Posts tagged ‘The Dalton School’

November 15, 2013

Prospect Research v. Invasion of Privacy

Edward Snowden became a worldwide “celebrity” when he leaked classified information about the US National Security Agency’s spying programs.

In the process, Snowden’s revelations have fueled discussions around the globe about privacy and access to information.

The Economist recently published a chart by the Boston Consulting Group that looks at how people around the world feel about the privacy of different types of information:

Privacy - The Economist 1113  

As you can see from the above chart, people around the world, particularly in the West, value their privacy. For example, the vast majority of Americans consider financial data and information about children to be “moderately or very private.”

That might explain why alumni from New York’s prestigious Dalton School were upset when volunteer solicitors were given information about the children of fundraising prospects. Specifically, solicitors were told about the children of prospects who had applied for admission to the School but who were rejected.

An alumna who had previously donated to the School described the situation to The New York Times as “horrible.” That’s the last thing you want someone to feel about your development program. It’s the last thing you want someone to say about your organization to a reporter.

The head of Dalton issued a public apology and a promise to do better.

It’s easy to understand the tension that exists between nonprofit organizations and their donor prospects. Organizations want to gather as much useful information as possible, and they want their professional and volunteer solicitors to know a great deal about the people they will approach in order to maximize success. However, this posture is often at odds with prospects who want and expect what they consider their personal information to remain private.

Charities face two issues when it comes to prospect research and privacy:

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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 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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