Back To School: It’s Not Just For Kids

back to schoolIt’s that time of year again: “Back to School. “ The dog days of summer are over and soon our stores will be filled with Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations. But wait.. the concept of “Back to School” is not just for kids or for those who work at schools, colleges or universities. “Back to School” can be used as a metaphor as a new beginning for your fundraising efforts.

School supplies

Let’s face it, school supply shopping is not fun but getting new supplies can put a smile on your face. So, what are the supplies you need to arm yourself for a successful “school year” ? Need a new pen to write those handwritten donor letters or perhaps your favorite carryon bag needs an upgrade? How about updating the visuals that surround your desk or better yet incorporating some Zen or feng shui into your office?  How about updating the mission pictures you have in your office or even changing your telephone greeting  to share something new about your organization?

What other supplies do you need? Are there new board members who can supply you with a good list of individuals they are willing to engage with you? Or mission staff that can supply you with anecdotal and real stories of impact to share with your donors? How about your CEO supplying you with more of their time to engage in donor relationship building? Make your list of supplies “to purchase”.

Wellness check-ups

Ok, maybe you are not due for a shot but when was the last time you got a check-up or had a maintenance day? Karen Osborne and I were talking recently about how to fit things into our packed schedules like doctor appointments, alterations, or even getting your hair cut.  Karen shared that she schedules “maintenance days” to take care of these necessary tasks that seem to pile up. Perhaps Karen will share this knowledge in an upcoming blog post (hint hint)

So what type of shot do you need? Maybe you need a shot of fun? Put in for some time off before the holidays to help you maintain and recharge. Maybe you need a shot of reality from your donors? Now is the time to ask those questions that help you better understand your donor’s perceptions of your organization and their philanthropic values, attitudes and desired impact on your cause.

Does your overall fundraising program need a check up? What can you do differently to get the results you want?

In Case of Emergency

I just completed emergency cards for both of my kids providing instructions to their schools on what to do in case of an emergency. So how about an emergency plan for your donor work? Emergencies do happen and sometimes right before some big event or on your way to a substantial donor ask. My former colleague always had a folder on her desk for “in case I get hit by a bus.”  She provided essential details for projects she was working on and even basics like her work-based passwords.  Having an emergency plan and a succession plan saves time and energy.

Who do you call in case of an emergency? We all need a support system to get us through those tough times personally and professionally. I am grateful for the wonderful colleagues who have become friends especially during those trying times.

 Training and Education

Fall conferences are around the corner. Yippee! Yes, I really enjoy my fair share of trainings both as a facilitator and attendee. There’s so much out there and more opportunities than ever to stay on top of your professional development. Check out our website: http://www.theosbornegroup.com/corp/workshops-seminars.asp for our fall schedule and stay tuned for our upcoming complimentary webinars and podcasts. What other types of training and education is out there? Perhaps now you can take that yoga or cooking class you always wanted or maybe it’s time to share your expertise with others by teaching as class of your own or facilitating a training session for your fellow colleagues.

“Back to School” doesn’t have to mean the end of summer fun and it’s not just for kids. It’s a time to refocus and try something new. Who knows? Maybe because you tried some new strategies you’ll hit that FY14 goal ahead of time!

Leadership Design

Often, people think leadership equals charisma… great public speaking… being out front… just as we think sales is about speaking and making a great case. But you and I know leadership and sales are about having the right strategic conversations, asking the right questions, “listening to understand, rather than to respond” as the late, great Peter Drucker said. Leaders set clear expectations, model the behavior they seek and measure results, impact and the value of the work.  Leadership design means being an intentional leader/manager. Understanding your strengths, weaknesses and blind spots – those things that tend to trip you up repeatedly. You have to know what type of leader you want to be, design it, work toward it and measure the results.

Only you can know what type of leader your organization needs and you want to become. But here are some things to think about as you design your leadership future.

