Sunday, December 12, 2010

Client Centred Marketing. How an 'old' agency is changing how we think of them.

Stephen Thomas Marketing for a Better World Is an agency that seems to have successfuly reinvented itself. Once thought of as strictly a direct mail provider they are doing some great work with integration between multiple channels. Very cool campaigns like the Buy a Kid Some Time campaign with Kid's Help Phone and the brilliantly launched Medecins Sans Frontiers and the concept for MSF's What's up Crate campaign have moved me in unprecedented ways and I'm sure generated a lot of interest and money for their clients.

As an exhibitor and sponsor at the Association of Fundraising Professionals Toronto Chapter congress their approach is also refreshed. For two years now instead of talking about themselves they have brought in video crews to record delegates sharing their stories. This is a great idea because it increases their exposure and it engages their prospects in talking about themselves. HA! a very client centred approach. Very smart and very cool. Here is their video of me taken at AFP Congress last month.The video isn't transferring to my blog very well so you can click through here to You Tube if you like.

You can see more videos of other fundraising professionals on their STTV channel here. Congratulations to the ST team for their great (and very noticable work) and thank you for giving me a moment in the spotlight. Admit it folks - we all love that!

Thank you for spending time here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Are graduates of fundraising diploma programs secretly feeling superior?

I love my AFP Toronto Chapter. Congratulations to all of the committee who delivered one of the most successful Congresses ever - over 1,000 delegates-WOW! Thank you for your hard work.

Catching up with friends and colleagues is my favourite part of the conference experience. Since I started using twitter to turn `connections`into real relationships these face to face interactions are even more special. However, one conversation I had this week was a little bit uncomfortable. It really stuck with me so I think it is worthy of further exploration.

Every time I see this person she seems to have a new job and we were talking about her most recent transition. During which she referred to her former colleagues as `uneducated fundraisers`. Of course I inquired for understanding - it sounded like she felt superior to fundraisers who hadn`t attended a formal college fundraising education program. Embarrassment set in for her when I clarified that I was in fact one of the `uneducated fundraisers` she was referring too. (All these years she assumed I was a graduate of the same program since we met in that context.) After that the conversation turned awkward. Thank goodness the session started.

I won`t use this blog to talk about the difference I`ve noticed between us `accidental fundraisers` and graduates of formal fundraising programs. That conversation really doesn`t serve much purpose. However, I would like reassurance that those who graduate formal fundraising programs don`t see themselves as superior to those of us who learned through our sweat and mistakes on the job.

Frankly after raising a lot of money, recently being recertified as a CFRE and having attended countless educational events and congresses - I consider myself pretty educated too.

A diploma from an educational institution is not the mark of a good fundraiser. A good fundraiser to me is someone who:

1. Can get and keep a job.
2. Can deliver the budget they are responsible for.
3. Teaches others along the way.

What do you think - are graduates of fundraising diploma programs secretly feeling superior to all of us?

Thank you for spending time here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Operation Silver Swan or How to Ask for Smarties

Two and a half days with no shower, no make up, not even a blow dryer to try and keep the hair in control and it was the most rewarding presentation I've ever made.

Let me explain:

My organization has just added a youth council. This youth council is going to provide us all with the environmental leaders of tomorrow. These guardians of nature or Nature Guardians as we call them gathered to determine their objectives and organize themselves. The adults simply provided a little guidance and presented various opportunities for consideration. That is what last weekend was all about. Five adults and eighteen teenagers camped out at the Toronto Zoo to laugh together and learn from each other.

My session was of course on fundraising. When the Nature Guardians decide on their goals, they will need to find the resources to implement their project. The session covered six essentials:

1. Have a clear statement of work. (Be able to tell people what you do)
2. Demonstrate Impact. (tell a good story of change)
3. Have a simple clear goal.
4. Go where the money is.
5. ASK!
6. Say Thank You!

It was also very special for me personally because my daughter co presented with me and talked about what she learned from Balaal Rajan in his book Making Change. She was a natural and could have confidently presented the entire session. A proud mommy moment indeed!

