Connecting with Donors Starts with Connecting with Employees

connectionsConnecting with donors on a personal level builds lasting and productive relationships. In much the same way, connecting with employees results in higher staff productivity and retention.

We want our donors and volunteers to feel valued and appreciated.  Joe Connelly of WSJ said, “Retention is the new acquisition and customer service is the new marketing.” Retention of talent is as important as retention of donors.

Attrition hits the bottom line hard.

But how can we hold onto donors by providing thoughtful retention strategies and outstanding customer service if we first don’t “wow” our staffs?

We can’t expect staff or volunteers to deliver what they have not personally experienced.

Thank you is fundamental.  Genuine, prompt, and specific.  “Thank you for staying late Friday.  I know you had plans with your family.  I appreciate your sacrifice.”

Reporting on impact is critical. “I wanted to circle back.  The project you helped us with three months ago, when you stayed late and pitched in has had an enormous impact on our work.  You made a difference.  Thank you again.”  Personal, timely, authentic and concrete.

Survey your team

How valued and appreciated do they feel?  Do the same with your volunteers and board members.  To what degree do they believe their work is making a difference?

Inspiration is also an important component of donor work.  We are seeking inspired, joyful and generous investments of time, talent, expertise, connections and treasure.  Inspiration is equally important internally. If you are interested in surveying your team, asking the right questions that will uncover valuable data and truths, contact us at mail@theosbornegroup.com

Having a Sense of Purpose Motivates

Employees report that having a sense of purpose is the top motivator for work satisfaction according to author and leader Aaron Hurst.

“Researchers have found that the best ways to ensure that employees feel a sense of purpose boils down to three simple things: They need to have opportunities to grow; to build relationships with employees and others involved in the work; and to create something greater than themselves.”

Too often, we don’t start by inspiring our teams before we ask them to inspire potential donors.  CEOs need a big inspiring vision of the future.  Not an internal vision – “We will be the organization of choice in our market, grow our endowment to x and increase our client base by y.” We are talking about a meaningful, outward vision that will result in fixing a societal ill or creating a major societal shift.  Big ideas bring about big gifts.  They also garner internal dedication.  Connect every staff and volunteer task no matter how mundane to the mission, vision and work. Share the vision at every opportunity.

Make sure that every employee and every board member on an annual basis has a hands-on experience with the people, animals, planet you serve.  For some this is easy and others a challenge especially if your work is primarily overseas.  But hard doesn’t equate to impossible.  Be creative.  Remember, connecting with donors and employees is key to outstanding results.

Meaningful and productive engagement is critical for donors.

Research reports that when engaged, annual fund and major gift donors give 24% to 38% more.  Engagement also works for staff and board members.  Ask for advice and ideas.  Share decision-making through appropriate delegation and empowerment.

Are your staff and board meetings show and tell or are folks engaged in meaningful discussions that matter?  Are you listening?  Seeking and providing feedback?

Connecting with donors starts with connecting with staff and board members.  The payoff will be huge.

by Karen Osborne

Live Spreecast 3/21/14 – A Culture of Philanthropy

Please join Laurel McCombs and Robert Osborne Jr. at 12noon Eastern, 9a Pacific as we discuss building a culture of philanthropy in your organization.  The broadcast will be live and we’ll be able to take your questions through the chat function.  It should be a quick and informative show.  Check it out!

Go here for the broadcast

Creating Board Retreat Opportunities

Spring cleaning, annual physicals, board retreats.  What do these things have in common?  Admit it, your first thought wasn’t completely positive.  On one hand, they can all be viewed as obligatory tasks to be endured once a year.   Some may see them as arduous, tedious, even uncomfortable.

But what if we chose to look at them as opportunities.  bright future aheadOpportunities to evaluate our health, our assets, what’s working well and what’s not – in our homes, our bodies and our organizations.  And, with that assessment we could plan for the future, fix what’s broken, and build upon our successes.

I’ve attended more than 50 board retreats over the years.  I’ve seen good ones, not so good ones, short ones, long ones, retreats focused on training and others built around strategic planning, but most of all I’ve seen missed opportunities.

