What To Do When Your Boss Won't Let You Do Fundraising the Right Way
In this webinar, Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip will help you navigate this tough situation to a positive resolution.
Steven: All right, Simone. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially?
Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast, and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “What to Do When Your Boss Won’t Let You Do Fundraising the Right Way.” I’m excited about this one. I’m Steven Shattuck. I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
Just a couple of housekeeping items really quick before we get things going. I just want you all to know that we are recording this presentation, and I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides once again later on this afternoon. So if you want to review the content or if you have to leave early and want to catch what you missed, you’ll be able to do that. Maybe you want to send this to your boss. That would be kind of fun too. Whatever you want to do with that recording, you will be able to do it. So just look for an email from me later on this afternoon.
Maybe most importantly, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen there. We’re going to try to save as much time as we can for Q&A at the end, maybe even answer some questions as we go along. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We’ll be keeping an eye on those throughout the hour here, so chat in your questions and comments. You can do that on Twitter either in addition to or instead of on the chat box. I’ll keep an eye on Twitter as well.
One last technical note. If you have any trouble with the audio, we find that the audio by phone is usually better than the computer audio. So if you have any trouble with the computer audio, don’t give up on us completely. You can dial in a special phone number just for you that is in the email from ReadyTalk that went out around noon today. So just look for that email, and you’ll get a phone number in there.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to you. We do these webinars pretty much every Thursday. We bring on a great guest. We have a lot of fun, do some rabblerousing, but in addition to that, we offer donor management software, which we are very proud of, and our customers seem to be very happy with.
If you are interested in that or just want to learn more about Bloomerang, you can check out our website. Don’t do that now. Do that in an hour, because you’re going to get some great content here coming up from one of my favorite people of all time. Simone Joyaux is joining us. Hey, Simone. How’s it going?
Simone: Just fine, thank you, and you’re one of my faves too.
Steven: Oh, stop it. You’re too kind. You’re having a good day so far. You had a positive dental visit, I heard.
Steven: You got a new windshield or a good deal on it.
Simone: The car, yeah.
Steven: And now you’re doing a Bloomerang webinar.
Steven: So this is just the bestest day ever for you. I just want to brag on you before I turn things over because people want to hear from you, not me. I’m nobody compared to you. Simone here, 35-years-plus experience. She’s an ACFRE, which is a big deal, by the way. Not a lot of people have that. I think only 100 people in the world have that.
Steven: So she definitely knows what she’s talking about. She has been in your shoes. Not only is she an internationally recognized speaker and consultant. She has served as a chief development officer. She’s been an ED. She’s been a board chair. So she knows a little bit about this subject today from kind of both sides of the aisle.
She’s also the author of three really great books, “Strategic Fund Development,” “Keep Your Donors,” and “Firing Lousy Board Members,” one of my favorites. You’ve got to get that one for sure.
Very busy. This is really a treat to have her. She’s been on the road all week. So I am just super honored to have you back on the webinar series. So Simone, I am not going to take any more of your precious time away. Tell us all about handling your boss when you want to do things the right way. Have some fun.
Simone: Thank you. All right, so here’s the thing. We’ve got to figure this out, right? I’m telling you my partner Tom Ahern and I are constantly getting emails or seeing people at conferences who are just practically weeping, saying, “I’ve read books. I go to conferences. I’m trying to do the right stuff, and what do I run into? My board chair or my executive director or CEO saying, ‘I just can’t sign that direct mail letter because it’s just not my voice.'” Is that familiar to anyone? We’ve got to stop this. I’ve tried to put together why I think it happens.
I did want to start with a little personal story. That’s me there. I think I must have been about three or so. Tom, my partner, says it’s kind of a power stance. So apparently, I was already planning on it.
The “Well, missy” comment is a direct quote. I was doing a session with a board. My assumption was they invited me there because I was an expert in fundraising and governance. But virtually everything I said, they kept saying, “Yeah, well, we don’t really believe that,” or, “We don’t like that,” or, “We don’t do it that way.”
At a certain point, a gentleman sitting next to me reached over, patted me on the arm, and said, “Well, missy. I’ve served on more boards than you are old.” Now, this was a number of years ago, so maybe that was true, but I looked at him, and I said, “But I’m right, and you’re wrong, and here’s the IRS handout.” For those of you who aren’t in the United States, the IRS handout, that’s the Internal Revenue Service. It’s the government.
I was told after that by the executive director and board chair that they would never hire me again because I can’t talk to people that way. They said, “You can’t talk to people that way.” We all know that’s simply stupid. There is a right way – in many cases, not all – but there is a right way, and the wrong way is not good.
