Category Archives: volunteers

Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?


boardroles1Most non-profit organizations have a very clear understanding of what they need from their board members, but there is a better question that needs to be asked. “Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?” This week and part of next week, we are focusing on board development questions at DonorDreams blog. Our next three posts look at a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit technology research firm Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The first key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“Personal fulfillment is the most commonly cited benefit of serving on a board of directors (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-benefits

Some of you might be wondering why these results matter. Simply stated, your board members need to get what they want out of their volunteer experience. If they don’t, then they won’t likely hang around your boardroom for very long.

Personal fulfillment

While most people will tell you they understand this concept, the reality is many of us struggle with this for the duration of our life on this planet.

Achieving a sense of personal fulfillment is a complicated success equation and is different for each us. The following factors are just a few things connected with this idea:

  • setting and achieving personal and professional goals
  • establishing a connection to something greater than yourself (e.g. community, God, volunteer board, etc)
  • experiencing failure
  • venturing into the unknown
  • being recognized and appreciated

oprahI think Oprah wrapped all of this up best when she said:

“Real success means creating a life of meaning through service that fulfills your reason for being here.” 

The reality is that many people have agreed to join your non-profit board of directors because they think it will add meaning to their lives. When you stop to think about this, it is mind-blowing at first and then it quickly turns into a daunting challenge.

Hopefully, this survey finding has you thinking about how your organization approaches board development and governance.

The following are just a few suggestions you might want to consider.

Be thoughtful on the front end

We’ve all been there . . . you have a few (or many) vacancies on your board, and you need to get them filled quickly. You ask for suggestions from the board. You set-up appointments with prospects. You put on your best smile and charm those people into saying ‘YES’ before they know what hit them.

Well, you got what you wanted. But will they get what they want? Have they even had an opportunity to think through what they want?

fulfillmentStructure your board development process in a manner that allows the following to occur:

  1. They get a chance to learn what you are all about
  2. They learn exactly what’s being asked of them
  3. You get a chance to learn what they are all about
  4. You have time to figure out what experiences will give them a sense of fulfillment

The reality is these objectives cannot be accomplished in one meeting. Consider including the following in your board development process:

  • a tour of your programs and facilities
  • a written volunteer position description
  • time with other board volunteers (e.g. invitation to committee meetings and/or board meetings and meet-n-greets)
  • sharing key governance documents (e.g. strategic plan, financial audit, resource development plan, budget, conflict of interest policy, commitment pledge, etc)
  • Q&A opportunities

You’re asking an individual to join your non-profit family. You might consider doing this in a mindful manner.

Speaking of family . . . you might want to find a way to include your board prospect’s spouse and family in your board development process.

Recruitment and on-boarding future board prospects in this manner might help you make their board experience more fulfilling, which will increase the likelihood of keeping them around for a little while.

Why is ‘keeping them around‘ important?

Simply stated, “turnover” — regardless of whether it is staff turnover, donor turnover or volunteer turnover — is a damaging and expensive prospect. Looking at it through a relationship lens, how many donors and prospects do your board volunteers bring to the table? And how are those relationships damaged when a board member walks away from your organization unfulfilled and potentially frustrated with their experience.

Be thoughtful on the back-end

partnershipI cannot tell you how many boards I’ve worked with on board development and governance projects push back on the idea of year-end board member evaluations.

I suspect the push back centers on the word “evaluation“. So, my advice is stop calling it that. I just sat through a wonderful board development presentation last week and the organization simply calls their board evaluations the “year-end sit-down” during which time the following questions are explored:

  • How did the individual board volunteer contribute in the last year? (Note: this is all about thanking them profusely for those contributions)
  • How did those contributions help the organization? (Note: this is all about showing them how their contributions support the bigger picture)
  • How did those contributions align with board member roles/responsibilities expectations? (Note: this is all about acknowledging that you see them doing what they said they’d do when they first signed up)
  • Were those contributions rewarding (aka fulfilling) to the board volunteer? (Note: This is about you listening and partnering with them on mindfully finding a sense of fulfillment and happiness in life)
  • Where does the board member see him/herself contributing in the upcoming year? (Note: This is all about you meeting them where they are at and aligning the organizations needs to what they can contribute rather than vice versa)

These year-end conversations are a firewall for you. They provide an opportunity to thoughtfully check-in on whether or not the board member’s needs are being met. And if they aren’t, then you have time to make adjustments.

If you want to get a peek at what the next few blog posts will be about, you are welcome to check out SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

Does your non-profit organization have a well-defined board development process? If so, please use the comment box below to share.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

What can your non-profit learn from Southwest Airlines?


