In the Cloud

I completed a little exercise with a coach where I asked many people to describe me with five words. They were professional connections – current and former work colleagues, other professional colleagues – and long-time friends who knew me well. I took all those responses, put them in a document and created a word cloud in Wordle. (Warning: This site can be a lot of time-consuming fun.)

I think it represents me pretty well. This is a great exercise, especially if you can get honest answers (a friend can help process the emails anonymously).

How would people describe you? How do those attributes and descriptions serve you in your work and life?

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Brain Trust

Some people say I’ve got a few good ideas… but the truth is I’ve got a Brain Trust!


With the fab Shanon Doolittle

As a fundraiser, I’m always looking for better ways to engage my donors… or at least to better juggle responsibilities for advocacy, fundraising, team building and any other hats I am wearing.

When I want to bounce some ideas around, whether about fundraising,  what is happening in the philanthropy space or what’s I should consider in my career development, I call on my Brain Trust.

The great thing is that there are lots of terrific fundraising information out there for the taking: sites like SOFII, from leaders from the field (such as The Agitator, Fired-Up Fundraising, or check out my blogroll).  Twitter is full of well-curated info – whether you’re watching hashtags (e.g., #fundraising or #nonprofit) or participating in forums like #FundChat. Grab the feed, follow the convo, swap experiences.

But even better, I meet with my Brain Trust members. I love getting together with Shanon, usually over lunch or happy hour. Our meetings are part think tank, part coaching session, part comedy show, we give and take ideas and the energy swirls.

One of the terrific things about social media is that the world becomes smaller; it is easy to reach out to colleagues you respect and admire who live time zones away. The first person who reached out to me from Twitter was Desiree Adaway.

at AFP Congress

With John Lepp in Toronto

Thanks to Desiree, I’m not shy suggesting a chat with people who are excellent curators, by phone, Skype or Google+ Hangout. John Lepp is a member of my Brain Trust who I really enjoy meeting (Vancouver-Toronto) to discuss the meta issues in our sector. And since John also blogs as @DrunkChef, our topics may range to food and wine as well. John is very creative, thoughtful and a huge proponent of #donorlove. He’s a fab connector with professionals all around the globe and we finally met IRL in Toronto late last year. He and his colleagues at Agents of Good are dropping knowledge on how to talk about the impact your donors are making… and thanking, appreciating and engaging.

Other members of the Brain Trust?

Ian-Tina-BAL small

Ian Adair, Tina Snider and me

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Fundraising is like cooking…

Happy New Year!

While prepping a small feast to say hello to the new year, I thought about how similar fundraising is to cooking. And if you, like me, really enjoy both, you may savor this post. I’ll include the evening’s recipes at the end!

Planning – For fundraising or cooking, a well-considered plan always provides the best result. But sometimes as a fundraiser – and cook – you need to be nimble and whip something up at the moment. Knowing the basics and your donors (or guests) means you are able work thoughtfully with a plan yet take advantage of opportunities as they arise. (Gail Perry makes some suggestions.)

Travis, Nick, Pat, Luke, Yvonne & Michelle.The audience – How many donors – or diners – are you hoping to reach? A big family reunion at a park or an intimate dinner party at home? A smart fundraiser understands the importance of keeping costs reasonable. Big reach (e.g., direct response) should be lower-cost but no less tantalizing… crowd-pleasing for a variety of palates. A small dinner party (e.g., major donor work) with multiple courses is more labor intensive and may cost more per person but results in a better return in the end – stronger relationships, greater gifts. Both a fundraiser and a chef know how to balance the cost-effectiveness for the differing groups.  (Kivi Leroux Miller on defining your audience.)

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I never thought I would see one of our donors – a seasoned attorney – jumping on a trampoline with a Gates daughter. But at this event, I walked into the room at just the right time. 

The InvitationAt United Way of King County, we successfully employed “donor appreciation events” to thank our current donors and invite some prospective donors to hear about our work in the community. We were fortunate that some very wonderful donors opened their  homes to this type of “ambassador” work and became more deeply engaged. These Alexis de Tocqueville Society events, held about twice per year, usually had between 60 and 80 guests.

Another donor event, the Mary Gates Circle, was held in the late summer and thanked donors giving $25,000 or more annually (named after the long-time board member, Seattle philanthropist and mother of Bill Gates). On the 10th anniversary of the founding event, Bill and Melinda offered to hold this event at their new home in Medina, Washington. The event offered the perfect opportunity to re-engage lapsed donors and talk to current donors about their giving for the year.

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