One of the things we have to do as staff is we have to position ourselves as experts. Of course, then we have to be experts. We have to be able to cite where we learned about donor loyalty research. Adrian Sargeant, the world’s foremost academic researcher in fundraising, did research on what makes donors loyal. We have to be reading Jeff Brooks, who’s telling us how to write.
We have to position ourselves that opinion versus body of knowledge is not going to work. We believe in the body of knowledge, research, and best practice, so we have to position everything that way.
Before we go to the executive director with our direct mail letter and say, “Here, this is the direct mail letter,” we have to give a little background context. “So I’ve read,” I’m channeling you, “I’ve read six books on direct mail, how to write direct mail, and, Ms. Boss, I have been giving you a weekly breakfast muffin with a little blog from a great professional direct mail writer, case for support writer,” that sort of thing. We have to acquire, maintain, and then apply the body of knowledge.
Now, notice I say there, “Experience doesn’t not equal expertise.” Let’s go back to when I was just so little, missy. The man who says, “Well, missy, I’ve served on more boards than you are old,” just as an aside, wearing my governance hat, I’ve been working in this sector since 1975, now 30 years as a full-time consultant. Most boards I encounter are mediocre at best. There are unfortunately too many that are dysfunctional, and there are darn few that are really, really good.
Just because I’m the CEO of the largest company in New England, a for-profit company in New England, does not mean I know the body of knowledge and governance. So we cannot assume that just because they’re older than us or served on more boards than you are old or are the CEO of the largest company or because they’ve served on a dozen boards, that does not mean that their experience equals expertise, particularly, as I say, since most boards aren’t really very good.
All right. Another reason I think that we’re in this position of getting this constant back-and-forth from our boss is the issue about whether fundraising is actually a profession, and we’re going to talk about that a little bit more. I’m just not so sure we have positioned ourselves . . . well, I’m actually very sure we have not positioned ourselves adequately as a profession.
Then, of course, as I say, the fourth bullet there is we do have to acquire and update our body of knowledge by following research, etc., etc.
So let’s start out with sort of what I like to call complain and whine a few moments. Not wine, whine. I believe deeply in whining. You just really kind of have to only ask the guy that I live with. I really believe in whining. Eventually, I think we have to stop and do something about it, but I like to hear, so you can just type it into our little thing there or you can talk to yourself, who hassles you the most regarding fundraising.
If it’s your boss, how does he or she do that, and why? If it’s your board, again, how and why? Is it a particular board member, maybe the board chair or the chair of the philanthropy or fund development committee? Is it the fundraising committee itself?
We’ve got some responses here. The person who hassles Susan the most is a board member who dislikes her boss, so the board member hassles Susan. Boy, transference. I like it. “The boss, the CEO, he just gets in the way.” I like it.
“The CEO isn’t okay unless he came up with the idea.” Just think about that for a moment. Do we actually think that fundraising is about coming up with ideas? “I think we should do a bake sale. Oh, a golf tournament. Please let’s do a golf tournament. That’s what I think.” Honestly, we have to position ourselves as the leader, and we have to get very used to kind of saying, “I’m not asking for any ideas in fundraising.”
Can you imagine saying that to the accountant, the treasurer of your board, or your accountant? You’ve got a lawyer and an accountant on your board just because you like the knowledge base, and somebody actually says to the accountant, “Hey, I have an idea.” The accountant’s going to say, “Excuse me, but according to our state, provincial, and government laws, our federal laws, that idea of yours is illegal.”
We don’t talk about, “I have an idea,” like this is some sort of little, I don’t know, game or a book club. “I have an idea of a book.” You are and you must position yourself as the fundraising expert. You’re the resource we go to. If I were on your board and I had an idea, I might say to you, “I kind of have an idea, but I need you to tell me if it falls within, I don’t know, best practice in fundraising.”
Now, I am telling you that I frequently . . . as Steven was saying, I serve on a lot of boards. I have since 1975. I frequently end up as board chair. It’s not uncommon that I am the fund development committee chair of the board. I’m me, right? I’ve written three books, blah, blah, blah.
I never say to the development officer, “I have an idea.” I don’t care if it’s such a small organization that the executive director is the development officer. I don’t care if it’s a development officer and we have 2 people in the development office or 20 people in the development office. I as Simone Joyaux, who has written books about fundraising, do not say, “I have an idea.” It is not my governance right, and it is not my right to deposition a staff person. So there are no ideas.
