That Dirty “M” Word: Micromanagement

So I’m back. You know. I said this last week.

But something I want you to know about me being back, is that it’s going to be different this time.

I’ll still blog – and have guest bloggers blog – about all things fundraising and philanthropy.

But I also want to talk about leadership, management, organizational development… all within the fundraising/philanthropy/charity context, of course.

I had the privilege of spending last week with Simone Joyaux. It was truly a privilege. Simone is a powerhouse, a visionary, and very passionate about organizational development.

I’ve always been into leadership and all that, but now I’m particularly charged up about it. So let me share something I learned recently to think about in a new way. Not from Simone, but from Kesheyl van Schilt – the President of the company I work for, Blakely Inc.

Kesheyl is also a powerhouse and a visionary and an incredible leader, fundraiser, mentor, and friend.

Kesheyl and I were talking about leadership. As a Fundraising Strategist at Blakely (think: Account Director at an ad agency), I am not a manager, I have no direct reports, but I am a leader. I’m accountable for my clients, and my colleagues who work with me on client teams.

Kesheyl challenged me to ensure I was always thinking ahead when thinking about clients – asking my colleagues the right questions, anticipating issues, ensuring projects were on track.

I challenged Kesheyl back: “But the teams I work with are so competent! I know my colleagues know what they’re doing and I don’t want to step on their toes. I don’t want to micromanage them.”

Micromanage. Now that’s a term with negative connotations. What do you imagine? A manager breathing down your neck? Undermining your competence? Questioning your work?

That’s what I think about. I don’t want to be that leader. I believe in my colleagues and trust that they’re doing their jobs.

But Kesheyl put it in a different context: “By asking the right questions, you’re not micromanaging. Your colleagues have a lot of different balls in the air, and if they drop them, you’re accountable. By asking the right questions, you’re supporting them. You’re being a leader.”

Ohhhhhhh. Now that sounds different!

So I’ve put the approach to work. When I go into meetings – even if it’s not my meeting to lead – I come in with questions. I ask if my colleagues have everything they need to do what they’re responsible for. Because what they’re responsible for, I’m accountable for.

What do you think? Can you show your colleagues more support without breathing down their necks? If you’re accountable for a program or donor relationships, I’ll bet there’s other people responsible for work that impacts your accountability. Maybe you have direct reports or maybe they’re colleagues on the same level as you, but they’re responsible for the telemarketing portion of your annual program. Or they’re responsible for sending out tax receipts and thank you packages to donors you work with. Are you ensuring they have what they need to do what they do that impacts you?

Think about it! Happy Wednesday!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

Hi.

How are you?

It’s been a while.

As some of you know, I’ve taken a long hiatus from this blog; around 6 months. It was starting to feel like a chore and the posts were feeling a bit uninspired, so I took a break – for 3 reasons.

  1. I didn’t want the blog to go to s*&t only for me to never return.
  2. I wanted to throw myself even more into the job for which I’m actually employed (at Blakely).
  3. I needed a break.

But recently – for the past month or so – I’ve had an itch. Incidentally – but not ironically – it is the busiest time of year for fundraisers…when it rains, it pours.

I think the itch was particularly itchy about a month ago when I celebrated my 2-year anniversary at Blakely. I can’t believe that the time has gone so fast; it feels like only yesterday I made this bold move for my career.

And yet I’ve learned and grown so much, and so I’m inspired to take a moment to reflect on…

5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

CREATIVE COUNTS. Yes, you have to segment your data well and make the right ask to the right people. But without creative that catches the eye and stands out in the mailbox, inbox, Facebook newsfeed, etc., your organization doesn’t stand a chance. And this isn’t just about good design or nice stock for your OE (outer envelope), it’s about a compelling story, too. No matter what channel you’re telling your story on – mail, email, a few lines on a Facebook ad, video, etc. – it needs to be emotional, compelling, and motivating.

PROPOSITIONS PUSH. But those compelling stories? They need to tie back to the need. The need is expressed through the fundraising proposition: why do we need the donor’s support now? What’s the problem? What’s the solution? How can the donor be part of it? What’s their role in all of it? What will their impact be? How will they know they’ve made a difference? The story moves donors emotionally, but the proposition can trigger that rational part of the brain, which can be critical in the decision to give.

INTEGRATION INSPIRES. Direct mail isn’t dead, but it doesn’t stand alone. Our donors are engaging with us in many ways – they’re getting our mail and emails, maybe they’re seeing our videos on TV, YouTube, or Facebook, they’re searching us on Google, they’re going to our website… they’re everywhere! So we’ve gotta be everywhere, too. But we need to be integrated. If they’re seeing us everywhere, we want what they see to have a common thread; they saw our mail and forget about it. Then we came up on their Facebook feed and they scrolled on. Then, it’s nearly December 31st and they want to make their year-end gift, so they Google us. Is what they see connected to what they saw? Ideally it is so they feel seen and heard and what originally caught their attention is seen through to the end. Give thought to the full journey; it matters.

PASSION PERSEVERES. But none of these learnings matter if you don’t love what you do. I love my work and the company I work for, but things get crazy and stressful. I have weeks where I feel on the ball, and weeks where I feel like I’m dropping balls, and then I have days like a month ago when I was on a video shoot for a client and we interviewed a family impacted by the organization’s care and donors’ support. The gratitude was so palpable and I thought: “This. This is why I do this.”

CULTURE CUTS. Unfortunately passion doesn’t persevere through everything. I’ve worked in fundraising for almost 11 (!!!) years now. I’ve worked in super inspiring environments, and mediocre ones. My passion hasn’t been able to lift me out of the mediocre ones. Now I work for a company where culture is our competitive advantage. My booming voice is celebrated (mostly), not quieted. My habit of distracting all colleagues from 2:00-3:00 every day (my worst time for productivity) is tolerated, not discouraged. My ideas are always welcomed. My humour is encouraged. My stress is worked through. My hard times are comforted. I – as an individual – am fully valued. So on the hard days, I feel I am working with people who love me, and so I can always make it through.

It’s been an awesome 2 years at Blakely, and an amazing 11 years in fundraising, and I am ready to get back to this blog.

See you soon!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Asking the Right Questions

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What do you need to know? 

What are your BHAGs? Your big hairy audacious goals?

What’s preventing you from achieving them?

When it comes to these things – the big topics that come with big questions – it’s time to have a real conversation.

This post is inspired by my recent experience attending the International Fundraising Congress a.k.a. #IFC2016 (which was amazing, by the way).

Asking the Right Questions was the theme of IFC, and for me that theme came to a head at a session run by the amazing Simone Joyaux.

Simone talked us through those big topics that come with big questions that I mentioned above.

There are questions in the office that we don’t need a real conversation for: When should we have our next office social? What food should we serve at our next meeting? How often should we schedule staff meetings?

Then there are other topics that do require a real conversation. And in order to have those conversations, we need to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? They require openness. The right questions force us to remove our biases and assumptions. They cannot be yes or no.

So, if your organization has some money in the budget for something innovative, that might be when you need to have a real conversation.

What might you ask? Maybe, “What opportunities do we see for growth in the organization?”

Which could lead you through a winding conversation full of more questions that arrives at finding an opportunity to invest in innovation.

By asking these questions, we generate learning, which generates change, which builds stronger organizations.

So what are your big questions that require real conversations? 

Answer in the comments below! Or better yet – create the space for a conversation about it in your office, and let me know how it goes!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

7 reasons why I’m SO EXCITED for #IFC2016

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In two days, I’m boarding a plane to Amsterdam.

Three days after that, I’m travelling from Amsterdam to Noordwijkerhout, the site of the International Fundraising Congress, a.k.a. IFC.

I am so grateful to get to attend IFC, and I am counting down the minutes until I get there.

There’s about a million reasons why I’m so excited for IFC, but here are 7 of them –

#1 – Seeing friends

I’m lucky to have built up a network of fundraising friends over the years, including some international fundraisers who I only get to see once in a while. Some of these friends will be at IFC – Rachel Hunnybun and Beate Sørum, to name a few – and I can’t wait to catch up and talk shop with them.

