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.

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.

Another Great Term In Job Descriptions

There is always the “other duties as assigned” line at the bottom of a job description, but today I got a huge kick after repeatedly seeing  “desire to succeed” as a qualification for a job. Really?

I know there are people who do not care if they succeed, but I seriously doubt those folks are even looking for jobs. I don’t think there’s a lot of job seekers who are thinking, “Gosh, I want to fail!” Just sayin’.

Worst Interview Question. Ever.

About two months ago I was asked what I think is the worst interview question ever.

“Describe a time when you went above and beyond.”

Really? In customer/donor relations going above and beyond is what I do every day. I want each donor, volunteer, event attendee, committee member, and staff person to feel as though I have given them great service – what they service. Service that they deserve. So what would be above and beyond that?

I was completely stumped. I came up with something about working every angle possible to ensure we had enough wine for our event when one distributor couldn’t fulfill the entire donation commitment. But that’s not above and beyond, that’s making sure my event went off without a hitch. I used to do a few extra personalized mailings to thank and recruit blood donors, but I don’t think that’s above and beyond either.

It’s just doing a good job, and taking pride in my work. Perhaps that’s not so easy to find nowadays.