Yeah, magical thinking does happen. Unfortunately, Maggie’s saying that the magical thinking happens all the time, which is a real bummer.
Another thought that I’m going to add here right now is most fundraising problems are not actually fundraising problems. They’re problems in some other part of the institution. As I look at the comments you’ve all been making, not a one so far except for the idea business, the fundraising idea, is actually a fundraising problem. It’s actually a board or a group problem and a board member or individual problem, or it’s an executive director who thinks she or he knows more than you do. So it’s really interesting. You’ve got to position yourself as the expert.
Now, there were a couple other things said here. On some level, yes, our executive director is the boss of everything, but nonetheless, he or she should be paying attention to the experts that he or she has hired. The board is not responsible for fundraising. The board is responsible for governance, a group activity. Board members should help with fundraising, but they are not responsible for it.
As you’re thinking about who hassles you the most, do some thinking about how they’re behaving, the different people, and why you think they’re doing it. Some of the things you’ve said here are, “The boss is worried or panicked that we won’t raise money, so he or she is being inappropriate about it.”
“The board members think that their idea is to give ideas.”
One of you said, “Isn’t brainstorming with ideas actually a good thing?” No, not in something like the law or fundraising where there’s actually a body of knowledge. We don’t brainstorm ideas about fundraising. We read the right books so that we know the best fundraising.
Just as an aside, quickly, let’s think about this. What’s the best single way to raise charitable gifts? Personal, face-to-face solicitation where I am soliciting someone I know who I know cares about the organization.
How is most money still raised? Direct mail. No, social media isn’t taking care of it. It’s direct mail. Direct mail violates virtually every concept most of us were ever taught. So read a good book about direct mail because you can have a one-word paragraph in good direct mail. You can actually have a sentence that doesn’t have a verb. Oh, my gosh.
Fundraising events are one of the highest-risk issues or gigs you can do in raising money because of the return on investment and the costs that we don’t necessarily count, which are the staff costs, the indirect costs.
There’s just been a new piece of research done on how to make a fundraising event really good. It was done by the Hartsook Center for Sustainable Philanthropy. That’s the Center for Sustainable Philanthropy that Adrian Sargeant founded, and it’s called “Great Fundraising Events.” Before you ever do a special event, you ought to read that.
Fundraising boards, there’s no such thing as a fundraising board. If it’s a board of directors or a board of trustees or whatever, they’re responsible for governance. If you’ve just set up a board or an advisory group that they’re going to help fundraise, yes, they’re there to help carry out the fundraising plan, absolutely, but they don’t invent the plan. Yes, you engage them as you explain why the plan will be this. You get their support because you want their support to be there within the board. So be very careful about some of these things, very, very careful.
In summary, who’s the fundraising boss? The person who knows the most about fundraising. Obviously embedded in this whole thing today that I’m talking about is we have to be really, really good in fundraising.
Now, Steven, thank you. You just put up the link about great fundraising events, and I would like to just say thanks myself to Bloomerang because they helped finance that research, and it’s seminal research for our sector.
As you all think about this, one of the things . . . oh, and I just see. I was just going to comment. Gene asked if I can give you a list of direct mail books to read. All right, so here are some of the best direct mail and case for support writers that there are.
Agents of Good in Toronto, John Lepp and Jen Love. So Agents of Good in Toronto, John Lepp and Jen Love. Jeff Brooks’s books and blogs. Tom Ahern, A-H-E-R-N, books and blogs. Let’s see. Go to SOFII, S-O-F-I-I. That’s the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, and it’s a compiler website. It’s got examples of the best of the best in fundraising from the 1930s. They have several different kinds of modules on teaching direct mail, etc.
One of the leaders in direct mail is Jerry Huntsinger, H-U-N-T-S-I-N-G-E-R. Mark Phillips in London is another great direct mail person.
Those are just a few direct mail letter writers. They are by no means the only, but they also refer to tons of other people. So there’s a good thing, okay?
Now, personal, face-to-face solicitation. “The Ask” by Laura Fredricks. It’s Fredricks, F-R-E-D-R-I-C-K-S. Personal, face-to-face solicitation. That’s when you sit down with someone that is in love with your organization, rather in love with your cause, and wants to fulfill their own personal aspirations by giving through you. Laura has a wonderful book on personal, face-to-face solicitation. Andrea Kihlstedt has another very nice book on that. K-I-H-L-S-T-E-D-T.
You should go to www.cfre.org and take a look at the books that are recommended before you take the test to get certified because there’s a ton of really, really good books there.