A few weeks ago, I signed a contract to do a little work with an organization on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I must admit that it was nice to get out of the Chicago winter, even if it was only for a few days. On my way home, I found myself waiting for a delayed airplane at a Southwest Airlines gate at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. As time elapsed and the plane became increasingly more late, people understandably became more agitated and upset. It was in this moment I saw a Southwest Airlines gate agent (I think his name was Aaron) demonstrate the type of leadership that every non-profit executive director and fundraising professional could learn from.

Let me attempt to tell this story pictorially.

southwest restless gate

In the picture above, you see that no one was particularly happy. No one is smiling. There are some arms crossed. In fact, every time the gate agent used the PA system to announce a new piece of information, there were audible groans and grousing from weary travelers. It wasn’t a pretty scene.

Then something happened as you can see in the pictures below . . .

southwest line daning

Uh-huh . . . your eyes aren’t deceiving you. You see people in the picture above line dancing.

southwest dancing

Yep . . . this last picture is the gate agent dancing with one of those delayed travelers. What you can’t hear is a fellow passenger playing music on his accordion.

So, what happened?

Simply put, the gate agent realized that people were unhappy, and he stepped into the leadership void and filled it. However, what was most impressive was that he didn’t have many resources at his disposal. Over the course of more than an hour, the gate agent facilitated the following activities with people in the gate:

  • charades contest
  • trivia game
  • line dancing
  • talent show (e.g. an accordion player, magician, and a 7-year-old girl performing her dance competition routine)

When the delayed aircraft pulled up the gate, no one noticed because they were too busy having fun. There wasn’t a frown to be found anywhere.

Mission accomplished!  🙂

So, what happened here that your non-profit organization can learn from?

Well, scroll back up to the first picture of angry people being told that their flight was delayed. Now pretend that those aren’t angry travelers, and they are instead angry donors and key community stakeholders.

The reality is this can happen to the best of us. Our organizations make decisions that make people upset. Sometimes management decisions simply don’t work out. Other times external circumstances lead us down roads fraught with crisis.

When this happens, people get angry. More oftentimes than not, you aren’t in a position to wave a magic wand and fix the situation, but you better do something to keep things from getting worse. (Very similar to the Southwest Airlines gate agent’s situation, right?)

Here are a few tips when your organization finds itself in similar circumstances:

  • Take responsibility
  • Don’t make excuses (even though you want to explain what is happening and why it is occurring)
  • Empathize with those who aren’t happy (we’ve all been there)
  • Do whatever you can to make people happy even if you can’t fix the problem (ask those who are upset if there is anything you can do to make the situation better)
  • Coordinate your response (especially when dealing with a crisis, only have one spokesperson dealing with restless people)
  • Know your resources and use them!

This last bullet point sounds simple, but it is hard to do when you’re in the middle of a challenging situation. However, the reality is that most non-profit organizations have many more resources than the Southwest Airlines gate agent I’ve highlighted in this post.

The following are just a few examples of resources at most non-profit’s fingertips:

  • talented staff
  • board volunteers
  • clients
  • donors
  • community supporters (e.g. program volunteers)
  • collaborative partners (e.g. other non-profit partners)
  • technology
  • budgets (albeit probably stretched thin)
  • facilities (albeit not every non-profit is endowed with physical space)

This short list of resources is like a list of food ingredients for a chef. Surely, some spontaneous recipe can be cooked up?

The reality is that whatever mess you find yourself in, you don’t have to be in it alone.

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. No one is in this alone. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Are you turning your donors into volunteers?


I’m on the run today and don’t have a ton of time to write the blog post that I’ve been formulating in my head about what your non-profit organization can learn from Southwest Airlines. I will try to get that post written for next Tuesday. Today, I am re-posting an article that my friends at VolunteerHub asked me to write for their blog last week. On Thursday, I’m rolling with a video from Henry Freeman in a new monthly guest vlog series I’m calling “Hangin’ with Henry”. Enjoy!  ~Erik

==================================================

Expanding Your Volunteer Base by Engaging Donors

volunteers2If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times – “Time is money!”

Perhaps, this is why many nonprofit organizations are squeamish about asking their donors to also consider helping with volunteer opportunities. Ironically, this reluctance might be shortsighted as well as a missed opportunity to improve donor loyalty rates.

In 2009, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund published a study on volunteerism and charitable giving. While there were many findings, the following data point makes the case for asking donors if they would like to get more involved:

“Two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) agree that “true philanthropy” includes the giving of both time and money.”

