Last week I talked about the admirable foresight that transplanted American Lawrence Johnston had in planting a cedar tree in his English garden that he knew he would never see grow to its full glory. As I mentioned, I think of Johnston often when I am planning ahead for what’s to come here at HBG. [Read more…]
An alumna of the university/donor to the museum/former grateful patient and her husband made a jaw-droppingly significant charitable gift that was in all the newspapers.
There were two problems with this:
- The gift was made across town.
- The alumna/donor/former patient hadn’t been a rated prospect.
Everybody asks: why wasn’t she on the organization’s radar? Her evident wealth should have been surfaced long before. Why hadn’t it? What was Research doing wrong? [Read more…]
Last week I started this mini-series about Tom Kalil’s thought-provoking article, “Policy Entrepreneurship at the White House; Getting Things Done in Large Organizations.” Before I go on, I’d like to reiterate: don’t let the long title put you off reading it, nor make the mistake of thinking that it only has value for people in behemoth-sized fundraising offices.
Kalil puts forth 12 maxims that he and his colleagues found to be true for getting things to happen, and I’ve seen evidence over the years that each of these recommendations have been true for fundraising shops that are achieving strong results.
In most fundraising shops, the research, prospect identification, operations, and relationship management teams don’t tend to be located on the bridge of the ship. But that doesn’t mean that leadership can’t come from those areas, and – I’d argue – it’s important that it does.
So if you missed last week’s installment on how the first six maxims apply to our work, go take a look – I’ll wait here. When you’re back, just start below to catch up.
Maxim 7: Find and recruit allies
Kalil encourages us to develop and collaborate with a network of allies, including “idea people;” the assistants and chiefs of staff for the powerful in your network; “Doers” – people who follow up when they say they will; people with a lot of social capital; and people who are eager to make an impression or further their career.
It’s never a bad idea to build a collaborative network when you want to create change, and thinking strategically about who might want to help you in your endeavor – rather than going it alone – is always smart. Build up a network of supportive champions to help, especially when you may be rowing against the current.
My addition to Kalil’s list would be to include people that you trust to tell you the truth if a plan needs more work (or is just a bad idea).
Maxim 8: Think of the end at the beginning
I laughed as I read this, because I really think this should have been Maxim 1. Think of every time you’ve done a successful wealth screening, or planned a multi-stage project that worked, or been involved in a database conversion that actually went live on time. It was probably because your asked yourselves thing like:
What do we want our campaign reports to look like? That helped determine the fields you needed to populate in your database and the information you needed to know from donors and prospective supporters.
What do we want to learn from our wealth screening? Thinking about that first guided you in what records to send to the vendor.
How many prospective donors at what levels do we need to meet our goal? Imagine not having thought of that before planning your capital campaign!
Success isn’t ever guaranteed, but it’s certainly a lot more secure if you think of the end result first, and then back-fill the details for how you’re going to achieve it.
Leadership from the top, the middle, or from the lowest rung means that you’re helping think about these details for your department or for your specific position.
Maxim 9: Save the world one document at a time (or “write it down, make it happen).
Sometimes things become important – or accepted divisional policies – simply because they’re written down. They become codified and made routine. If a policy or series of activities are important for your department’s (or your entire division’s) success, consider creating a step by step manual, or road map for people to follow.
I can think of all kinds of ways I’ve seen this used in successful fundraising shops, from prospect research and prospect management manuals and user guides, to “Research For the Non-Researcher” links pages, to gift planning fact sheets, to gift processing manuals, to internal podcasts and presentations on key topics.
These documents can become especially helpful when there is a transfer from one person to another, or to solidify a process for doing something.
Maxim 10: Make the schedule your friend
Indefinite deadlines are the enemy of getting things accomplished, and in this maxim Kalil outlines the benefits of creating an event (or, sometimes, an artificial deadline) to move things along.
Certain people are brilliant at setting (what some might consider false) deadlines (say, for example, for when a profile is needed), but the fact is that setting a deadline – even if it’s a made-up one – is brilliant. Sometimes that deadline just a dart-throw at the calendar – “I would like the information on this date, but I could take it later if I needed to” and no one should ever feel bad about asking if a deadline is set in stone or moveable.
Creating false deadlines for yourself is also not a bad move if there a task that you wish would go away. Getting it over with by creating a deadline for yourself to move it off the schedule frees you up for more creative work after.
Maxim 11: Use standing meetings effectively
Many of us know the experience of Death by Prospect Review Meeting. Tom Kalil shares 4 direct questions to help you never have a 6-hour meeting again. (or maybe it just felt like six hours…):
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Have you worked to “pre-sell” your position to key participants in the meeting?
- Should you bring a document to help shape the discussion and signal your interest in the topic?
- Are clear next steps and assignments coming out of the meeting and captured in minutes?
Answering these questions yourself well in advance of each meeting will help you provide efficiency and leadership that everyone in the room will appreciate, and your preparation will mean that your goals will have more of a chance of being met.
Maxim 12: Have a large and constantly growing “toolbox.”
