Rants

The 7 Faces of Fundraisers

Some people may know the early 90s book, The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. It mused on seven types of donors — the “socialite,” the “investor,” etc. The book is a quarter-century old, though it still holds its weight in the canon of good practice literature.

Since there are, evidently, seven types of donors, I thought it would be fun to explore the types of people asking those donors for support. I give to you, THE SEVEN FACES OF FUNDRAISERS

  • The Lazy Larry — You’re not at all sure what this person does all day, since they’re never out with donors. They spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and absolutely no one is surprised when they leave after 18 months, just a few weeks before you learn the organization won’t meet its fundraising goal. Thanks, Larry.
  • The Michael Scott — Much like the character from The Office, this person somehow remembers everything about every donor, like grandchildren’s birthdays, favorite cars, spousal musical interests and beyond. It’s magical to experience, though replicating this skill is impossible. If they quit, you are screwed.
  • The Sleeze — Much like Clementine from this post, this person is always fundraising, irrespective of the situation. Doesn’t matter if it’s a luncheon, funeral or doctor visit, they are always talking about their organization in the most smarmy way possible, and it’s gross.
  • The Overachiever — Your organization wants to do an annual appeal, capital campaign AND gala, even though there’s only one development staffer? No problem, the overachiever has your back! Not one of those things will get done well, but by golly, “E” for effort. Much like Lazy Larry, this one may also be gone in 18 months, but only because they need to go “find themselves” in a new job at Lululemon.
  • The Transition-ist — This one doesn’t make any sense on paper. They come from a totally different field like corporate banking or Starbucks, perhaps with the expectation they might bring a fresh perspective. Usually they spend too much time talking about “how things used to be” at their last gig, with nonsensical suggestions on how to do things like “scale up” or “optimize.”
  • The Analyst — Numbers are the only thing that matter. Did you make your goal, no. Will the organization have to lay people off, yes. But new donor acquisitions are up by 3 percent, so, winning!
  • The No Nonsense Nicholas — Colleagues and contributors alike love working with this person. They have passion for the mission, don’t overstep with donors, never suggest new program ideas just to solicit funds and they are generally super pleasant. Similar to The Michael Scott, this one is a unicorn.

So does this sum it up? Who is missing from the list? Inquiring minds want to know…

[See also, The Five People you Meet in Nonprofits]

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Rants

Slow Your Roll, Fundraisers…

Real talk… nonprofit development people need to not be so development-y all the time. We should always be aware, and we should always be mindful, but this isn’t Glengarry Glen Ross — we need not always be closing.

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I recently volunteered at a friend’s fundraising event. My tasks were simple… greet donors, tell them where they’re sitting, and direct them to the restrooms. Sure, I recognized some donors to my own organization, and some of them recognized me, but I was there as a traffic cop, not a nonprofiteer.

At one point, a fellow volunteer we’ll call “Clementine” (also a fundraiser for another nonprofit) veered away from the table and began chatting up guests. How nice, I thought. So friendly, I thought. Until I realized Clementine was being smarmy and development-y for her own organization.

It was gross. And worse than that, it was transparent. The donors were there to enjoy a great event for this nonprofit, not Clementine’s nonprofit. Stuff like this happens a lot, especially with fundraisers who can’t “turn it off.” It’s the kind of behavior which gives nonprofits a bad name.

What’s the point? Well, I think donors and stakeholders deserve better. It’s as if you went for a haircut, and there in the waiting area was a salesperson pouncing on you about Lasik. It’s a great big sector out there, and we’re all vying for the same resources. It might seem counterintuitive, though I don’t believe the way to get those resources is to pounce on every seemingly available contributor you see.

So everybody calm down. Especially you, Clementine — slow your roll.

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A Day in the Life

Non-Profit Organization: *sends print invitation for a program*

Donor: *doesn’t RSVP*

NPO: *sends email reminder #1 for the program*

Donor: *doesn’t RSVP*

NPO: *sends email reminder #2 for the program*

Donor: *doesn’t RSVP*

NPO: *sends final email reminder for the program*

Donor: *responds, declining the invitation*

Donor, arriving at the program anyway, the next day: “Why don’t you have me on the list?”

NPO:
WompWompFace

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Rants

Say What You Mean

ShrugWe all know what nonprofits mean (or don’t mean) when they put “other duties assigned” in a job description. But there are lots of other words and phrases in those postings which warrant some attention. Here’s some quick decoding of some of my most favorite jargon…

  • Flexible: We have zero idea what we’re doing, so on our absolute best day, we’re going to be all over the map. You need to not only predict all that nonsense, but respond to it like a clairvoyant. Also, if you are pregnant, a minority or have a foreign-sounding name, we may ask you to pretend otherwise in front of donors.
  • Self-starter: Since we have zero idea what we’re doing, there will be no guidance from management. Other than (maybe) pointing out your desk, the extent of your onboarding will be a walk-through of the kitchen area, focusing on which coffee filters to use… if the admin remembers to order coffee filters.
  • Collaborative environment: Our board is wayyyyyyy more involved than they should be, and you need to be okay with their input on how Times New Roman 11.5-point font size obviously looks much better on this thank you letter than Times New Roman 12-point font size.
  • Fast-paced environment: The executive director will dream up more mission-drifting projects than you can handle, with the expectation that you raise enough money for, and market them by yesterday.
  • Entrepreneurial: We can really only afford a 22-year-old, but we want 10+ years of experience, so we need someone who’s okay with ambiguity at all levels, which may, at times, feel like “entrepreneurship.”
  • Sense of humor: This is the saddest, most melancholy work environment in the country, and we desperately need someone with jokes to help with morale.
  • Passion for the mission: Low salary, no benefits, toxic environment, extremely long hours… but there’s a small possibility you’ll feel really great about the work itself.
  • Must be able to lift 20 pounds, bend, stretch, stand for extended periods of time, climb stairs, reach, twist, walk and run: You will do all of these activities on a daily basis, and often. Also, must have a valid driver’s license and a car, so you can pick up the executive director’s child from daycare; no, we will not reimburse you for mileage for doing this.

And there you have it. Now get those resumes updated, and be sure to let people know your references are available upon request — nonprofits love when you take up one-third of your resume with that phrase.

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Rants

Thanks But No Thanks

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

I knew that quote long before I knew the name of its author, Elie Wiesel. Wiesel seemed like a pretty stand-up guy — activist, Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor — one of those people who make you feel really unaccomplished on your best day.

I think Wiesel’s quote can relate to work. In terms of nonprofit work, it might read: “The opposite of good work is not bad work, it’s indifferent work.” What really anchored this for me was an experience I had last year as a donor.

I made a modest gift to a friend’s organization, not just to show encouragement, but because I believed in the work. The online donation form was easy and clear, but after clicking DONATE… nothing. No e-mail confirmation, no word from my friend. Radio silence. I actually had to check my bank statement to make sure the payment went through. In my mind, this was bad. But more than that, as the days, weeks and months went by — and I heard absolutely nothing from the friend or organization — I thought more about how it was simply indifferent.

This was a missed opportunity. My gift wasn’t going to make or break the organization, but the indifference was wholly off putting. About eight months later, I eventually did hear from someone at the organization, but this person wanted to visit and “talk about considering deeper support” of the organization. LoL, no thanks.

HowAboutNo

I’ve said before how the nonprofit sector is the field of feel. And while we should be involved — volunteer, attend a program, donate — for logical reasons, quite often we are driven by passion for a cause. With that kind of engagement there’s a lot at stake, and indifference creates an unnecessary hurdle. If we treat our inner-circles poorly, what’s to be said for those further from the center? Read more on that, here.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Heck, it’s really, really difficult to be thoughtful, and a lot of organizations would benefit from stepping up their stewardship game. But friends… we all have a lot of competition out there, especially as it relates to funding. It’s become somewhat of a constant drone in these blog posts, but y’all… hear me now:

BeBest

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Rants

“Bad Leaders” Don’t Exist

I’m on a mission to re-frame the way we think about nonprofit leadership — specifically, “leaders.” I’ve been listening for years to people talk about their experiences with “bad leaders,” and it has left me with the following conclusion: if leadership is supposed to be a good practice, why do we so loosely throw around the title with regard to bad practitioners?

Who’s had horrible managers? Can I get a show of hands? Folks, those people are not “bad leaders.” At best, they’re sh*tty bosses. There’s a much larger issue at hand when those sh*tty bosses keep on keepin’ on, though that doesn’t make them any less sh*tty.

TurnSingal

In any case, this rant is all about analogies which compare sh*tty bosses to drivers, and their use of turn signals… or lack thereof. So bear with me while I present to you four different fictitious sh*tty nonprofit bosses.

  • No Signal, No Action: For the sake of this analogy, let’s call his person “Bob.” Bob is nice enough, but as the months and years go by working with Bob, you realize not only does Bob have no plans, he doesn’t actually do very much. Bob never uses a turn signal, because he never goes anywhere. Bob would be better suited as a popcorn vendor at a movie theater.
  • No Signal, Action: Let’s call this person “Donna.” Oh Donna… Donna has a sordid past. She’s “resigned” from several jobs under questionable circumstances, yet nonprofits keep hiring her for “leadership positions.” Donna never signals where she’s going, but she turns all the time, leaving people totally confused and aggravated. Donna should marry into money and stay home.
  • Signal, No Action: Here we have “Phil.” In every staff meeting, Phil tells the team about his plans — and might even lay out steps for the plans — but three or six months down the road, Phil hasn’t done or managed any progress on the plan. Phil uses his turn signal, but never actually turns; he just drives straight for miles and miles, leaving his blinker on, frustrating the entirety of the driving citizenry. Phil should be a professional Yelp reviewer.
  • Signal, Different Action: This is “Clark.” For some reason — probably because Clark has been at the organization over 20 years — he pretty much does whatever he wants. He takes lots of action, though much of it is different than what he says he’ll do. When Clark uses his left turn signal, he turns right, but not before cutting someone off. He should go into consulting, where no one will hire him.

All that considered, it behooves me to mention one contrarian perspective: Signal, Action. This person is “John,” and in this analogy, John is the good egg. John follows the rules of the road, and knows where he’s going and why. When John signals right, he turns right. Everyone around him appreciates it, and those who travel with him enjoy the ride. John acts like a leader, and we should all aspire to be like John.

At the end of the day, many of us don’t have a John. And as an industry, we need to be better about shaping all the bad drivers out there into Johns. But rest assured, there is life after Bob… And Donna… And Phil… And Clark…

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