This blog is really about how the teens responded to number five. ASK! I had some small packages of Smarties and threw them at about half the kids whenever someone said something really 'smart'. After they ate the first round, I was more specific about my directions and replenished their supply. I then ended the session by giving them a task - at some point in the next 24 hours, those who didn't have Smarties would have to approach those who did and convince them to 'donate' the Smarties to the Nature Guardians program. I had extras and if they were really brave they could approach me for a 'Major Gift'.

The following morning I had to admit (as discussed during the session) that perhaps my 'innovative' idea, wasn't a very good one for I still had a mountain of chocolate to give away. I set the Smarties aside and we carried on with other workshops. (or so I thought) That morning the Nature Guardians sprung into action and launched what will be forever called Operation Silver Swan.

At lunchtime I was ambushed. You can see 'Operation Silver Swan' here:

These teens are amazing. I promised them I'd share this story on my blog and I'm proud to do it. It would be really great if a couple of them will come forward and post their own comment here about what it was like to make an ask.

The enthusiasm and commitment of these future leaders is contagious and I look forward to working with them to find funding for the programs they decide to pursue.

This was without a doubt the most rewarding presentation I've ever made.

Thank you for spending time here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Taking a break from blogs.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I mean that. Your interest means a lot.

Now go call your donors. They want to make a donation this year and it may just have slipped their mind.

November and December are very busy months in our business and especially in Toronto with our annual AFP Congress.

I'm taking a break from reading and writing blogs to make sure that:

1. Every donor who wants too has the opportunity to make their 2010 donation

2. To present a fabulous session at AFP Toronto Congress. Hopefully I'll see you there.

If you don't have any donors to phone - then call your clients because they are probably working on their budgets right now.

Watch this space in January for my 2010 list of learning. If you absolutely must keep reading blogs, then you can check out my previous two annual learning lists. This is where you can read 2008 and 2009. Then perhaps get started on your own 2010 list.

Thanks for spending time here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Are you stuck between the consultants and your organization?

Do you know who Tom Ahern is? If you don’t you should. He is a communications guru in the US. Tom is a frequent presenter at AFP congress and, over the past ten years, has taught me a lot about donor communications.

Tom also sends out a fabulous newsletter. Getting them is like a slap in the face – I mean that in the nicest possible way. The newsletters are excellent reminders of how to put the donor at the front of all communications and the importance of using simple language. They are very refreshing. You can subscribe here. (Although when I saw Tom at IFC this month I did candidly ask him if he still has any clients. He assured me he does.)

The newsletter I received this week featured an article called: Why, oh why, don’t they trust you? “Because I don’t pee like Jesus.” It will be added to the online archives soon I'm sure.

The article starts by briefly talking about gender issues, but quickly moves into the deeper issue of trust in the head fundraisers ability to do her job. Tom outlines what in his opinion is best practice from a personnel point of view. He writes:

‘The head of fundraising (the director of development, or advancement, or whatever you choose to call the position) should have sole and final approval on every donor communication, whether it's an appeal, a newsletter, the donor portion of the website, the annual report to donors, emailed solicitations, fundraising event invitations ... etc.’

And goes onto say:

‘No headmaster, no president, no CEO, no dean, no executive director, no board chair, no committee member is born with an innate understanding of what will be effective in fundraising communications. I had to read 150 books and survive 15 years of real-world experienc
e as a writer before I could confidently say, "Yup. I'm pretty sure this will work."

Tom is right in saying that it is our job as chief development officers to deliver the budget. And that the right kind of communications can raise more money. However, I think he misses a really important point.

A strong, sustainable operation requires a culture of philanthropy throughout the organization, integration between communications and fundraising, understanding from the receptionist to the chair of the board about what it means to be donor centred. Yes as the chief fundraiser we are mostly measured by the quantitative results. i.e. how much money is coming in. Our job is also measured in the qualitative outcomes I’ve mentioned above. We are responsible for leading these changes in our organizations.

My experience has been that it is important to work collaboratively and build consensus around donor communications so that everyone feels ownership of them. Otherwise the silos get taller, we risk people trying to avoid working with us or worse, working around us and across the sector the fundraisers will continue to be thought of as the 'difficult ones'.