That’s just kind of a start. We should be following research. You should be looking at the Lilly Family School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and you should be looking at all of their research. Again, should look up the Hartsook Center for Sustainable Philanthropy research.
I know that Veritas Group, you just put that in, Steven, thank you. It’s a good group. Jeff Brooks is no longer there. He was never at Veritas. They were all in another firm, but Jeff is www.futurefundraisingnow.com.
Honestly, every one of these names I’m mentioning, all you’ve got to do is type them into your search engine. These are people who have written books. These are people who we consider to be, if you will, famous in our field.
There’s “Excellence in Fundraising.” The editor is Guy Mallabone, and that’s a book on Canadian fundraising, which is not to say that fundraising is different in particular companies, but they’re looking at and talking about a lot of Canadian experiences and Canadian writers.
Yes, indeed. Rogare, R-O-G-A-R-E, has been listed here too.
Just look at all of this. Again, we have to be reading this stuff. We have to be going to webinars, conferences, etc.
Notice here on this one slide that I’m talking about who invests in lifelong learning. Which authors, books, blogs, etc., do you read regularly? I read “The Nonprofit Quarterly” regularly. It’s a daily, online feed, and it’s a monthly print publication. It’s one of the best magazines we’ve got in the field as far as I’m concerned about philanthropy in the nonprofit sector.
Notice, though, that I’m also saying, “What do you know beyond specific fundraising stuff?” Because, as I said earlier, in my experience, most fundraising problems are not fundraising problems. They’re problems in other parts of the system.
We want board members to help nurture relationships and fundraise. They’re doing that outside of a board meeting. That had to be in the performance expectations. Does your organization have a job description of the board which is the same for every single organization? Does your organization have performance expectations of individual board members? Those too are all the same for any decent organization.
All kinds of stuff like this are in the free download library on my website, the operative word being “free” as in you can download them. You can actually take them and edit them and then put them on your letterhead and adopt them by your board. Whatever. I don’t care. No, you don’t have to give me credit unless you’re writing a book or an article and you were inspired by or you’re using one of my things. It would be nice if you said, “Inspired by Simone,” or whatever. Otherwise, all that stuff is there for you to use.
I really want you to focus on this third bullet. What do you know beyond specific fundraising stuff? We absolutely have to know as fundraisers enough about governance that we can help board members stay away.
We absolutely have to know enough about marketing communications, even if we’re not actually going to do it, to know that the marketing communications department of the university or of the theater or whatever is not expert necessarily in marketing communications for fundraising. They are different.
I can’t tell you the number of organization fundraisers who then say to me, “Well, I can’t get the marketing communications department of the institution to do it the right way for fundraising,” which, of course, means you have to go talk to your boss again, and that just goes back to another problem.
We are – and I’m starting out by saying we’re responsible for this – we are responsible for having problems with our boss and having our boss say, “No, you can’t do that.” We are responsible for that until such a time as we have tried every single strategy to make this different. Then, if we can’t get them, the boss, whatever, to change, then my recommendation to you is find another job because you deserve better.
Now, I realize that just saying, “Well, go find another job,” that’s not necessarily easy, and you may not be in a position where you can actually do that, but at least try your darnedest to get them to stop because it is our responsibility first.
So here I’ve just summarized, and I’m going to talk about each of these topics. What’s the problem? As I’m saying, I believe it’s our problem as professionals. I believe that we don’t know enough as a profession, and it’s still a young profession, and I hear too many fundraisers say they don’t have time to read research. They don’t have time to do this. They don’t have time to do that. But if that’s the case, then, wow, what is the problem, and how are we ever going to do anything?
You’re not a professional if you don’t read stuff. You’re not a professional if you don’t continue reading stuff. Academic journals, I read “Harvard Business Review” because it talks all about governance and organizational development and corporate issues. So I read all about that.
I don’t know, quite frankly, a lot of other academic journals that know a sufficient amount about fundraising itself as a profession, governance, but by golly, if you find some, go for it. One of our biggest problems in the concept of being a young profession is we don’t have enough academic research, which is why I’m so interested in Adrian Sargeant, the Hartsook Center, the Lilly Family School, and Jen Shang, who is also at the Hartsook Center for Sustainable Philanthropy, who is the world’s first and still only philanthropic psychologist, and she does academic research.
I don’t think we have . . . Lindsay, you’re saying you think we need a fundraising journal. We have fundraising journals. We don’t have academic fundraising journals. We have tons of research and articles. To me, that’s what we should be looking at, and then we need more academic fundraising research, and then that can be printed in existing journals, whatever.
