Friday, January 27, 2017

Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Part 1 of 2)

We’ve all been there before in our professional lives – starting over, often when we least expect it. Whether your position ends of your own accord or not, leaving a position and starting fresh can be a tumultuous ride of emotions and stress. Over the decade and a half of my career, I have started over several times, becoming well-tuned to the art of job searching, networking, interviewing and generally landing on my feet. While most of my changes and physical moves have been in order to allow my spouse the opportunity to accept an elevated position in his chosen career, I have also been subject to downsizing, thus spinning my world on its axis. So whether you decide to make a change, or your organization makes that decision for you, there are things you need to keep in mind. I’d like to share a few of the most important lessons I have learned over the years, whether through self-discovery, or from my peers and friends who I turned to in my time of need.  
Own It.
There’s not a person on the world who will fight for you as hard as you do. You must become the driver in your journey. There is a time for shock, anger, fear, bitterness – but soon after departing an organization, you must put those feeling aside (divert/distract/bury as needed) and as my mother said to me growing up “it’s time to put on your big girl panties”. When you are job hunting, the most fruitful attributes you can demonstrate are being proactive, flexible, and fiercely driven. You have to own the reality of your situation and become resolute in the face of negativity. I know, easier said than done, but only you can create the change you want. And that takes hard work and focus.
Use Them.
Whether you are 25 and new to the industry, or you have been around for 25 years, you should always be actively building your network. In an industry that is growing, changing and evolving as much as Donor Relations, you should never become complacent in making connections, brainstorming/sharing ideas with peers, being active in your professional organizations, and generally building relationships. Because you will need them one day. And they may need you. The first people I called after I had been downsized where the people in my village – those who were my friends, who were well-connected, and could help me get back up on my feet and support me along the way. You need to think of your network as your safety net – the stronger the net, the more successful you will be. LinkedIn, professional organizations, listservs, monthly coffees- they aren’t busy work, they are career builders. In all of my moves, it wasn’t the head hunter who found me the job, it was someone in my village when I asked for help.
Build It.
Scrambling to update your resume, assemble a portfolio, and build a professional presence will inevitably add stress, anxiety and heighten the chance of mistakes in the critical days/weeks following an organizational departure. Once you start reaching out to your network and making inquiries, you need to be prepared to instantly provide your perfected resume and a glowing set of samples if needed. Don’t wait. Build those things as you go. I know we already feel desperate for more hours in the day, and it’s hard to stop and complete activities for “what if” situations, but carving out a couple hours every 6 months while you have a clear mind will help you be prepared for the unexpected at all times. Have a peer review your resume, add key project samples to your (preferably virtual) portfolio, contribute to an article, write a professional blog, serve on a professional committee, keep your LinkedIn profile current and active…they will save you precious time in your job search process as well as increase your own self-confidence during a taxing time in your life.
Work It.
Get out and work it from every angle you can. Use your aforementioned network, contact a head hunter, attend professional networking events, take classes to fill your experience gaps, and most importantly, push yourself to the point of discomfort. Just because you are looking for a new position and the need to have a job for financial reasons can start to drive decision making, this is not a time to fall back on what you know in your comfort zone. It’s a time for growth, reevaluation of priorities, flexibility, and strategy. Stay focused on your end goal, execute your strategy, and work it until there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is always light, some tunnels may just be longer, windier, or scarier than we anticipate.
Stay tuned next week for Part Two of this blog topic – 30/60/90 Does & Don’ts.
Thank you to Sarah Sims, DRG Group member and Executive Director of Donor Relations at the University of Florida for this amazing blog.

What are your thoughts??

Friday, January 20, 2017

Donors Give to See Change- Why are we so Change Averse?

A clear 80 percent of donors give because they want to make a difference. They want to help the people you serve, they want to see a change in your organization for the better. So if donors want change, why are nonprofits so adamant about staying in the exact same place and doing the exact same thing all the time?

I'm not just talking about systems here, I'm talking about changing our mindsets too. Here are just some of the thing about our industry that continue to confound me:

The lack of attention paid to donor retention
The utter resistance to new technologies
Placing the organization first in communications, not the donor
The utter slaughter of new ideas because we make decisions by committee or "task force"
Valuing structure and harmony over creativity and innovation
Allowing personalities and personal preferences to override common sense
Focusing on tasks not strategy

There are many more I could add to my list. But these stand out to me today. I wonder aloud all of the time, and nonprofits who are not change and risk adverse succeed. But we always fall back in to our comfortable old ways, forgetting that what inspires us in the first place is one giving soul that wants to make a difference. We lose our focus, forget that this is about inspiring generosity, not just getting our work done. We forget that the donor is ALWAYS at the center of what we do and without them we would be extinct.

There are hundreds of reasons why NOT to change, but there consistently remains one good reason for change, it's the right thing to do. Change or face extinction. We need to start at the beginning, fostering risk taking behavior in our organizations and making our culture a safe place for something different. We have to hire differently too. Diversity in hiring doesn't just mean race or religion, it also means diversity of thought. Hire curious people. Make it easy for them to ask questions. Celebrate the odd idea, don't mock it! Examine other organizations that don't change and look at their lack of progress.  Push your team out of their offices, send them to professional development, even when budgets are tight. Then look at the trailblazers, enable and empower them to help shift your culture. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

How are you embracing change on behalf of your donors? What are you doing to overcome the same old same old? Tell me about your victories, small or large.... Remember your donors deserve it!


Friday, January 13, 2017

Where Scholarships and Stewardship Collide

 Enjoy this guest post from my friend and colleague Brooke Grimes at Academic Works:

Last year, we spent a lot of time bridging the gap between financial aid and donor relations to improve communication throughout the scholarship process. In order to help these two groups work in harmony, it was important for everyone involved in the scholarship process to understand who was involved at each step and who the real “owner” was for each step. As we talked to universities completing this process, we received a number of questions about how other colleges and universities operate.

Another popular inquiry pertained to creating a centralized scholarship office on campus. The sole purpose of this office would be to assist in executing the scholarship process and ensuring that scholarship dollars are fully utilized. Clients questioned whether it was worth having an entire office dedicated to this purpose.

So, we sent out a survey asking hundreds of scholarship professionals what their process looks like! Here is a sneak peek of just a few of the hundreds of statistics provided in the results.

·       91% of colleges have more than one department involved in advertising scholarship opportunities to students.
·       51% of schools place financial aid in charge of notifying students of scholarship awards and then pass this information to donor relations to collect thank-you letters. In most cases, donor relations will complete the remainder of the donor stewardship process.
·       43% of colleges and universities have a centralized scholarship office.
The complete results of this survey are on our website so anyone who wishes has the opportunity to check out what others are doing. The results from this survey are beneficial for all types of colleges with varying levels of complexity, regardless of what the scholarship process looks like or what technology is being implemented.

As we sifted through the survey results, we found some key takeaways based on survey data and additional insights provided by survey respondents.

Develop an understanding of the process and who plays a role in each part. It is a great idea to meet with key stakeholders from various campus units to map out who plays a part in awarding scholarships and to outline their tasks and responsibilities.

Openly communicate to everyone on campus. With so many people involved in scholarship management, it is important to maintain an open line of communication. This means communicating about the scholarship process itself, but also providing frequent updates throughout the scholarship cycle.

Improve the use of newer technologies. Survey results showed that those campuses with a scholarship team or task force only meet a few times a year. The implementation of functional technology plays a large role in keeping everyone informed between those meetings.

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful start to 2017. Cheers to new and exciting challenges in the coming year. You can keep up with all my content by subscribing to our blog and checking out the resources section of our website

Cheers and thanks to Brooke!


Friday, January 6, 2017

How being a fundraising professional set me up for dating

This is a wonderful guest post by this month's webinar presenter, Mary Solomons, a DRG Group member- Enjoy!

A year ago I found myself suddenly single.  As I dipped my toe back in the dating pool after a 25-year absence I discovered something:  my development background made me better equipped to date.

What do we do as donor relations or gift officers?  We ask people to talk about themselves.  Tell me about your favorite campus memory?  What made your hospital stay memorable?  I would ask my dates to talk about themselves, I’d use their name, and I’d remember facts from their online dating profile (this is 2016 after all!) and ask related questions.  I found I gave very good first date!

One man I met had a passion for antique cars and brewed his own wine.  For our second date I took him to the local auto museum followed by a wine tasting—he pronounced it one of the best dates he’d ever had.  To me this was a no brainer:  I planned a day that was all about him and what he liked.  How was this any different than planning a campus visit for a donor?  Too bad he turned out to be utterly boring; we never made it to date three.

Can you answer these questions about your top donors?
·       Three adjectives to describe the donor.
·       What is their passion?
·       How do they spend their free time?
·       What is their pet peeve?
·       What else in the community do they support?
·       Where do they travel? ​
·       What is their fondest memory of your organization? ​
·       Who is their favorite person at your organization? ​ Least?
It goes without saying that this information needs to be saved on your database.

I could draw more corollaries between dating and development work. Let’s start by no rushing things—this isn’t speed dating

For a lasting connection, it’s probably best not to go all the way on the first date.  How many prospect visits have been soured by a gift officer making a big ask on the first visit, before getting to know a donor and what makes them tick?  A date isn’t a meal ticket, and neither is your donor.  Ask them for advice, to become involved, and treat them as if they’re special because they are.  I promise you, it will be the start of a beautiful relationship!

Thanks so much to Mary for starting our new year off right! Have you found any correlatives between the two? Let's hear about them!