This maxim hits me right in my core, because two things that I strongly believe in are continuing education and understating the context within which we’re working. As you’ve heard me say many times before, prospect research is a field where we have to take responsibility for our own learning – whether it’s advocating for our place at the table or our seat in a conference chair. It’s only through understanding what the tools are and how to use them that we will succeed professionally – and help our organizations succeed on a collective scale.
It also means taking ourselves out of our comfort zone to shadow a fundraiser or attend an event or read a book that informs our work. Or to look outside our normal wheelhouse – a White House, for example – to get ideas on how to be more entrepreneurial and serve as leaders, no matter where we sit on the org chart.
Hierarchically speaking, fundraising intelligence doesn’t usually sit at the top of any nonprofit organization’s organization chart. In fact, the most junior member of the Research team usually inhabits one of the boxes at the bottom of the chart, in my ongoing study.
But I’ve also known for a while that org charts can be deceptive. It’s the culture of a place and the specific people in the boxes that are usually the drivers of who has the ‘power’ and who doesn’t. Certain people, regardless of box geography, are able to reach beyond borders. [Read more…]
This week we welcome to the Intelligent Edge HBG Senior Researcher and HBG Book Club organizer extraordinaire, Angie Stapleton. Angie brought up the idea for this article way back in January because she was so intrigued by cryptocurrencies and their impact on philanthropy, and she has been reading up (and generously sharing her knowledge with the team) since then. It’s fascinating stuff, and if you’re interested in learning more, don’t miss Angie’s webinar – details below. ~Helen
If you’ve been reading the Intelligent Edge blog for a while, you may have heard the HBG Book Club has been on a roll! We’ve recently read The Givers by David Callahan, Capital Without Borders by Brooke Harrington, and Secrecy World by Jake Bernstein. At their core, each of these books is about the inherent relationship between wealth and power, the structures UHNWIs use to conceal wealth, and the ability of these structures to quietly shape the world we all live in. [Read more…]
I had a nice email back-and-forth with a colleague the other day discussing a new trend she was seeing in the field. As the conversation wound down to a close, I wrote that I looked forward to seeing her at the Apra International conference (Pittsburgh! August 8-11!). She came back for one last reply, saying that after nearly 20 years of going, the vice president of fundraising was asking her for justification of the expense. [Read more…]
The past two weeks, there’s been a whole lot of Olympics-watching in my household. You too? I don’t know what it is about curling, I don’t even care who’s throwing the stones, I will watch it. (and GO Team USA-men on your gold medal!).
The same goes for ice dancing (did you see those smokin’-hot Canadians?? Wow!) and figure skating. I honestly can’t tell the difference between a lutz, a toe loop, and a Salchow, but the fact that they nail the landing 9/10s of the time is just astonishing.
It was while watching the fortnight highlight farewell review by the NBC Olympic Ice commentators – Scott Hamilton, Liam McHugh and Tanith White – that one of them said in closing how grateful they were to their off-camera research team for helping them be as informed and prepared as they were. That they couldn’t have done their job without them. [Read more…]
Creativity abounds everywhere in the Third Sector, from service providers in the field, to fundraising offices managing more on a shoestring, to a new breed of funders (and well-established funders, too) thinking up new ways to engage with, spur forward, and support their philanthropic priorities. In this week’s article, HBG Senior Researcher Grace Chandonnet shares some of the interesting and creative ways funders are having an impact in the world today. ~Helen
Lately I’ve been thinking about the innovative ways that young entrepreneurs are actively engaging in philanthropy. As my colleague Elizabeth Roma writes, the philanthropy landscape is ever evolving and innovating and appears to be picking up the pace of change exponentially in recent years in what is being referred to as the New Gilded Age. Elizabeth touches on innovative philanthropic vehicles such as the Emerson Collective and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, as well as B-Corps and impact investing. [Read more…]
This week, HBG Senior Researcher Kelly Labrecque takes us into the sunny world of the Palm Beach season, that period of time when the wealthy leave northern climates and head to the tonier parts of Florida. The charity ball scene this year will be very different from years past – what will it mean for the nonprofits who benefit from them? ~Helen
As temperatures in the Northeast drop below 40 degrees, so begins the migration of the wealthy to their seasonal homes to wait out winter. Perhaps the most famous of these destinations is Palm Beach. Part of an 18-mile barrier island in Southeastern Florida, the town is known for its pristine beaches, mega-yacht clubs, five-star restaurants, PGA-rated golf courses, and elite equestrian facilities.
For more than a century, Palm Beach has attracted and played host to the world’s rich and famous. While there, these “snowbirds” generate millions for charity and the local economy. As a result, charitable organizations have come to recognize Palm Beach as a philanthropic hub for the cultivation and stewardship of major donors. [Read more…]
Giving Tuesday marks the opening of the Giving Season, that time of year when generous donors help plant the bulbs for change, and nonprofits nurture and grow them.
I’ve been planting bulbs of my own this past week (daffodils and crocuses; also testing out if lavender seeds actually work), and that activity gave me loads of time to think about how a little preparation now makes a world of difference in a period of time that’s not all that far ahead.
In the fundraising intelligence world, we can do that, too. Here at HBG, we’re talking with clients now about how they can be prepared for next year.
What is your team doing to be sure you’re filling the pipeline with new prospects who are interested in your cause? [Read more…]