As you prepare to make this year’s board retreat the best, most productive and inspiring ever, here are a few Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Don’t procrastinate.  This is too important to wait until the last minute and throw something together.  This is an opportunity and you’ll only get out of it what you put into it.  Find a special place to hold the retreat, different from where you hold your regular board meetings.  Put together an ad hoc committee of board members, or use your executive committee, to develop the retreat objectives and provide input on the agenda.
  • Do be intentional and strategic.  Avoid the “we always have it the third week of March” mentality.  Your retreat shouldn’t be an obligation.  If the usual timing doesn’t make sense, change it.  The retreat should be held at the most strategic time possible, when it can have the greatest effect on your organization’s priorities.  Your  board members want to feel like their time is being used as effectively as possible.  By being intentional and strategic you ensure that’s the case.
  • Don’t forget the heart.  It’s critical to be productive during your retreat and part of your strategy should be reminding participants what really brought them there.  Invite a recipient of your services or a program staff to share their firsthand experience of your organization’s impact.  Board members join because of their passion for your mission, but we sometimes forget to keep that passion ignited and your retreat is a great place to do that.
  • Do be brave.  Retreats are an opportunity to address challenges that may be holding your organization or your board back.  Don’t shy away from tough discussions.  If participation in fund development or meeting attendance have been issues, make time at the retreat for the board to discuss how to overcome these challenges as a team.  It can be helpful to bring in an impartial facilitator to ensure these discussions are productive.
  • Don’t make Jack a dull boy.  As in all work and no play… Build in down time where board members have a chance just to talk and get to know each other better.  Your board is a team and that team will function better if they feel like they know and trust one another.  Maybe leave lunch open with no agenda or plan a cocktail hour at the end of the day.
  • Don’t lose momentum.  A critical part of the retreat will be creating concrete, actionable follow-up items for the board as a whole and as individuals.  One of the most common frustrations related to board retreats is around the lack of follow-through.  If you have applied the previous dos and don’ts, your board members will most likely leave your retreat feeling enthusiastic and excited for the future.  But without consistent follow-up and a well-developed plan, that enthusiasm will fade overtime.

We know how important boards are to the success of any organization and a board retreat is a critical tool.  If you would like to hear more on how to make your board retreat effective and strategic, join Laura Goodwin and me for a webinar on February 20th.  There are two time slots available, click here to register for the time that works best for you:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/6060714057057575425

It’s Not Too Late to End the Year Strong

It’s not too late to end the year strong with an increased surge in philanthropic investments. Kevin Daum, author of “Roar! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle,” recommends tips that translate nicely for fundraisers.

“Go Lean and Mean,” is his first recommendation. Focus on the top three goals you can actually achieve in the next month. Frontline fundraiser might consider (1) Closing the gifts of loyal friends, especially those donors from whom you are seeking an upgrade. Call, pop by, email or write a personal note and then follow-up. Start at the top in terms of giving capacity and requested amount. Make it as personal as you are able. Quality matters with these top potential donors. (2) Maybe the next tier down and (3) everyone else who hasn’t been asked receiving a warm invitation to make a difference now!

For non-frontline fundraisers, Daum’s advice still works. “With only a little time left, every minute is valuable, so don’t waste them. Decide on two or three major goals that are important and achievable. Stretching is fine, but make sure the motivation is strong. The rest can be eliminated or go on the schedule for 2014. Then you’ll be mentally free and ready to focus hard and attack these important few goals.”

“Take Stock,” is his second recommendation. I don’t think that works well for December in the fundraising world no matter your position on the team. For example, donor relations professionals are buys getting thank you notes, holiday cards, and impact reports out the door, helping donors feel great about their investments and thinking about making another. Researchers are polishing lists and briefs for fundraisers trying to close, close, close. January, however, is the perfect month for taking stock and adjusting your plan for the remainder of your fiscal year if not on a calendar year or making a new plan for 2014.

“Much of what you anticipated would happen this year probably turned out to be different than you originally thought. Don’t try and execute an aggressive approach based upon information and expectations that are months old. Take a day or two to disconnect from the day-to-day craziness to assess, think and plan the coming months. You might consider a consultant to help you find your weaknesses.” The Osborne Group offers many diagnostic tools and services to help you maximize strategically taking stock.

His next recommendation is also excellent for January. “Add Structure,” – a path to success. You need a plan with clear metrics and accountability. Use January to assess what worked, what didn’t, why, and what shall we do differently going forward.

“Make a Deal,” number four suggestion and I like it a lot. What motives you to excel, to pick up the phone, to get out the door, to exceed your own and your supervisor’s expectations, to make your donors say, “Wow?” Identify that motivator, promise to reward your excellent behavior, and then go do amazing work these last few weeks always keeping in mind it is not too late to end the year strong!

His last recommendation is essential. “Enlist Partners.” We know that volunteers can and should be force multipliers. Here’s a quick piece that may inspire your volunteers this holiday season.  Enrolling and engaging your best volunteers to help you with both stewardship (calling, visiting to thank, share impact, and wish the best for the New Year) and to ask and close (Please join me) is a winning formula.

