Thursday, May 31, 2018

New DRG Group Member, Talent Management Services, and Job Description Swap!

Despite its longstanding popularity in the private sector, the concept of talent management is a relatively new trend in the field of development. At its core, talent management is an organization's commitment to recruit, hire, retain, and develop the most talented and superior employees available in the market. And it has become critically important in development as it directly affects our ability to serve our donors. If you’ve opened a CASE Currents lately or been to a conference, then you already know that talent management may very well be one of the fastest growing needs and trends in the industry.

And it’s no surprise why. Our field is notorious for high staff turnover, high rates of burnout, and a rapidly retiring workforce with no pipeline in sight. Not only does this place an enormous administrative burden on the leadership and hiring managers who are constantly working to fill vacancies and hire and train new staff members, but it also disrupts the true purpose of our work – to delight and engage our donors.

Through her research, Penelope Burk found that many donors delay their gift (7%), reduce the amount of their gift (12%), or stopped giving all together (4%) when there is gift officer turnover. While we don’t have similar data for other development professionals, if you’ve done this work for any amount of time you know that the departure of critical support staff not only leaves the office in a lurch, but often leaves our donors feeling the effects. 

And this gap in or loss of donor engagement isn’t the only cost associated with poor talent management. While many frustrated employees do leave their institutions, others simply work less productively and/or bring others down with them when they experience poor management, unfair expectations and evaluations, low team morale, and weak organizational culture.  That means spending time hiring smart, keeping your top talent around, and growing them into the future of your organization truly isn’t just the nice thing to do for your employees – it’s also the smart, dollar-driven and donor-focused thing to do for your organization.

So it is with great pleasure that we announce that Donor Relations Guru Group now has our very own Talent Management specialist, Kathleen Casanova. You can learn more about Kathleen’s background and philosophy here.

As a contributor to our Group, Kathleen will be working with and sharing ideas for talent management programs for organizations and will also be sharing content and providing services around professional development and growth for individuals who want to grow in our field. So keep your eyes peeled for some exciting new offerings this summer and into the fall!

To celebrate Kathleen joining us, we will be hosting our very first job description swap!  

As you know, my website is chock full of free resources for you, and I often host swaps to collect samples of acknowledgments, solicitations, and stewardship reports. One of the most common requests I get is for job descriptions.  We would love to be able to facilitate the sharing of these. Please submit your own job descriptions and the job descriptions of others on your team to share with the thousands of people that read this blog weekly. Simply fill out this form or email them to

This swap is not limited to donor relations - any and all fundraising positions are welcome! We want to create the largest collection of fundraising job descriptions on the web, but we need your help! In the past, we’ve collected over 1,000 documents to share with others - you can't send too many. The deadline is June 30, 2018, but if you have yours already, please send them my way today! Also, please redact any and all identifying information. 

Ten lucky random submissions will receive a free webinar for you and your fundraising team to watch at any time!

I look forward to reading your best work and sharing it with thousands of others- now go ahead and copy and paste off of your shared drive! Thank YOU in advance!
Are you excited about learning more about talent management? Please be sure to share your thoughts and let us know in the comments below what you want to learn more about and see as we build this out. And be sure to connect with Kathleen on LinkedIn where you can see what she’s thinking, reading, and what she’s waxing poetic about in talent management. 


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

5 Creative Ways to Engage Your Board

I hope you enjoy this guest post from my friend and colleague Cristy Racy, the Director of Donor Programs and Engagement at the Oklahoma State University Foundation and host of our upcoming webinar, Volunteer Engagement: Where to Start

Don’t let this be YOU: “The Board is not engaged enough, so let’s have more meetings.”

Do you often struggle with keeping your board engaged? What does engagement really mean? Volunteer engagement can take place in many ways depending on your organization’s goals.

For some, it could be keeping your governing board engaged through frequent insider communications from leadership; for others it could be networking breakfasts or social events to encourage connectivity amongst your volunteers. Engagement could also be involving your board in stewardship activities, such as writing thank you notes or attending donor recognition events with prospective donors.

Meaningful engagement is the key. Volunteers don’t necessarily want to sit on a committee and attend meeting after meeting to hear about everything going on in your organization. They most often are very busy individuals and want to make the most of their time. A volunteer wants to feel valued. However, we aren’t always taking the time to ensure our volunteers’ experience is as meaningful as it could be. As busy professionals we often get bogged down in a routine of hosting quarterly or annual meetings and what needs to be shared with our board members, that we forget about how to best utilize their time.

On top of that, it isn’t always clearly defined who is responsible for engaging the board – is it the CEO’s support staff, leadership team, development staff, or donor relations? The answer is: all of the above. It’s important for all areas of your organization to be involved in engaging volunteers, and it takes good communication and teamwork.

Once you have your goals identified and you’ve communicated your goals clearly to your organization – it’s time to plan engagement opportunities for your volunteers.

Don’t overcomplicate it! Something Lynne Wester speaks about that resonated with me and can be applied here – donors want three things: Access, Information and Experiences. It’s the same with your volunteers. So avoid spending lots of money of lavish gifts, when all they really want is something at your fingertips…as simple as a reserved parking spot on game day!

Here are five creative ways to engage your volunteers:

  • Ask them to mentor students to help them identify career paths and understand real-world needs.
  • Ask them to serve as an advisor for your organization's staff—be a sounding board for an individual employee or department, helping the organization progress and look for ways to improve.
  • Ask them to speak to student groups on campus to share best practices and address specific issues relevant to their industry and expertise.
  • Ask them to engage with their network and spheres of influence to assist with developing plans for prospective donors.
  • Invite them to behind-the-scenes tours of new buildings, intimate meet-the-Dean/Administrator events, and provide customized experiences before or after existing meetings.

Providing meaningful engagement opportunities for your volunteers is just a few steps away! Join us later this month for Volunteer Engagement: Where to Start to learn more about the simple ways to make sure your volunteers are so engaged, they shout it from the rooftops: 


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Your Summer Reading List

It’s almost summer time and you know what that means – lazy days, vacation, and time to spare! Well, maybe not quite that much extra time, but the truth is, the summer months can often be the most productive time of year for fundraising professionals. It can be a time to get caught up, focus on tasks that don’t always get the attention they deserve, and most importantly, to invest time and resources into yourself. Reading is the least expensive and most accessible form of professional development for yourself or your team members. 
(And the most overlooked and procrastinated.)

The DRG team has compiled their favorite titles to help guide and inspire you in forming your own summer reading list. So whether you are an old-school lover of paper books, or don’t go anywhere without your favorites downloaded onto your Kindle, here are a few titles you may enjoy….

Matthew’s Current End Table Stack:

Never Check Email in the Morning by Julie Morgenstern
Julie is an organization wizard, and I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance my own efficiency to help stay on top of everything. This is a great read with so many tips to utilize immediately.

Originals by Adam Grant (also on Lynne and Angie’s lists!)
I LOVE this book, and it has been on my reading list every summer since its debut. Adam captures great stories of entrepreneurial thinking that led to disruptive innovation. It’s an inspiring read for those of us who are inclined to think differently. 

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
I first read this when assigning it for a leadership class I taught years ago. It’s a fascinating study of the commonalities in high levels of success. A terrific read over the summer to help boost my morale before tackling another academic year.

And a new addition to my list that I’m excited to finish:

The Invisible Leader by Zach Mercurio
My friend, Zach, penned this book based on his research into purpose as a motivating force for meaningful engagement in the workplace. I am all about purpose-driven work, and can’t wait to unlock some secrets to discovering greater meaning of my own.

Lynne’s Airplane iPad List:

Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Wonderful book about how businesses set themselves apart with amazing customer service.

The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age by David Callahan
A compelling read about donors using their influence and combining that with their giving for specific agendas. Especially timely given the recent George Mason issues.

Creative Quest by Questlove 
A wonderful read if your creativity is a bit stifled and needs a reboot! 

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle 
Wonderful book for those of you trying to figure out if the atmosphere in your current environment is healthy or broken and what good culture looks like.

Angie’s Nightstand Must-Reads:

The Little Book of Gratitude by Robert A. Emmons, PhD
Creating a life of happiness and wellbeing by giving thanks.

The Cathedral Within by Bill Shore
Transforming your life by giving something back.

Plant Yourself Where You Will Bloom by Jennifer G. Anderson
How to turn what makes you unique into a meaningful and lucrative career.

Sarah’s Pool and Beach Bag Faves:
The New Gold Standard by Joseph Michelli
Leadership principles for creating a legendary customer service experience courtesy of the Ritz Carlton. My VP gave this to me with a handwritten note – it’s the first on my list!

Drive by Daniel Pink
A really interesting look at motivation and what truly drives us at work and at home.

When by Daniel Pink
Exploring how perfect timing in life and your career is actually a science you can master.

Great at Work by Morten Hansen
How top performers do less, work better, and achieve more. I’m all about less is more!

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell 
A classic staple on leadership and team building.

Kathleen’s Top Picks:

Give and Take by Adam Grant
There are givers and takers in the workplace. And those who give get ahead!

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
A great book about customer service and the power of hospitality and creating memorable experiences for your customers. 

59 Minute Ask by Jerold Panas
Fundraising classic and must read for new professionals!

Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
Authors of Difficult Conversations teach you how to take criticism productively and to also ask for it and incorporate it into your everyday life at work. 

Radical Candor:  The Surprising Secrets to Being a Good Boss by Kim Scott
Creating bull-shit free zones where people love their work and working together.

Start with the Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
All about finding your purpose and bringing it into your work.  

If you’re flying, road tripping, beach laying, or generally relaxing this summer, grab one of these titles and dedicate time to your inner compass. Wherever you may go this summer, find yourself through a good book. You’re well worth it.

Stay tuned for more “Must Watch/Read/Listen” lists in the future covering podcasts, blogs, TedX talks, and more!

Looking for a couple of great donor relations reads? Check out one of Lynne's books, The Four Pillars of Donor Relations and T-Rexes vs. Kangaroos.

What else is on your summer reading list? We'd love to hear in the comments below!