This is someone I had reported to. In fact I changed reporting between two men (the President and this Vice President) 8 times in two years. The constant change left me feeling unsettled, betrayed and objectified – like a possession to be tussled over. My time there became deeply unhappy, even before the incident.
The “telling” – which was so difficult my whole body and limbs were fitfully shaking, not like sobs but also like nothing I have felt since and I could barely form the words – ended up being not a relief but a new wave of shocks.
The Human Resources department (or at least the woman who handled it) sought to protect the hospital. She arranged a 7 am meeting for all three of us with a lecture about appropriate workplace behavior. She instructed the VP to take three days off without pay. His abrupt and unexpected “vacation” simply raised lots of questions in the office.
And he came back, of course, and I had to work with him (though I now only reported to the President). It was a very rocky patch while I hunted up and down the Atlantic seaboard for a new job. The VP was eventually terminated months later – not for what he did to me, but because he contacted board members privately to complain about the President. He was escorted out late one Friday. I eventually found another job in another state and moved to a new community with my young daughter.
Some of you are reading this experiencing shock; you’ve never heard of such a thing happening.
Some of you are reading this recalling your own stories of betrayal, fear, molestation, unwanted attention, malicious comments or even unwanted sex.
Some of you are reading this thinking, “She obviously made some seriously wrong choices, led him on or was too friendly.” (I’m often accused of being “too friendly”). (Gosh! I described that as an accusation! That takes some more introspection…)
Whether this experience resonates with you or not, here are my take-aways:
  • If the fit isn’t right, even if you are already into the job, GO. Now in my career, I look at the skill fit, but dive into the personality fit. Until you’ve hated every day you turn up at work, you won’t understand the value of a “good workplace.” I acknowledge that is harder when you just starting out or are switching careers. And since that experience, I have been more bold in how I handle “bad fits.” I left a job after 3 months once there was no fit. At another, I sat down with the President and for a difficult conversation, “I cannot work in a nonprofit where I’m not valued. You hired me with full confidence to do the job, but your actions, your temper and your erratic behavior toward the rest of the staff is not something I can work with.” It was scary, but she was shocked and it launched a new phase of our  working relationship. This is something you can do too, to take control of your career (and your sanity).
  • Ask trusted friends and colleagues about open positions and listen carefully. Have they worked or know anyone who has? At the time I didn’t have a big network, being recently transplanted from Seattle, but did sound out one trusted colleague. He said of that team, “They’re pretty young.” I heard “young” and equated energy and boldness (I was all about being bold in my fundraising). What he may have been trying to tell me is: they have not been a team long, they have not managed other people before, be careful.
  • Be precise in your negotiation and get everything in writing before the final commitment. I’m OK at negotiating for myself, but in this case of the new out-of-state job the final negotiation was by phone. But I hadn’t gotten everything we talked about in writing. The salary and job title were correct, but other crucial points I negotiated didn’t happen. (Mika Brzezinski wrote a great book called Knowing Your Value which every woman should read but here is a summary.)
  • You are  a valuable person. Always. I don’t care who is reading this, you are. You deserve respect. Male or female or if you don’t identify with either gender or identify with both.
  • I am very happy in my current position where I am respected, valued and treated as an equal by my teammates and boss. That is what we all deserve.
This post started out about with #YesAllWomen because I want you to know that even an “office” may not feel like a safe place for some.
And yes, I’ve worked with wonderful men, I’ve become friends with wonderful men and I’ve married wonderful men.
But as fundraisers we must continue to strive not only to not harm or act disrespectfully toward men or women but to actively speak up against anything we see, everything we hear. Sitting silent is complicity.
I have enough on my plate fighting for the elimination of poverty and malnutrition, raising money for better education and to empower women and promoting pluralism.
I shouldn’t have to fight for my dignity and safety as well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A New Source for fundraising resources- hidden under your nose!

I love social media, I am an active user of Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I’ve always mocked Pinterest and kind of avoided it. I thought, gee it seems like a place for those scrapbooker types. I’m just not one. I’m female, but not their target demo if I do say so myself. And then last night, I was looking for some new samples of athletic fundraising appeals and using my good friend google and Wham! I was struck in the head by Pinterest. Did you know that there are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to fundraising ideas, donor relations, annual fund  and other things? I found out some of you had even pinned my blog (I’m flattered)! I didn’t know this. Ignorance here in full plain sight. CASE even made an entire Pinterest board of all of its Circle of Excellence award winners! Brilliant!!

Here are some interesting demographics about Pinterest I thought you might find helpful.

Another great social resource out there for y’all is SlideShare. Many of us who speak a great deal have our own page chock full of resources and goodies for you, think of it as Facebook for presentations. Here’s a link to mine, I try to always add good content to it regularly. In addition to presentations, SlideShare also houses videos of presentations and is a wonderful resource if you search on a particular topic. Users can tag presentations with words and this can be helpful to find this on topic. There are over 49,000 presentations on fundraising alone! There are over 30,000 tagged as donor relations. So explore and enjoy!

Finally, you know how much I love FREE. So here are two recent presentations you can watch at no cost, one I gave at AFP International on the Pulse of Donor Relations. 

The second is a webinar on engaging donors through creative communications I did yesterday for Network for Good- I have over 1500 folks join me! 

As always if you have a resource that I can link to or that is particularly helpful to you, please list it in the comments below and I will share with everyone.

Have a great week. 


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Flawed Philosophy of Donor Impact?

A noble donor relations goal: showing donors how their gifts have made an impact. It only makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to know how their gift made a difference? And why wouldn’t we want to share that joyful experience with our donors?

With technological advances, we are able to relay more information to more people more quickly than ever before. Even for annual fund gifts or other unrestricted giving, we can show impact to nearly every donor, if not in a printed report then at least on line.