#2 – Making new ones

I also expect to forge some great new friendships at IFC. There are so many fundraisers there, from all over the globe, and I hope to start conversations with as many of them as I can, absorbing all they have to share with me, and giving back all I can.

#3 – Learning how fundraising is done across the world

And on that note of making new friends, I’m most excited about the international aspect of IFC. I want to learn how fundraising is done in India, Africa… everywhere! Fundraising markets are so different from one another and yet there are so many approaches and practices from other places that could help us here in Canada. I intend to find out what they are!

#4 – Seeing my heroines & heroes speak

It’s like when you’re in your last year of university and you start picking classes based on who are teaching them, because you know who inspires you the most. I’m going to attend whatever sessions interest me the most, but a big factor will be who’s presenting. So many of my fundraising heroines/heroes are speaking at IFC – Alan Clayton, Lucy Gower, Charlie Hulme, Simone Joyaux, Howard Lake, Adrian Sargeant, Kay Sprinkel Grace – it’s going to be hard to choose.

#5 – The chats outside of sessions

I’ve often found that the most rewarding parts of conferences are the conversations that take place outside of sessions. Given the unique nature of IFC – the fact that basically everyone is in the same hotel, you’re in the middle of nowhere, everyone hangs out together, it’s intimate – I can only imagine it’s a hotbed of the kinds of conversations I’m thinking of.

#6 – Speaking overseas

I’m actually lucky enough to speak at IFC myself. I’m part of a special session called “IFC Introducing… Scholars”. That’s right, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend IFC, and as part of that, I get to speak about my fundraising story and participate in a panel. I can’t wait!

#7 – Hanging with colleagues

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love working at Blakely, and I adore my colleagues. Three of them are also coming to IFC, and it’ll be fun to hang out, chat, and share ideas outside of the workplace.

 

Are any of you going to be there? Comment here to let me know, tweet me @fundraisermaeve, or email me at maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com.

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Maeve’s Top 5 & Happy 4-Year Anniversary, What Gives!

Happy 4-Year Anniversary!Wow… another year gone.

I am so proud to be going into my fifth year writing and editing this blog. For me, it’s been four years of learning, growing, tweaking, improving, reflecting, and feeling inspired.

I hope you have felt inspired, too!

MAEVE'S

To celebrate, I wanted to list my Top 5 Posts. They are in no particular order, and I used no criteria to choose them. Most of them have been more popular among readers, but what they have in common is that I’m proud to have written – or posted – them.

Enjoy! And thanks for making these 4 years so great!

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Young Alumni Fundraising - Part I (2)

5 Ways to Involve Young People In Your Organization

Although #whatgiveswednesdays was a short-lived series of posts about young constituents and how we can engage them and inspire them to give, it still had a lot of gems including this post. In fact, the whole point of this post was to summarize some of the learnings from the series. Check it out for a quick, concise read!

Customizationvs.Personalization

Customization vs. Personalization

You know why I love this post so much? Because John Lepp liked it! When someone I respect likes what I write, it makes me feel especially good about it. It may sound silly, but it’s not. I enjoy the process of writing this blog every week, but of course I write it because I hope it’s valuable to my fellow fundraisers. So I feel proud about this post because it resonated with John Lepp. It’s all about the difference between customizing (i.e. mail merge) and personalizing (i.e. taking the time to handwrite a thank you note to a donor). Key distinction, and a post I look back on with pride.

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

One of my most important discoveries as an introvert and a fundraiser is that those things are not mutually exclusive. When I first got into the field, I thought I had a disadvantage as an introvert, but I realized that wasn’t true. Being an introverted fundraiser is a great advantage… but you sometimes need survival tips when it comes to cocktail parties. Check out this post for some of my main tips, for example take breaks.

