That Next Job: Is It Right for You?

Turn-over within the development or fundraising profession is rampant. Recent national studies claim that professional fundraisers change jobs, on average, every two years. This situation has ominous implications for the financial footing of the more than one million registered non-profit organizations which depend so heavily upon philanthropic support. Why? Because successful fundraising is grounded upon meaningful relationships with donors at both the macro (annual fund) and micro (major, principal and planned gifts) levels. Excessive turn-over obviates relationship-building. 

There are many reasons cited for this problem, but inadequate compensation, insufficient organizational support, unrealistic fundraising goals, and impatient leadership are among the most frequently noted. The temptations for the experienced fundraiser to “jump ship” are manifold and apparently, often irresistible.

But, is that new job in your best professional and personal interests? How can you objectively assess whether that next opportunity will likely lead to a successful and satisfying career experience for YOU?

As you consider your next position, will you take up your new job fully confident that you will bring the FOUR E’s  to your work?

Engaged:            in the mission, vision and goals.

Enthusiastic:    about the organization and the inevitable hard work that                                  success will inevitably demand of you.

Enabled:             with those resources to succeed and make a real                                                   difference.

Eyes Open:       to the realities, challenges and opportunities that lie                                            ahead.

This guide has been prepared by West Avenue Associates reflecting upon years of experience, both as consultants to and senior staff members of some very successful non-profit organizations. We offer this as an aide to our development colleagues to navigate through many of the questions that should be considered as one ponders a job change. We hope you find it helpful.

IMPORTANT: there are no right or wrong answers to these questions...only YOUR answers.

David C. Johnson, President, West Avenue Associates

 

Great Boards are Like Fine Gardens

Looking back over my 45 years in the non-profit world, I continue to be struck by the frequent and recurring lament over the “quality of the board”.  This concern usually takes on a number of interpretations:                                                                  

  • Failure to attend scheduled meetings;
  • Failure to be fully prepared for meetings;
  • Failure to comprehend completely the mission, history and culture of the organization;
  • Failure to lend strong financial support and public advocacy; and,
  • Failure to focus strategically (vs. operationally) on the organization’s challenges and future.

 In short, failure to be of real consequence – or value – to the organization.

A recent report “Consequential Boards: Adding Value Where It Matters Most”, published by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) cites seven imperatives for boards in a time when leadership for change is more important than ever. Gone are the days when boards were largely honorific. The financial, social and political pressures on non-profits today simply cannot be managed successfully if a board is distant or focused on inconsequential issues. We at West Avenue Associates highly recommend this report to all of our clients and friends. You can access it at www.agb.org.

The issue of “board development” is a matter of great concern to most non-profits.  How do we entice, recruit and otherwise “train” good board members?  A major New York investment firm has been known to counsel its senior managers about how they should approach service on non-profit boards.  Their advice continues to be sage:  

  • Limit your service to not more than three (3) boards of non-profits, ones that you truly care about
  • Perform thorough “due diligence” on every board opportunity, scrutinizing each organization as you would a new corporate client. Just say “no” if you don’t like what you see;
  • Treat your board service as seriously as your job;
  • Focus on providing reasoned strategic advice;
  • Accept the condition that the typical non-profit is slow to change;
  • Willingly provide a full measure of financial and public support;
  • Anticipate those conditions or situations which if left unaddressed, may become crises; and, 
  • Remember that the relevance and achievement of mission is the bottom line of the non-profit.                 

In sum, be a board member of real consequence.

The development and management of a good board is akin to raising a great garden. It must be constantly tended, encouraged and, of course, pruned.  It is not a part-time exercise. Left alone, the weeds will take over.

What does your board look like?  How should it be changed? How can you manage such change? How can you make your board a Consequential Board?      

Think about it.

– David C. Johnson, President, West Avenue Associates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back over my 45 years in the non-profit world, I continue to be struck by the frequent and recurring lament over the “quality of the board”.  This concern usually takes on a number of interpretations: 

                                   

                                    Failure to attend scheduled meetings;

                                    Failure to be fully prepared for meetings;

                                    Failure to comprehend completely the mission, history and culture of the organization;

                                    Failure to lend strong financial support and public advocacy; and,

                                    Failure to focus strategically (vs. organizationally) about the organization’s challenges                                                   and future;

                                    IN SHORT, Failure to be of real consequence – or value – to the organization.

 

A recent report “Consequential Boards: Adding Value Where It Matters Most”, published by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) cites seven imperatives for boards in a time when leadership for change is more important than ever.   Gone are the days when boards were largely honorific.  The financial, social and political pressures on non-profits today simply cannot be managed successfully if a board is distant or focused on inconsequential issues.  We at West Avenue Associates highly recommend this report to all of our clients and friends.  You can access it at www.agb.org.

The issue of “board development” is a matter of great concern to most non-profits.  How do we entice, recruit and otherwise “train” good board members?  A major New York investment firm has been known to counsel its senior managers about how they should approach service on non-profit boards.  Their advice continues to be sage: 

                  Limit your service to not more than 3 boards of non-profits, ones that you truly care about

                  Perform thorough “due diligence” on every board opportunity, scrutinizing each organization as           you would a new corporate client.  Just say “no” if you don’t like what you see;

                  Treat your board service as seriously as your job;

                  Focus on providing reasoned strategic advice;

                  Accept the condition that the typical non-profit is slow to change;

                  Willingly provide a full measure of financial and public support;

                  Anticipate those conditions or situations which if left unaddressed, may become crises; and,

                  Remember that the relevance and achievement of mission is the bottom line of the non-profit.

                  IN SUM, be a board member of real consequence.

 

The development and management of a good board is akin to raising a great garden.  It must be constantly tended, encouraged and, of course, pruned.  It is not a part-time exercise.  Left alone, the weeds will take over.

What does your board look like?  How should it be changed?  How can you manage such change?  How can you make your board a Consequential Board?      Think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spend Time With Rich People

The day fund raising goals became a line item in college and university budgets a paradigm shifted, and development and alumni relations, which used to provide for " the margin of excellence," now was on the hook to raise dollars for existing programs and projects…in an environment of pressure to cap tuition and fees, post-2008 endowment investment returns and, in the case of public universities, ever dwindling state support. Add the seismic shift in the way education can be delivered and priced, the challenge of measuring the "value" of a traditional education, the rising percentage of non traditional students, and the inevitable decrease in boomer and silent generations, is it no wonder that DAR offices are stressed? Yet, expectations soar.

Mission oriented nonprofits share similar issues and challenges, and while the scale might be smaller, the pressure is proportional, perhaps felt even more acutely. With some notable exceptions, most nonprofits are totally dependent on charitable contributions. Few have sizable endowments, capital or operating reserves. Donor pools ebb and flow, but rarely dramatically in either direction. Yet, expectations soar.

The new paradigm has created a generation of development officers who are skilled in wealth screening, donor surveys, outcomes, productivity metrics, and prospect meetings. Smaller, or under-resourced development shops need fund raisers to produce newsletters, edit magazines, Facebook or Twitter. The more time spent on activities about donors, less time is spent with donors. Less time allocated for cultivation, and for building long term donor relationships and mutual trust.

Impatience, and the pressure to hit monthly targets, can result in asking too soon, and settling for a smaller gift, or even securing a gift. Less time is available to learn the craft, or to accompany a skilled fund raiser on a call. Intuition and the art of fund raising isn’t developed. CASE style training helps; experienced mentors are better. Development leaders and recruiters lament the dearth of candidates for major or principal gifts positions. Those fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to "learn the craft" and close large gifts are in high demand; there just are not enough of them. (And the closers are lured away, causing all manner of disruptions for people and organizations. But that’s a subject for another blog!) 

A former president of Harvard famously made 80 some visits to a potential donor before he secured a nine figure gift. Who these days has that kind of time, patience, or commitment?

The new generation of development officers has extraordinary smarts and talent. Leadership needs to free them from Excel, and teach them to excel. Heed the admonition of an old friend and superb fund raiser: "Spend time with rich people."  

Kenneth C. Blaisdell, PhD,  Principal and Senior Consultant

 

Say Please and Thank You at Year End!

Your mother told you to and usually that’s a good enough reason. If, however, you are in the business of raising money, saying thank you after you’ve said please, is not only a good thing, it can be a game-changer.

Many of us are inundated with the “please” requests during the month of December. They arrived in our mailbox right on time. Before, we would have ignored them as we have typically been beginning of year donors. This year though, we switched things up and made year-end gifts to our selected organizations and causes.

Also, as many of us do, we waited until the last minute…squeaking in the check mailing or online delivery, hoping that the Post Office and cyberspace delivered on time. After all, not only were those organizations counting on our gift, but also we were counting on the deduction for this year. It’s common practice for many and I suspect those who do it annually are adept at timing this giving ritual just right, with no worry about whether the check gets there in time.  For us, getting the thank you letter, properly dated and acknowledged was important validation of a 2014 contribution.

Having been on the receiving side as a development officer for several non-profits, I know the importance of these last-minute, year-end gifts. So, now that I am in the business of observing and advising others as they orchestrated this year-end dance of please and thank you, I paid close attention to when the “thank you” arrived, when it was dated and how it made me feel about supporting the organization.

A few observations:

Why timing matters: A thank you arrived for most of our gifts within a week (noting that many offices are closed the week between the holidays.) Those organizations we have not yet received anything from have cast doubt on my value to them. This puts my gift at risk for them. The more time goes by, the less I think they care.

Why the date matters: For year-end, the date matters more and it’s a detail not to be overlooked. Many of our “thank you’s” acknowledged the date and the amount in the body of the letter, indicating that they understood the importance of acknowledging receipt on or before December 31, 2014. Others dated the letter December 31. Others did neither which meant I had to go back, just to be sure, and ask them to issue another thank you. Pay attention to the detail of dates for year-end gifts. Think like a donor, understanding that the gift has tax-implications, especially at the end of the year.

Why be engaging: The impact of donor-centric “thank you” is more than industry jargon. We know it’s a unique opportunity to create an impression and to make the donors feel valuable. Write short, relevant letters with all the information they need to feel satisfied with the transaction.

More "engaging" tips:

  • Tell them what the gift did: preferably not a list of things, but one thing that mattered. It’s about what the donor’s gift helped you accomplish.
  • Always hand-write a note on a form letter, no matter the size of the gift. It lets the donor know someone who matters actually knows they made a contribution.
  • Consider sending an additional hand-written thank you note. Remember, every thank you is a touch point that builds a relationship.
  • Treat the “thank you” as the beginning of the next phase of the relationship, not the end of a transaction. It’s stewardship.
  • Thanking donors for their support is good manners.
  • Imagine that you are the donor…and thank them accordingly. And then thank your mother!

Frazier Millner Armstrong, senior consulting associate