It’s time for a hiatus…

Hi!

It’s been over a month since my last post. And over two months since I announced that this blog is going through a bit of an evolution.

As I said in January, I’m feeling less inspired about maintaining this blog. I felt like I was arbitrarily meeting these self-defined deadlines, occasionally sacrificing quality for the sake of frequency. I was letting my readers down and myself down… and for what? To keep a blog going? If that’s all it was for, was that enough?

For right now, it’s not enough for me.

I have built this blog over five years now, and I’m so proud of it. It’s been essential to my happiness and to my career and to furthering my love and passion for fundraising.

However, right now it doesn’t feel as essential to my life. I’m not quitting my blog, I just want to go on an official – and indefinite – hiatus. I’ve been in limbo since January and I don’t like that; it needs to be more formal for me (I’m just that kind of person).

I want to use this time off to throw myself even more deeply in my day-to-day work, which inspires me in the ways that my blog used to – and even more.

I also want to use this time to think about where this blog will go next. I know it has a role in my life and career, but I need time to consider what.

On the same note – I’m taking a less official but equally indefinite break from Twitter. For me, Twitter is along the same lines of my blog. It’s been a critical part of my career path and network, and I’m proud of the audience I’ve built, the connections I’ve made, and the content I’ve shared. But it’s a chore more than fun right now, and I just need a break. Again, I’ll be back, but I need to figure out how.

So thank you for your readership up until this point, and your patience with me as I sort out that big question of: what next?

Until then — Thank you!

~~

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

Take a break.

I’m reading a book right now called Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Deborah Spar. I’m maybe a third of the way through, and in it, Spar is mapping out the impact of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution on women today. When women were told (and it was legislated) that they could do and be anything, there was soon this external and internal expectation that they could have it all. And the question that I think Spar is posing is (a) can we really have it all? (b) should we be trying so hard to?

It makes me think about myself, and any of you readers – no matter your sex or gender identity – who are balancing a number of different things in your life. Trying to stay healthy – eating the right things and getting exercise in. Trying to care for/be with your family. Trying to do life things – explore, travel, play, see new things, try new hobbies, read, etc. Trying to maintain friendships. The list goes on.

Never mind work! Trying to do right by the donors. Trying to meet your year-end goals. Trying to manage interpersonal relationships, navigate office politics, be a good colleague…

We have a lot on our plates, personally and professionally, at this time of year especially. There’s a lot to juggle and more often than not we’re left feeling that we’ve dropped all the balls.

But while reading this book on the plane last night as I flew into Toronto from a client meeting in Ottawa, I said to myself: Take a break.

Our office closes between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, so I’ll get to take an actual break from work, which is key. But also take a break from the pressure you put on yourself, and from the crazy high expectations you set for yourself.

Take a break from feeling guilty or thinking you’ve failed if you don’t “have it all”.

Whatever your cause, by fundraising for it, you do a bit of good every day of the year.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a family to spend the holidays with, maybe celebrating the season with a big meal at some point in a warm house, with people you love… if that’s not having it all, what is?!

So I’m going to take my own advice and this will be my last post of 2016. I need to disconnect from blogging and tweeting for a little bit, to recharge and relax. To take a break.

And with that, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

~~

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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

to five years of what gives!

five-years-of-what-gives

On November 23, 2011 – exactly five years ago – I wrote this post.

But the inspiration for What Gives Philanthropy actually came over a year before I wrote that post, in July 2010.

I was in my second professional fundraising role, and my organization sent me to the CASE Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising. That was my first real fundraising conference, and I couldn’t believe there was this huge community of fundraisers out there to connect with. Fundraisers who were kind, passionate, willing to share and collaborate, and a little bit nerdy – just like me. It might’ve been that conference that really sealed the deal for me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do as my career.

And the speakers! They were all so smart and enthusiastic about what they did. I loved soaking up all the information.

But it was one speaker in particular – Karen Osborne – who totally captivated me. Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly what she was speaking about that day, but I remember thinking to myself – I want to be like Karen! I want to throw myself completely into this work and build a wealth of knowledge for myself that I can share with others. I imagined myself speaking to fundraisers myself. I wanted to do what Karen did!