Showing impact is the highest form of transparency, and transparency is a good thing. The trust it builds strengthens our relationship with our donors, encouraging them to support our organizations further.

So we’re all agreed, showing impact is good.

Here’s my quibble with showing impact – other than the inevitable rise of words like “impactful,” which sounds like a tooth ailment or a GI obstruction. Impact shouldn’t the be-all and end-all of our communications. Despite its obvious benefits, like any popular trend, it can be used at the expense of other considerations. All things in moderation, right?

Here’s an example of what I’m pontificating about.

Our staff recently discussed ways to re-channel the time, energy and resources previously dedicated to our university-wide honor roll. (For context: I’ve made my peace with the honor roll concept, deciding that it’s not all good and not all bad. We will continue to list some, but not all, donors in a variety of places that make sense. But that’s another topic for another blog.)

At its core, the honor roll is supposed to be a thank you. Yes, it recognizes donors, but the reason for recognizing them is to thank them. As The Guru pointed out, honor rolls don’t thank people. They are a static list that doesn’t tell a story or warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.

Moreover, publishing these lists puts us at risk of pitfalls like errors of omission, spelling and joint credit. Undoubtedly, we’ve all heard about security breaches, so for our donors, online listings may be more than something they’re neutral or ambivalent about. It may be something they vehemently do NOT want.

Still, we noted, our donors have had an honor roll for years and years, so if we discontinue it, we want to do something meaningful to replace it. The standard go-to suggestion of an impact piece came up, and our marketing person’s eye began to twitch and jaw began to clinch. The cartoon bubble over her head read, “Good Lord, not one more impact piece to produce…for who knows how many donors and how many funds?!” She seemed to begin taking a mental inventory of testimonials and stories she could re-purpose, to meet the year-end deadline and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Her panic became contagious, and I started hyperventilating a bit, realizing it was the end of April. And then it occurred to me, what’s wrong with just saying thank you every once in a while? Instead of showing impact as the main function of our FY-end message, what if we said thank you as graciously and sincerely as we possibly could?

That notion drew her in from the ledge, and we began to come up with a plan – leveling donors, determining thresholds, choosing who gets a handwritten note, a standard printed piece or an email/video. We would still show impact, just in broad strokes rather than in specific detail. AND, we would do so with a heartfelt message of gratitude. Plenty of other pieces throughout the year show impact. This one is going to radiate gratitude.

The main message will reflect a three-word mantra a fundraising consultant recently shared: praise and thank. This behavioral directive can apply to raising children, being a good spouse or partner, managing employees or even training your dog. Praise for the action, and thank for the thoughtfulness.

The concepts of praise-and-thank and showing impact are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the most effective stewardship message of all would be a combination of praise, thanks AND impact. A strong story about the impact of a gift is 100 times stronger when you connect the dots with praise and thanks: here’s the good thing your gift made possible, AND you are such a wonderful person for enabling this good thing to happen, AND we are grateful to you because of it.

My key point is, if you show impact, don’t forget to show thanks and gratitude in equal measure. And it’s OK to sometimes just say “thank you.” Gratitude should be more than a tagline or afterthought at the end. We donor relations professionals are so adept at saying thank you that sometimes we put standard “thank you so much” language in a piece without stopping to really, truly dig down deep in ourselves and feel the emotion of gratitude. Maybe not Lou Gehrig “luckiest man on the face of this earth” emotional, but more than the Bartles and Jaymes, in  another possibly obscure pop culture baseball reference, “thank you for your support”.

G.K. Chesterson said, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Perhaps our noble goal, then, is to let that wonder and happiness become evident in all our donor communications – with, and sometimes without, impact.

Thank you for reading this blog. You are to be commended for seeking to better yourself personally and professionally! Your gift of time and attention inspired and validated me, making me feel like Sally Field accepting her Oscar for Norma Rae

This blog post is a special guest blog by my friend and mentor Debbie Meyers at the University of Maryland.  I would love to hear your thoughts below!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pledge Fulfillment Rates, Does Your Pledge Reminder Help?

As I searched for samples of amazing pledge reminders for this week’s webinar, I was sorely disappointed with what I found. Many of our pledge reminders treat reminding donors that they still have a commitment to fulfill as routine and mindless as when the cable company sends an overdue notice. What does this say to our donors? It makes the entire effort not to have our relationships be entirely transactional just that, a business transaction. After all of our work to retain donors and realizing that national donor retention hovers around 27%, what is our national pledge fulfillment rate? Do you know how many of your organization’s pledges are written off at the end of every fiscal year?

If you don’t know the answers it may be time to find out. If you haven’t seen your pledge reminder and thought about the way it makes your donors feel about their giving, it is time you had a look. Does it arrive, in the mail in a windowed envelope with a slip of paper that is no more friendly than the water bill? What kind of messaging is enclosed?

Check out some of these examples, do they make you feel like you are “paying a bill” or involved in the philanthropic process? 

I understand that pledge reminders need to be somewhat automated and easy to produce, but why do they have to be so ugly and lacking in impact or gratitude? It goes back to the theory that servers in restaurants are trained to write you a hand written note on the bill, it increases their tips exponentially, what if we applied that theory to pledge reminders? We know they need to convey the information that there is an outstanding payment, but could we include information on what gifts like the pledge were able to do? Could we say thank you? Could we at least have a softer “landing” than, “this is what you owe”?

Donor relations is everywhere and is inextricable from the giving experience. However, donor relations sometimes has little or no input on these documents. We should, we must, we need to. It is imperative that at all times we convey gratitude and impact to our donors, not just that the transaction is incomplete.

What are your thoughts on this? What do your pledge reminders look like, send me a sample to share with others at Also, post your fulfillment rate below!