Still not convinced? Then look no further than the donor data in Penelope Burk’s iconic book “Donor Centered Fundraising.” One of her many discoveries was:

“The question that should really matter to the fundraising industry is “Why do you stop giving?” . . . When we asked our study donors that question, we found that 46% would stop giving to a not for profit they once supported for reasons that are tied to insufficient or poor quality information concerning their gifts at work.”

Asking your donors to consider giving their time in addition to their money will likely:

  • Improve donor loyalty numbers
  • Increase lifetime giving
  • Support your organization’s upgrade strategy

The following are a few simple ideas you might find helpful in getting donors to consider giving their time – in addition to their money.

Create a Diversity of Volunteer Opportunities

volunteers1Not all donors have time to volunteer on the frontline, working with your clients every Tuesday and Thursday. The reality is that donors are like snowflakes and each one is a little different.

Creating a menu of volunteer opportunities with various levels of time commitments will increase the likelihood of donors being able to fit volunteerism into their complicated calendars.

Additionally, volunteer opportunities shouldn’t all have a programmatic focus. Use your organization’s standing committees (e.g. finance, resource development, board development, etc.) as well as fundraising campaigns and events to find volunteer opportunities.

Finally, make sure to include one-time volunteer opportunities in addition to recurring volunteer jobs.

Align Charitable Giving Interests with Volunteer Opportunities

While many donors are engaged in a transactional fundraising relationship with you (e.g. direct mail, special events, annual campaign pledge drive), you likely have some donors who make restricted contributions to very specific programs.

When you know a donor is giving for a particular reason or specific program, identify volunteer opportunities in those areas for their consideration.

A few weeks ago, I solicited a husband andgardening volunteers wife for their financial support of a community gardening program. At the same time, I asked one of them to volunteer their time by working with kids in the garden. This alignment not only made the solicitation meeting feel very comfortable and natural, but it also escalated their giving significantly.

Remain Humble & Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Good fundraising professionals have learned that it is their job to ask; it is the donor’s job to consider the request and say yes or no.

The reality is that busy people are the ones in our world who get things done. Essentially, it is the reason they are busy in the first place. Don’t assume that you know where and when someone else might want to volunteer his or her time. Ask your donors and maintain a positive tone. You might just be surprised by how many donors say yes to volunteerism.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

What is your non-profit organization’s superpower?


superhero1When I was a child, I loved watching cartoons. I was especially a fan of cartoons that featured superheros such as Spiderman, Superman, Batman, etc. I oftentimes found myself daydreaming about having a superpower and what kind of good things I could accomplish with such a power. Yesterday, I went to lunch with an old friend, which got me thinking again about the concept of superpowers and how that idea might apply to your non-profit organization.

So, there I was enjoying a wonderful lunch with someone who used to do lots of volunteering for the annual Duck Race fundraising event my former non-profit employer used to run. While it has been 10 years since I worked for that organization and they abandon the duck race approximately five years ago, I’ve maintained a strong relationship with this individual. We’ve been through good times and bad times together.

At some point in the middle of lunch, he pulled out a folder of information and dropped the hammer. He now sits on the board of directors for my former employer, and he agreed to be the chairperson for this year’s annual campaign. He asked if I would consider volunteering and working a few pledge cards.

My first thought was . . . “Uh-oh! I can’t say no to my friend. We’ve been there for each other and that is something for which I am grateful and value.”

My second thought was . . . “Damn, he’s good! He’s obviously been a good listener throughout the years because he was making the perfect ask. I really can’t say NO.”

My third thought was . . . “There is something here that needs to be blogged about.”   🙂

As I sat at my desk this morning thinking through how to tell this story, it dawned on me that “The Power of Relationships” is really every non-profit organization’s “superpower.

superhero2Of course, the real question is whether or not you’ve learned how to unlock and use your superpower? If you are interested in exploring this question, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • When looking for volunteers to do something, do you find yourself asking for someone to volunteer in a group setting like a board or committee meeting?
  • When facilitating a prospect assignment exercise for your annual campaign (or any number of other fundraising activities), do you let people pick their own pledge card?
  • When brainstorming prospective new board members, do you ask your board development committee (or your board members) to identify people who they know who might be interested?

If you’ve answered YES to any of these questions, then you might still be struggling to unlock your organization’s superpower.

Volunteer recruitment

The first bullet point speaks to how you recruit people to serve as committee chairs, event volunteers and annual campaign workers.

