All the gifts my first boss gave me…

1994-09 Harborview Goodbye Party

Some pals at my goodbye party leaving Harborview; Cliff is on the left, that’s me on the right.

At times, you only understand how good a thing is when you look back on it.

Such is the case with the boss in my very first job – Cliff Sanderlin.

My first fundraising job was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. What a great mission, what great healing, what changed lives! A Level I trauma center for Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, with heroic stories of healing, Harborview was a part of the University of Washington. They were some of the most dedicated staff – medical staff and non-medical staff – I’ve met. It was a privilege to raise needed funds while there.

And three of us – Cliff, Rebecca Fong and me – were building the fundraising office from the ground up. I was so excited. And I had no idea how it would change my life as I started on a fantastic career journey I’m still on.

I know now that the most important things I got out of my time there were the many gifts that Cliff gave me.

Gift #1 – the opportunity. We often come across this gift in life – a door opened. When we get a gift like this, we always need to make the most of it – take that first step to walk through the door (or even knock on the door to get it opened!). I was intrigued by what fundraisers were doing when I was working at the University of Washington College of Engineering in a secretarial role.  Cliff was the Associate Director of Development there – and when he left to take a job at Harborview, I asked if I could become a fundraiser too – I wanted a job there. We talked. He saw something in me that would succeed. I applied and joined the team.

Gift #2 – he built a great team. Cliff looked for someone he had worked with before (Rebecca), and someone new (me!). Cliff considered his strengths, and tapped another colleague to join him. And then he added me to the team. And then, he worked with us to set expectations and help us grow. He made sure there were times of fun along with the hard work. It may have been the ease and challenge of a small shop, but we felt we could do almost anything! Continue reading

The House of Yes

HouseOfYesImageIf you don’t know me well yet, then I want to tell you a bit about my philosophies that keep me going as a fundraiser.

Humble fundraisers need grit, grace & gratitude – perseverance and the ability to act with confidence and appreciation.

Appreciative fundraisers hug donors with all the arms they can. They welcome and encourage everyone to get into the act: colleagues, board members, volunteers and, if appropriate, those we serve. (Not receiving a thank you is one of the top 5 reasons donors leave.)

Thoughtful fundraisers are life-long learners. They learn from mistakes, they get more education (the paid and the free), they find mentors and seek advice and test.

Now let’s be honest: sometimes this wonderful, fulfilling, world-changing career isn’t a ride on a unicorn over a rainbow. (Spoiler alert: there are challenges in our sector.) Many nonprofits experience limited resources. Others operate on a ton of goodwill but not much strategic direction to deliver results. A few, sadly, operate in a fearful crouch of scarcity. Sometimes, it all can wear a person down.

That is why I believe that great fundraisers should live in the House of Yes. For me, fundraising is my calling. And I want to do better – all the time. I want our sector to be better. The work we do is uplifting and life-changing and affirming.

Continue reading

The New Donor Pyramid

tweetLast month, one of the greats of fundraising died.

Tony Elischer was one of those amazing individuals, full of energy, drive, and smarts. I was fortunate enough to see him speak several times. The fundraising community really lost a great one when he died.

What resonated most for me was this donor pyramid, which he included in the program for his philanthropy extravaganza called “the Kaleidoscope of Philanthropy“.

I believe this is the most clear and true depiction of the Donor Pyramid.

It is about the donor and her engagement. It’s not about the size of the gift.

It’s about relationships.

And isn’t that how we should view supporters, not as the amalgamation of their transactions, but in the context of human relationships?

After all, fundraisers are in the business of creating connections, fostering affiliations, and strengthening relationships. Full stop.

When I speak to fundraisers about donors relationships, I often illustrate using the language of personal interactions. If we think more like this and less like categories (small donors, big donors), there may be fewer thoughtless nonprofit transactions and more authentic, lasting relationships.

Afterall, who sends a form letter of thanks to someone two weeks after a first date?

Let’s check out the pyramid.

Willingness, respect, trust. These are the foundations of many of our good relationships – even as customers. A donor may reach out with a first gift in willingness. Your team establishes trust by using the gift as they asked, but being respected members of the community, And those very first interactions build on what can come next. Are you making those initial interactions a delight? Is the language you use intriguing? Is it easy for your new friend to understand what you do and how she or he can be part of the cadre of heroes? And the relationship may just sit there if either side (your nonprofit or the donor) doesn’t move to the next level.
Continue reading

Let’s resolve … to lead with gratitude in 2016

Welcome to 2016!

In the lead up to the New Year, did you see your inbox piling up with end-of-year asks? I sure did.

IMG_3030In those last days of the year, there was quite a bit of chatter on Twitter about that. But this tweet from The Whiny Donor struck my heart… “Sometimes we give in spite of the stewardship.”

Wow. So many fundraisers – or their colleagues – spent lots of time crafting “don’t-forget-us” or “please-give-right-now” year-end emails. Somehow, the same diligence doesn’t seem to apply to thanking quickly or with heart. Why?

As fundraisers, we all know that better thanking – prompt, heartfelt, sharing impact – leads to a stronger connection between a donor and the charity.

So why are there still so many courses and books and blog posts and conference sessions about thanking donors, crafting better donor stewardship, and reporting back to donors? Because thank yous still aren’t happening. (Check out this post by Lynne Wester about her Giving Tuesday experiences with gifts, thanks, and resolicitations.)

Don’t expect your donors to give in spite of the stewardship your nonprofit offers.

Thank you letter creation can end up being a process. Don’t let it.Instead, make 2016 the year you lead with gratitude… and here’s how. Continue reading

New Path

I’m so excited to be looking ahead to my new job – I start June 29 at Simon Fraser University! I live in Vancouver, and Simon Fraser University (SFU) is located just outside the city limits, on Burnaby Mountain.

I’m so very excited to join the team there! I’ll be heading up the fundraising efforts at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  I’m excited to dive in and meet the faculty, the students and the other staff members – so many great departments. Can you guess which departments might be my favourite?

And I’ve got to give a shout out to Rory Green. She gave me a heads up the SFU was hiring and what a fantastic team they have.

I’m starting to think about my first 100 days and came across this article – which I think is a perfect read for fundraisers who may be starting a new job. My First 90 Days: Why You Should Have 30 Coffee Meetings. And if you are a new fundraiser, this is a great way to practice your relationship building skills.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: