Thanksgiving Greetings!

Thanksgiving

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

Tecumseh (1768-1813)

Thank you for following Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog. Sending sincere wishes for a warm, safe and happy Thanksgiving your way!

Regarding Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, while I have not shared lots of new blog posts in 2018, work on the website continues unabated. I have been updating the primary articles on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog to keep them fresh, I have added new sections like, “A Brief Account” (see the margin) and, “Development as a Profession” (you will find it in the main menu). I have also created a few new “photo” blogs. Be sure to watch the menu for more updates in the months ahead!

Very best wishes for your fundraising success,

Carolyn M. Appleton

November 21, 2018

 

 

 

During Good Times, Don’t Forget to Prepare for Rainy Days

“A recession is a significant decline in economic activity that goes on for more than a few months. It is visible in industrial production, employment, real income and wholesale-retail trade. The technical indicator of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth as measured by a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), although the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) does not necessarily need to see this occur to call a recession.” – Investopedia

I have read quite a few articles and watched videos featuring leading financial experts who are discussing the possibility of a recession. White opinion remains divided, the thought that several predict a recession causes me to revisit the idea of nonprofit organizations establishing “rainy day,” or reserve funds.

From USLegal, “A reserve fund is a fund of money created to take care of maintenance, repairs or unexpected expenses of a business.” Having watched nonprofits suffer intensely during the last recession – the magnitude of which we all hope will never be repeated – my advice for nonprofits during this busy year-end fundraising season is to be prepared. Take some of those year-end charitable donations and sock them away into a savings account or other fund where you can get to them easily if and when needed.

Rainy

At the conclusion of this blog post, I include links to a few articles that gave me pause. Having said that, one of my favorite experts, Jim Cramer suggests in an article by Elizabeth Gurdus for CNBC, “Cramer explains the market volatility and why another Great Recession is not in the cards” (October 25, 2018). I hope he is right.

But even if a less harmful recession comes our way in 2020 or 2021, why not be prepared? #JustDoIt

Gold Piggy

Food for Thought

I have a primary article on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, “Economy and Philanthropy” that you might also enjoy!

Since I wrote this blog post, I have continued to add noteworthy articles (links above). This is a timely subject, it seems.

Think Again …

I came across this article by Leslie Albrecht for MarketWatch, “One-third of American households have struggled to afford either food, shelter or medical care” (September 27, 2018). If America’s economy is so strong and vibrant, why is this still an issue? I would argue no economy can be considered “strong” and “healthy” when such adversity exists.

 

Summer is “Development” Time

I sometimes hear nonprofits lament that summertime is so “slow.” Nothing is happening. Most donors and prospective donors are out of town on vacation, they tell me. But in my experience, summertime is a busy time for development.

I have discovered quite a few grant deadlines occur during the summer and that requires attention. I have also found some donors actually have a bit more time to spend on their favorite nonprofit projects during the summer. Brainstorming meetings, planning for the fall, “asking” for support, database house cleaning and expansion, research, case statement drafting and year-end fundraising campaign development are all things I have done during the summer months. Don’t forget, many corporations budget late summer for social good projects they will underwrite next year. Summer is a great time to visit with your favorite corporate sponsors.

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Earlier this year, I was asked to help the Port Aransas Art Center part-time. As you may know, Hurricane Harvey battered Port Aransas last year, but as the Instagram photo above from Coffee Waves suggests, the community is back on track and working hard to recover. It is well on its way.

As for me, I am helping to establish a new development program, I have been modernizing the website, enhancing social media, creating new e-newsletters so that we have regular monthly e-communication with constituents, securing a GuideStar gold seal and more. It has taken a lot of time, but when you work with a dedicated group of volunteers and staff, your work is enjoyable and inspiring.

I added a new section in the margin of Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog for “Quick Updates” with handy links. Please peruse my article on social media stewardship for the Association of Donor Relations Professionals’ monthly newsletter, The Hub. You might also enjoy reviewing the slide decks for my webinar and public presentations this year.

I have always been a “hands-on” learner and I readily adopt new technologies that enable me to become even more self-sufficient. Still today, I do most all work myself. This, plus years of experience in major gift fundraising make me a good teacher for those new to the fundraising profession, for startups with big ambitions, and for nonprofits that are perhaps a bit, “overweight” that need to streamline.

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Another new section of my Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog is called, “A Brief Account: Short Stories.” There I share personal experiences with leading philanthropists. Some of my stories are humorous, some heart warming, but always, I try to be insightful and to share what it takes to work successfully in the field of nonprofit fundraising. Fundraising – especially major gifts – scares some nonprofit professionals. I came to the field via volunteering and a Master’s Degree in Art History. Ultimately, I hope by sharing my stories that fear will be lessened, and more interested professionals will enter our field.

Have a good summer. And now for me it is time to get, “back to work.”

Don’t forget to “refresh” your browser now and again while reading Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog. I have added a new series of photo “headers” from my work over the past several years.

2018 | Nonprofit Predictions

2018 written with Sparkle firework and light bulb , abstract 2018 Happy New Year background concept.

This is the fourth year I have attempted to predict the trends of the coming year. How did I do last year, and what’s next?

With a conservative Administration in place, federal grant funding is under review and constantly in threat of reduction. Still, some nonprofits have continued to do well securing federal grants. But the smart ones have also broadened their work to incorporate more private sector fundraising and partnership-building. Many have also remarked on the current Administration’s desire to push federal funding initiatives out of Washington to individual states for “local” funding and oversight.

Bitcoin and Blockchain, alternative “digital” financial vehicles, exploded in popularity in 2017. I believe this trend will continue in the coming year. For resources that will help you understand and make use of these financial tools, follow this link to the resources section of Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog.

On another front, here in Texas I continue to see undiminished interest in crowdfunding versus traditional major gift fundraising campaigns. This means many nonprofits are attempting to turn the traditional donor pyramid upside down! But as I have cautioned before, crowdfunding requires research, planning and continuous monitoring (including well after your campaign attains its goal). Many of the same factors involved in traditional major gift campaigns are at work in crowdfunding campaigns. Still, crowdfunding is a relatively “new” approach and attractive to many.

Nonprofit fundraising technologies of all types continue to proliferate. I referenced the text-to-give platform GivBee last year. This year, I’d like to put in a good word for Everybody Helping. Everybody Helping is focused on Millennials, monthly giving (which encourages donors to make small gifts monthly that add up significantly by year-end), it helps nonprofits chart impact, and it includes direct messaging. Thanks to Scott McElroy for providing an in-depth look at Everybody Helping for our local NTEN & NetSquared Nonprofit Tech Club Austin Meetup this year.

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Tracking nonprofit activities with data – and donor requests to review objective data in order to better understand the success of their donations – will continue to increase. Shown above is an Instagram taken during the Social Solutions Impact Summit conference in Austin last fall. Almost every presenter talked about the increase in donor requests for objective data. But also, many noticed that the higher the caliber of their data collection processes, the more efficient and effective their nonprofits have been in achieving their goals.

My new prediction is we will see an increase in full-time, nonprofit data management professionals going forward. To collect data well, to manage it across departments, and to continually make improvements for the benefit of the whole takes time and skill. It is a full-time pursuit. Looking for a new career? Consider General Assembly and its data science courses.

Update | From Fortune CEO Daily, “The fastest growing job in America is… data scientist” (April 6, 2018).

NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network recently shared an article by Chuck Longfield for npENGAGE this fall, “New Study Monitors Dramatically Transforming Donor Behavior” (October 24, 2017). Some of my earlier nonprofit predictions are reinforced by Chuck’s article.

  • “While the value of individual giving in the United States increased about 3.4% (adjusted for inflation) in the decade from 2003 to 2013, the number of public nonprofits increased 23.4% or almost 5 times the rate at which individual giving increased
  • The impact of the Great Recession of 2007–2009 on the ever-expanding nonprofit sector still challenges recovery of giving to pre-recession levels
  • Baby boomers, infamous disrupters of all commerce, have been dominating the prime age range of giving (45 to 64) for more than a decade.”

He suggests, “There are three fundamental objectives in raising money from individuals: keep the donors you have, increase their value to your organization over time, and recruit more donors than you lose to attrition.” Toward that end, consider using a donor data management system that specifically helps you retain donors, like Bloomerang.

But also, study the personality traits of Baby Boomers, and focus to some meaningful degree on courting them. You would be smart to do so, as they will continue to be influential in philanthropy for the next several years. Boomers tend to have a more emotional reaction to charitable needs, but be careful not to err too much in that direction, because hard data is still being requested by donors of all ages, and by their professional advisors.

“Everything in moderation – that’s what I live by.”

David Gilmour, British musician

I would be remiss if I did not mention an article by Karsten Strauss for Forbes, “The Charities That Raised The Most Money Last Year” (November 1, 2017). Fidelity’s Charitable Gift Fund is at the top of the list,  United Way is second, and Goldman Sachs is third. All three are intermediary grant makers through which donors can pass donations to charities. The activities of the charity recipients can then be monitored by these intermediaries.

“One trend The Chronicle notes is the popularity of donor-advised funds (DAFs), which have seen a 106% increase in contributions in the past five years. DAFs allows donors to have control over the ways in which their money is used while also affording them anonymity. They also do not carry the high overhead and administrative costs of setting up a private foundation.”

Let’s hope in the coming year, more nonprofit support organizations will offer programs about how best to build relationships with professional advisors (as well as the donors who establish DAFs). One of the earliest posts on my blog focuses on this very issue.

Having worked with several professional advisors during my career, I would suggest nonprofits claim and fully complete their GuideStar profiles, securing the gold seal, if not the platinum. GuideStar profiles are about transparency and sharing how professionally you operate. They do not require that you have raised a lot of money.

I know some professional advisors who go straight to GuideStar to review your organization online before they take the time to meet with you in person. Best to have that profile in good order, and be ready for questions. A polished profile will help your nonprofit stand out from the rest. But, less than 1% of all nonprofits in the United States take the time to claim and complete their profiles! As noted by Karsten in his article above, although we have seen more charitable donations in 2017, there are also more nonprofits than ever before. Competition for dollars is as heated as ever.

News flash! Check out DAF Direct, “DAF Direct welcomes donors to recommend grants from their donor–advised fund, also known as a DAF, directly from your website. Neither you nor your donors will incur any download or transaction fees.” Now, this is a forward-thinking invention.

For startups or small nonprofits hoping to ramp up their fundraising success, you might enjoy my recent blog post for Bloomerang, “How Startup Nonprofits Can Break Into the Big Leagues” (November, 2017). GuideStar is one of my recommendations, and you can also read two case studies about my use of and experiences with GuideStar, by looking in the right hand margin of my professional website.

Here’s wishing you and yours a successful 2017 year-end fundraising season, and a prosperous New Year.

Carolyn M. Appleton

For digital trends, be watching Kivi Leroux Miller, Nancy Schwartz and John Kenyon in the weeks and months ahead. I also urge you to join NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network and avail yourself of the latest nptech information, training and support!

 

Assumptions!

August Rodin
This sculpture came to mind when I began writing this blog post urging my readers to think carefully about nonprofit fundraising. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I am as guilty as anyone of assuming everyone knows about and understands what is involved in philanthropy and fundraising. But the truth is, most people are not well informed.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite assumptions – or infamous assumptions as the case may be – in the hope you will avoid them.

“It would be great for our nonprofit if you would agree to be paid a percentage of what you raise.”

Doing so is considered unethical by every professional nonprofit support organization and association today. It seems like a marvelous idea to some nonprofits not to pay their professional fundraiser(s) until the money comes in, despite the outlay of their time, experience, connections and personal finances. And if the fundraiser does not know the history of the organization and its prior challenges, they can be blind sighted when seeking charitable donations. In the drop-down menu of this blog (at the top), you will find a section of ethical resources that will help you steer clear of this unethical assumption. I also want to say to the uninitiated – those new to nonprofit fundraising – don’t feel bad. People ask me about percentage-based fundraising weekly, particularly those from the for-profit sector. Just do your research before you ask.

“We raised the money and we no longer need a fundraising professional on staff. Done!”

How sad I have been to invite some of my most cherished donors to support a project, to have raised substantial sums, and to be told the nonprofit no longer needs help at the end of the fund drive. The donors often feel adrift when this happens, and they question both the nonprofit for such short-sighted decisions, and sadly, the successful fundraiser. In other words, the very person responsible for your financial success is kicked out. Those who could not do the job remain on staff. The logic of this assumption is questionable. Some nonprofits are also unaware that after building tremendous energy and enthusiasm for a cause, they can frequently keep on going and raise even more. Missed opportunities abound in these cases.

“The economy is in terrible shape and we should stop fundraising!”

This is a tough decision to be sure, and it should be considered thoughtfully. I have seen more than one persistent nonprofit with calm and determined leadership attain their seven-figure fundraising goals during very difficult financial times. I have also seen donors one thought would be gun-shy of tanking stock markets, make extraordinary leadership donations. One of my favorite foundation executives, the late Valleau Wilkie Jr. of Fort Worth, Texas once said to me, “if you get out of line, there will be dozens of other nonprofits stepping in to take your place.” Keep going.

“We must read the news to find donors for our project.”

More than once, I have visited with nonprofit Board members convinced someone in the news not affiliated in any way with their nonprofit is a natural candidate for solicitation. But most are not. Research online is essential to gain as much background information as you can about prospective donors. But simply because someone appears in the news often (and they appear to be “rich”), this does not qualify them to be your donor. If you read my article on high tech research, you will understand how sophisticated research can be game-changing, if and when you need it. But also, take time to review your own donor records, mailing and email lists. I have found “hidden gems” in those lists often, people well worth cultivating who have been receiving information from your nonprofit over time, but who have never been cultivated for a larger gift. One organization I worked with turned a $25 annual membership into a $5 million donation, for instance. Dig deeper.

“We have tried and tried. These prospects will not give. Don’t bother.”

This is a favorite. I have visited with prospective donors prior to submitting a grant request, discovered an issue about which they are concerned, addressed that issue head-on (often it is simply an honest report about prior activities, and the resumption of regular communications), and I have secured a grant. Sometimes, I have expedited more than one grant from the same source within a single fiscal year. But other staff members were vehemently convinced I was wasting my time. Never say never.

I have a positive, can-do attitude when it comes to nonprofit fundraising. I have seen the worst and turned around several “impossible” campaigns (by hand). The advice I share comes from, “the trenches.” While my two college degrees helped me learn how to conduct research, develop a convincing argument and write coherently, real life experience provided these insights. For those new to the profession, I suggest you attach yourselves to a seasoned professional as I did at the start, to gain more in-depth knowledge along these lines.

And I urge you not to fear challenges. If you believe in a cause but there are problems, fix them and raise the money you need. Think smarter. Anything is possible.

Hurricane Inspiration on the Gulf Coast

Sea Turtle Surgery
Thanks to the Baltimore Sun for covering Texas Sealife Center in Corpus Christi, Texas (February 14, 2017).

When Hurricane Harvey began to threaten the Texas Coast, one of my foremost concerns was its potential impact on Texas Sealife Center. I met founder Dr. Tim Tristan before I moved from Corpus Christi about seven years ago. He shared his vision of a veterinarian-driven wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center to aid shorebirds, raptors and sea turtles with me back then, and I have never forgotten.

In 2011, Texas Sealife Center was established, and it has not looked back since. The Center is all-volunteer and it has been highly successful in helping animals caught in and injured by fishing lines, those that have ingested fishing lures, metal and plastic objects of all varieties, as well as those that have sustained physical injuries and contracted troublesome diseases.

Tim and I have kept up remotely on Facebook. This summer, I agreed to help with some grant research and writing. The Center’s goal is to secure new equipment to support its medical and rehabilitation activities, with an emphasis on sea turtles. Sadly, the number of stranded and injured animals in the Coastal Bend of South Texas continues to increase. And, more sea turtles require help than ever before.

Brown Pelican, Hurrcane Harvey
Click to reach Texas Sealife Center’s Facebook page and more photos illustrating its work during Hurricane Harvey and more.

As the volunteers have done time and again, they made themselves available 24-7 to aid wildlife caught in Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. One of the Center’s primary partners is the ARK, or the Animal Rehabilitation Keep of the Marine Science Institute of The University of Texas at Austin, located further north on the Texas Coast. The ARK was heavily damaged during Hurricane Harvey, and Texas Sealife Center gladly took-in injured wildlife that could not be successfully released there. They continue to provide critical medical care and a safe haven until the animals can heal and be released into their natural habitats. Facebook became a powerful platform for conveying the work of Texas Sealife Center during this challenging time. Follow this link for information and powerful photographic documentation of its work.

Aside from researching and submitting proposals for the Center’s urgent equipment needs, one of the most important things I did for this relatively young nonprofit was to create a meaningful GuideStar profile and to obtain the gold seal for transparency. Quite a few nonprofits with which I have worked fear they must have raised a lot of money and have well-known Board members, for instance, before establishing a full profile on GuideStar.

But what GuideStar is about is not money as much as it is how transparent nonprofits are about their operations and programs, their tax statements, future plans and more. GuideStar is about trust and honesty. And hopefully, by taking the worthwhile step to secure the gold seal will inspire even greater confidence by prospective donors in the Center and its management, with the current capital campaign in mind.

I have worked with nonprofit organizations large and small. Many of the larger ones have accomplished less than the smaller ones! Donors must be wary that a well-known “name” and a list of prominent Board members does not guarantee professional operations, efficiency, and genuine dedication by the leadership and staff.

I have found small nonprofits and startups work exceedingly hard, and their volunteers are often more dedicated than those supporting organizations with ample budgets and long tenures. After a long career in major gift fundraising, some of my most fulfilling projects have involved helping small groups build the credibility necessary to inspire significant donations. With this in mind, I urge you to support Texas Sealife Center, and please follow its progress on Facebook. Thank you!

You might enjoy reading my LinkedIn blog post from 2014, #2030NOW, which addresses startups and innovative young nonprofit concepts, and my hope more “Boomers” will fund them.

Did you know? You can donate to Texas Sealife Center directly from its GuideStar profile

 

 

Being a Bridge

Pennybacker Bridge, Austin, Texas

Bridges make connections possible. Bridges facilitate the crossing of people, “from one side to the other.” Shown is the breathtaking Pennybacker Bridge, a “through-arch bridge” located on the west side of Austin in the scenic hill country. Click on the photograph to learn more about it.

I have always thought of nonprofit fundraisers as “bridges” between their organizations and donors. Development professionals must constantly make connections and translate their nonprofit’s mission and needs to individuals, families, foundations, corporations and governments in such a way that funding is provided.

Nonprofit programmatic staff and some board members sometimes lack the skills (or the inclination) to speak with potential donors, and often they do not enjoy asking for financial support. This is where development staff shine, of course.

When I lived in Dallas in the 1990s, I worked on a variety of nonprofit fundraising campaigns, some in their entirety (from start to finish), others for more limited engagements (only for grant research, writing, solicitation, publications and the like). Once, I came across a nonprofit board chairman who was highly regarded in the community, but he had an abiding fear of asking anyone for a donation. A fundraising consulting firm his nonprofit had hired felt the board, including this noteworthy volunteer, were generally useless. Everyone involved had become frustrated. But, I knew there was a way to turn this situation around.

I assured the volunteer that during our forthcoming meeting – which happened to be with one of the leading bank trust departments in Dallas – that he only needed to speak about his passion for the nonprofit and the good it was accomplishing in the community. I promised to pick up the conversation once he was finished, to handle the request for funding and how best to follow-up. Luckily he trusted me and our meeting went very well. Together, we lined the nonprofit up for a six figure donation, which was ultimately received.

In this way, I acted as a bridge between the nonprofit and the prospective donor, but also between my distinguished volunteer and the trust department staff. I understood intuitively that in order to get this critical job done, we had to build a few bridges before arriving at the desired destination.

There is another factor I have discovered in working with major gift donors and nonprofit organizations seeking support, one that reminds me of being a “bridge.” This concerns the donors themselves.

Nonprofit staff (and the general public) sometimes assume that sophisticated, affluent donors are experts in every topic under the sun. But the truth is, they are experts in the fields where they have excelled and thrived. This may or may not include understanding how your nonprofit works and what it is accomplishing (or what it hopes to accomplish).

Nonprofit development staff can be of invaluable help by translating organizational information to donors and prospective donors in an easy-to-understand fashion, and vice versa. Yes, sometimes translating the donor’s needs and perceptions to fellow staff is required. This enables you to continue forward with a successful partnership negotiation, for example.

Development professionals are indispensable links between their organizations and funding partners. This often takes both verbal and written forms, as the case may be. Development staff must be able to translate in an understandable fashion critical information, and in both directions: internally and externally. This is truly an essential role that should not be taken for granted!

Understanding Prospective Donors

  • Lila MacLellen wrote for Quartz, “Science Confirms Rich People Don’t Really Notice You – Or Your Problems” (October 23, 2016). “No one can pay attention to everything they encounter. We simply do not have enough time or mental capacity for it. Most of us, though, do make an effort to acknowledge our fellow humans. Wealth, it seems, might change that.”
  • For me, Taylor Shea’s article for Reader’s Digest nails my experiences with affluent donors, “How Rich People Think: 25+ Things They Won’t Tell You” (N.D.). “Anytime the newspaper lists my name among the 100 top-paid executives in the area, I get a ton of requests from people asking for money. It happened so much that I had to come up with a strategy to deal with it. Now I say, ‘I’m happy to give. I’ll match however much you raise yourself.’”
  • From The Wealthy Accountant, “5 Things Rich People Do That You Don’t” (August 3, 2016). “Wealthy people have vision. They know where they are, where they are going, and how they will get there.”

Some of you might also enjoy my article, “Ph.D.s and Fundraising.” There I discuss the pitfalls of working with very bright programmatic staff who are hopeless when it comes to explaining what they are accomplishing to the public and/or to donors. I’ve been a “bridge” for many years; I find Ph.D.s to be among the most difficult to work with in a development context (although I find their research and discoveries fascinating).

You and the Donor

Meeting of Three

I have wanted to discuss this topic for a long time, but I have struggled with how best to go about it. I have not known a nonprofit support organization to tackle this topic in a realistic way, yet it is especially important for new staff, especially those in development. I do think some acknowledgement by leaders in our sector would be helpful, as would developing some “mindset” training into our industry’s regular regimen of educational conferences.

When I obtained my first nonprofit position, I bonded with the organization, its image and mission totally. To my mind, we were inseparably linked. The two did not exist apart from one another! I was young, learning at a fast pace, and I absolutely loved the organization. It felt like a perfect fit.

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Four years later, two supervisory changes and a decline in our local economic climate meant I had become frustrated. I started looking for a new position. Eventually I moved on (and up) with my career. But mentally, this was a tough change. My entire self worth was bonded to the nonprofit; once I departed, I felt adrift. I had also gotten to know many of the leading donors and volunteers as well. They felt like family. But I had to learn how to separate myself from that environment and those closely associated with it, and to “let go.”

Now, it is true that some of those same philanthropists are friends and professional colleagues today, more than twenty five years later. But the pain of leaving my first nonprofit family and friends was hard. But something important happened. I underwent a crucial mental change.

  • I acknowledged I had to move on for my own reasons;
  • I realized those donors still loved the nonprofit I was leaving (even though I no longer did);
  • I acknowledged that I should respect that loyalty (how could they get along without me?); and
  • I looked ahead, recognizing that it was entirely possible I would interact with my former nonprofit donors in future jobs.

Those realizations marked a significant change in attitude and helped me succeed in my future positions. The moment this shift occurred, it became possible for me to be friends with many of the philanthropists with whom I worked over the years in the sense we became comfortable talking about philanthropy more broadly, we shared general advice and personal life experiences. Mutual respect had been established. “Letting go” was a mature step forward that I needed to take.

Which is to say, nonprofit development professionals are not the sole spokespersons for the organizations with which they work. Directors, program officers, curators and even groundskeepers have their own relationships. Regrettably, I have experienced intense jealousy by other staff members when they see how comfortable I am with donors. Some have attempted to get rid of me entirely, feeling there is too much competition! But in truth, I have mentally separated myself in such a way that I fully understand the nonprofit with which I am currently working will go on long after I am gone. If I can make appropriate connections to benefit the project at hand, I definitely will. But I do not “own” any donor. The decision to become involved and to donate is entirely theirs.

Some staff can see you as a threat to their own (self) appointed position as, “the best friend of the donor.” I have discovered this with executive directors and department heads, for example. But I urge you, regardless and for your own well being, separate yourself from the organization mentally. You have your own life and are a person of value without or without the nonprofit.

Represent your organization in an absolutely first class fashion 24-7, even when you are not working. But also, step out of the picture if you become uncomfortable. I have discovered donors and volunteers (and the nonprofit organization) will appreciate you more if you follow this advice, and you will earn their trust for a lifetime.

Notes and Thoughts

  • Nonprofit work can inspire a stronger emotional attachment psychologically than corporate work, at least in my experience. This is especially true with those new to the nonprofit sector and in my case, with younger, inexperienced staff members. The organization’s leadership should be mindful of this dimension of their work and be sensitive to it. Today, employees change jobs fairly frequently and if you can part ways in a civil fashion, giving the less experienced staff a positive boost as they march out the door, everyone will be better off. That can be a tough assignment, but I believe it is a worthy one.
  • The Donor Relations Guru has posted a thoughtful article I enjoyed, “Team Player or Individual Contributor?” (April, 2017). I admit, I like the point of view conveyed. “They say in fundraising there’s an 80/20 rule, that 80% of the money comes from 20% of the donors. I have my own 80/20 rule for working and implementation and its one that may strike home for you too. 80 percent of the work gets done by 20 percent of the employees.” I have been hired a few times to do work the staff either tried to do and failed, or refused to do at all. I have also been hired to achieve “the impossible,” only to have other staff take my laurels when I am done with my work. I sometimes say in my mind, “if you could have done the job without me, why didn’t you?” I often wonder why these kinds of employees retain their jobs, but they always seem to.
  • Founder’s Syndrome is something I have encountered occasionally in my work over the years. Here is an article by Jeff Jowdy for NonProfitPRO (2013), “9 Ways for Nonprofits to Overcome ‘Founder’s Syndrome’.” Founder’s Syndrome is a bit more dangerous phenomenon than youthful attachment to an organization. “Founder’s Syndrome can be particularly devastating to fundraising. If a founder is not open to increased accountability as an organization grows, donors will become increasingly suspicious and may eventually flee.” This is where my personal “rub” has occurred in the past, when an Executive Director becomes threatened and unnecessarily jealous of my contacts and fundraising success. I have learned to step back, and if a resolution cannot be reached – despite my being the primary tie to the donors – I have removed myself from the situation. And a few times, the donors have gotten upset with me. But truly, I had no choice.
  • You might enjoy reading Oliver Burkeman for The Guardian, “Beware the Gravitational Pull of Mediocrity” (2015). Sometimes when people strive for excellence, organizational strife can result. Innovators can be viewed as dangerous! And sometimes, the one achieving excellence can be seen as a threat, and they may ultimately be pushed out. I have also seen mediocre employees remain on staff at nonprofit organizations, and for decades. They are neither terrible at their jobs, nor excellent. Go figure. Personally, I think mediocrity is an underappreciated survival skill.
  • Jennifer Verdolin Ph.D. wrote for Psychology Today, “Is It Only Natural for Us to Be Jealous?” (2014). “We humans not only have the tendency to become jealous over imagined threats, we also don’t often seem to take into account the ‘cost’ of certain behaviors.” I think educational programming for development professionals on dealing with jealousy would be an excellent idea.

America Needs an Inter Tribal

“The mission of Great Promise for American Indians is to preserve the traditions, heritage and culture of American Indians, and to support the health and education needs of their youth and families. We do this to honor the past, and to ensure the future.”

I enjoyed attending the 25th annual Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival in November, 2016. To reach my Google+ photo and video album from this year’s event, follow this link.

From Wikipedia:

“A modern pow wow is a specific type of event for Native American/First Nations people to meet and dance, sing, socialize, and honor their cultures. Pow wows may be private or public. There is generally a dancing competition, often with significant prize money awarded. Pow wows vary in length from a one-day event, to major pow wows called for a special occasion which can be up to one week long.”

After a somewhat grueling but productive year in the trenches of nonprofit fundraising here in Texas, attending the event was refreshing. Young people and adults competed in colorful Native American dances. One of my favorite dances was the Inter Tribal, during which people of all “tribes” – including the audience – were invited down to the arena floor to dance together.

Did you know,

“Most of the various types of dances performed at a pow wow are descended from the dances of the Plains tribes of Canada and the United States. Besides those for the opening and closing of a pow wow session, the most common is the intertribal, where a Drum will sing a song and anyone who wants to can come and dance.”

I joined the dancers myself this year, and while marching along, I filmed one of my first Facebook Live videos. You can see it on my Facebook page in the video section. I enjoyed dancing with people of all ages and cultural backgrounds in an impressive show of unity and community.

As the New Year gets underway, our nation as a whole needs an, “Inter Tribal.” I hope Americans will come together and work together to ensure that our nation remains the greatest on Earth.

In closing, I was inspired by an article on LinkedIn by Devin D. Thorpe, Forbes Contributor and social entrepreneur, “Democrats, Let’s Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Donald Trump” (November 30, 2016). I am an Independent voter, but I agree with Devin who suggests we, “put policy above politics and country ahead of party. And let’s work harder than we ever have.”

Let’s get to work in the New Year.

Did you know? You can request an Indian dance team for your school. Follow this link to Red Voices.