Inadequate enabling by staff, we’re going to talk about that in a minute.
Lack of systems thinking and too many silos, I think that is a huge problem. Again, it links back to me saying that there is a problem elsewhere in the system, and that affects our fundraising. I expect all fundraisers to be systems thinkers, to read systems thinking work.
I discovered it. You understand I didn’t invent it. I discovered systems thinking and learning organization business theories about the time I was writing my first book. I wrote about it thinking, “Oh, this is so cool for fundraising and nonprofit organizations.” It’s in my book “Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last.” That’s now in its third edition. Subsequent research and subsequent articles that I started reading started saying, “Yeah, we should be using this everywhere.” I was so excited that I had been reading about it.
We have too many silos. We think that the program staff don’t affect fundraising. Of course they do, and they need to know that. Marketing communications staff who don’t know anything about fundraising marketing communications are harming fundraising, and your boss has to know that, and so do they. Lack of systems thinking, too many silos, that’s stuff to think about.
Of course, yes, we do have inappropriate board input even at program levels. This goes back, then. We have to keep saying to ourselves, “Is my boss, is the CEO, an expert in governance?” I have to tell you I collect bylaws and job descriptions and everything. I am stunned at the number of CEO executive director job descriptions that say nothing about governance. Board members don’t know about governance. That’s why we have so many problems.
Most board members don’t know what good governance is. They can’t even distinguish between a board and a board member, and most staff, apparently, don’t either when I read their stuff. So for heaven’s sake, the executive director, who we’re paying, needs to be an expert in governance.
Now, I’m looking again at comments. Tammy Zonker. Hi, Tammy. Thank you. Lack of human-centered systems. Think about that. Do the systems we have in our organizations allow for adequate professional development? Do the systems we have in our organization talk all about systems thinking and how things are linked?
Yes, we have inappropriate board and board member input everywhere because we’re all taught management, and so are they, and it’s your executive director CEO’s job to help the board learn otherwise [inaudible 00:34:23] enough and frequently enough for the board chair to get the board chair to help make these changes.
Hi, Devonte [SP]. Nice to see you, hear you, or see your name.
Now, somebody just said that their ED is intimidated by other males and passive. Let’s not forget the amount of power dynamics we have, and you’ll notice that I have that as number five. We’re going to talk a little bit about that because some of this is power by virtue of position, power by virtue of gender, power by virtue of age, power by virtue of socioeconomic status, power by virtue of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., etc.
Moving on to probe some of these a bit more, I keep referencing that fundraising is a young profession and the lack of academic documentation. I also believe that one of the big problems we have is that because we have board members who are wonderful and they’re volunteers, but I wonder if sometimes because they’re volunteers they think that this whole fundraising business is like kids selling Girl Scout cookies or whatever. I just wonder if subconsciously they feel like, “Since we’re board members and we’re volunteers and we don’t necessarily have bodies of knowledge and half of this stuff, it must mean there is no body of knowledge in it.”
If they can fundraise, then fundraising can’t be very difficult, and we tell them to go ask for money from their friends, which, of course, is a flawed activity, asking for money from your friends. You only ask for money from someone you know who is interested. Trespassing on your personal and professional relationships is a really bad kind of thing.
It’s a young profession. We’ve got to keep reinforcing that it is a profession. One of my fantasies if I were working in a development office right now, at every single board meeting I would make sure that I read some interesting blog from an expert. I’m bringing expertise into the room and saying, “Well, Jeff Brooks, one of the leading experts in donor communications in the country, in North America, whatever, this is what he says. This is how it applies to us.”
Then there’s a little article that you might send out in advance of the board meeting. Yes, of course, you have to get your CEO’s permission, but your CEO, again, your job is to get him or her to understand that this is way we build understanding and knowledge.
For the person who said my slides don’t seem to have caught up with my talk, I should have prefaced by saying I don’t go through things one by one, necessarily, particularly because I’m trying to read your comments and move them into the comments. That’s why you get the PowerPoint afterwards.
I’m looking at another comment here, which is appalling. Thank you, Michelle. “Development isn’t allowed at our board meetings.” Now, I would interpret that the development officer is not at the board meeting. Again, that’s a decision that [inaudible 00:38:40].
But for heaven’s sake, I can’t believe that since fundraising, charitable gifts, is a major income stream for organizations in the nonprofit sector, why we wouldn’t be talking about that topic at a board meeting. If your CEO is smart, he or she wants the chief development officer there, just the chief development officer, along with the other senior staff so that if there were a question, it could be answered by the senior development officer.
Now, I know some CEOs who don’t want their senior staff there like the development officer or whatever because they’re afraid that the staff person will talk at the board meeting. I’m assuming we all know on this call that we do not speak at board meetings unless invited to speak. We are not part of the conversation. The CEO speaks, and the board members speak.
But as a chief development officer myself, I always went to board meetings and got into the room early, so then I could touch base with board members and say, “Hi. Thanks so much for making those thank you calls,” or, “Thanks so much for having joined me yesterday on that solicitation. I know I sent you a thank you note, but I just wanted to say thanks again.”
Now, it’s not uncommon, of course. I’ve got other comments here. “Our CEO has no ears, only a mouth, only one-way communication. My boss won’t slow down enough to stick to the plans we make.” The only answer to these comments is your job is to try to help him or her change. That’s your job. That’s my job. That was my job as a development officer. As I said a little bit ago, if I could not help make that change, then my choice was, “Maybe I have to leave.”
I summarize most of this into something called enabling. There’s a handout in my download library. There is an entire chapter in my book “Strategic Fund Development” on enabling. I know that term is sometimes pejorative for some organizations, but I was talking with a bunch of fundraisers, and we couldn’t come up with anything better.
I’m going to give you a particular example, several particular examples. I was the first chief development officer at the theater company where I worked. So my board . . . forget my board for a moment. My boss didn’t really know that much what I was supposed to do, and I went to lunch with him regularly.
Now, there is this part of me that says, “Geez. I should have been going to lunch with donors,” and that’s true, but that was 35 years ago, so I wasn’t as bright then as I am now, but I do know that I should have been going to lunch fairly regularly with my boss too because it’s the way I helped educate him. We’d go off walking for lunch, and I would talk about how I thought we needed to do performance appraisals for all staff, and I talked to him about it for several months. Then I said, “Well, maybe I’ll draft something, and you can see it.” Eventually, we had a performance appraisal process.
He didn’t give a gift. Nor did our artistic director when I first started there, but I explained to him informally or at our monthly meeting that he needed to give a gift. That, to me, is part of enabling. You’re identifying the barriers people have, and then you’re anticipating them.
For example, again, in my free download library, “Principle Functions of Enabling,” let’s see. Respect and use the skills, expertise, experience, and insights of volunteers. My parenthetical note to all of us would be, “And then don’t use and don’t invite that expertise if you don’t think they have it.” You’re the staff. You’re the chief fundraiser. You start out the conversations. You frame [things 00:43:55].
Let’s see. Coach and mentor people to succeed. I once had a development officer say to me, this is a direct quote, “I’ll be goddamned if I follow up with board members who said they’d go out and ask for gifts.”
I looked at them and said, “What are you talking about?”
“They said they’ll do it, but they might not actually know how.”
“Aren’t you going to offer a little training? Aren’t you going to follow up to see if they were able to do it yet or if something fell apart in their life and they weren’t?”
Her response was, “I’ll be goddamned if I’ll follow up with adults like that.”
I was like, “That’s so disrespectful and so mean-spirited I can’t imagine it.”
The theater’s fundraising story. I was really scared. I was having a meeting with a few board members and mostly community people about a fundraising event we were going to do. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m going to go into that meeting, and before I can stop them, they’re going to say, ‘Well, why don’t we have a gala, and we could have it on the theater set because it would be so pretty, and we could have costumes, and some of the costumes could be made by our costume shop.'”
Now, we were a full-scale theater, a regional theater. We had people who made costumes, designed and made costumes. We had a beautiful stage and theater where we could have done things in it, etc., etc. So I’m thinking, “This is going to be my worst nightmare because everything they’re going to suggest I’m going to have to say no.”
Do you know what I did? I went into the room. First, I talked to the committee chair, and I said, “This is going to be a problem. What I’m going to do is I’m going to set the context. You can help me, Ms. Committee Chair, but we’re going to be the first ones who talk, and we don’t say to people, ‘Give us ideas,’ without setting the context.”
So I walked in and said to everybody, “Thank you so much for coming. This is so wonderful. I’m really looking forward to working with you, and I’m sure we can create a wonderful event. I just want to give a little background, and I know, of course, that you all know this because you’re regular theatergoers.”
Now, in my head, I’m saying, “You don’t know it, and if you did know it, you won’t remember it, but that’s why I’m saying it here.” I said, “As you well know . . . ” Excuse me. One thing they actually said was, “Maybe we could get the actors to come.” These were resident actors. These were famous people in our community.
