Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Stop, Drop, and Roll

A Wonderful guest post from Mary Solomons:
We all know that if we ever find ourselves consumed by fire we must “stop, drop, and roll.”  But what if the fire is in our office? What do we do if we can’t keep up?  My new mantra is Drop, Delegate, and Redesign.


The biggest challenge is saying no.  Donor relations professionals are usually people pleasers.  We’re not programmed to say that we’re not willing to take on additional tasks.  How can you talk to your boss about dropping a program or declining a new responsibility?

·       Have a mission statement.  The mission of the Skidmore College Donor Relations office is to enhance lifelong relationships between donors and the College through meaningful, personalized acknowledgement and recognition of our donors that connects them to the results of their philanthropy.  If you don’t have a mission statement, work with your supervisor and colleagues to craft one.  Then look at your department responsibilities. Do they fall within your mission statement?

·       What are the top five priorities for your department?  Again, work with your colleagues to insure that your priorities mesh with institutional goals.  In a CASE Currents Article from 2013, Karen Osborne, president of the Osborne Group, recommends keeping a log for a week of how much time is devoted to initiatives outside of your five priorities.  If you’re devoting excess time to projects that don’t move forward your priorities, it’s time to talk to your boss.

·       If you do have to take on something new, and of course you will, be clear with your boss regarding how much time think it will take, what else is on your plate, and the ramifications of taking on a new project or responsibility.


I’ll be honest, this is the hardest one for me.  Again, a common characteristic among donor relations professionals is a Type A personality and control issues.  But we don’t always have to be the ones doing the work!  I often use the adage with my co-workers, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Teach them how to find the information on your database, train them in the art of acknowledgement writing!  Do you have junior colleagues who want to learn new skills? 

An athletic fundraising golf tournament was taking up an inordinate amount of time, especially the silent auction.  We successfully turned over the sourcing of auction items and day-of-event oversight to the team coaches who directly benefit from the dollars raised. 


This is my favorite way of preventing forest fires in the office.  It goes along with my abhorrence of the WADITW (we’ve always done it that way).  What can you change about your current workload that will generate time and/or cost savings while also providing better donor engagement?

At Skidmore a redesign of our endowed fund reporting resulted in huge time savings.  Previously we wrote a cover letter and included a separate page with the financial and beneficiary information.  It required careful checking of salutations, collating pages, and to be honest, was pretty dull.  Several years ago we developed an 11x17” printed piece chock-full of information about Skidmore’s endowment.  It included blank spaces for the donor’s full name, the name of the fund, and financial and beneficiary information.  Our amazing Advancement Services team wrote a report in Advance that dumped all this information into a template.  The four-color pre-printed shells are run through the copier.  This dramatically reduced the time to get out the endowed fund reports and we heard great feedback from our donors who loved the colorful impact reports.


And, as Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent a forest fire.”  What have you done to prevent office fires from burning out of control?

1 comment:

  1. Great entry by Mary. While the specifics of the post focus on donor relations issues, the concept of "Drop, Delegate and Redesign" is relevant to all advancement professionals and leaders.