the mehrabian theory
Did you know that according to Alfred Mehrabian's research, 7 percent of meaning is communicated through spoken word, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language. By the way, for history buffs, Mehrabian was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Although he originally trained as an engineer, he is best known for his publications on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages.
Why does this matter and why am I writing about this?
Well, I have a hunch more people know about this in the age of Zoom. I actually learned about it since I've been in Toastmasters Leadership Program for the past 12 years. This came up as I was having a conversation today with a colleague about facilitation and the fact it can be even more challenging when you're facilitating on Zoom.
But I invite you to think about it next time you're on a call -whether it's on Zoom or the Phone (OMG - does anybody use those anymore???). If you're on a call, are you conscious of your tone? Are you intentional about the inflection of your voice? And obviously with Zoom, all of this is even more pronounced. I often talk to leaders about the way the show up - both physically and mentally - for meetings. This comes to the forefront when often all people can see is your face and part of your body.
Just a little food for thought before the weekend. Have a great one!
17 invitations a day
As I was writing my first book which I hope to have out by the end of the year, I realized I had a lot to say about Prospecting. This is because happily (yes, really happily) I've been doing that in one form or another for the past thirty plus years of my career. First it was as a banker, then as I was building my business as a stockbroker in the 90's and then as a fundraiser for nonprofits over the past two decades. Now as a consultant and coach to nonprofits and others, I'm still looking for new people and organizations to help every day.
One thing that keeps it fun for me - and even more so recently - is how I measure my success. I must be on a measurement kick since I talked about that yesterday too. Oh well, I'm going with it...
Anyway, a few days ago, I re-calibrated what I want to accomplish this year. I'm talking about
Results as opposed to Goals. Goals are about You and what makes you feel good i.e. I want to run a marathon as a wonderful personal achievement. Results on the other hand are what you want to create in the world or help others create in the world.
I thought I'd share what I want to do....
I want to help 67 clients create the results they want to see in the world this year. That's it. If I do that, I'll have a successful year. To do that, I need to be in conversation with 444 people this year or roughly 9 a week. I do this by inviting 17 people every day to be in conversation.
What's making this a lot of fun is that I' m happy to help anyone and everyone I can. I do this by putting that offer out to people in my professional network, old friends, new friends, people that read my stuff (maybe even you!) or people that have reached out to me for help. I'm not attached to the result of any one conversation. They're all good. Sometimes it's a quick hello. Sometimes it's a nice catch up of what we've been doing for the last few years. Sometimes it's a detailed description of how I work with people.
My only focus in on being sure this happens in some form every day and that I make a real, personalized connection with these people. Please let me know if you'd like to be one of them.
Seinfeld, silence of the lambs and some new thinkng about nonprofit measurement
There are no small parts, only small actors....
I started my day by learning that this quote, which I had identified with an episode of Seinfeld titled "The Burning", originated with Constantin Stanislavski, a prominent Russian theater practitioner. I had actually been mistaken about the quote; in the episode George riffs on this and says "I guess there are no small diseases, only small actors". He's referring to Kramer and his buddy making some extra money acting out diseases for medical students at a local university. I guess this gives you a sense of where my cultural references come from - I need to do some work on that.
So, what in the world does the above have to do with nonprofits or my coaching work?? Actually quite a bit....
I had been speaking with a nonprofit yesterday that's been around for nearly three decades. They do groundbreaking preventative work on a health issue for which there is no cure. They've raised anywhere between $500,000 and nearly $1 million annually. And yet during our introductory conversation, the individual I was speaking with noted that "We're just a small nonprofit."
Beyond the fact that size in is always a relative measure, I'd like to suggest new thinking around this idea, particularly for nonprofits. And the reason it's relevant to the quote above? Small is a state of mind. Small is a choice you make. To go back to our acting connection, the literal meaning of this is that an actor who chooses to do so, can take a small part and make it big. One great example (and more fun trivia): Anthony Hopkins only appeared in Silence of the Lambs for sixteen minutes out of a run time of two hours and eighteen minutes - he was on there for just 12% of the movie...Talk about an actor taking a small part - in terms of screen time - and making it big!
So, back to nonprofits. I'd suggest that nonprofit organizations start to look at and in fact, measure themselves in new ways. And even more so, move away from labels like Big and Small that diminish (both internally and externally) the value they bring to their communities and the world. Here's a start:
I hope you were at least mildly amused by the pop references - I think a little lighter thinking serves as well when we're all amped up about well, you know that thing that happens in a few days. In the meantime, I hope next time you're thinking about a nonprofit, forget about size and consider measuring them in some of the ways above.
that extra something special
It's interesting the things that stay in your mind from many years of work experiences. When I was the Development Director for one of the larger international nonprofits I was with, I loved how creative many of our volunteers were and the way they utilized that to raise funds. One volunteer played a somewhat usual instrument (I can't remember the exact one - think klezmer or something along the lines) with a band and they would do little concerts wherever they could.