If you simply ask for a volunteer from a group, there is no guarantee the “right person” is going to put their hand in the air. The truth is that the person who steps forward might not possess the right skills to get the job done. Moreover, they may not have the right relationships with others who they will need to call upon to ensure success.

If you want to unlock your superpower talent, then focus on:

  • identifying the necessary skill sets necessary for success
  • identifying the type of relationships your leader/chairperson needs to possess for success (also look at their social network for relationships they may have with specific people)
  • developing written job descriptions for every volunteer opportunity and using this tool in the recruitment process
  • investing time in developing a prospect list for each volunteer position you need to recruit

Prospect assignment

The second bullet point speaks to how you assign donor prospects to volunteer solicitors.

If you simply spread pledge cards out on a table and ask people to choose whomever they wish, then you are leaving much to chance. Additionally, you can’t guarantee that the person with the “right relationship” will get the assignment.

If you want to appropriately use your superpower talent, then consider:

  • distributing a list of donor prospects to your volunteer solicitors in advance of your kickoff meeting
  • ask each solicitor to identify twice as many prospects who they’d feel comfortable asking for a pledge/contribution (e.g. if everyone is being asked to solicit five prospects, then ask them to identify 10 prospects with whom they have relationships)
  • review everyone’s submissions and assign prospects based on your knowledge of who has the best relationships with your donor prospects
  • come to the kickoff meeting with solicitation materials and packets ready to distribute to specific volunteers

Board recruitment

The final bullet point speaks to how you strategically put the right people with the right skill sets and relationships around your boardroom table.

Simply asking for suggestions is akin to asking for warm bodies, which is not what you need more of in your boardroom.

Those who invest time in completing a “gap assessment” and developing prospect lists based on those gaps are significantly more effective in growing their organizational capacity. I especially like it when the gap assessment takes into consideration your board’s ability to access specific social circles in your community.

Have you figured out how to tap into “The Power of Relationships?” If so, please share an example in the comment box below. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Strategies for turning your volunteers into donors


On Tuesday, I completed my three-part blog series on “Non-Profit New Year’s Resolutions” with a post about volunteerism. Coincidentally, later that morning I opened an email from my friends at VolunteerHub containing a guest blog attachment about a study they recently completed about volunteerism. The two posts were not coordinated, but I suspect this is the blogosphere gods telling us that 2015 better be “The Year of the Volunteer” at your organization. I hope you enjoy the following guest post from VolunteerHub’s Corbit Harrison.

Here’s to your health!
~Erik

Study: Best Practices for Converting Volunteers to Donors

By Corbit Harrison
Chief Operating Officer at VolunteerHub

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to increase donations?

If so, then it would be a great idea to target your volunteer base. Volunteers are among the “warmest leads” for donors and most familiar with your organization. In fact, the recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America study reports: “Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly eight in 10 (79.2 percent) volunteers donated to charity, compared to four in 10 (40.4 percent) of non-volunteers.”

So, here’s the big question: how does a nonprofit convert volunteers into donors?

VolunteerHub recently surveyed 200 nonprofits on their best practices for donor management. The results show that many nonprofits are still struggling to tap into the true potential of monetary donations made by volunteers.

volunteers2

Below we share some of the challenges — as well as some remedies — that your organization may want to consider for its own strategic planning purposes.

Challenge: Tracking donor management is time-intensive

There’s a laundry list of reasons why, but the end result is the same: many nonprofits are behind the curve when it comes to implementing new technology. So, perhaps not surprisingly, one in three nonprofits responding to our survey are still manually entering data into spreadsheets in order to document donor information. Another 15 percent use a system of their own creation.

Solution: Implement a dedicated CRM

Approximately 50 percent of respondents utilize a constituent relationship management (CRM) system for tracking purposes.

Of those using a CRM, a name that comes up often is Blackbaud’s The Raiser’s Edge. It is the most widely-used CRM among those surveyed (51 percent of this subset). Additionally, once a system is in place, users tend to stay with it; seventy-two percent of respondents have remained with the same electronic donor tracking software for two years or more.

volunteers3

Challenge: Donor management processes are clunky, and data is scattered

Eight in ten of those nonprofits responding to our survey report that their donor management practices leave room for improvement. Manual data entry and validation issues head up the list at 40 percent, with close to another 20 percent identifying the isolation of volunteer and donor data sets as problematic. Other issues cited include ineffectual donation tracking and spotty donor engagement.

Take a look at what some of your nonprofit colleagues shared: “We have multiple pieces of information in multiple places… hard to have transparency around contact information as it relates to volunteers [and] donors.” Another writes, “The biggest headache pertaining to donor tracking and engagement is that it is outdated and inefficient.” Still more comment that tracking volunteer to donor conversion metrics and/or keeping contact information up-to-date present problems.

Solution: Get volunteer management and donor software to “talk” to each other

Best-in-class volunteer management systems and donor management applications are designed to keep their respective data all in one place and integrate with one another. This combines data from both volunteer and donor groups for much more efficient marketing and fundraising efforts. Synchronization between the two systems offers a 360-degree view of your constituents, by-passing the need for time-consuming manual data imports or exports.

VolunteerHub’s integration with The Raiser’s Edge, among Blackbaud’s other CRM solutions, is the perfect example of how integration can build new synergies.

Download the Donor Management Study

Ready to make 2015 the year of converting volunteers to donors? Download our study of over 200 nonprofits and learn:

  • CRM utilization rates
  • Donor management best practices
  • How to reduce manual data entry
  • How to engage more volunteers and donors
  • Tips for converting volunteers to donors

Click here to download the executive study.

Here’s to making 2015 your best fundraising year yet!

About Corbit Harrison

corbit harrisonCorbit Harrison is VolunteerHub’s Chief Operating Officer and has been actively helping nonprofit organizations engage constituents for over 10 years.

Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions — Focus on volunteerism


new years resolutionsIn my last two blog posts, I talked about a USA Today article from John Waggoner titled “Resolutions you can keep,” which I came across during my New Year’s Eve Napa Valley vacation. I previously mentioned there were three important fundraising concepts in the final two column inches of this article that non-profit organizations should take to heart as they start a new year. Last Tuesday’s blog was about sustainable giving strategies, and last Thursday’s post focused on sacrificial giving and upgrade strategies. Today, I am finishing this three-part series with a post about volunteerism.

So, the third (and final) notable thing that Waggoner said in the final two inches of his newspaper article was:

If you can’t afford to give money, give your time: The most rewarding way to feed the homeless is by hand. And anything you give to charity will probably leave you feeling better than you did on New Year’s Day.”

Some of you may be wondering how volunteer recruitment, retention and management is related to resource development. The simple truth is that volunteers are a “resource” . The following are just a few of the things volunteers will bring to the table for your organization:

  • new ideas
  • access to grant opportunities
  • specialized skills
  • wage replacement costs
  • donor dollars

I once read that a study looking at lifetime giving of traditionally cultivated donors compared to donors who started as volunteers found that those who start off as volunteers gave significantly more over their lifetime. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Volunteers are cultivating themselves better than any of us could do through a site tour, coffee meeting or house party.

volunteersA few days ago, I reviewed a PowerPoint training on a fundraising website that I run for a client. I stumbled across the following startling statistics pertaining to volunteer management:

  • Americans volunteered over 8 Billion hours of service in 2007. Those hours are worth more than $158 Billion (Volunteering in America Study, CNCS)
  • Households that volunteer give 40% more to charity than those that don’t volunteer
  • 80% of volunteers will give financially if asked
  • Fewer than half of the non-profits that rely on volunteers have adopted volunteer management programs

The last bullet point was shocking to me.

If your organization relies on volunteers and doesn’t have a written volunteer recruitment, retention and management plan, then I sincerely hope you take today’s blog post to heart and make it your 2015 New Year’s Resolution to correct this oversight.

Even of your organization isn’t reliant on volunteers, I encourage you to consider doing something in 2015 to change how you approach the idea of volunteerism. Doing so can have a profound impact on your resource development efforts.

The following are a few good links to other resources I think you will find interesting and helpful:

What does your non-profit organization do to attract, retain and manage volunteers? Do you have specific resource development strategies focused on helping volunteers cross that bridge and become a donor? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Other New Year’s Resolutions?

A good friend, who also happens to be the CEO of a non-profit organization, sent me a nice note last week after reading one of the posts in my “Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions” blog series.

In addition to updating me on some of the progress he’s made with donor stewardship (see the chocolate covered strawberries section of the July 24th post titled “How to ‘surprise and delight’ your non-profit donors“), he also shared with me a new non-profit blog he is following that calls itself “Nonprofit With Balls“.

I’m not joking around, and the truth is that this blog’s post titled “Ten resolutions for the nonprofit sector for 2015” is kick-butt! If you are looking for other ideas for New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to click-through and check them out. It is definitely worth the click!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Another lesson learned from a donor about relationship building


On Tuesday of this week, I shared with you a story that a donor had shared with me while walking me down his driveway to my car, and it had to do with a skunk and an incredible moral to the story for all of you workaholic non-profit professionals out there. Today, I am excited to share another short donor story with you about relationship building.

Enjoy!


caricature1Earlier this week, I found myself walking into a title company to interview a donor for a client. As I walked into the office building, I noticed the following things:

  • the employees looked busy
  • there was a sense of purpose in the air
  • there were lots of smiles and people seemed genuinely happy to be doing what they were doing
  • the office was ringed with framed pictures of people drawn in caricature

At first I found the caricature pictures to be out-of-place. I’ve never been in a professional office environment with cartoon pictures everywhere. (By the way, I do mean EVERYWHERE.) However, I quickly realized that these pictures created an atmosphere that permeated the workplace.

When the donor greeted me in his waiting room, I asked: “What’s up with all the caricature pictures? Is it a local hall of fame?

He explained that the pictures were of local real estate professionals who use the services of his title company to close their property deals. He said that he used to make bobble head dolls of his customers, but that practice got a little bit out of hand. So, they started doing caricature pictures instead.

caricature2I walked away from the conversation thinking this was a unique, fun and quirky business practice. I also came to understand that this business practice was a genius idea on so many different levels:

  • it was obviously a form of recognition
  • it was a practice that allowed the company to express gratitude to their clients for choosing their company
  • it created a fun office culture infecting employees with an attitude that couldn’t help but bring a smile to their faces
  • it served as a constant reminder to everyone that these are the people they work for and the reason they are in business

Throughout the entire interview, I had the theme song from the 1980s television sitcom Cheers — “Where Everyone Knows Your Name” — running through my head. LOL

As the donor walked me to the lobby and the front door, I expressed again my love of his framed caricatures. He graciously accepted the compliment and then summed up his business practice with these few words:

“It’s all about relationships.”


Indeed!

Business is all about relationships and so is your non-profit organization’s fundraising program.

As I walked through the parking lot back to my car, I couldn’t peel the smile off my face. I just love it when a donor touches your heart and teaches — or reminds you of — something.

Driving away to my next donor interview, I made a promise to myself. If I ever find myself back to the front line of a non-profit organization as an executive director or fundraising professional, I am going to incorporate this framed caricature idea in some way, shape or form. Here are just a few of the ideas I came up with for framed caricature picture:

  • distinguishing an employee of the month
  • spotlighting successful clients
  • recognizing board volunteers
  • appreciating donors who join a monthly giving program or donor recognition society
  • identifying great program volunteers

Has a donor ever inspired a new business practice at your agency? If so, what was it? Can you think of other creative ideas on how to incorporate caricature pictures into your workplace that we can add to the list above? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.  🙂

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

 

A donor learns a lesson from a skunk


I’ve been doing lots of interviews with donors recently, and gosh do they some of the darndest things.  🙂   I have two donor stories that I just can’t resist sharing this week (today and Thursday) with DonorDreams blog subscribers.

Enjoy!


 

skunkAs I walk down the driveway of an 80-something-year-old donor, he starts sharing a story with me about a skunk that appeared in his very nice and upscale neighborhood.

One morning while walking down the driveway to get the newspaper for his wife, he observed a skunk walking in circles and making its way down the street towards his house. As the skunk got closer and closer, this donor realized it accidentally had gotten its head stuck in a plastic soda cup, and it was circling and weaving around because it was disoriented and couldn’t see where it was going.

Not knowing what to do, this donor called the police department and asked for help.

As you can probably imagine, neighbors came out of their homes to see what was happening. Additionally, people driving by pulled over to investigate what all the commotion was about.

One of the people who had pulled over, asked the donor what was going on. After explaining the situation to her, she simply asked:

“Why hasn’t anyone here just walked up to the skunk and pulled the cup off of its head?”

Of course, no one had wanted to get sprayed by the skunk, and in the case of our 80-something-year-old donor he didn’t move very well anymore.

Sensing that no one was willing or able to do what was necessary, this lady walked up to the distressed animal, grabbed the cup and shook it gently until it came off of the skunk’s head. No one got sprayed, and the skunk ran for cover under the nearest bush.

With nothing left to look at, everyone went along on their merry way.

Problem solved . . . thanks to one lady who had the courage to step up and do what was obvious to everyone.


 

As I approached the end of the driveway with the donor and the skunk story came to an end, I couldn’t help but ask “Is there a moral to the story?

Which of course there was . . . he simply smiled and said:

“Do what you can do!”

