Are you killing your team’s creativity?

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So, things aren’t going so well. You’ve recognised that there’s potentially something that could be refined – the excuse of “but we’ve always done it that way” has grown tired and you want to take action.

You feel it’s time to get the team together and pull some ideas into the melting pot. Your team buzzes with excitement; you all sit down in a room with some cookies and have an amazing day of productivity and unhindered creativity.

You’ve taken your findings away and your team patiently waits for the higher powers that be to give them instruction on which avenue will be taken. Then what happens next
completely devastates them;

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing happens. A day goes by, a week – one even comes up to you and enquires if a decision is made and the reply was something along the lines of “We had our creative time last week, today I just need you to focus on your task”. Your team then go back to doing the inefficient task without ever knowing if their opinion was even worth voicing.

Fundraising takes creativity. It takes people with passion, with ability to think out of the box and look at things from different or conflicting points of view to succeed. These are things that should be nourished with a company culture that helps brings those ideas forward. If your team feels like nothing will come of their ideas, then they’ll stop producing them, and maybe even leave the organisation.

However, don’t panic – there are a few things you can do to stop this from happening.

  • Positivity. This is an important time for your organisation. What is said in that room could be the pivotal moment where things change for the better. Some of the ideas shared may not be the best or what you were hoping – but it’s better to inspire and encourage than stop the ideas flowing.
  • Communication. Make sure your team feels they are in the loop. There have been plenty of studies that suggest the more a worker feels in control of what they do the more productive they are. Keeping them regularly updated with how their ideas are developing, whether they are developing or not, will give them the confidence that their ideas are valued. It’s also important to communicate with clarity – no point updating your team if you’re going to use terminology they might not work with usually.
  • Leadership. One of the most pillars of being a good manager is having the confidence of your team and they need to know you’ve got their back. Don’t isolate your work from them, if they know what you’re doing each day, they’ll be more understanding if you have to put their ideas on a back burner. When things go right, celebrate the successes as a team and make sure credit is given where it is due.

As someone who line manages a team it’s important to remember the difference between a boss and a leader. A boss will dictate, think of themselves as above them and ultimately push away their team. A leader gets stuck in, will be a no-ego doer that helps the team improve and accomplish things together – ultimately promoting happiness, productivity and a culture of self-improvement.

Be a leader not a boss. Inspire.

~~

Written by Alexander Morgan

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Alexander is the CEO of  and is passionate about Donor Engagement.

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Guest Post: The Dark Knights of Fundraising

The Dark Knights

Fundraising is at a crossroads. We are constantly in search of the next ice bucket challenge, and yet the industry remains hostage to old schools of thought. Why? Because they work. Direct mail continues to drive organization revenue, and an alternative to face-to-face major gift fundraising with a similar ROI is hard to imagine. For all the stories of organizations empowering communities, there are many more of charities behaving badly and lacking innovation.

“He’s the hero we need but not the one we deserve.” Commissioner James Gordon delivered this line in one of the closing scenes of “The Dark Knight”. He was speaking about Gotham’s need for a public defender; someone willing to sacrifice everything to bring Gotham back to the glory it once held.

Gotham had descended into a city of ill repute, where criminals, the mob, and super villains terrorized citizens. The city and its public offices were filled with corruption, and the atmosphere degraded the sense of trust the city had in itself, and in the relationships between its citizens.

Batman was born from the need to battle the fear plaguing the city and its citizens. During the day, he strengthened the city from his position at Wayne Enterprises, donating millions in corporate and personal finances to address the root causes of Gotham’s degradation. Gotham got its first taste of light in years, and Batman’s actions emboldened its citizens to start standing up to crime and corruption.

Batman was an innovation of necessity; a sign things had deteriorated so deeply a masked vigilante was required. But things didn’t start out this way in Gotham; it was a slow descent into darkness… much like donation rates in Canada.

Our sector is filled with wonderful, passionate people, going above and beyond in pursuit of philanthropy. They are the silent warriors doing what they have to in order to establish their careers, whether it’s volunteering their way into contracts, accepting positions with a long commute, or giving themselves completely to the causes they support. Yet some of these individuals, the ones with the passion to change the course of an organization, are left on the outside. Because they are less qualified? No. It’s because they think differently.

