My Social Media Hiatus

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a slight social media addiction.

I see it as a good thing.

I don’t think I’d be writing a blog, or have discovered any of the amazing business and non-profit leaders I follow without social media.

When I had a really hard time at a former job, a huge loss in my personal life, and some amazing personal and professional accomplishments, my social media family has been there to listen, commiserate, support, and cheer with me. And I love it.

This week social media has gotten a little ugly, and I felt I needed to step away.

It’s pretty clear which political direction I lean, and the federal government shut down has me really upset. A lot of people on both sides of the aisle are equally upset. I found myself being less and less tolerant of social media posts from both sides which were errant, propagandist, and incendiary. Social media was making me angry.

So I posted on both twitter and Facebook that I was signing off until a continuing resolution is passed. And then I posted a photo of my puppy.

That was about 36 hours ago, and yes, I am still twitching. I had a major fundraising win yesterday, and I shared it with my work and home families, but I wanted to share it with my 3,000 other “friends.”  I wanted to share boring stories of updating my operating system last night, because my husband really didn’t care how long it was taking me (bless his heart, he did listen to my whining).

Last night, I tore into two books I had started months ago – started them both from the beginning, and felt inspired. I cleaned out my inbox, listened to a podcast, and started writing and outlining a few blog posts.  Wow – productivity.

Like everyone else, I’m hoping that this shutdown is quickly rectified, for many reasons. But at least I’m forcing myself out of my comfort zone and getting things done that I’ve complained I don’t have time for (there’s another blog post), and feeling more relaxed.

Note: I did troll Facebook a bit last night – not posting anything. I saw that a friend on the opposite end of the political spectrum said he too was signing off Facebook for a bit, as he was “starting to not like people I like.”  It’s a shame it’s so polarizing, but I think he and I will both be better for it in the long run (and it coincides with the start of NHL season, so maybe I’ll get back into the Avs)!

Now, it’s back to a little twitching and getting more real work done!

The Small Development Shop

Does this describe you?

  • Your development team is small (OK – it’s really just you, and maybe a volunteer, intern or part time staff if you are super lucky).
  • Your to-do list has at least 20 “important” items at one time (not including the ones you write once you’ve completed, to feel you’ve done something productive today).
  • Your to-do list includes tasks and projects you know you really want to do, but you can’t find the time, energy, resources, or bandwidth to complete.
  • Your email inbox has no fewer than 100 items in it (make that 100 unread items – that you’ll get to someday).
  • You have a list of webinars (missed), books (stacking up), and blogs you know will help you, but you just never have the time to get to them.

I’ve spent the last six months in my new position facing all of these challenges, and playing with productivity tools, while writing comprehensive development and communications plans. Am I always on track? Heck no. Am I accomplishing a lot more than ever? Heck yeah.

My goal over the next few weeks is to help you get through these challenges we all have, while working on a killer development plan for 2014, if you haven’t already. I’m compiling some reviews of apps and productivity systems, some tips for planning, and stealing borrowing from some of my favorite non-profit experts and business leaders along the way.

If you’re wondering how I could possibly have time myself for this, I gave up social media for the week and was amazingly able to come up with about 15 blog post ideas in about 6 minutes. I’ll be writing about my social media hiatus – and how painful and perfect it is in an upcoming post.

In the mean time, forge ahead on those lists!

Gratitude and the Simple Act of Saying Thank You

I feel like a complete and total heel. That’s a word right out of the mid-1900s, but nothing really speaks better about how I feel.

I truly hurt someone’s feelings last week, and I can’t take back what I said. To be more specific, what I didn’t say.

Thank You.

Two simple words. I say them all the time – to people who don’t even necessarily go “above and beyond.” I would like to think I am a pretty gracious and grateful person. However, last week, I was not.

I had an amazing vendor VOLUNTEER to help our organization with a new undertaking. She is an amazing person, incredibly talented, and someone I not only respect, but also enjoy spending time with. Apparently I never told her this.

We were working together on a direct mail piece. She wrote a killer appeal letter – and really didn’t know a lot about our organization, but was able to knock it out of the park on her first draft.  We made some internal changes, and I know I said that I loved the letter and her work, but I also know, I didn’t ever say “Thank You.”

My amazing copywriter told me the other day she couldn’t work with me any longer. I was crushed. I tried to blame it on my wanting to make too many edits to her wonderful letter. That could not have been further from the truth.  When she told me she had never felt less appreciated, it was as though I had been kicked in the gut. Because she was right.

Talk about a “teaching moment.”

I’ve spoken with a lot of people about it, and so many say, “you’re charming, and she’ll forgive you. You’ll win her back.” I know that she won’t, and that she shouldn’t. I can move on, but I know that I lost an amazing colleague, simply by focusing more on myself, the product, and not her generosity towards me, and especially the amazing organization where I work.

Look around. Who helps you? Do you express your gratitude for what they do? Do you actually say the words of thanks, not just compliment them? As my friends’ mother always said, “choose your words.”  I usually thought of that as a warning not to say something hurtful, but now I realize, NOT saying something is just as bad.

So, Donna – THANK YOU.  I know it is too little, too late, but it is the least I can do. Yes, your work is amazing – I hope I have made that clear. More importantly, the time and effort you gave our organization, and particularly ME, was invaluable, and I truly appreciate you.

Teaching Moment Complete. As my sister said, it is in the past now, and all I can do is move forward, and not replicate my mistake.

Drinking The Kool-Aid

I’ll cut to chase – I’m a little bit of a cynic. Maybe more than a little bit. So naturally, I don’t get the whole motivational speaker thing. I mean, I think Colin Powell was an amazing leader; and at 10, I wanted nothing more in life than to meet Sandra Day O’Connor – I mean – the FIRST female on the Supreme Court? Yes – at 10 I knew the impact of her appointment – I’ve been a geek that long.

I’m not so sure what I can learn from them in terms of leadership, or living my day-to-to day life as a Development Director for a small non-profit. Work hard. Set high standards. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something. OK. Sounds good enough. But I don’t know how that actually is going to help me find a new donor, or get more people excited about my cause – the things I need to do daily.

I’ve been to some of those arena events with “motivational” icons, but after hearing two or three of them – meh. It’s all the same. So that’s my take on motivational speakers and “leadership” gurus.

For some reason, perhaps a mid-career crisis, I have been drawn into Intentional Leadership by Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is the former CEO and current Chairman of Thomas Nelson, a gigantic publishing house, and the world’s largest Christian publisher. I’m going to guess that were we to meet, we’d politely not discuss religion or politics. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t offer some great leadership advice and counsel, and the only religious slant is pretty much based around the Golden Rule. Of course, a good leader wouldn’t actually want to talk politics or religion, unless we met at a specific event about such topics.

The first thing I learned from the Intentional Leadership podcasts is that I succeeded in spite of really poor leadership in a previous position. Everything Hyatt mentions as a leadership pitfall happens to be how my manager operated. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t please her, and I see that it really was how our styles clashed – and that she really didn’t lead, but definitely bossed. This definitely increased my self-confidence in my own abilities.

The other main lesson I have taken from these podcasts and blog posts is honestly, to live with more purpose. This sounds completely hokey, and those who know me will think I am being facetious, but he has a point. I know that we let work drive our lives. We come home from work, tired, and generally have to do more work. We talk about work over dinner – generally the negative things. Home is a safe place to vent. But it all seems so toxic, and it can easily be remedied. I use my time more effectively now – turning off the tv, reading more, and eating dinner together. Again, the cynic in me says this is a little Stepford, but really – what’s wrong with it? We no longer have the tv on when we go to bed – we listen to music, and sleep much better. I get out with the dogs at least two times a day to give them exercise and for me to take a break.

I will admit that the man is not quite as into this as I am. And I’ll add, if I had him listen to the podcast or read the blog, he would think I am crazy – and fear that I’m becoming a stereotypical suburban Christian housewife or something (nothing wrong with that – it is just not who I am!). But bit by bit, I am impacting his life, and trying to make it a little lighter.

So yes, I am drinking some leadership kool-aid. It is delicious, and the best part is that I feel more organized, energetic, AND I’m back to blogging. For now, at least!

One Year

A year ago today, I headed back to work after a nice long 10 day break from a workplace where I really didn’t thrive. I got up early, and dove right into planning my annual gala. Emailing and talking with committee members super early, my boss was quite taken aback to see me in the office so early.

Because she was going to fire me that day.

It was the first time I’d ever been fired. Fact is, the job was not the right fit from the second day. OK – maybe even the first day. My co-workers were great, but the Director and I had completely opposite personalities, and I think I scared the crap out of her. I remember sitting in her office one day when she was undoubtedly berating me for something she felt she could have done so much better, and I held eye contact through the whole meeting. I had nothing to be ashamed of – I did my job, we were successful, but I did it differently than she might have, and she wanted to let me know that was unacceptable. At one point, she asked me if I understood, and I said yes. She said she didn’t know what I was thinking because I was just looking at her. I think she wanted to shame me and she couldn’t. At all.

Getting fired, like so many people say, is the best thing to happen to me.

I had been trying to get out of that job for literally 25 months. I actually had an interview that afternoon. I went in there, somewhat pleased that I had now experienced all ends of the employment spectrum. Having been laid off at the height of the recession, I knew I’d find something quicker this time, and I knew a lot better than to settle for the first offer that came, were there any hesitation, as there was before.

Most importantly, I forced myself to admit something I knew, but didn’t note as important as it should be. Culture. I know how I work best, and I need to work somewhere and with people who are comfortable with me. I probably ask more questions of a potential manager about what they would expect from me, how they work, and their strengths and weaknesses, as they ask of me.

In the year that has passed, I’ve been in a great role where I have been able to utilize my skills and the most fun has been developing a coordinator by empowering her and making sure she is learning in her role. I am a happier person, and so many people can see that – it’s both mentally and physically visible.

