Archive for February, 2013

February 22, 2013

What to Do When You Mess Up?

[Publisher’s Note: Before getting to this week’s post, I want to mention that Michael J. Rosen, CFRE, was a guest on The Nonprofit Coach Radio Show hosted by Ted Hart, ACFRE on Tuesday, February 26, 2013. Michael discussed his book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. You can download a free podcast of the show by clicking here.]

Have you ever messed up at work? Stumbled? Blundered? Bungled? Botched? Made an oversight, gaffe, or mistake, big or small?

If you say you haven’t, I know that one of the following is true about you:

  1. You’re not telling the truth, to others or, perhaps, just to yourself.
  2. You have a selective memory.
  3. You haven’t been paying attention.
  4. You have virtually no work experience.
  5. You need to be more creative and experimental.

Because I believe we have all made and will make mistakes during our careers, I’m going to share five tips with you that will ease the sting when such incidents occur:

Own it. When you make an error, resist the temptation to pass the blame. Instead, take responsibility. When we own our mistakes, we’re more likely to earn and retain the respect of those around us. Moreover, it puts us in the best possible position to do something positive in response to the problem.

Do not hide it. In politics, there’s a saying: “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up.” The idea is that the cover up is usually more damaging than the trigger offense. It’s harder to fix a problem if you cover it up or simply pretend that there is not a problem at all. Furthermore, if people suspect you’re hiding something, they’ll apply that suspicion beyond the one instance. Honesty really is the best policy.

Apologize. If your misstep damages or offends another person, apologize immediately. Ok, I know that lawyers often frown at the idea of an apology. They fear it is an admission of guilt that can expose you and your organization to liability. I say, if it’s appropriate, suck it up and apologize anyway. At the very least, express your regret, which might lower the risk of legal liability since it is not an admission of guilt. (By the way, since I’m not a lawyer, I’m not giving you legal advice.)

Learn from it. When we learn from our mistakes, we’re far less likely to repeat the stumble. In some cases, learning from our missteps will allow us to improve our skills or our processes. In other words, if we look at mistakes as an opportunity to grow, our organizations and we can actually be better off than before the incident.

Rubio Water BottleTurn a negative into a positive. I like the expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We can often turn blunders around into something good. In 1928, Alexander Fleming slipped up. He mistakenly failed to cover a Petri dish containing a Staphylococcus culture. However, it’s a good thing he messed up. When he examined the exposed Petri dish, he observed that mold growth had impeded the spread of the bacteria. Fleming’s mistake, and subsequent observation, led to the use of penicillin as a life-saving antibiotic.

In recent weeks, the news media have shared a couple of stories that nicely illustrate the points I’ve just made.

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February 19, 2013

Special Report: Do You Want to Talk with an Award-Winning Author?

Have you ever read a book and wished you could talk directly with the author? Did you ever want to pick the brain of the author to get additional helpful ideas? Have you had questions about the material that you desired to explore more deeply? Were you ever curious about the author’s view of the future? Did you ever wonder what parts of the book the author felt were most important? Did you ever want to let the author know which parts of the book you particularly liked or which parts you disagreed with? Have you ever wanted to know if the author had acquired valuable, new information since writing the book?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, I have a special opportunity that will interest you.

I (Michael J. Rosen, CFRE) will be interviewed on The Nonprofit Coach Radio Show on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM (EST).

Donor-Centered Planned Gift MarketingI wrote the bestselling book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, for which I won the AFP/Skystone Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy. The book is on the official CFRE International Resource Reading List. I’ll be discussing the book with host Ted Hart, ACFRE. We’ll also look at the challenges and opportunities presented by recent changes in government policy.

During the program, listeners will have the opportunity to call in to ask questions. You can learn more about the broadcast and find the call-in number by clicking here.

I invite you to listen to the show live and to participate by calling in to the program. If you’re unable to listen to the live show, you will be able to stream it after the broadcast.

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February 15, 2013

Do Not Let This Happen to Your Organization

It happened recently to a prestigious private school.

New York’s Dalton School inappropriately released private alumni information to its volunteer fundraisers. The New York The Dalton School by DiegoDacal via FlickrTimes reported the blunder that sent a shockwave through the School’s community and may have a chilling effect on fundraising.

Do not let this happen to your organization.

While volunteer and professional fundraisers must have useful information to effectively perform, organizations must protect sensitive items and keep them confidential. I’m going to provide you with eight tips that will help you keep your organization safe and your prospects and donors happy.

But first, let me tell you what went wrong at Dalton. Here’s what The New York Times reported this month:

But recently, one of the top Manhattan private schools, the Dalton School, might have been a little too open with the data it had about some graduates. The school said [February 7] that it had given out to some alumni who had volunteered to raise money for Dalton information about several other alumni whose own children had applied to the school. The information included whether those children had been admitted, information that most parents prefer not to be shared, especially in cases where the answer is no.”

It is common and acceptable practice for nonprofit organizations to share prospect and donor information with both volunteer and professional fundraisers. Such information often includes contact information, spouse or partner data, affiliation, giving history, volunteer involvement, event participation, and interests.

Dalton ran into trouble when it disseminated information about whether the children of prospects applied for admission and were rejected by the School.

The Times article quoted an upset alumna:

’It’s horrible,’ said one alumna who has been financially supportive of the school, and like nearly everyone interviewed about what happened, declined to be identified for fear of upsetting school leaders. ‘Why should anyone know how much I have given and whether my kid got in or didn’t get in or even applied?’” 

Prospects and donors care about their privacy. They do not want to feel that they are being spied on. They do not want private information about themselves or, especially, their children disseminated to friends and acquaintances. Dalton overstepped by releasing admissions information about alumni children, something acknowledged by the School:

’We apologize for and deeply regret the release of this information,’ said the letter, written by Ellen Stein, the head of school. ‘We are reviewing our protocols to ensure that information about the admissions status of all Dalton families and applicants is protected and remains confidential. We have reached out to apologize personally to those 11 alumni whose names were listed.’” 

While I applaud Dalton for reviewing its data protocols after the inappropriate release of private information, it would have been far better if it had had this review before a problem occurred. You now have that opportunity.

Before a crisis happens at your organization, take the time to review your organization’s own prospect research and information sharing protocols.

Here are some tips to guide you during your review:

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February 8, 2013

Listen with Your Eyes

When visiting prospects and donors, it is essential to listen carefully. You will want to learn about their philanthropic aspirations and legacy hopes. Listening to your prospect or donor rather than simply pitching your organization is a big part of what donor-centered fundraising is about.

For thousands of years, wise people have understood the value of effective listening. For example, Epictetus, the ancient Greek philosopher, said:

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Last week, I wrote about the importance of gettListening and Seeing by Rob Knight via Flickring out and visiting prospects and donors (“Want to Know the Secret to Raising More Money in 2013?“). Now, I want to suggest that while we should certainly listen with our ears during those visits, we should also “listen” with our eyes.

Let me explain.

We often see without really perceiving. It’s one reason why criminologists tell us that eyewitness reports can be highly inaccurate. By paying attention to what we are seeing, we can act appropriately on the information we gather.

When meeting with a prospect or donor, listening with our eyes will allow us to:

1. Observe the other person’s body language and respond accordingly. For example, if a prospect has his arms folded across his chest, he’s probably not comfortable with the general subject, something you’ve said, or the environment. Observing this will allow you to take corrective action rather than simply just pushing ahead.

2. Look for clues in the surroundings. You can learn a great deal about an individual by noticing the personal items in her office or home. These clues can help you better understand the person’s interests. The surroundings (i.e.: furnishings, artwork, the home itself) may help you estimate the person’s giving potential. In addition, you’ll find that some items (i.e.: photos of children) make great and, sometimes, meaningful conversation starters.

When meeting with someone, you’re not just there to talk and hear. You’re there to see. So, be sure to use your ears and your eyes.

The best place to meet with a prospect or donor will usually be that person’s home. Generally, people will feel more comfortable in their own home than they would in your office. Sometimes, a donor or prospect may wish to meet at a restaurant. But, restaurants can be noisy, and having a private conversation can be awkward in a public setting.

Meeting in the home of a prospect or donor also has the benefit of giving you the opportunity to uncover clues that will help you to understand the person much better. As I wrote in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

If visiting in someone’s home, one can look for awards, books, and other items on display that can provide clues to how the individual engages with the community and what other organizations they might support. In addition, clues will be found that will help gauge the individual’s ability [to make a gift].”

Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that you should snoop around someone’s house once you’re invited in. I’m simply suggesting that you should take-in what you see in plain sight:

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February 1, 2013

Want to Know the Secret to Raising More Money in 2013?

Everyone wants to find the latest, greatest way to raise money. Everyone wants to raise more money. Fortunately, the secret way to raising more funds in 2013 is not complicated. It’s not expensive. It’s not revolutionary. It’s not even really a secret. But, it will work:

Get out from behind your desk more often.

I know you’re thinking, “That’s just common sense.” You’re right. However, at many nonprofit organizations, it’s not common practice. Consider this true story from my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

During a seminar at an Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter conference, the director of development for a regional theater company asked a question: ‘Could I have some of our repertory actors cultivate our major donors?’

“The presenter initially thought this was a terrific idea. Theater donors often like to think of themselves as true patrons of the arts. The opportunity to interact with the actual performers would be meaningful to many of the theater’s major donors. The presenter mentioned this and asked, ‘How many major donor prospects do you have?’

“The answer was 50. The presenter then suggested that the director of development schedule appointments with the major donors and plan on bringing one of the actors with her. At this suggestion, the director of development exclaimed, ‘I don’t have time for that! I was hoping that the actors could go out on their own.’

“The presenter patiently responded, ‘If you visit with only two major donors per week, you will have seen them all within six months. And, not only will they have been cultivated by having the chance to interact with one of the actors, you will have developed a relationship and, in the process, learned more about the donor’s interests and philanthropic abilities. You will be well positioned to renew and upgrade their current support while being able to begin a conversation about planned giving. What could possibly be a better use of time?’

“While the development director was not pleased with the response, the reality is that the most effective fundraising happens at a coffee table not at a desk. Being proactive and actually talking with donors and prospects, understanding their needs, cultivating them, and asking for the gift is always the most effective development strategy.”

I understand that it’s not always easy to schedule another conversation with a donor or prospect. There are meetings to attend, reports to write, vendors to meet with, staff members to supervise, budgets to review, etc.

However, if you really want to raise more money, you will find a way to meet with more donors and prospective donors.

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