In my post last week I mentioned that this summer has been about transition for us. From a professional perspective, I'm very excited about this next chapter and while it may not be worthy of all the suspense I'm attaching, I'm going to wait until all the pieces are in place to share details.
That being said, it's also been a summer of learning for me and as we come to the end of it - Labor Day BBQs around the corner and all that - thought I'd share a bit about some special experiences I had and some (hopefully) valuable takeaways in no particular order:
A-B-V: Always Be Volunteering: My hunch is that some of us that work in the charitable arena find our niche, do amazing things and leave it at that. I was guilty as charged. As vital as our full time work is, it's inspiring to learn about the mission of other organizations. The majority of my professional time is spent encouraging peer-to-peer fundraising in connection with endurance events - and I love it. However, this summer I also played the guitar as part of a volunteer trio that encouraged clients to learn and play music at a men's drop-in shelter. It was a great opportunity to learn about their programs while engaging individuals in something they found enjoyable and instructive. No doubt there are similar opportunities for you to try something a bit different.
To Thine Own Self Be True: Shakespeare clearly had something there...after having the opportunity to work with various nonprofits, this summer I did a good bit of soul searching and realized I love the experience of starting, evaluating and implementing new projects, sharing and educating, developing new business and being a catalyst for change and growth for charitable organizations. I'm fully embracing this reality and identifying ways to capitalize on it. If you've been doing whatever you've been doing for awhile now, take the time to identify your best contribution and see how you can do more of that. It may mean a job change, career transition or heart to heart with associates or management. But it's well worth the time and effort.
Since those first two were kind of serious, these next (last) two are on the lighter side of life....
Knowledge is Good - or Always Get A Second Opinion: Am I dating myself if I remind you of the quote featured on Emil Faber's statue in Animal House? If so, more knowledge - like a second opinion - is better! I'm still celebrating that after being told by one doc that I'll never run again, another got me doing the smart stuff and I'm back to a 16 mile long run on the way back to my 12th marathon for my 50th Birthday. My wife's convinced I'd probably just keep looking for doctors until I got the opinion I wanted - but fortunately it only took one. Never settle.
You're Never Too Old To Do Exactly What You Want: For those of you who have read some of my posts, you know I tend to use running metaphors. I love running because it's the only sport where I - being a runner that truly appreciates the scenery (a.k.a. I'm not fast) gets the same medal as the guy who finishes in the top 10. But one other dream I had was to play on a real hockey team - uniforms and everything. So, at 49 years old, I was the oldest guy out there but loved being part of an ultra beginners summer league. I may not have kept up with the 20 (and 30) year olds but at least I gave them some practice skating around me.
I hope these few thoughts have encouraged, inspired, or motivated you....or just given you a laugh. Back to the serious stuff next week - after Labor Day when we all get back to business.
OK, well that might be a bit extreme. Chances are most of us don't know where our donors - or prospective donors are at 11:30 PM. In fact, there's a good chance they may not want us to know where they are at 11:30....or after. But it's worth knowing where you may find your strongest constituents after typical business hours.
What I'm really asking is how well do you know your donors, volunteers....and while we're at it, how about your leadership and staff? My hunch is a lot of us can fill in the top 5 or even 10 blanks created by Raisers Edge or (fill in your database system of choice). But can you go deeper? And why is it worth it? Here's a few examples:
Birthdays: Chances are you know when your donors' birthdays are - it's probably right there in one of the top fill-in slots. But do you know what their favorite gift has been? And who do they love to celebrate it with...and how do they celebrate? Will all of this get you an immediate donation? Probably not. Will it tell you things about your donors and volunteers that will help you create real and lasting relationships? Absolutely!
Work and Professional Life: You know what they do but do you know what else they want to do? You have the Chief Marketing Officer of Acme BigCo on your Board and she's been looking to hone her financial skills. How psyched is she going to be when you invite her to head up the new finance committee or be part of the budgeting process? And do you know if your donor's company offers a match? That opportunity is just a question away.
Hobbies, Interests and Downtime: Chances are you know that they do or do not play golf. But do you know if your donors run, bike and/or swim? If so, fundraising around endurance events such as marathons and triathlon is on the rise. And it's growing faster thanks to crowd funding and third party platforms. Do your volunteers love travel and if so, where do they go? You may have a great opportunity to connect them to a local affiliate at their destination. What a great way to further engage them in your mission.
As I do my proofreading, I realize I'm asking lots of questions. But that's the point. These are just three quick examples of how just going a bit deeper with learning about your donors can make big diferences. Take the time and try it. You'll be glad you did.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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