One Friday night a few weeks before our big fundraising walk, this volunteer played a concert at a local joint - nothing fancy at all. I went down to see him play. Like everyone else, I paid my entrance fee (plus a bit more to help the cause), had a few beers and enjoyed myself. What really struck me was that the CEO of the nonprofit came to watch as well. He saw me, we chatted for a bit and he joined the rest of the audience. I thought how cool! So nice and supportive of him to show up.
The next Monday I came in and opened up my email. There was a lovely note from our CEO thanking me for showing up and sharing how grateful he was for my being at the concert. Wow! Three or four quick simple lines expressing gratitude for something I hadn't even thought about much.
I share all this not to highlight what I did (attending the concert) but rather what the CEO did. As leaders, it's very easy to get lost in our titles, in the process, in the hierarchy and all of the rest of the trappings of leadership. But not for this fine leader. It might have taken him all of three minutes to write that email but the impact of it - as you can see since you're reading about it - will hopefully send endless ripples of positivity out there.
My dad used to say the following whenever I felt stuck or in the depths of a problem:
If it can be handled with money, it can be handled with money
Incredibly simplistic right? It's right up there with those Captain Obvious commercials for hotels.com. Nevertheless, as I've gotten older and hopefully somewhat wiser, that logic has become ever more powerful. In fact, as someone who has at times struggled with money issues - and I mean in a more psychological than literal sense - this reality has become more and more real. And I hope by my sharing it today, it will perhaps raise your awareness.
How often do we manage to get ourselves bent out of shape over something that can be handled through our finances? I'm guessing some of you may be saying "well, what if we don't have all the money to handle it?" Valid point. While I know this can be true, aren't we talking more about quantity? Doesn't the problem then move to the "how" of getting the quantity of money needed. This tends to align with magnitude - as we grow older, the problems that can be handled with money grow in size - yet, they remain manageable. As a quick example, when we're college students, we might struggle to buy that tiny refrigerator for our dorm room. Once we're old enough to be homeowners, we'll worry about redecorating our kitchen. See, magnitude but still manageable.
But let's talk about what can't be handled with money. True happiness. Joy. Fulfillment. Interesting that the idea of quantity, size, scale or magnitude just isn't relevant here. You can't buy a small or large amount of happiness, joy or fulfillment (although the old joke is that you can rent it!). Conversely, money can't buy away sadness, loss, and pain. While it can buy medications or rent a movie to make us laugh a bit, deep down, money just can't touch these things.
I'd invite you to bring this concept into your life and see what this simple yet true saying can remind you of. For me, it became a part of the special wisdom my father was always able to introduce into my life and I love him deeply for it.
Remember, if it can be handled with money, it can be handled with money.
telling stories of transformation
In a few weeks, I'm honored to be joining with several other speakers that will be talking about the value of Storytelling as it relates to fundraising - this is a program sponsored by the Florida Public Relations Association. For those that may be interested; here's the link: https://www.fpraswfl.org/nonprofit-day-the-art-of-distanced-storytelling/
With Storytelling so much on my mind I was thinking back to my first fundraising job - I was hired to launch a fundraising program at the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New York City. I always felt you couldn't ask for a better first job in this field. The aged are, in my humble opinion deserving of the most but sadly from a charitable perspective, often get the least - and I'm not just talking money, I'm talking about respect. But we'll go. there another time. I felt like if I could raise money here well, I could do it anywhere.
My mission, if I was to accept it (and I did) was to get potential donors excited about supporting the nursing home. What was working in our favor is that we truly had a built in constituency - not just family members but community members. The nursing home was in the exciting and vibrant East Village - Alphabet City. It was positioned at the end of the block that was surrounded by interesting restaurants, a transitioning neighborhood and all kinds of new people getting involved in the area. By the way, if you ever saw the movie Beaches, our nursing home was on the same block where Cece Bloom (Bette Middler's character) lived in her early struggling days. All this and trivia too!
Storytelling - although I wasn't thinking this at the time - was the way that we reinvented the image of a nursing home from a sad place where people spend their final years to a next home where amazing people, with incredible stories, went to share their gifts with others....
One of our residents was an artist who had done a portrait of John F. Kennedy. Some of the nursing staff asked if he would contribute new art for the stain glassed windows in the chapel. We even had this special artist design t-shirts for what was to become our annual block party fundraiser. His art career re-invigorated him to the point where his health improved. He even began to go home for short periods to spend time with family.
This was just one of many stories that became the drivers of a campaign that brought in nearly $500,000 for a nursing home that hadn't raised money before. I share this not to highlight me but to highlight the incredible residents that were willing to share their stories, wisdom and courage. It was beautiful to see. The fundraising was the helpful spillover effect of this new perspective on senior living.
There's more to come both here and in the program. Most importantly, I hope this quick story can help inspire your creativity and get you sharing your stories of transformation.
And have a great weekend!
working hard or hardly working?
Working Hard - or Hardly Working?
Does that expression ring a bell? I'm probably dating myself a bit here but thats' the sort of comment people used to say as they passed by each other in the hallways at the office. You may remember those? Places of various size - some small, some big - where people go to do whatever they do in proximity to each other. It was a more prevalent concept before February.
But I digress. The subtext of that light airy question was something along the lines of are you actually doing anything here at the office? Are you really engaged in what we're doing here?
On thinking more about it, I think you can look at another way. If you feel like you're working hard that can be a great thing and something to feel proud of. I personally love and feel great when I've put in a solid day of delivering the best I can.
At the same time, the concept can also be attached to the concept of purely working for the money. Just putting in your hours, doing your job, taking home your pay and doing this till you retire. It kind of sits along the thought behind that old song Everybody's Working for the Weekend. Not too attractive and something I don't wish on anyone.
But what if you feel like you're hardly working? What if you feel like what you do is fun, so enjoyable, such a manifestation of your very best contribution that it almost seems like a misnomer to call it work. Now that's pretty cool. I'll take that every day of the week (and weekends too!)
So, are you Working Hard or Hardly Working?
forget the bagels!!
I was having a conversation with a client yesterday that had big plans for their fundraising walk. As has become the usual in this very unusual year, they were moving the event to a virtual platform. After sharing some of the very clever ways they had re-imagined the walk, I asked "and what's your follow-up plan for your fundraisers and new donors?" Silence.
This isn't unusual. Reflecting over the last twenty years, I've found it rare that a nonprofit has a detailed outreach plan for the post-event period. More often the six to nine month cycle (in a collapsed form) goes something like this:
Sound at least vaguely familiar? And while I know with Covid we're doing things a little different, the mentality remains.
A critical step 5 is absent and you don't win a prize if you've been reading this and guess what it is: A Follow Up Plan with Your Fundraisers. Thank you's. Feedback. How else would they like to be involved?
And then depending on how the fundraising was done i.e. peer-to-peer, sponsorships etc. , A Follow Up Plan With Your Donors. Not so different. Big THANK YOU's. What did they enjoy about the experience. Etc.
Here's my point: Forget the Bagels! Spend a little less energy on that stuff - the really committed one's don't care that you only have plain bagels and skipped the everything and sesame. Use that energy to have a true post-even follow up strategy that truly leverages the hard work you just invested in the front end of your event.
And feel free to substitute bagels for the committee discussion over the choice of chicken or fish, the perfect tablecloth or what gets put in the goody bag that promptly goes in a closet never to be seen or heard from again.
On the heels of yesterday's thoughts about board members and the fabled "perfect number of Board Members", I've been thinking about a similar question about donors. I often come across nonprofit organizations that have idealized the Perfect Donor. Come on - tell me you haven't done this! I know I have. We picture that wonderful combination of financial success and capacity, passion for our cause and endless potential for generosity.
To make matters even more challenging, there is a sub-sector of the nonprofit industry dedicated to furthering this myth. We're often on a seemingly endless chase for that perfect donor. We employ the best in research tools, endless searches on google to find that someone (or someones) who will magically connect with your cause and want to give. The icing on the cake? The person is a super celebrity.
So, where will you find this Perfect Person.
Surprise!! It's not with a google search. It's not through a new peer-to-peer campaign. It's not even through a rocking referral from a top board member.
The answer is insanely simple. The Perfect Donor is right in your existing donor file. The Perfect Donor is the donor you are speaking to right now (or at least should be speaking to Right Now!).
We need to move away from the self-defeating idea that the perfect donors are all Out There (wherever out there actually is) and yet to be found. The perfect donors that are already committed, interested in your mission and ready to be surprised and astonished are right there in your database waiting to be wowed. I love prospecting but be sure you're giving the love to the people that already love you and your organization.
how many board members should we have?
Over the past few weeks I've been involved in a few different board assessment and restructuring projects. I always find these projects to be fascinating as they involve both a certain level of art and science. The science part - or lets call it the more technical and process oriented - is the aspect of governance, hard skills exploration and ensuring that you have a solid understanding of what exactly is needed for your particular nonprofit. The "art" aspect is where it gets really interesting. This is where the complexities of psychology, relationships and most importantly commitment to service shows up in all its forms.
When I do these projects, one of the questions that's asked almost every time is: What is the right number of board members for our nonprofit? or some variation on that question. This connects back to what I was talking about the other day when I noted that at times leaders can be too focused on Transactions and not enough on Relationships.
A similar concept comes up here. I'll always suggest focusing on first developing a quality relationship with one board member. Build that first. Help he or she to be as committed as possible to the work of your organization. This is a big contrast to what I occasionally hear from Executive Directors: We're doing a drive to bring on a whole bunch of high-ticket board members. Can you help us find those people?
No, I really can't do that. What I can help an organization do - or will always recommend - is slowing down, identifying good people who have a commitment to serving the communities you serve. Find that first. Work with those people diligently. Thoughtfully and intentionally. The rest (yes, the money, the fundraising etc) will come in time.
How many board members should you have?
Just one. The one you're working with now that you can help to be exemplary for the ones that follow.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com