One of the biggest challenges for those of us in the trenches is to be stuck in between what the consultants say is ‘best practice’ and what the organizational culture is ready to do.

So while I eagerly look forward to getting slapped around by Tom on a monthly basis and I’m absolutely sure he is right, I’m also in this for the long haul. I’m not going to get too worked up if my newsletters or website don’t meet his standards. I’m going to keep working toward building a strong team.

This is a shout out to all the fundraisers who are stuck in the middle between well intentioned and very vocal consultants and your organization. Keep leading effective change, stay allies with everyone, celebrate and share your successes along the way. Most importantly, don’t feel too deflated about the occasional little compromise you need to make in order to get the job done.

Thank you for spending time here,.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Talk of unethical fundraising - How do you respond?

It happens every year at this time. Exactly when charities are moving into their busiest and most important quarter, there is a flurry of media activity about unethical fundraising practices. The stories are often inaccurate, sensational and extremely damaging.

For those of us who are dedicating our lives to creating positive change in the world through the redistribution of wealth, these stories are offensive. The implication that resource mobilization isn't worth a pay check, that we don't deserve to get paid for keeping charitable programs funded is well...

WAIT! - this blog is turning into a rant. I didn't mean to do that. There has already been a lot of ranting. The point is this year was no exception. A few weeks ago there was a flurry of media activity about charities in Canada spending too much to raise money.

Every year we all have an opportunity to respond to this story.

Professional associations responded quickly. AFP Toronto and Imagine Canada were right there for all of us. Within what seemed like hours fundraisers across Canada had guidance and speaking points. We were armed.

The response from consultants in Canada was swift and dramatic. Almost every agency I know wrote a blog attempting to prove their worth to charities.

While associations were proving they are worth the membership dues and agencies were fighting to keep business I was having a very busy week on the road. In almost every conversation I had that week I was asked whether we hired ‘professional fundraisers’. People wanted to know how much of their donation went to fundraising costs. It was time for our response?

Our charity decided to be transparent, open, honest and proactive. We wrote to our donors. We empathized with concerns they might be having and told them where they could find our charitable return, what our fundraising costs were and why we hire third party fundraisers. You can read our email here.

Now it was turn for the donors to respond. Within hours my email box was full. Some people saw this as an opportunity to express a concern they had. That was marvellous because then we were able to have a conversation. I telephoned these few people and talked with them directly. They really appreciated it.

Here are a few examples of other responses:

‘I never worry about the FON using funds irresponsibly or for personal gain. Just keep up the good work!’

‘Thank you, this was a good idea.’

‘You are the first (only?) organisation to have contacted me about this issue.’

‘I believe in your work, thank you for your efforts!’

‘K. Well done.’

‘Thanks Kimberley, You can count on my continued support for years to come!’

‘Thank you for your letter but I have no concerns.’

It has been extremely hectic in the fundraising trenches this past year. We have done some good work. Work I’m proud of. Work I believe I deserve a pay check for. I think the majority of our donors would agree.

How about you? How do you respond to media coverage on the cost of fundraising? If you didn’t, don’t worry – you’ll get another chance next year.

NOTE: I only know of two other charities that issued a proactive communication about this story. Great job CPAWS and Second Harvest. Anyone else?

Thanks for spending time here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Donor's Story

This week I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful woman and she has given me permission to tell her story.

We will call her ‘Sarah’ to respect her privacy. Sarah and her husband ‘Mike’ are major donors and long time supporters to the charity I work for. Their file is significant and goes back a long way. Three years ago they took out a seven figure insurance policy and named our charity as the beneficiary. Every year they pay a five figure premium on that policy and receive a charitable tax receipt.

The file for this donation is in top shape. It is easy to see when the policy was purchased, what the premiums are, when they are due and who to contact at the insurance company. When Sarah and Mike pass on (which will be quite some time as they are both in their early sixties) we will receive the donation. The file also outlines that we are to purchase a piece of land and create a nature reserve in honour of their son and name it after him. The file is a shining example of what we should all be doing so that our successors can continue the relationship.

However, what the file doesn’t really tell us is that their son died very quickly of bone cancer when he was nineteen years old - almost fifteen years ago. That he loved nature and was full of empathy for animals. Once he even stopped his teenage friends while driving to help an injured seagull. The file doesn’t tell us about how all the teenagers he grew up with coped with the loss of their friend or the hole left in Sarah and Mike’s lives because their son was an only child.

The insurance policy is part of how they are coping with this great loss. This donation and their connection to our organization is a connection to their deceased son. Their gift is how their son will live on forever - in nature.

I love meeting donors and have been very fortunate in the past ten years to get to know some spectacular people. I can’t express with words how much I love this part of my job. But, this was a very special donor visit, and very rare for a generalist fundraiser. In forty five minutes Sarah and I shared tea, a tear, some laughter and some candid conversation. We also decided that a copy of the picture of their son that hangs over their fireplace should be in our file. Sarah is glad to write down her son’s story and the feelings that she shared with me for the file too. We are going to do this because we know that by the time this donation is realized it is very likely that I will have moved on and obviously Sarah and Mike won’t be involved.

Yes business administration is a very important part of our jobs. Good charities like mine know this. Let us also remember that complex donations are usually extremely well thought out and full of emotion. Let’s start making sure that those who follow us get to shed tears with our donors too – even if it is just by reading their story on paper.

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

SOFII is great...but what do you actually DO with it?

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I've been a SOFII enthusiast for several years. I still remember the first exhibit I ever read. SOFII saved the day for me back in the fall of 2007. It is easy to recall the feeling and pressure of being a lone fundraiser with writers block. After discovering SOFII and stealing an idea from this exhibit, my fundraising paralysis dissolved and my appeal was dropped in mailboxes just ten short days later.

Since then I have written about SOFII often here and here and my very favourite courtesy of Roger Craver here. Its hard to imagine anything more important than providing fundraisers around the world with a free, accessible archive of great fundraising case studies and articles. I know, The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration is helping raise more money to feed children, protect and restore the environment, seek social justice and help the poorest and most destitute people on the planet. But how? By reading an exhibit or two a few times a month?

It is time for us to start talking about how we use SOFII in our work. I'll start.

My team at Ontario Nature is small. There are five of us. A development assistant, member and donor stewardship coordinator, data person, grant writer and me. That's the core team. Pretty bare bones but all enthusiastic, young, fabulous, funny and yes junior fundraisers. Learning and growing needs to be part of what we do together - everyday.

When we have team meetings there is always a lot to talk about. One constant agenda item is:

I ask each person to visit SOFII before the meeting and to bring in one fundraising example and a suggestion for how we can innovate to incorporate a new idea to improve service. At first folks weren't sure but I was the new Director and they played along to impress. Since then we have had some excellent ideas come from the team. For example:

After visiting SOFII Randie thought that all staff should be able to process a gift. We shouldn't lose a donation because she wasn't there. Now all program and admin staff have donation slips at their desk and Randie reviewed the process with them.

After visiting SOFII Irene thought we could revamp our thank you letters to be more personal and warm. She was right and we did.

I still smile when I think of Kiran (now enjoying maternity leave) admitting that she hadn't put much effort in and she brought forward this example from UNICEF because 'it must be good it's been around so long and I do the Christmas Cards so it got my attention.' Good enough for me!

These might all seem like pretty basic ideas to seasoned fundraising professionals. What I like most about this is the process. Asking staff to look beyond their own day to day challenges, beyond their own function and even their own organization. Getting the team to see things differently and then asking each other 'How might we do that here?' Together they are constantly striving to do things better and I thank SOFII for that. Our development team. Nicole, Randie, Lauren and me at Malcolm Bluffs Nature Reserve on a retreat weekend (we missed you Irene!).

Learning and growing in this sector needs to be done more than once a year at a conference. New ideas need to happen everyday. SOFII is always there for us. To be used in our own way to help us do our jobs better.

I hope SOFII will continue to be there for us all. That is why in addition to time and enthusiasm I also give SOFII my money (and my husband's money). I hope you will too. But more about that later. For now let's use this space to talk about your favourite exhibit or how you have used SOFII in the fundraising trenches. What impact has SOFII had on your work?

Thank you for spending time here.

PS Thanks to the fabulous development staff at Ontario Nature who tolerate me. I must remember to tell you the story of the day they became superheros.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'Don't let that blog get too dusty'

I love my blog. I write what I think and people read it, respond to it and share it. Blogging is fun.

Today I received a message during a conversation via twitter from a friend that said: 'Don't let that blog get too dusty.' He's probably right. If I want to keep this up I should write more. So the next question is do I want to keep writing? What is the purpose?

Being a fundraiser in the trenches can be a very isolating and lonely experience. This blog is unique in that I'm not a consultant. My intentions are to simply share my experiences in the hope that it will help you in a small way to earn more money for your cause, perhaps enjoy your job more or probably most importantly feel less alone. What I love about fundraising is that we openly share our experiences to help our competitors get better at what they do.

I have come to the conclusion that I will keep blogging. When I feel I have something to share that might be of value. NOT just to feed the machine and maintain momentum so that you keep seeing me pop up in your twitter stream or your inbox. I think the world is full of enough clutter.

(Although, I admit that my motivations aren't totally altruistic. I obsess over google analytics as much as other bloggers I know. But don't tell anyone.)

As my thoughts about this rambled on, I started to reflect on the momentum in my online community. Fundraisers are socializing with each other online all day and night long. Are we starting to become so distracted by socializing and networking online that we aren't taking care of ourselves or doing our jobs as effectively as we should? How many of us are a lot 'heavier' in real life than we are in our avatars? How many of us are struggling at work and using social media and volunteer work as a welcome distraction?

Don't get me wrong, I advocate for learning this language and understanding how online communications are impacting our sector. I believe we must learn about this new way of talking to each other to be relevant. We need to be comfortable saying 'tweet' and knowing what RT's and DM's are before taking our organizations and donors into the realm of social media. However, I think for those of us fundraisers in the trenches who don't have 'social media guru' in our job description we need to take a pause and ask ourselves: Are there donors I should be writing to instead? Am I getting out of the office as much as I should? Will I deliver my budget this year?

Yes we have a new world to learn about, but let's not forget the good old pillar of fundraising: people give to people. Turn off twitter once in awhile, be disciplined about how many blogs you read and go share a cup of tea with a donor.

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Donors don't care about your needs

It is natural. Charities have needs. We need money to deliver programs. We need staff to raise money. We need active competent volunteers to carry forward our message. We need paper, lights, equipment and office space in order to make the world a better place. The 'NEED' always precedes the ability to meet the need. Always.

That is the game we live in. It can be very stressful and demanding. There is never time to relax and often when the rest of the world is on holiday we are busier than ever. That is life in the trenches of a charity. If this reality is too stressful for you go work in a bank. (hmmm maybe a bank isn't the best analogy anymore...)

The point is 'we need' to be able to live with this kind of stress. But here's the thing. Donors really don't care about your organizational needs. I'd like to start a movement asking charities to eliminate the words 'We Need' from all of their communications materials.

It is a very simple exercise just replace those words with 'You can' when you write. Try it, it is a fundamental shift in the way you will think about connecting with donors.

Donors don't care about our needs. Donors care about changing the world for the better. Donors care about having an impact. Donors donate from an emotional place in spite of us, not because of us. Unicef Canada seems to be getting this with a program connecting donors to work in the field.

The Unicef Canada model is so simple. We can all do it. Try shifting your perspective from an internal one to an external one. Try setting your personal and organizational egos aside. Try being truly donor centred in all of your communications by banning the words 'we need'.

Start helping everyone in your organization to reframe their thinking. Connecting donors with the work they help deliver in the field will raise more that you can do more for beneficiaries...and perhaps even keep the lights on and hire more staff.

Thank you for spending time here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

'If you are terrible at what you do twitter won't fix that'

Scott Stratten is the President of UnMarketing and quite possibly the best presenter I've seen in ten years of attending conferences and two years of watching TED videos.

Scott is loud, obnoxious, self deprecating, flippant, full of ego, extremely entertaining, edgy and brilliant. Everything you want in a great speaker. Take all those qualities and add some extremely useful and relevant content and you have a session that the entire world should see. I'm so grateful to Scott for posting this video because I walked away from his session wanting to share it with the world. So I stole the presentation off of his website and put it on mine.