8 fundraising lessons I learned from Beyoncé

Guest Post: 8 Fundraising Lessons I Learned From Beyoncé

I had to include a Rory Green post in here because she’s written more guest posts for this blog than anyone, and the majority of the most popular posts of all time on this blog are Rory’s. I love this post because I love fundraising, I love Beyoncé, and I love Rory Green. She makes content so fun with gifs and snappy, effective messages. If you haven’t read this one already, do!

How to leave with #donorlove

How to Leave with #DonorLove

And lastly, this post. Beyond my love of working with the great concept of #donorlove, I felt it was really important to talk about leaving a job and how to do it gracefully, and in a way that shows love to your donors, instead of abandonment… which too often happens. The way we leave an organization should be a reflection of how we spent our time there… especially from the donors point of view. I’m very proud of this post.

So there you have it! Thanks for an awesome four years, readers! Onto the next one!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

6 things I’ve learned in my new job

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This is a pretty personal post.

All my posts come from personal experience and opinions, but this one isn’t like that.

This isn’t about fundraising or philanthropy.

This is about my new job. 

Have you started a new job recently? Are you thinking of starting one? It’s not for the faint of heart, is it?

If you read my post on direct response best practices, or you follow me on Twitter, then you know I love my new gig! But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been challenging.

We’ve all been where I am: somewhere between loving life and feeling way out of your comfort zone. The important thing is to tune into the lessons you’re learning along the way. And in case they might be helpful to you, I thought it was worth sharing my lessons.

#1 — Show up every day, smiling & ready to work

This simple thing cannot be understated. It’s great advice that I received from my old boss when I started my current job. I was feeling a little insecure in my second week and she said, “Every day you show up smiling and ready to work, the people who hired you are seeing the return on their investment.” You can’t know everything right away, but you can show everyone that you’re trying.

#2 — Get comfortable being uncomfortable

This was – and is – my biggest challenge. I’m the type of person who wants to be the best! I don’t care how that sounds, it’s just the truth. But when you start a job, you’re not the best. You’re new. Embrace it. Because when you do, you can physically feel learning and growth happen. If you fight it, it’ll take you longer to get where you want to be.

#3 — Be flexible

Something that will help you do that is to be flexible. Don’t expect to know everything right away and be flexible in the ways you get there. For example, even the ways in which you organize yourself! My new job requires organization like I’ve never experienced before and I’ve already tried my hand at 3+ methods in my first three months. Each tweak makes things a bit better. I don’t know if I’ve gotten there yet, but I try to adapt and modify and be flexible, and it seems to help.

#4 — Mentally prepare & protect yourself

This one is crucial. I read this awesome series called My Morning Routine and one person they interviewed recently (I wish I could share an exact quote, but I can’t find it!) talked about how we push too many things to the evening. We sleep, we work, and then – if we have time – we do something for ourselves in the evening. This person’s routine was all about mentally preparing and protecting herself in the morning for the stress of the day. I love that, and that’s something I’ve tried to incorporate into my life with this new job. I get up early, I work out as many mornings during the week as I can handle, I always take at least 30 minutes for coffee and a healthy breakfast (usually an hour), and I leave to work early enough that I avoid traffic and arrive before most of my colleagues so I can gather myself together before all the work begins. It’s a way of preparing a shield against the craziness to come, and it works!

#5 — Don’t spread yourself too thin

If your new job is accompanied by a move to a new city like mine was, you might be tempted to get involved with new things or struggle to keep up old things (I’m talking volunteering, board membership, that sort of thing). Be careful here. I think we’ve all got to have something outside of work to be involved with, but I’ve been trying to streamline my “extracurriculars” since I’m committed to work and don’t want to get overwhelmed. I unfortunately had to drop one thing I’m involved with, and I’ve had to say no to a few others, but I’m also keeping up a few that I’m currently involved with, too! I don’t want life to be only work, but I also don’t want there to be too much on my plate right now.

#6 — SPEAK UP!