As I drove away, I couldn’t help but smile. This donor had just summed up the entire interview that took me an hour or two to complete in a matter of a few minutes. In fact, he summed up so much more including the mantra for your agency’s:

  • resource development program
  • programming
  • volunteer efforts
  • special projects
  • board engagement

As you organization runs around your community talking about needs and the case for support, there will be lots of people who just stand there looking at you like that skunk. They will be paralyzed and unwilling to step up to do what is obviously necessary.

You need to keep in mind that it isn’t your job to convert these people. That is hard work and likely going to be a waste of time. Instead, it is your job to find the few people who are willing to do what is necessary.

Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a donor with a fun story that invoked an epiphany related to your non-profit work? If so, please use the space below and share it with the rest of the world.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

 

Does this story sound like any of your non-profit board volunteers?


Board Disengagement in Four Scenes

Guest Blog Post
By Dani Robbins reprinted with permission from Nonprofit Evolution blog

disengagedI received a call from a old friend (we used to be real close 🙂 ) who served on the board of a very prominent organization. This is the story she told me. I share it with you to both illustrate how easy it is to disengage good board members and how important it is to institute and follow good process.

Scene 1: The Invitation

The call came inviting my friend to serve on a very high profile board. She was a little surprised yet also very excited. She asked about expectations; she asked about commitment; she asked about orientation. She received what she considered to be reasonable answers and was told that a lunch to answer all her questions would be set. She said yes.

The lunch was never set. She was voted on the Board. The orientation was never held. She attended a retreat that set committee goals for the year.

Scene 2:  Year 1, Chairmanship

My friend was asked to serve as a committee chair and began immediately working to build a committee and meet the goals from the retreat. Every suggestion she made was shot down by the executive director. Every recommendation the committee made, with the executive director in the room, was challenged — and sometimes later changed — by the executive director. My friend, who talked to the executive director every time it happened, got to the point that she realized she was spending significant political capital, and consistently alienating the executive director, who had also been a friend, to accomplish something that no one else wanted. She finished her one year term as chair and gave up the role.

She thought the executive director was so happy to have her out of the role that it never occurred to him to ask why. It’s possible the remainder of the executive committee felt the same way; they didn’t ask either.

Scene 3: Year 2, Gamesmanship

My friend continued to attend board meetings, missing only one or two, yet every suggestion she made in the room, usually based on best practices in the field, was challenged by members of the executive committee. The suggestions she offered were later introduced by other committees as their own work.

My friend felt alienated and disillusioned, and while she loved the organization, she didn’t love her experience in governing it.

Scene 4: Year 3, Disengagement

The next retreat was set and a board survey was sent out. She was honest with her concerns and her experience. She shared that she was troubled that the board didn’t have a strategic plan and hadn’t set any goals for the executive director. She shared that it felt like the organization was governed by a select few and the rest of the board were just in the room. She voiced her concerns within the bounds of the survey questions.

The retreat agenda came out; it didn’t reflect any of the issues she raised. My friend described it as a meeting to set strategies for goals that did not exist, or at a minimum had not been communicated.

She continued to attend meetings and participate marginally. A few months before her term expired she sent a note thanking the executive committee for the opportunity and asking to not be considered for a 2nd term.

She may be one of the few board members in the history of this high profile organization, with its high profile board, who declined a second term.

No one asked why.

The Scenes that Didn’t Happen

My friend didn’t share her frustrations outside of her conversations with the executive director when she was a committee chair and inside the boardroom. She did share her suggestions within the boardroom but (possibly inaccurately) felt from the responses she got to her ideas that there would be nothing to gain from sharing her frustrations.

The executive director, with whom she did meet occasionally, never asked her how she was enjoying her term.  There was no conversation about her goals for service and if those goals had been met.

The board chair never called to check-in. Neither did the board development chair.  There was no assessment of her service or to gauge her opinion of board process.

The Lessons for the Rest of Us

Board disengagement happens while good, dedicated, people are focused on other things. It’s rarely intentional, and it is usually quite detrimental. It’s what stands in the way of our boards, and therefore our agencies, fulfilling our missions, which would be more easily accomplished if everyone was on point, on the team and moving the organization forward.

There are a few ways to avoid it.

Talk to your board members –- the ones you serve with or serve! Check in with each of them individually to see how they are enjoying their experience. If they have goals, find out if you are meeting them?  If they’re frustrated, find out if there are things you can do to address their issues? Find out if there are opportunities to improve board process.