I said, “Let me just give a little background and context. We wouldn’t be able to do the event in one of our two theaters because, of course, we’re putting up the set, and it takes a week to build and put up a set. So we couldn’t take it down for a fundraising event and then put it back up. That just wouldn’t work.”
They’re going, “Oh, yeah. Yeah, good point.”
“Of course, our actors, as we all know, they perform every single night except Monday. Monday evening is their only evening off. And they’re rehearsing during the daytime. The only time they get to be with their family is Monday evening, and as you’ll recall, Richard Jenkins,” just as an aside, nominated for an Academy Award this year, he was one of our actors in the early days, “as you might remember, Richard’s just had another child, and he probably wants to be with the kid Monday evening.”
So I set all of this context by making them insiders and recognizing that they’re insiders even if they might not remember these things. They didn’t suggest any of the bad things because I’d already told them very graciously they couldn’t suggest them. That’s an example of really good enabling.
Other examples of good enabling. Again, things like we provide direction and resources, and we explain why and not just how. Our job with volunteers is to set the context by transmitting the body of knowledge. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
Now, I understand. Catherine, you’ve just said, “Our members would go ahead and suggest the things anyway even when presented so eloquently with the reasonable why not.” I would suggest, then, that the larger problem is that your culture of your board is off-kilter. They haven’t been properly enabled to understand the limitations of their roles. The board has limitations as a group, but individuals also have limitations. Those are the kinds of things that you talk about and the organization talks about when recruiting new board members.
You wouldn’t be doing that because it’s usually the CEO and a board member who are conducting those screening interviews, but this is a governance problem. It’s a governance problem. It’s a training problem of board members. It’s an orientation. It goes back to my concept when we were talking about systems thinking. It’s all connected.
In fact, I find that problem more than 50%, maybe as much as 75%, of fundraising problems are actually not fundraising problems. They’re problems in another part of the system.
Again, if your board members started then making suggestions, and I’m kind of responding to Catherine here, they’d have to be stopped. If we were making inappropriate suggestions at a board meeting, the executive director, CEO, and the board chair are sitting next to each other, and they’re writing a little note saying, “We have to stop Bob from saying these things.”
Graciously, the board chair says, “Those are management issues. We don’t talk about them at the board meeting. We board members don’t talk about them. We’ve been through the fact that we have hired an excellent expert fundraiser, and she or he is telling us we can’t do that. It’s not good.”
Now, one more thing from the comments. A measure of best practices, Al, you’re asking. There are best practices in books. You need to read the books, and there could be dozens and dozens. There could be – let’s pretend – 20 best practices in donor communications.
The most important single measure, and you’ve got it right there, Al, is loyalty. That’s the single most important measure, loyalty/lifetime value. Any business person, if you ask your board member who’s a bank vice president and said, “What’s the most important thing that the bank measures?” he or she would say, “Retention of customers.” I do have in my free download library a handout about different kinds of measures.
To me, the summary of this slide, so to speak, is we have to be really good. So does the executive director or CEO. We have to be very good at enabling. It’s the thing you have to do with staff. Our job as a supervisor of staff is to help them anticipate barriers, teach them certain sorts of things, etc., etc.
I also feel in general that we have too many technicians as fundraisers. Again, there’s an article in my free download library on this, and this is sort of a summary of what I’ve already said multiple times.
You can’t just be a great fundraising technician as in you know how to write great direct mail letters. If you just know how to write great direct mail letters but you don’t know that your CEO and his or her voice doesn’t matter in the great direct mail letter, if you just know how to write great direct mail letters or great grants but you have to be talking to a board member about how, no, they’re not going to review the grant, and no, you don’t care – graciously you say this, of course – about their opinion about the grant, we have to know this other stuff. We have to know enough about it.
I’m just going to look right there at Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker is a now-dead business guru, and one of the things he always said was culture . . . he actually apparently didn’t actually say it, but his concept was culture eats strategy for breakfast.
If you don’t have a culture that is anti-silo and embraces systems thinking, if you don’t have a culture that knows the distinction between governance and management and a culture that understand the difference between a board and the board member, then your strategies aren’t going to work. The culture will stop you. If you don’t have a culture of donor centrism, customer centrism, mission centrism, it isn’t going to work.
Bethany, the only thing I can say to you is board members don’t have the right to look over letters. They’re wrong. You want some good books on governance, my book “Firing Lousy Board Members” is a good book on governance, and it’s really short.
John Carver has a lot of good stuff on governance. The “Harvard Business Review” has some very interesting articles on governance, and yes, it’s the same in many ways between for-profits and nonprofits.