All of this is stuff YOU can do, but sometimes you might need something from your new employer, and that’s okay, too. Are you feeling like you were onboarded well? Did you get good training and orientation? No? Well don’t sit around feeling overwhelmed; tell someone! Be honest about what you need, what you’re missing, etc. Everyone’s busy so getting a new hire doesn’t mean the work stops, but they do owe it to you to bring you up to speed. It’s nice if you don’t have to ask them, but if you need to, DO! Your success is up to you!

Good luck!

P.S. I’m launching an e-book on Mid-Level Giving! Want to be the first to get it? Sign up for my newsletter! Click here to sign up!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 8 tips to fire up your job search

8 tips to FIRE UP your job search!

 

So, you’re looking for a job? You are not alone, my friend. Whether you are thinking about making the transition into the world of fundraising or moving to a new city to be with the one you love, here are some tried and tested tips – by yours truly:

  1. Start with some soul-searching. Where do you see yourself in five years? What kind of fundraising job are you looking for? What are you passionate about? Know your strengths and let them guide you through the job hunting process.
  2. Check out your local job search sites. Here are a couple of my favourites: Charity Village, Indeed, and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). For AFP, stay connected with your local chapter. I’m in the KW area, so I keep my eye on the Golden Horseshoe chapter. Also, make a list of your top employers and keep checking their websites – you never know when that PERFECT job will be posted.
  3. Inspire yourself with motivational quotes. Each morning I would wake up and post them on my Facebook, as well as print them out and sprinkle them around the house. Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking.

    Inspiration Board

  4. Network, network, NETWORK! My first week in Kitchener I attended an AFP networking mixer. Best. Decision. Ever! Everyone was super-friendly and very approachable, as you will soon see for yourself in the biz. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it” (too much cheese?) is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and make at least one new meaningful connection at each event. The fundraising world is a very small community, and you never know who can open a door for you in the future.
  5. Learn something new everyday. Read blogs, participate in webinars, attend meet-ups and conferences. I have been participating with the #DonorLove series since its inception, and that’s actually how I met Maeve! There are so many great resources out there to help grow your skills. They are also a great networking opportunity. Here are some other ones you may be interested in that I have/will be attending: The #DonorLove Rendezvous, AFP Fundamentals of Fundraising, and the Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress.
  6. Interview preparation is key! You’ve landed an interview – YAY! Now it’s time to become an expert on the organization you’re interviewing with. If this is one of your dream employers from the list you’ve made (see #2), you’ve probably already spent countless hours reviewing their website and learning everything there is to know about them. One great piece of advice that I received from a friend was to make an online donation to the charity, and then talk about the experience and process in the interview. Thanks, Josh Bowman for this idea!).
  7. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness nor suggests that you are incompetent. It shows that you are taking the process seriously and that you are committed to putting your best foot forward. Ask a friend to help role play some potential interview questions. Ask your mentor(s) to review and provide feedback on your cover letter and resume. Speak to an employment service agent. I found all of these very helpful.
  8. Follow up! After your interview, send a thank you card to everyone involved to make a lasting impression. The ‘gold standard’ applies here, too, so be sure these are sent out within 24 hours. Also, a great question to ask at the end of the interview is their approximate timelines, and don’t be shy to touch base with them around that date.

While it may seem overwhelming at first, I promise you, with a little hard work and determination, it will all work out in the end.

Oh, and one more thing – remember to be yourself and enjoy the process.

Cheers!

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Written by Andrew Geekie

Andrew Geekie headshot
Andrew is a Development Coordinator with the Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington.

Connect with Andrew via:
Twitter | Email

5 direct response best practices (and 1 busted myth)

5 direct response best practices(and 1 busted

In my nearly 9 years in fundraising, I’ve been hearing this myth. Maybe you’ve heard it, too. It’s this intangible thing… this concept… this idea…

Best practice.

“Best practice” is defined by Wikipedia as “a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark”.

Have you heard this myth, too? It’s a myth because we hear about it so much, but we rarely see it in actual practice. Why? Budget, time, other resources? There are myriad reasons why, but it seems a shame, because all of the “best practice” ideas sound so great.

Guess what I’ve learned in the 5.5 weeks in my new job? Best practice is not a myth!