Information is information. Ask the questions. Get the answers. Once you have the information you can decide what to do with it. It’s what we do with the information presented to us that separates the good leaders from the great!

Have you served on a board where you felt marginalized and ineffective? What did you do? What would you have told my friend? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please offer your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions: Letting the non-profit sector go to the dogs


Betrys3Approximately 14 years ago, I was a young and eager executive director of a non-profit organization in Elgin, Illinois. While I had already worked in a number of different capacities in the non-profit sector, it was the first time I had held the job of “executive director.” Thinking back to that time in my life is where I pull my inspiration for the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

As a new executive director, everything was new and there were days I found my head spinning, especially when I thought about which metrics and indicators I needed to watch with regard to my agency’s health.

However, I very clearly remember the day when all of that stopped. It happened after a Board Development committee meeting, and one of my board members pulled me aside. He asked me how things were going.

We talked about the organization’s health and how I knew what I thought I knew. It was at that moment he decided to play Oprah and pointed me in the direction of the following two books written by Frederick Reichheld:

Just to give you a small taste of what these two books are all about, here is a short quote from chapter one of “The Loyalty Effect“:

“. . . businesses that concentrate on finding and keeping good customers, productive employees, and supportive investors continue to generate superior results. Loyalty is by no means dead. It remains one of the great engines of business success. In fact, the principles of loyalty — and the business strategy we call loyalty-based management — are alive and well at the heart of every company with an enduring record of high productivity, solid profits, and steady expansion.”

Not to be too dramatic, but that informal book club assignment changed my point of view on all things pertaining to the non-profit sector. After reading those books, my personal non-profit management litmus test usually centered around this simple question:

“What would Betrys do?”

As you’ve probably guessed, Betrys is our 13-year-old Welch Terrier who is featured in all of the pictures you see in this blog post.

This brings me to the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival . . .

With all of the talk about donor loyalty in recent years, I thought dedicating an entire Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme to the broader idea of LOYALTY might be fun.

So, calling all bloggers!  Please write and submit a post this month focused on how non-profit organizations can and should be building loyalty among any of the following stakeholder groups:

  • donors
  • employees
  • volunteers
  • board members
  • social media networks

If you can identify another type of stakeholder group with which you believe a non-profit organization needs to build loyalty, then please feel free to blog about that, too. This is intentionally a broad topic. Feel free to get creative. All I ask is that you include in your blog post strategic or tactical suggestions on how to build loyalty so that our collective readership can walk away from our content with lots of new ideas.

To help get into the spirit, I will dedicate all of the content at DonorDreams blog in May 2014 to the idea of building loyalty.

Betrys1But wait . . . there is more!

If you couldn’t tell from the title of this post, I am a dog lover. Is there anyone or anything in this world that embodies LOYALTY more than dogs?

At the end of the month, there will be difficult decisions made about which submissions get published and which ones end up on the cutting room floor. If you can incorporate some reference to the canine community in your Nonprofit Blog Carnival submission, then you will get bonus points.  🙂

So, I’m sure some of you are wondering what I mean.  

A reference to the canine community could be as simple as working your dog (or someone else’s famous dog like Spuds MacKenzie, Snoopy or Lassie) into your post. It could be more complicated like the time when John Greco centered an entire organizational development blog post titled “Puppy Perspective” around his dogs.

Good luck and regardless of whether or not you get a dog into your post, please have some fun with this month’s carnival!

Betrys2How to submit your work for consideration?

You are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, May 26, 2014:

How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:

  • Your name
  • The URL of your post
  • A two of three sentence summary of your post

We will publish the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 right here at DonorDreams blog.

Go visit April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival

In April, the carnival was hosted by Nancy Schwartz at ” her blog — Getting Attention!”  The theme was “The Work Behind Your Work: Your Methods and Wants for Nonprofit Blog Carnival“. She asked bloggers to consider the following questions:

  • the methods and tools you use to stay focused, productive and happy on the job
  • or the barrier that keeps you from getting there

If you’re interested in reading what some very smart and talented bloggers had to say about this Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme, click here.

Betrys4Miscellaneous details?

Click here to learn more about the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. If you want to view the archives, then you want to click here.

Do you want to become a “Friend of the Carnival” and receive email blasts twice a month with reminders about the Carnival? Click here if you want to receive those reminders.

In a tip of my hat to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival that I hosted last May, I leave you with this Dr. Seuss-inspired quotation to inspire your much anticipated submission:

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go . . .”

I am very much looking forward to see what you decide to do and where you decide to take this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

%d bloggers like this: