What to do when your executive director or board of trustees....


Commentary: ...doesn't understand what fundraising professionals do

Lilya Wagner, OnPhilanthropy.com, 12/7/11

This is the concluding installment on the recent column that advised fundraisers on dealing with executives who don't really understand what it is that development professionals do.  Probably the most dominant comment I hear from development officers is that bosses need to understand that the relationship with the donor is more important, in the long run, than getting a certain donation within a certain time period for a certain project. Marc Hardy, director of the Nonprofit Executive Education department at the University of Notre Dame [said]: "Given that some studies suggest that the transfer of wealth in the next 30 to 40 years will yield at least $6 trillion dollars in charitable bequests, the largest ever, this could be a very good advice -- even more so since these studies were made before 'The Giving Pledge.' Given these predictions, it seems that bosses truly need to be thinking long-term about development." Perhaps the following actions might be helpful:

1. There is no substitute for good planning which promises outcomes and has a strong rationale included for doing what you do. This plan should have the input of staff, board development committee, and others who add credibility to your plan. Share this plan with the boss, asking her to sit down with you as you go over it briefly.

2. Promise periodic updates focusing on results. Include hard-to-quantify steps along the way toward showing the results, so the flow of activity is clear and ends in a measurable.

3. Ensure there are clear accountabilities in your plan, with promises of results.

4. Use influential people to motivate your boss toward action and to make her desire to be part of a successful effort. Perhaps make an ally of a major donor -- without ever divulging you may have problems with your boss, of course -- or a particularly enthusiastic volunteer.

5. In appropriate ways, share information about what works in fundraising, what the trends are, what the experts are saying, what successes organizations similar to yours are experiencing and why, and what the research states.

6. Above all, conduct yourself in a professional manner. Even if your position is under mild (or at times, severe) attack, keep your cool, maintain a professional demeanor, don't get riled up by questions that may range from innocent inquiry to negative criticism.

7. Ultimately, as fundraiser Tony Adessa concludes, if your situation shows signs of becoming untenable, consider dusting off your resume. Not all battles are winnable.


Commentary: ...doesn't understand the value of social & mobile media

Heather Mansfield, NonProfit Tech 2.0 blog, 11/28/11

In 2007, I presented my first social media training to a small group of nonprofits. At the time, nonprofits were primarily only using MySpace and YouTube. Facebook Groups were only just beginning and Facebook Pages didn't exist yet. At this first training, it was no surprise almost all of the attendees were battling the "my boss doesn't get it" conundrum. Flash forward four years. Executives have come a long way in understanding the Social Web. However, the No. 1 complaint is still "My boss doesn't get it!" It's troublesome to say the least that nonprofit social media practitioners still struggle to get the buy-in and the support they need from executive staff to launch and maintain successful social media campaigns. Social media is not a fad. It's a fundamental shift in how our supporters communicate with each other and with us, and ultimately in how they donate and get involved with organizations. Here are some tips to help you illuminate and mobilize the skeptics:

1. Find your voice and channel your enthusiasm. Be insistent your nonprofit needs to embrace social and mobile media. Asserting yourself is often the missing piece to success.
2. Compile stats to share with executive staff. The second most visited website in the U.S. is Facebook; 71% of Americans watch online video; one in 3 Americans access the Mobile Web every day; 73% of Americans send and receive text messages. A quick Google search of "social media stats 2011" pulls up a wide range to share with unaware executives.

3. Find your competitors the Web. If they have well-executed social media campaigns, send executive staff links on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr, etc., with a note that you fear your nonprofit is falling behind. If you have to do this, then your nonprofit probably is falling behind.

4. Subscribe to social media blogs such as Mashable, Nonprofit Tech 2.0, Socialbrite, etc. and then forward executives breaking news on social and mobile media.

5. Get training. Learn how to successfully integrate your website, e-newsletter and "Donate Now" campaigns with social and mobile media. Your ROI (and thus your boss's willingness to invest in social and mobile media) is directly related to how well-integrated these tools are.

6. Be proactive. Add your social and mobile media responsibilities to your job description. At your next annual review, at least seed the idea you can't add these new responsibilities without dropping time spent on other duties. Your boss can say no, but you need to be firm.

7. Ask for an office smartphone. You are going to need it. Yes, yes... I know. Your nonprofit has no budget for it. Ask anyway because if your nonprofit is not experimenting with social media on the Mobile Web, then you are missing the early adoption phase and you'll regret it two-to-three years from now when fundraising is mobile.

There is no magical word or case study you can present to skeptical executive staff to make them instantly get it. It's up to you to be proactive, insistent and ultimately not take "no" for an answer.


Commentary: ...is the source of much of your fundraising failure

Jeff Brooks, Future Fundraising Now blog, 4/25/11

If your boss -- the executive director, president, or some hyper-vigilant board member -- is the source of much of your fundraising failure, you are not alone. Check out this post at Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog: 9 things to do when you're right but your boss thinks you're wrong. One of those things is especially important: Do not argue the merits of anything based only on your opinion. Here's why: When it comes to fundraising, opinions are always wrong. Sometimes, by sheer coincidence, an opinion is aligned with the facts. But that's temporary and never trustworthy. As long as the discussion is "what I like" pitted against "what you like," you are lost in the topsy-turvy world of marketing relativism. The winner of the argument is the one with the more vivid opinion. Or the boss. Get facts instead. Here's an example: Everyone who doesn't know much about fundraising believes we should keep messages short -- because "nobody" reads long messages. This seems intuitively correct. It will usually win the argument. But it's wrong. Everyone who knows their stuff knows that long messages are almost always more effective. The best source of facts is direct response testing of your own hypotheses on your own donors. If your numbers (or budget) are too small for valid testing, pay attention to the experts. Read books on fundraising. Follow the blogs. Hire somebody smart. And pay attention. Any time a decision is being made on opinion, taste, or personal preference -- it is almost for sure the wrong decision.


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Commentary: Asking 'why' can validate the things we do

Harvey Mackay, USA Today, 11/28/11

An experiment conducted by the Wharton School of Business demonstrates the power of "why." At a call center where employees phone alumni to solicit contributions to scholarship funds, the staff was randomly divided into three groups: The first read stories by former employees about the benefits of the job (such as improved communication and sales skills). The second shared accounts from former students about how their scholarships helped them with their education, careers and lives. The third, a control group, read nothing. They just explained the purpose of the call and asked for a contribution. After a month, the first and third groups raised roughly the same amount after the experiment began as before. But callers in the second group, who had related the stories about the impact of the scholarships students received from the fundraising campaign, raised twice as much money from twice as many alumni as they had before. Understanding the importance of their work -- the "why" -- apparently motivated them to get better results. When an employee asks why we do things a certain way, and the manager can explain the logical reason, then we know what we are doing is valid. But if that manager can't begin to hazard a guess beyond the "we've always done it this way" reply, we must reconsider our motivation. The conventional wisdom has been that bosses manage and employees do what they're told. We've learned that thinking is upside down. Innovation is not the exclusive domain of corporate leadership. Pay attention to those employees who respectfully ask "why" -- they are demonstrating an interest in their jobs and exhibiting a curiosity that could eventually translate into leadership ability. 

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