I always wondered, what can an agency do that a charity can’t do internally? Now that I’m on the agency side, I realize: A LOT. Hiring an agency to do your direct mail, for example, is a big investment, but the return is huge.

Why? Best practice.

You put in the resources – at least financial – and the agency takes your time (mostly) out of the equation. The agency does the work, and since that’s their sole business, they have the time and resources to make sure the output follows best practices.

What are best practices? Let me share my five favourites – that I’ve learned so far – with you!

#1: STORIES — Donors don’t want to hear much about you. You, the fundraiser, and you, the organization. They want to hear stories. They want to hear about people; people their generous donations supported. Was someone only able to attend your university because of donor support? Did someone survive – literally – because of donor-funded medical equipment? Donors want to hear about that.

#2: MULTI-CHANNEL APPROACH — Every medium you use to fundraise is great, but it’s stronger when it’s accompanied by a number of other channels. People need to be reminded a few times before they take action, so pairing your direct mail piece with an e-blast or your DRTV spot with digital display ads means a stronger campaign. Plus, the more channels a donor gives through, the longer – and more generously – they’ll give.

#3: BEAUTIFUL DESIGN — Inspiring stories and a variety of channels are all well and good. But if all of this goes out in a #10 envelope that looks like your Internet bill, what’s the point? There needs to be design elements in your direct response activities. It doesn’t have to be complex – in fact, it’s often better if it’s not – but it needs to be considered. The paper you use, the size of the envelope, the number of package components… it needs to be well thought out.

#4: VARIABLES — You need to acknowledge each donor along their journey. Is this a new donor? A mid-level donor? A lapsed donor? A donor who gives every September but hasn’t yet and you want to make sure they do? Whoever they are, you need to acknowledge them. It’s good for #donorlove, and it’s good for revenue!

#5: DATA — THE MOST IMPORTANT BEST PRACTICE OF ALL! The power of data cannot be denied or underplayed. You have to know how donors are responding to different pieces/packages/asks/etc. You need to test different premiums and find out what works! You need to split donors by their type and address them – and solicit them – differently. I could go on and on… DATA IS KING.

That’s it from me!

What’s your favourite best practice??? Share in the comments!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

 

How to leave with #donorlove

Before I say anything else: Happy Birthday to my girlfriend Kate! 

Now — onto the post!

How to leave with #donorlove

I’ll say it again: you’ve probably noticed me writing and tweeting and talking about #DonorLove a lot lately.

As I described in this post, my definition of donor love is this: a lens us fundraisers need to look through to ensure our donors are at the heart of what we do.

In that same post, I also mentioned that donor love is a lot about stewardship, but that’s not all it is. We can show donor love at every stage of the donor journey.

We can be loving in our identification of donors… does this person just have a lot of wealth, or are there clues that they could be inspired by our charity’s work?

We can be loving in our cultivation of donors… are we barging into their home with an agenda, or are we asking pointed questions and listening to find out what inspires their philanthropy?

We can be loving in our solicitation of donors… are we telling them what we want, or aligning their passions with our needs, based on the conversations we’ve had about what they want to impact?

And, of course, we can be loving in our stewardship.

You know where else in the donor journey we can show donor love? When it ends.

I’m not talking about when the donor stops giving (God forbid!). I’m talking about when you – the fundraiser – leaves the organization. Again – God forbid! – but it happens. In fact, as you know, it happened to me just recently. I left my fabulous post at Wilfrid Laurier University for a new gig, and in preparation for transitioning out of that role, I thought about my donors.

I imagined them receiving a bounceback email from Laurier when they are checking in about their annual gift, saying “this email address no longer exists”.

I don’t know about you, but I was horrified at the thought of this! I spent so much time building relationships with my donors, strengthening their connection to the university. It could all be for nothing if this happened.

It’s not about me. It’s not about me being a great fundraiser and the only reason my donors give to the organization, because that’s not true, and it’s not what it’s about. But I’m a representative of the cause, and if either of us – me or the cause – disappoint the donor, we have to start from square one. I didn’t want that to be the legacy I left behind.