As you focus on what to do during these last few weeks, keep in mind the good advice of Jess Lee, “Keep things as simple as possible, edit out the extraneous, and focus on polishing the details.”

The Power of Saying “No”

no-2People underestimate the power of saying “no”.  Saying no sounds scary, especially when you are turning down a request from your boss, a volunteer, or a donor. But here’s the thing: we say no all the time by our actions. We work as hard as we can for as long as we can and then stop when we must. Incomplete to-do items roll off our desk and crash to the floor. By saying no, we are strategically choosing what falls. We’re making an informed decision that we can justify.

When a request lands on your desk, don’t commit right away, advises the Harvard Business Review. Acknowledge the request. Ask clarifying questions. Seek time to give the problem some thought. Where does this fit within your priorities? How much time would it take to do it? How might your office (not you necessarily) accomplish this task? Then respond to the requestor with your solution.

Another strategy I like is “Yes, No, Yes.” “Yes, that sounds like an important (interesting) idea (project) (event). Unfortunately, I am unable to take it on at this time. But, yes, I will give this some thought and get back to you.”
Greg McKeown, Author of “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” recommends three steps.

Step 1: Affirm the relationship. e.g., “It really is good to hear from you.”

Step 2: Thank the person sincerely for the opportunity. e.g., “Thank you ever so much for thinking of me! It sounds like such a brilliant project. I am complimented that you thought of me.”

Step 3: Decline firmly and politely. e.g., “For several reasons I need to pass on this at the moment.”

As leader/managers, we also have to empower our team members and give them the power of saying “No.” Katie Beauchamp, co-founder of Birchbox says, “The most important thing I can do is show I really understand the priorities of the business and help people not do things.

By saying no to some things, you create the space and the energy to say yes to other tasks. “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage to say—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically—no to other things,” said the late Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “And the way to do that is to have a bigger yes burning inside.”

Top 20 Clues that Your Workplace May Have Work/Life Balance Issues

We break here for a moment of levity from a friend of the firm who composed this list of all-too-familiar work/life balance issues faced, particularly, by remote and out-based workers.  Hope you find comfort in the company…

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Work life balanceYour workplace may have work/life balance issues …

20. When you feel like you should turn on your “Out Of Office” if you aren’t going to work on a Saturday.

19. When a vendor says he shouldn’t schedule a meeting for noon Eastern because a lot of his staff go to lunch and you laugh loudly and then you realize he’s serious.

18. When you discover it’s quicker to tally the hours you work each day by simply subtracting your sleep hours from 24.

17. When you tally the hours spent “clearing a few projects” the weekend before your vacation week, hours spent “just responding to essential emails” during your vacation week, and “just putting my game plan together for next week” during the weekend after your vacation week, subtract them from 40 and get a negative number.  And then feel like you are cheating for turning in zero vacation hours to HR for your vacation week because seriously, 40 hours is not a work week.

16. When you fantasize about taking vacation time to get some project work done.

15. When you look forward to holidays because it means you can get some work done without all those co-worker distractions.

14. When your son can’t seem to remember whether Sunday is a regular work day for you or not.

13. When you apologize to one of your staff  for not being able to talk at that moment because you are supposed to be in another meeting. And it is Sunday.

12. When you eschew the two-ingredient baby green salad for lunch in favor of your usual handful of tortilla chips and spoonful of peanut butter because rinsing the salad bowl afterwards would make you late for your next meeting.

11. When a co-worker asks you if you can attend a meeting at 9:00 and you have to ask AM or PM.

10. When you schedule your mom in for a 30 minute slot two weeks from now so you can chat.

9. When you prepare an agenda for that call.

8. When you’ve heard yourself say this more than five times: “I have to hop off this call now because I just got to my therapist’s office.”

7. When one of your staff emails you to let you know he won’t be working tonight because he is going to the grocery store.

6. When you see a plastic bin at IKEA and note to yourself that it would make an excellent bus tub for your office.

5. When you regularly fantasize during conference calls about vacuuming the house.

4. When “make dentist appointment” has been on your to-do list for more than two years.

3. When your new extended-life laptop battery arrives and you get excited because you it means you can work ALL THE TIME EVERYWHERE FOREVER NO MATTER WHAT.

2. When you stop drinking water during the day because of all the wasted bathroom time.

1. When you divide your work day into two sections: “Before Alcohol” and “During Alcohol.”

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You can get a grip on this.  Check out this post from Yolanda on first steps to take and go to our website for some of our Most Requested Tools in time management.

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.