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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
When I do my daily writing, one question I often ask myself is "What Do I Want To Create Today?" It's a question that typically gets my brain moving in a good direction. For some reason - maybe something I was reading, a discussion I was having - the words Transactions vs. Relationships popped into my head. So, let's take a look....
Creating a Transaction in today's world can certainly be challenging. But it's doable. As I found out way back when as a stockbroker, transactions are often driven by numbers. Call (or more likely today) email enough people, ask them a question or make a request i.e. purchase this product or service and you'll probably find someone to say yes. In fact, when I was doing that work in the financial services field, we had it down to a science: 300 calls = 30 conversations = 10 likely prospects = 1 sale. I'm sure those numbers have shifted since the 90's and my days of cobalt blue shirts. The point is what I've just described is all about time spent, effort invested and return. There's very little about quality, the depth of the humans I spoke to and most of all, it's simply not about serving. It's primarily about ROE with the E standing in for my Effort.
Creating Relationships is such a beautifully different practice - in fact I almost hate calling it a practice because it's something that happens almost effortlessly in its best and most authentic form. And this holds whether we're talking about romance, coaching, fundraising and yes, even finance (I'm happy that things have evolved since my days on Wall Street!). In almost every way it's the opposite of creating a transaction: It's not about quantity or the number you've reached out to. It is all about the quality, kindness and connectedness of your interaction. Most of all there is no E! There is no intention on either part for any kind of return. Relationships are at their best when each person is giving simply to give. Serving to serve. End of story.
I'm not sure I introduced anything very new here. However, I hope this a helpful reminder about the brilliance of What You Can Create Today.
I recently launched a group coaching program called Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. If you're in the group and reading this again, thanks for your willingness to try something new!
One of the things we talk about and I often coach others on is the topic of Leadership. Of course there are countless books, podcasts, seminars, trainings on this topic. And that makes sense as there is an endless amount of potential to define what good leaders are, what they do, how they show up - on and on it goes.
Often when I start working with a new client they'll tell me they just want to be a better leader. After I ask them to define "better" many times one of these excellent leaders may share that they haven't received formal training, didn't get a diploma - in other words, they weren't given proper (said with a slight smile and nod of the eyebrow) Leadership Training.
When I hear this, sometimes I think of the wonderful movie the Wizard of Oz. I'm sure most of you know the movie and remember how the Tin Man wanted a heart, the Scarecrow wanted a brain and the Cowardly Lion wanted courage. And then we know that in reality, these same characters exhibited the qualities of kindness and compassion, intelligence and well, plain old courage as they journeyed on to Oz. Once they were there - and after a bit of pretense- the Wizard bestowed upon the three of them the formal trappings of what they wanted.
My point here - besides some nostalgic reminiscing - is that leaders so often have and demonstrate so many of the qualities of a true leader. Just a happy reminder: You don't need to have formal training, a diploma or anything else to show up as you are, take responsibility and be an example of decency and compassion to be a leader. It's in you already.
When I work with you, I have the privilege of helping you see it for yourself .
I started today's post forcing an idea that really wasn't there. No need to dwell on it. The bottom line is that there really wasn't a lot of truth in what I was writing about. There really wasn't something I could share that would serve any of you that might be reading this. I won't take up your time with that.
This new approach to writing - Nonprofit Now! Today - has been a wonderful and often challenging exercise for me. I'm seeing what I can come up with ON DEMAND in 15 minutes. Harkening back to what I learned from Neil Gaiman over my weekend listening is that the best thing I can do is write something that is truly me. In other words, I could spend the 15 minutes reframing someone else's stuff but you're never going to get much of me - my thinking and most of all, my offer of service.
So today, my only little tip is Don't force something that's not there. Those who read or listen to you will know it's not your truth. And more importantly, You'll Know It's Not Your Truth. Why do that?
The best we can always offer is our authentic selves and whatever is really coming up. Anything less doesn't honor those we're sharing with and those we want to serve.
You've been hacked!
That was the header to the email I woke up to at about 1:00 AM last night. Actually, my bad completely as I woke up, rolled over, picked up my phone and started to go through emails. This is probably why all those expert books tell us not to keep our phones next to our bed. We get up. We start reading. It's all over - you're not going to bed anytime soon.
But back to our story. The email went on to say a bunch of other stuff meant to scare me into paying them ransom. Real? Fake? I'm not sure but I started thinking about what happens to us - or speaking for myself (me) - when we allow ourselves to easily buy into a story. That's exactly what I was doing.
My first inclination was to believe it without any evidence or aspects of credibility. I initially reacted with fear (our go-to emotion), then a search for evidence, solutions and on and on. Until I realized something: I can decide how to respond to this or if I choose to respond at all. I can decide if it's simply a story and a story I want to adopt as truth. I could even decide if I wanted to make it My Truth and start living into that story and that truth.
Regardless of what I decided, we're constantly being hacked like this. Sometimes it's by ourselves and sometimes its external forces. We get to decide what to do with the hackers. We get to decide what serves us, others and what we're trying to create and be in the world. Think of it next time you're hacked.