Thursday, March 26, 2015

Put your Grain in a Silo, not your Fundraising and Donors

One of the greatest obstacles my clients have to overcome is the behavior and activity surrounding silos. Perhaps instead of the analogy to a silo we should use turrets on a castle. Remember, silos don't just house grain, they're often used for missiles. And that leads to destruction. Housing your fundraising and donors in silos will also lead to destruction.

Siloed behavior seems to happen without regard to the size of the organization. It is true that large fundraising teams who are decentralized can have more occurrences of this poor behavior because of  their nature and structure, but I often see this even in small shops of less than 30 people.

What does siloed behavior look like in fundraising? Let me give you some examples:
  • Alumni offices declaring that they "don't fund raise" and not integrating with annual giving
  • Annual giving and major gifts not collaborating together to share donors
  • Thinking about communicating to donors and saying "we need to add an email to this effort"
  • Bringing in donor relations and stewardship after a major gift is closed, sigh
  • Not involving research professionals in discussions about our constituents
  • Changing a giving reply device without coordinating the impact of the change with gift processing staff
  • Holding onto donor contact information and not recording it in the database or keeping a separate list outside of the database
  • Anytime a staff member says "those are my donors, I would rather you not contact them"
  • Thinking that social media is an afterthought to a communications plan
I could go on for days, but at every turn, behaviors and silos don't benefit anyone. I often speak with donors who don't understand that our organizations are large complex behemoths of bureaucracy and hierarchy, nor should they have to. Some donors are under the impression that I actually know who the bursar is, nonetheless have breakfast with him or her daily. They don't need to know that we're decentralized and our structure and lack of collaboration and seamless communication should never be a burden to them. One of the things I really appreciate about my experience with my alma mater, South Carolina, is that I can go to my person with a question or request about almost anything and rather than passing me off to someone or somewhere else, he finds the information out and helps me. It's seamless and efficient and provides for me a great service that helps me know they care.

This is all well and valid, but how do we break down silos so that our donors and our fundraising don't suffer?
  • Realize and identify that they actually exist in your organization
  • Once identified examine how these affect your donors
  • Seek out leadership that encourage people to collaborate
  • Identify opportunities for collaboration
  • Form cross silo task forces to tackle problems from a variety of viewpoints
  • Reward and incentivize collaborative behavior
  • Take deep breaths and understand that the only one who suffers in silos are the donors, we owe them better
What are the silos that cause the most problems in your organization? How have you helped change the culture around silos?I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hair Dryers in Hotels and Noticing Donor Behavior

By this point you all know that I travel, I travel a ton. One of my least favorite things to deal with in hotels is the hair dryer. Ladies, I know you know what I mean. So when I find a hotel that has a kickin hair dryer, like the Kimpton Canary in Santa Barbara, I rejoice. See, for me, and for our donors it's the detail that matters. Let's take for example a donor's giving behavior. It's not as important for us to focus on the amount of their gift as it is the way in which they gave. What is their behavior telling us?

How do we adapt our methodologies to suit their needs and also make them feel special and unique. Let's examine an example in practice. I recently visited Cook Children's Hospital Foundation, a wonderful bunch of people dedicated to their mission. As we went about affecting change, one of the things we realized was that the reply device envelopes we were placing in annual reports weren't cost effective and a part of our best practices moving forward, we decided to eliminate them. Before we just eliminated them outright, we examined who was using those devices to send in gifts and sent them a note from the VP along with some extra envelopes for them to use and letting them know we appreciate them and value their contributions and the way in which they choose to communicate. They sent back a lovely note and a contribution. What we did is notice what makes them unique. Here's a photo of the communication.