Your attitude sets the tone.  Early in my management career, I learned a powerful lesson. After a very tough day in the office, I packed up my things and dragged myself to the parking lot. Head down, shoulders rounded, I felt and looked beaten down.  To my right, I heard the click of boots on the pavement. “Karen Osborne,” said a strong female voice, “If that’s how you feel, then there is no hope for the rest of us.”

confidence-words

“T” kept right on walking, but her message hit home. No matter how bad things got, I never left my office again without my shoulders back, my head high and smile on my face. Leadership guru Doug Dickerson agrees. Our attitude affects everyone around us. If we are positive, can-do, empathetic, ethical and humble, if we focus on the right things, so will they.

Own and learn from your errors.  My Dad used to say, “I’ve never been wrong. Oh yeah, except for that one time, but then it turned out that was right.” Hmmm. Not the right message. You need your team to try new things and know you have the team’s back. We all have to learn from our errors. “Fail forward,” as David Bornstein calls the learning that comes from less-than-stellar experiences. Learn from the things that work as well.

To achieve fresh approaches and encourage learning something new every day, it starts with you. Ask yourself, “What did I learn from this mistake?” Share the mistake and the lessons with the team. “Here’s what I tried. Here’s what worked and here’s what didn’t.” “This is what I plan to do differently going forward.” If you can be vulnerable, so can they. And be sure to ask what Terry Jones, author of On Innovation calls the “quiet question” of your team members: “What did you learn?”  (Laura and Neesha recorded a podcast on this very topic:  Brilliant Failure.  Give it a listen.)

Ask questions and listen.  If fact, asking strategic questions, listening carefully, and unpacking meaning with follow-up questions is such a powerful skill, it drives success. Getting good at having strategic conversations should be part of your leadership design. If you’d like a list of strategic management questions to help you lead by design, click here.

Measure results.  Ever leadership design needs a set of clear objectives and the right metrics. Consider sending out an anonymous survey to test your leadership skills. Fill out our questionnaire, “Management & Leadership IQ” to see how you do. If you are going to create leadership by design, you have to start and end with the right information and the right data.

It Takes More Than A Pretty Face at Fundraising Events

Does the adage, “Sex sells.”, ring true for fundraising? Last week, “20/20” featured a segment on Charity Angels,  a Los Angeles-based company that hires good-looking women to “work the room” during nonprofit fundraising events.  According to their website, The Charity Angels have successfully partnered with over 100 non-profits to help raise over $10 million dollars for organizations across the United States.

Charity Angels join a growing group “fundraisers for hire” in which individuals outside of the nonprofit organization are hired to be the face of the organization at events or make phone calls on behalf of the organization. Whether or not these “hired guns” are a growing trend, they CAN NOT take the place of professional fundraising staff especially, those who serve as major gifts and individual giving staff members.

As professional fundraising staff, you live and breathe your organization’s mission, strategic plan and impact . You are skilled at building donor relationships and securing life-long philanthropists for your organization. You are often the first one in the office and the last one to leave because you have “just one more call to make.” You have created and implemented strategies that have provided donors with the unique opportunity to save and transform lives.

It takes more than a pretty face to build lasting donor relationships. “Fundraisers for hire” don’t build a culture of philanthropy and they definitely don’t take the place of your volunteers and leadership in sustaining donor relationships.

During this season of summer fundraisers and planning for fall galas here are 5 tips to keep relationship building at the center of your work.

1) Create an engagement plan for your key guests focused on the experience you want them to  have, who you want them to meet, messages you want them to hear and feel, and the outcomes you want to achieve as a result of their attendance.

2) Have specific roles for your leadership, mission staff, volunteers and “clients” at your event.

3) Prepare leadership, mission staff, volunteers and “clients” for their roles prior to your event including a briefing on key individuals, talking points and pictures so they can identify key individuals and donors.

4) Arrange “mission stations” sprinkled around the event – pictures of the kids in your program, mission staff or “clients” demonstrating some aspect of your programs or have program volunteers answering questions.

5) Develop post event follow up plans for your guests in advance of your event-customize this follow up based upon the guest’s relationship with your organization.

So yes, in some industries sex does sell. But we are not in the business of selling. Our sector is focused on changing and transforming lives. You are more than a pretty face; for many you are THE FACE of your organization and you wear it well!