So I sat down with my donor list and put a star next to the name of every donor who I’d made a meaningful connection with, who had unfinished business with the university regarding donations (i.e. was thinking over an area of support, had an upcoming pledge to fulfill, etc.)… that sort of thing. These were the people I needed to inform of my departure.

But it wasn’t an announcement; it was a touchpoint. It was a chance to thank the donor, show them how much they mean to the organization, and ensure a smooth hand-off to my successor.

Again, it wasn’t about me; it was about the donor, and it was about #donorlove.

So there you have it! You can even leave with love.

Do you want to know what my #DonorLove Goodbye Note looked like?

Sign up for my email list by the end of September and I’ll send you the #DonorLove Goodbye Note template!

(Don’t worry – if you’re already signed up for the list, you’ll get it, too!)

Thanks for reading!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 things I learned at Laurier

5 things I learned at Laurier

As some of you may know, I’m starting a new career adventure, and on July 24th I worked my last day at Wilfrid Laurier University. Like when I left my job before Laurier, it was bittersweet saying goodbye to such a great work experience. And, also like when I finished my last job, I think it’s important to reflect on some of the lessons I learned in my time at Laurier, so here we go!

Mid-Level Giving has OODLES of potential
I hope you know by now that my focus while at Laurier was on mid-level giving, which we called Leadership Giving. The program had been in its infancy when I started, and I had the opportunity to further build and formalize the program. I was so lucky to have that opportunity! Mid-level giving is this funny area of fundraising that hasn’t been fully established yet. At Laurier, I was part of the Annual Giving team, which I think made a lot of sense, but I also had a lot in common with the major gifts team, so I was like the awkward middle child, not totally sure of where I fit in. But, over time the program made more and more sense to me, and became a really happy hybrid of both annual and major giving at the university. And it has so much potential! Not only in filling the pipeline between annual and major gifts, but in giving generous mid-level donors the best donor experience they can possibly get. That only ever does good things for fundraising!

Booking meetings is the hardest part
One of the more major giving-y components of the mid-level giving program at Laurier was face-to-face meetings with donors, which I loved (see: “I LOVE DONORS!”), and which also had – unsurprisingly – the highest ROI (pardon the corporate speak) for the program. That said, booking meetings is hard! I thought the meeting itself would be the hard part, but it’s not; it’s getting the meeting in the first place! I definitely learned some tips and tricks along the way (future blog post for sure!), but that was a big lesson for me.

I love analysis!
I love how a job can teach you what you don’t want to do and also what you LOVE doing! Laurier taught me that I love analyzing programs. When asked what I was most excited about with my program when I started, I said “completing a full fiscal year” so that I could actually look at the program and see what was working and what wasn’t. Once I finished that first full fiscal year, I absolutely loved the process of poring over the data and figuring out what it meant, and how the program should operate moving forward based on that. I think in my new job, I’m going to be able to enjoy that kind of work a lot!

The people make the experience
We all have our good days and bad days at work, but what tends to matter most is who we work with and who we can celebrate the good days – and talk through the bad days – with. I worked with INCREDIBLE people at Laurier; from colleagues who became lifelong friends to mentors who I idolized (and sometimes both at the same time). That’s one of the most bitter parts about leaving: not seeing those incredible people everyday. Fortunately I plan to keep them close in my network, and I’ll never forget what I learned from them.

I LOVE DONORS!
Finally: the donors. Oh, the donors! I sent many of them goodbye notes in my last week, but they were really love notes. Aside from the great people I worked with, the donors are the ones I’ll miss most. They were so inspiring, so kind, so generous, and all so amazing to talk to. Some made me cry, some made me laugh, and all of them made my day! I remember leaving a donor meeting, bounding up the stairs to my office, and one of my good friends Sharline exclaimed, “You look so happy! Where’d you come from?” And I proudly said, “A meeting with a donor!”. As fundraisers, working with donors is something we’re so fortunate to do, and my work at Laurier made that clear to me in a major way.

So that’s it! On to the next adventure! Thank you, Laurier!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email