The final bullet there is kind of a summary of everything I’ve been saying. We have to anticipate their barriers.
Here’s another, if you will, summary. If you have the experience and expertise, if you can explain and speak honestly, then the question is, “Do you have the courage and the ability to take the risks?” This really is more about us than it is about them.
This now rolls back to each of us as an individual. Will I learn through experience like you should serve on a board and by reading and studying? Can I explain and speak honestly but with respect? Not only do I have the courage but the ability to take the risk to say, “Excuse me. You can’t do this.”
That, to me, is major stuff. I’m mindful of the time. Here’s another reason I think, and again, I’ve made comments about this before, but here’s another summary. I believe that, unfortunately, we don’t have a very good respect for the sector as a society. There is too much of this business of, “You couldn’t get a better job, any one of you, so you had to work in the nonprofit sector because you’re not that competent.” The counter to that is, “I’m just assuming you people all took a vow of poverty to work in the nonprofit sector.”
I recommend to all of you to read Mike Edwards’s book “Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World.” We have to show them and demonstrate with everything that we do that this is a profession with a body of knowledge. This we already talked about. Systems thinking, destroy it all.
My final comment to you, and again, this is a summary because we have talked about this too, is power is frequently a problem. Your boss, your executive director, feels subservient to his board. Your executive director feels that because there are those very wealthy people on the board or the head of, again, that company, they must know more than she does. There is, again, financial, gender, etc.
The Abilene Paradox you can lookup online. I’m not going to take the time to explain it. It’s also in my book “Strategic Fund Development.”
So lots of stuff to do, and you have to learn enough that you can say at least in your brain, “My board is wrong. My board members are wrong. My boss is wrong. That doesn’t, however, mean they’re evil.” They’ll only be evil if, in fact, they won’t learn from you.
Thank you for those of you who’ve actually said, like Al, that this was a good webinar, the best you’ve ever attended. I’m going to be going and showing that to the guy upstairs in the shared office building here. Thank you, Jim, for saying you always look forward to hearing from me.
What I can tell you is you can, if you wish, send me an email, and I will respond. You can set up a time to chat with me for free if you want. Sometimes when you send me an email, I’ll even say, “Let’s just talk because this is too complicated to answer in an email.”
There you have it. Those are my thoughts. Again, tons of expansion on this stuff is in my free download library. I really hope that you’re able to own as I have tried to for years your own, my own, responsibility in this mess so that we can learn and make it better and know that if they won’t change, so if you’ve learned and you’ve tried to change and they won’t change, you do deserve better, and I hope that you have the ability to find another job.
There you have it. It is according to my little computer 2:01 p.m.
Steven: Nice. Great job. That was a lot of fun, Simone. That was as cathartic as I thought it would be, so thanks a lot. That was awesome.
Simone: I know I’ve answered the questions that I kept seeing appear. I will certainly stay on longer if people have individual questions.
Steven: Well, I would encourage people to reach out to you by email if that’s okay with you.
Simone: Yeah, that’s what I think, yeah.
Steven: And you’re on Twitter. You’re a good Twitter follower. I can recommend it there too. Well, this was a lot of fun.
Simone: Thank you.
Steven: Thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know it’s a busy time. It’s always busy, right?
Steven: So thanks for hanging out with us for an hour. We’re going to get you . . .
Simone: Thank you, everyone.
Steven: We’ll get you the recording. We’ll get you the slides.
Steven: Yeah. So look for an email from me later on this afternoon. We have some great webinars coming up on our schedule, by the way. So check out or webinar page, and hopefully, we’ll see you one week from today. We’ve got our buddy Joe Garecht coming on. He’s going to talk about some systems. I think Simone mentioned having some systems in place. You might get some of those next week. We’ve got lots of webinars scheduled out in advance.
Steven: You may find another topic there you are interested in. Hopefully, we see you next week. It’s okay if it’s another Thursday but have a good rest of your day. Have a safe weekend. Simone, stay warm up there. Hopefully, there won’t be another blizzard. There probably will be knowing your luck.
Simone: Thank you.
Steven: Sorry about that. We will talk to all again hopefully next week. Bye now.
Simone: Thank you, everyone, so much. Bye.
[silence from 01:02:15 to 01:02:29]
Simone: Bunches of people said it was the best webinar they’d ever attended.
[crosstalk in background]
Simone: Yeah, it was good. I should do [inaudible 01:03:06]. Then there were students of mine from SMU and stuff saying, “Oh, I miss hearing your voice.”