These passionate people are ready to use new ideas that build upon best practice in order to innovate! And it is those who bring forward these new ideas that lead the development of best practice. They do it behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight. They change the culture gradually. They don’t expect recognition because they are excited about the process.

They are the Dark Knights of Fundraising.

What does a Fundraising Dark Knight look like?

  1. They are not afraid to look like the villain. Innovation will always be challenged because people are afraid of change. Dark Knights stand up against the status quo and take the unpopular stance so they can affect change and drive their organization forward.
  2. They know it’s darkest before the dawn. Change comes with fear, doubt, and uncertainty. The best businesses embrace the darkness because although the future is uncertain and mistakes will be made, those organizations that lead into the void will find the light faster and brighter than those afraid to take the first step.
  3. They utilize their entire utility belt. Batman’s utility belt is more than batarangs and smoke bombs. It’s full of tools so Batman can be prepared for any situation. Similarly, organizations should use everything in their utility belts to strengthen operations, whether it’s through interdepartmental collaboration, maximizing the potential of their database, or telling stories of the lives changed because of their work.
  4. They have close-knit allies. Even Batman needed help, whether it was Jim Gordon, Catwoman, Robin, or ordinary citizens. Batman, even when painted as the villain, still developed a passionate base of support willing to defend his reputation – and support Gotham with him.
  5. They are early adopters. Batman found a new piece of technology, used it, and through use, innovated. Solutions are found through trial and error not repeated use. Batman experienced, then adapted to fit his needs.

Now it’s your turn.    

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”

Let’s not let best practice become that villain.

We could all use a little more Batman in our fundraising.

~~

Written by JJ Sandler

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JJ is the consummate volunteer and a passionate community builder. Click here to read more about him.

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Do your prospects know where their dollar will go???

What is the biggest roadblock you face as a fundraiser???  I’m sure this answer is different for all of us and likely those answers touch on all sorts of different aspects of fundraising and philanthropy.  Perhaps it’s incomplete/invalid data on your prospects.  Maybe it’s having a tough time communicating your mission to a larger network.  OR, perhaps it’s that your prospects (or future prospects) don’t know exactly what you’re fundraising for.

I try to keep this blog pretty general, but being that I work in educational fundraising, it’s hard not to write from that slant.  However, I think this predicament happens for all fundraisers.  Your prospects/community may know that your organization has something to do with homelessness, or animals, or building wells in Africa.  They may even know more info about how exactly you help the homeless, which animals in particular you rescue, or which countries in Africa you focus your efforts on.  But, do your prospects know where their dollar goes when they donate???  Do they know what kind of projects their donations fund???

For example, working at an independent school (like I do!) or a university – your future prospects are your current students.  While in school, they’re not thinking about donating/fundraising.  If they’re university students, they’re overwhelmed as it is with tuition, and being asked to donate may even seem insulting.  So maybe we won’t ask you to donate as a current student, at least not until your grad year, but how do we educate you as a student on what exactly fundraising does for you, so that when you’re in a position to donate, you’ll know that it’s important???

That question is what inspired me to write this post in the first place, because schools like Wilfrid Laurier University (my alma mater) are attempting to answer that question with initiatives like Tag Day.  I highly suggest clicking the link to learn more, but in short: Tag Day was created to generate awareness of how donations and philanthropy positively impact Laurier and its student experience every day. Tag Day’s student volunteers attach purple tags to places and objects that are made possible or enhanced through donations.

This initiative is great because it presents a tangible way of illustrating the power of philanthropy.  Annual reports and web articles are all well and good, but a big, purple tag attached to a bookshelf in the library is pretty hard to ignore.  It grabs your attention and makes you think.  Kudos to Laurier for being innovative and inspiring with their fundraising and stewardship efforts.

What initiatives like Tag Day have you seen???  What efforts have you made to overcome roadblocks in your organization???

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What Gives???
Trivia: 

The latin term alma mater, used to refer to any school, college, or university someone has studied at and, presumably, graduated from, means “nourishing mother”.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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