Part of me regrets not going off on that miserable director, but I knew it wouldn’t serve me any good. I still think of her, especially when I get in a large donation, or I do something, such as share a story on our mission on social media, about which she would disapprove, and I smile. She bent me, but certainly didn’t break me, and I am a much better person for surviving 25 months of hell. I’m more confident and I have proven to everyone I know (and others I don’t) that I am a skille, successful development and communications professional.

Sponsorship is Not a Donation.

In applying for positions, I’ve come across a few postings asking me to do a little work along with sending the requisite cover letter and resume. Depending on this position and the scope of the work,  I completely understand this. When I say scope, I am calling out a very large national health plan that  wanted candidates to provide an entire communications plan prior to even getting an interview. I felt that was a little out of scope to obtain a phone screening, but that’s just me.

I am working on a sponsorship proposal letter for a wonderful foundation out of Boulder. I don’t mind their asking for a sponsorship letter – it’s a letter, and for a sales and development professional, they should be second nature and pretty much like a cover letter. But it got me thinking – there is a big difference between a sponsorship letter/proposal and a development letter to a potential donor.

Sponsorship is a business proposal. The bank, law firm or restaurant is looking for something in return. You had better know what you have to offer them in return for their purchase of advertising.

  • Value Proposition – what are you offering – why should they get involved. This had better be more than a good feeling that they are helping the community – that’s asking for a donation.
  • What is your demographic – does it match the group they wish to reach?
  • What can you give in return for their sponsorship? Have you built value in return? Is it is special event with goodie bags? Where will their logos be placed?
  • Can you execute and over-deliver on what you’ve promised?

Donations are different – you are asking for cash and in return, you will give that person, company or group, well, nothing except perhaps a tax break and the feeling they have made a difference in the community. There’s nothing wrong with that at all – I love asking for donations and telling a story about the organization, the work and the mission. It’s just not sponsorship. Don’t spend three pages explaining how wonderful your org is to the marketing director of a bank unless you are recruiting them to your board (and that should be done in person, anyway). If you want their company to sponsor something, show the return on investment.

Donation letters can be longer, though I still prefer short and sweet. They too should have a call to action, and the development professional should follow up as any sales person would, but the donor letter should have slightly different components.

  • Case Statement or Statement of Support – this should be institution-wide – the reason anyone – a volunteer, funder or individual would want to get involved.
  • Impact in the community – who, what, how and where are you helping? How many are helped by the work of your org?
  • What will their donation do? What is their impact?

Follow up with both a donor and sponsor can be similar – it’s OK to tell a sponsor the impact their sponsorship made in the community, but just make sure you also include a recap, including photos if possible, of their branding. The follow up with a donor or sponsor will increase engagement, and ideally increase their investment.

Transferable Skills

I’ve been in non-profit fundraising for the better part of a decade, a job I refer to as “sales with a conscience.”  As I think about what I want to be when I grow up, I still get drawn to private sector sales.

What I have generally found, however is that recruiters don’t see a connection. They are sure I can’t prospect or cold call, or make a close.  Well, here’s some food for thought about that.

  • Fundraising is closer to selling a service. The donor doesn’t take home anything at all, except a good feeling, and maybe a tax deduction. There’s no WIFM statement that works to close a major gift.
  • Individual donor prospecting is the same process as B2B prospecting. Sometimes you have a warm lead – they’ve attended an event or made a small donation, but you still have to find out WHY they want to give. They may not have a pain themselves, but for some reason they relate to the pain you are trying to solve, be it a disease, hunger, or education.
  • There is little lead generation (sales 2.0) opportunity in non-profit fundraising. Instead of hosting a webinar on how to best manage data or lead scoring,  development professionals  tell stories of lives affected by their work.  There’s not a white paper to register for and download to share with colleagues – just a warm feeling of making a difference.
  • E-Mail Marketing and lead scoring are the same in the private and non-profit sector. Perhaps not so many non-profits use email marketing and lead scoring as well as B2B companies, but there’s definite potential, and  some savvy non-profit organizations are now seeing this. I’d love to see more non-profits look at their site stats and score prospects by more than just a traditional wealth overlay!
  • Closing is closing. Whether your customer is buying a car, implementing a learning management system, donating cash for a new wing of a hospital or a new literacy program. The program is probably the hardest of all three – like a service – there isn’t that tangible. I’d at least get to cut a ribbon and eventually see my name on a hospital wing in a capital campaign.  It comes down to the fact that people want to be asked. It’s why they give – be it blood, cash or participate in a webinar. Having done both, there is as much, if not more more anticipation, timing and yes, fear asking a donor for a five or six figure gift than asking a Fortune 500 company to buy your new SaaS.

Skills are transferable – if the person with those skills can relate to the values of your private sector organization.

And for the requisite shameless self promotion – my skills are very, very transferable. I can prospect, cultivate and close in any industry. I’ll sell you a car, a mentoring system, or get you to help end childhood hunger.  Let me show you.