So I remember thinking to myself, “Maeve, if you want to be a speaker at fundraising conferences one day, how do you imagine yourself being introduced? What is going to be your edge? What are people going to say about you?”

And I think it was that conversation I had with myself that – around 16 months later – led to my starting www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com. Because I thought, what if I started a blog about fundraising and philanthropy? What if when people introduced me they could say, “Maeve Strathy has been writing about fundraising and philanthropy for XX years!” Writing has always been my favourite way to express myself, so a blog would be a good fit!

Now here I am. Exactly five years later. I’m in my fourth professional fundraising role, this is my 189th post for this blog, and I feel I’ve accomplished exactly what I had in mind five years ago. I have built a readership on this blog, a network of fundraising friends here and on Twitter, and I get the opportunity to speak about fundraising on a pretty regular basis.

I’ve never been more passionate about what I do, and my weekly blog post has – and will continue to be – a manifestation of that. It’s where I can share my musings, my experiences, my questions, and even occasionally my answers. It’s where I can rant, celebrate, and express my passion and love for what we do.

So thank you for being along for the ride with me, whether you stumbled across one of my earlier posts, or if you’ve joined me more recently! Although I have always gotten a lot out of this blog myself, I get even more out of it when I know it brings value to you.

Thank you!

~~

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

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
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

What I learned about fundraising from a terrifying experience

what-i-learned-about-fundraising-from-a-terrifying-experience

Something really scary happened to me last night…

I was driving home from a meeting around 7:30 pm, and rolled up to a very sketchy intersection in Toronto very close to my home. The stoplight was red, and there was one car between me and the intersection.

All of a sudden, a man darted across the street. He ran up to the car ahead of me and tried to open one of their back car doors. He couldn’t get in, so he headed over to my passenger door. I hurried to lock my door but I wasn’t able to do it in time, and suddenly the stranger was sitting in my passenger seat next to me.

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience. I calmly told him to get out of my car. He begged me to drive him, as he’d just been “jumped” and needed to get out of the area. I – again, calmly – told him I was not driving anywhere and that he needed to get out of my car. He said he was being threatened by people on the street and needed me to take him away. I said that was not my responsibility and that I needed him to get out of my car.

“Get out of my car,” I said. “Please get out of my car. You need to get out of my car.”

I kept repeating myself until finally, he opened the door, got out of my car, and ran away.

I gathered myself and drove home. Although I’m still feeling shaken, I’m OK and I’m safe.

I recounted the story a few times afterwards – to my girlfriend, a friend, and two of my sisters. Everyone seemed impressed with my calmness in the situation.

The truth is, I’m impressed, too. I didn’t urge myself to be calm in the moment. I just was.

I simply requested that the stranger get out of my car. I was calm, I was assertive, and I was serious. I didn’t scream, cry, or get emotional. I didn’t make a spectacle of it. I simply told the man what I wanted and eventually he did just that.

I don’t want to trivialize the situation that I experienced. I genuinely was shaken by it,

But when I sit down to write my weekly post on Wednesdays, I draw from experience – sometimes very recent, and sometimes unpleasant – to inspire my posts.

And so, I can’t help but think – what could I learn about fundraising from my experience last night? 

We talk a lot about storytelling in fundraising. Inspiring donors through stories is such an important technique in what we do.

But sometimes a story isn’t necessary. Sometimes flowery language, emotion, and a spectacle isn’t required.

Maybe it’s because of the ask you’re making, or maybe it’s who you’re making the ask to.

But sometimes, the best ask is one that’s calm, assertive, and serious. Sometimes you have to make the ask a few times in order for the donor to really feel the impact of what you’re asking. Sometimes they need to know you’re really serious before they consider responding to your ask.

Have you had any experiences that have inspired your fundraising lately? Hopefully they didn’t shake you as much as mine did, but maybe you learned something nonetheless.

Share in the comments below!

~~

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

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
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?

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

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!

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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

My Christmas Wish for Fundraisers

my christmas WISH FOR FUNDRAISERS

Today is the day.

Well, actually, more importantly, today is the last day.

The last day before my holiday from work until the New Year.

It has been a crazy December… and truthfully November was insane… and so was October…

You get the picture. I need a break.

And I’m willing to bet that you need a break, too.

Fundraisers work hard. All year long, but especially in the final quarter of the calendar year. It gets a little crazy.

So whether you’re lucky enough to have a long break away from work, or just a few statutory holidays, my Christmas wishes for you are these:

Take a real break. Unplug from your phone and computer as much as is humanly possible and really disconnect from your work. Give yourself a challenge; maybe it’s just Christmas Day that you spend entirely disconnected from work/electronic devices. Maybe it’s a few designated hours a day. Maybe you take a walk every night and leave your phone at home. Whatever it is – do it. It’s healthy, and you need it.

Indulge! That’s what the holidays are for! Drink that extra glass of egg nog, stay up late to marathon your guilty TV pleasure, eat too much cheese… whatever your vice is, indulge in it a little bit. We can’t do that all the time, but during the holidays it feels so good.

Be with those you love. Work too often keeps us away from family and friends, so take the days you have off and be fully present with your loved ones. Whether it’s your significant other, your kids, your nieces or nephews, your sisters or brothers, your grandparents, cousins, in-laws, or friend who’s in from out of town… take advantage of your time away from work and really be with the people you love.

And come back ready to work! The great thing about taking a real holiday, is coming back on the other side rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running. I want the holiday in and of itself, but I also want to approach January with renewed energy. I know I can’t do that without some real rest and relaxation, so I’m committed to it.

And so I’m following my own advice. I’m going to disconnect from Twitter a bit, and I’m also going to skip my weekly blog post next week to give us all a rest. I’m going to have a spa day with my girlfriend Kate, colour in my new adult colouring book (so therapeutic), finish “The West Wing”, spoil my nephew, have drinks with my best friend Brian who lives in New York, and more!

So with that, Merry Christmas to those of you that celebrate it, Happy Holidays for anyone who doesn’t, and all the best for a very Happy New Year!

See you in 2016!

~~

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

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

My most awkward fundraising moment EVER

My most awkward fundraising moment EVER! (1)

Let me set the stage for you.

I’m in a meeting with a mid-level donor. She had very positively responded to my meeting request, and actually invited me to visit her at her home!!!

So we’re in her house – her kitchen, to be exact – drinking tea together, and talking very comfortably. I’m getting to know her, learning about why she’s giving to my organization, finding out what she’s passionate about…

It’s the most perfect mid-level donor meeting ever!

Then it gets better.

I ask her for her continued support of the organization, and make a specific ask for a gift today.

She says yes! And decides to give more than I ask her for.

WOO HOO! I’m feeling really good now.

After thanking her profusely, we get into the specifics and I tell her I’m happy to bring a cheque back to the office, or I can take down her credit card number and process the donation when I get back.

But this is a modern woman, so she says, “No no, how about I just make the donation online while you’re here?”

I enthusiastically say, sure! She pulls out her iPad and I tell her the URL.

And that is when things go sour…

The online donation page is barely mobile/tablet-friendly.

There are SO MANY fields to fill in!

The designation drop-down box is so long and has so many designations, but it still doesn’t have the one this generous donor wants to support.

As she struggles through the overly complicated online giving form, I’m sitting next to her CRINGING! It’s taking so long, the process is clunky at best, and even though this donor is patient and gracious and says nothing about it, I am holding my breath next to her feeling as awkward as I ever have in a donor meeting.

We barely made it to the end of the process. Her gift was made, but it’s a miracle she got through all the obstacles our online giving process threw her way.

Looking back, I can’t help but think what would’ve happen if she’d tried to make her gift online without me there.

If I go to read an article online, one of the first things I do is scroll down to see how long the article is. I need to know if I have time to read it now because if not, “I’ll do it later.”

That’s what I would’ve done if I was this generous donor. I’d go to the online giving page, be totally overwhelmed by how long and clunky it is, and decide “I’ll do it later.”

Only to never do it later. Or at all.

Who are we turning off giving? Who is deciding to “do it later” but never does? 

An awesome and slick online giving page and process isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. It’s a must-have. And it’s not about just looking good; it’s about being donor-centric, and ensuring we put no obstacles in the way of their giving.

Don’t put yourself in my position and sit cringing behind your generous donor. I can tell you from experience that it’s very awkward.

~~

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

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!

~~

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