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

6 important things I’ve learned at my job

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (4)

Guess what?!

Today marks exactly ONE YEAR since I started my job at Blakely.

Wow… time flies when you’re having fun! And it has been fun! 365 days of getting out of my comfort zone, learning, being challenged, feeling intellectually stimulated, meeting new people, feeling inspired by new causes, travelling (40/365 days), laughing, stressing, and getting a whole lot of &*#! done!

If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you can probably guess how I’d like to celebrate this occasion.

With a list!

So here it is:

6 important things I’ve learned at my job

#1 - The importance of being reactive.

Gone are the days of leaving a meeting with an action item and getting to it eventually. The pace of work at Blakely means 9 times out of 10, when you have something to do, you have to do it NOW. It’s a great lesson in prioritizing, because when there’s 9 things to do NOW, which one do you start with? I still don’t know if I’m always making the right choices, but I’m learning and getting better. What else could you want from a job?

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Unfortunately for me (and the donors!), I’ve never worked somewhere where the creative aspect of fundraising is a big focus. Maybe the creative writing, but not the art. That is one of the most fun parts of Blakely: the creative. Part of my job when executing on a campaign for a client is to brief the creative team. I might tell them what we need out of an outer envelope, which packages have done really well in the past and my thoughts on why… and then the magic happens. The artists go off and a little while later come back and the strategy has come to life! It is so cool to see, and I find the process – and especially the output – so inspiring! The truth is, the thing we want donors to do is actually open the envelope. It takes good creative to do that.

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Another thing I’d never really been focused on before was the second gift. That is a HUGE part of our strategy at Blakely. Inspiring a donor to give is a start, but inspiring them to give again? That’s where the work really begins. You have to thank them – fast and furious. You have to give them a good sense of their impact right away. And when you do ask, it’s gotta be for the right thing in the right way at the right time. It’s an art, and I love learning about it.

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (3)

With the reactive nature of my job, it’s hard to find time to do anything, but it’s really hard to find time to think. I mean really think. I can get a slide deck together to present a campaign plan to a client, no problem! But how much thought has gone into it? How many colleagues have I spoken to in advance, to run ideas past them and ask them questions? How much time have I spent reviewing past campaigns? Looking at results? Figuring out what works, what doesn’t, what we might test this time? It’s critical to make time for this important thinking work. When done right, a campaign is stronger than ever!

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (5)

I’ve always enjoyed data and analysis, but it’s not my strength, so that’s been a big learning curve for me. Let’s say I’m populating a slide deck with some results… I can make some commentary on what happened, but my real role is to say why it happened. That’s not so easy. But I’ve learned to stop myself more often and ask why? Is it because the mailing went late this year? Was the creative too subtle for the donors? Was there not enough time between the last mailing and this one? It’s about really getting under the results, and it’s fascinating!

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (6)

It feels really good to be valued, and I feel valued at Blakely. The work I do with this blog is valued. It means I’m part of the online fundraising conversation; sharing ideas, connecting with guest bloggers, and constantly learning. My activity on Twitter is valued, really for the same reasons. I’m connecting with fundraisers worldwide; learning from them, and sharing my own thoughts. The networking I do is valued. I meet people and create relationships in this wonderful weird world of fundraisers. And my voice is valued. I am brought to the table to talk about things in my scope of work and far outside of it, just to offer my opinion. Sure, there’s lots of business benefits to all this, but it’s also about the value the company – and the people in it – place on learning, knowledge-sharing, collaborating, and more.

Needless to say, I’m a very happy fundraiser right now!

~~

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 over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

If I won the lottery…

That’s dumb. I’d give to some of the 85,000 registered charities in Canada alone. They’re doing good work. I’d help them do what they’re good at. Just because I’m a new multimillionaire doesn’t mean I’m suddenly an expert in things.What I would do though? Create a fundraiser watchdog organization. Recent conversations at AFP Congress, The #Donorlove Rendezvous and Fundraising Day have reminded me that the charitable sector employs thousands of loving, generous and empathetic people. We are people who care and want to give back and help things get better for everyone.But that has a dark side. It means that we sacrifice our work-life balance to achieve goals. It means we don’t push for fair working hours or fair salaries or more support staff because “that’ll affect the cost per dollar raised”. Because there’s always MORE to do! To raise! To help! We think in the short-term. We don’t invest in our people. We burn people out at an alarming rate.

We are vulnerable employees because we are often contract, non-union, and full of HEART.

Which is unfortunate. First, because most charitable sector employees chose to work here because they wanted to do good. And we harm them? Second, because fundraising is built on relationships. And this sector is built on fundraising dollars! Churning through staff every two years is not reassuring to a donor with whom we’re trying to build long-term, loving relationships, nor is it the way to build fundraising programs with long-term strategies and goals. 

So.

A watchdog organization. Here are some components that would be important:

  1. Educational sessions for employees and employers on the Employment Standards Act (ESA) or whichever employment act is applicable where you live. We often don’t have Human Resource departments. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to follow proper Human Resources Policy. I’m not an expert, but from poking around in the ESA, I’ve learned that in Ontario, employers need written permission to make you work over 44 hours a week, and that salaried, non-managerial employees are entitled to time and a half for every hour over 44 hours worked a week, or 1.5 hours of lieu time. I had no idea.
  2. An anonymous forum to air grievances and warnings: Other groups, like journalists, have done this. Fundraising in particular is a small, close-knit community. But there are some terrible bosses, some terrible work places and there should be a space for discussion. Ken Wyman, Fundraising Education Godfather, has spoken many times about this – what do we do to warn others? Nothing right now, just word of mouth.
  3. Legal Aid: Because I’ll have won $50 million from the lottery I never play, I would employ employment lawyers to support charitable employees in making their employers comply with the law.
  4. Board member education sessions: Hey dummies! If you don’t pay your staff enough to do the MASSIVE AMOUNT of innovative work you want them to do, they’ll leave! Pay them what they’re worth. You invest in your employees at your companies. Why don’t you think charities should do the same?
  5. A certification program that verifies workplaces as being ESA (or local employment act) compliant.

But unfortunately, I’m not a newly-minted lottery winner. I don’t even buy tickets.

So what can I do? I’m 30, I’m 8 years into my fundraising career, and I’m now a strategist at an agency. I’m not a CEO. I’m not a VP. I’m not even a manager. I’m not in charge. I’m just someone who gets sad and frustrated when I hear the same stories about charities over and over.

I never want to hear a CEO say “Oh we don’t do lieu time here, because we all work overtime.”

Nope.

I never want to have a colleague respond to my rants about too many weekends with “well, I mean, I don’t care because I want to further my career and being agreeable and doing the work will help me. Why rock the boat?”

Nope.

I never want to spend months with a sore heart, full of worry about a wonderful co-worker who has gone on sick leave because of stress and anxiety and depression and exhaustion, all stemming from terrible leadership.

Nope.

I never want to be held to the same commitment standards as a director who makes 10 times my salary and gets double my vacation time. You can hire a cleaning service, afford a car, and get away from it all at your cottage. I can’t.

Nope.

I never want to leave a job at an organization I love because I am totally and completely burnt out. Spent. Done.

Nope.

I would describe myself as a fundraiser to the core. I am not interested in being in charge. I feel lucky that I’ve found a role that suits my skills and a team that embraces my quirks, and I hope I can support the sector! I work with fundraisers everyday in my new role as a strategist and while none of them are dealing with major dysfunction like in some charities, I can still see that these amazing, dedicated fundraisers still have their own struggles.

Why are they so prevalent? And what are you doing to change the culture at your organization?

I wish I was ending this post with a bright and happy solution. An easy takeaway for you to take back to your charity to implement and make things better. I can’t. I can support my peers. I can be kind and loving and giving to my coworkers. I can be firm in setting my own work-life balance. I can mentor.

But, I’m not in charge.

Maybe you are.

Maybe you can start changing things from the top.

~~

Written by Stephanie Highfield

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 6.12.02 AMStephanie is a fundraiser, a thinker, and a maker. Currently a Fundraising Strategist at Blakely, she’s spent the last 8 years working for a variety of charities across Toronto, raising funds for and telling stories about everything from fully digital hospitals to children’s choirs to family-centred addiction treatment. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.

Connect with Stephanie via:
Twitter | LinkedIn

What does a “culture of philanthropy” look like?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like-

I went out for a drink with a wonderful fundraiser the other day, Juniper Locilento.

We got on the topic of the elusive “culture of philanthropy”. We were talking about where Juniper works and how great the culture of philanthropy is there. Lucky her!

When she said how great it was, what she meant was that internally, staff – fundraising or otherwise – really understood the mission of the organization, felt its importance personally, and were motivated to give back, even though as a staff member they were already serving the organization so well.

How wonderful is that?! We find it so wonderful because unfortunately an internal culture of philanthropy can be hard to find. It doesn’t mean staff at an organization don’t care passionately about what they do. What it means is that there’s some disconnect between “the work” and “the money”. Staff members may not realize that the fundraisers are on the same team as they are. Or they don’t understand the importance of fundraising, where the money goes, how it all works, etc.

We’re focused – rightly so – on our external stakeholders; trying to get them to understand all of these things, but we ought to spend a little more time internally, too.

How could we do this?

Well, there’s always the strategy of putting together a slide deck and teaching people about fundraizzzzzz……

(If you didn’t get it, I’m suggesting the above strategy will make your colleagues fall asleep with boredom.)

LET’S GET CREATIVE!

One awesome idea Juniper shared with me was giving staff members the opportunity to tell their story. Why did they want to work for your organization? What matters most to them about the work that you do? What is an experience they had working there that really inspired them?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like- (6)

It’s not about learning the math of fundraising. It’s somewhat about knowing what the money does, for sure, but getting people thinking about their values, making it personal, and feeling inspired… That’s going to go a long way.

How do YOU inspire a culture of philanthropy?! Share in the comments below, or send me an email.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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 over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: [QUIZ] What movie most resembles your non-profit culture?

POP QUIZ- (1)

Guest blogger Rory Green is back with another fun quiz – this time all about your non-profit culture.

Take a few minutes to fill it out – as honestly as you can – and stay tuned for the results in a few weeks (be sure to subscribe so you get them first!).

Get your friends into the fun – share your results on Facebook and Twitter!

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Written by Rory Green

 

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter