Thanks, visible

A couple months ago, I introduced a friend of mine, a grantwriter, to an organization.  They gave her a contract, and she just sent me a $200 gift certificate to the Shakespeare Theater Company.  The gratitude has been ricocheting around my mind.

I was able to do a favor for a friend, and it’s nice to be able to do a favor.

Thank you!She noticed/remembered that I gave her the introduction, and it is nice to be noticed and remembered.

She sent me a gift, and is nice to get a gift.

The gift was a chance to see Shakespeare — did she know I am crazy about Shakespeare?  It is nice to be known.

I get to go to the theater a couple times in the next year — 10 times if I opt for cheap seats at discount performances.  Nice!

Altruism is reinforced when it is noticed.  Thanks for doing it in the past year, and best wishes for your adventures in attending to altruism in 2014.

 

New fundraising idea!

Can I be a curmudgeon for a minute?

There was a story in the 11/11 New York times about some Wall Street hotshots who have a new idea for supporting charities: a stock market for non profits.  I don’t know what that means.  I couldn’t get past the first paragraph in the article:

What if?  That’s the way Lindsay Beck, a two-time cancer survivor and the founder of a newsuccessful charity, started thinking about how the world of finance and Wall Street could revolutionize the staid nonprofit industry

The word “staid” stuck in my craw.  I wondered if the writer of the article has any idea how vital and varied the world is that the innovators propose to revolutionize.

I have seen a magnificent variety of organizations serving humankind.  Some non profits struggle to meet their budgets every year, and some make it look easy to grow existing programs and sprout new ones.  The successful organizations have found some way to become conduits for the generosity of people who are inspired to accomplish good things.  They know how to craft the organization’s story in a way that a donor can see his or her own story merged into the next chapter.  It is not a new idea.

A stock market for non profits – let’s wait and see.  In the meantime, non profiteers, keep doing what you do so well.  And if your problem is staidness, let’s shake things up before your organization gets bought out (hostile takeover!)  by a Wall Street tycoon.

Superman and Fundraising

Superman, that great icon of American male power, is a cartoon version of the LeadershipSuperman prototype.  The square jawed guy in the corner office works tirelessly, makes correct split-second decisions, and inspires the enthusiasm of his followers.  I know that when I compare myself to him, I am slow-tongued, wracked by anguish, and sometimes rumple-suited.  But maybe, for us who are not Superman, we can get more mileage out of honoring our limitations than trying to live up Mr. It’s-a-bird-it’s-a-plane.

The fund raising profession is crippled by that the Superman mystique.  Lots of people believe that succeeding in fund raising requires nerves of steel, telepathy, and a Kryptonite handshake.  The truth is, good manners and a little ambition will get you far.

If you find that Superman’s Textbook for Fund Raising doesn’t help you so much, here are some alternative ideas.

  • Superman is self-reliant.  As my mentor Andrea Kihlstedt is fond of saying, “every organization is perfectly configured to be itself.”  That means change is hard.  If you want to be an instrument of organizational transformation, find allies.
  • Superman is never insecurePay attention to your insecurity.  Once you recognize that your nerves are made of some material more like pliable than steel, you can tune them to signal that something is off kilter in your relationships with your donors.
  • Superman is unerringly persuasive.  Your donor has assigned your organization to a certain groove in her brain, and that determines her decision to give $X instead of ten times $X.  Your job, as a fund raiser, is to try to move the organization into a different brain-groove.  This is nervous-making.  You can face this nervousness by asking permission to propose something bold, by acknowledging that you are going out on a limb, or by any one of dozens of other ways of humanizing the encounter.  Once you admit you are not Superman, all kinds of possibilities open themselves.

Superman, go catch a flying train or something.  We have work to do.

Manners and fund raising

Fundraising simultaneously occupies two worlds: the world of human relationships and the world of return on investment. It is very important to calculate ROI every way you can slice it, but when you carry your ROI-head into the world of human relationships, you act in a manner that Miss Manners would say is “downright rude.”

Miss Manners got a letter from a man who gave a couple thousand dollars annually to each of a hundred charities. When he lost his job, he was unable to continue give. He wrote to Miss Manners about being hounded by solicitors, and she replied: “It has always puzzled Miss Manners to find how often those who work on behalf of other people in general feel free to annoy the particular people with whom they come into contact.”

In these volatile times, your contribution income is likely to make some whiplash-inducing ups and downs. Use your ROI-head to make your budget, but not to talk to your donors.

And here are a couple other lessons from Miss Manners: Say please. Say thank you. And say thank you more often than you say please!

If you are not the prototypical Leader…

As a culture, Americans cultivate a mystique about leadership. The Leader is a The Leaderrecognizable type.  The square jawed guy in the corner office works tirelessly, makes correct split-second decisions, and inspires the enthusiasm of his followers.  I know that when I compare myself to him, I am slow-tongued, prone to second-guessing, and sometimes rumple-suited.  But maybe we can get more mileage out of honoring our limitations than trying to live up the Leadership Mystique.

The fund raising profession is crippled by that Leadership mystique.  Lots of people believe that succeeding in fund raising requires nerves of steel, flat abs, and straight, white teeth.  The truth is, good manners and a little ambition will get you far.

If you find that The Prototypical Leader’s Textbook for Fund Raising don’t help you so much, here are some alternative ideas.

  • The Leader is self-reliant.  As my mentor Andrea Kihlstedt is fond of saying, “every organization is perfectly configured to be itself.”  That means change is hard.  If you want to be an instrument of organizational transformation, find allies.
  • The Leader is never insecure.  Pay attention to your insecurity.  Once you recognize that your nerves are made of some material more like pliable than steel, you can tune them to signal when something is off kilter in your relationships with your donors.
  • The Leader is unerringly persuasive.  Your donor has assigned your organization to a certain groove in her brain, and that determines her decision to give $X instead of ten times $X.  Your job, as a fund raiser, is to try to move the organization into a different brain-groove.  This is nervous-making.  You can face this nervousness by asking permission to discuss her priorities with her, by acknowledging that you are going out on a limb, or by any one of dozens of other ways of humanizing the encounter.  Once you admit you are not The Leader, all kinds of possibilities open themselves.

Anyone else out there find the Leadership Mystique unhelpful?  How do you deal with it?