Make yourself a cup of tea,charge up your battery and enjoy Scott's presentation.

For those of you who aren't willing to invest the time in the video - let me summarize for you in a few bullets:

- Humans are online. If you need humans for your business - whether you like social media or not - you must have a presence.

- Start slowly. Choose a platform and learn it. Then move onto the next one. For example: establish a following on twitter then start a blog or a facebook groups.

- Invest your own social capital first. You don't open a bank account and expect to make a withdrawal. Add value to others first.

- Social media is a tool. Relevant content and being nice to people is still important.

I love all this stuff and agree wholeheartedly. Now go back and watch the video or bookmark this and come back later when you can.

Very sticky stuff. Thank you Scott!

Thank you for spending time here.

PS Scott wrote a little book too. If you prefer old fashioned reading you can buy it here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

'Donor Centred' is just jargon

Have you thought recently about what it actually means to truly be donor centred? I know we all talk about it a lot. If you throw the words 'donor centred' into a job interview people will really think you know what you are doing. I think the term 'donor centred' has become jargon.

What does 'donor centred' really mean?

As I was thinking about my next presentation to our board of directors I tweeted this question to my fundraising colleagues. Just look at the response (In reverse order of how they were received AND a cool example of why I love twitter so MUCH!):

@markyphillips We use donor 'needs', placing them at the centre of why, when and how we communicate.

@jonathongrapsas we prefer to use 'donor care'. Which is about asking, thanking, feeding back and caring. Then doing it again and again and...

@GabryelB it means getting your eyes off your organisations bellybutton and taking the view of the donors: his needs, wants, desires.

@FLA_Leah donor-centred fundraising equals heart and soul fundraising

actually don't think you should put donors needs ahead of org needs, especially if one has human beneficiaries.

@derekhumphries be courteous. Be kind. Listen. Offer more than you ask. Leave donors in no doubt how magnificent they are and can be.

Donor centered. Co-investors in making the vision a reality.

Donor centred is serving the donor in a way that puts their needs/wants first (as opposed to the wants of the org).

@agentsofgood -it means putting the donors needs, wants, everything before yours as an organization.

And I think my favourite:

Donor centered: Treating donors as partners in your mission rather than walking ATMs?

So now I'm thinking...what is it that donors need?

As a donor I know I need to be able to read the material and know that my money is making a difference.

What do you need as a donor? (Because presumably if you are a fundraiser reading this blog you are a donor too right?!)

When you are finished commenting here on your needs as a donor. Check out this great post from Mark Phillips at Blue Frog on what donors need.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The best cup of chai in the world

In a previous post I talked about pomegranate juice. Today I am going to tell you about the best cup of chai tea in the world.

I arrived in India on the red eye from London in the middle of August. In London I was upgraded to business class after charming a grumpy ticket agent and giving her a gift of Canadian maple syrup. So I had slept - a little.

I worked my way out of the airport and found my driver holding up a card with my name 'keembirli'. I followed him to a run down and dirty car, got in and hoped for the best in spite of the lack of seatbelt.

The chaos, heat, smell of the road from Jaipur to India overwhelmed my senses. It is hard to imagine anything more opposite to the Canadian countryside where I live. My driver didn't speak English so I was alone with my thoughts and became an observer in a distant land, watching everything.

Three hours into the drive we pulled over at a gas station with a flat tire. While the driver put on the spare I watched the group of people surrounding an overturned car assessing the damage of a very recent and serious accident. Naivety now dissolving I started to worry for my safety and remembered that the seat belt in the car was in fact broken.

Fifteen minutes further down the road we pulled over again. Now in what appeared to be a junk yard, I had no choice but to change my clothes and relieve myself behind a billboard. When I reappeared it was obvious we were at an Indian tire store.
There were several men walking around and kicking the tire very much like they do in Canada and probably the rest of the world. I found a patch of grass and sat down. I was alone, tired, hungry on the side of the road in the middle of Rajasthan, no telephone, no one to call, my only company some wild dogs, a cow and eight Indian men changing a tire. There wasn't a motel 6 in sight.

In time a very old man in tattered clothes and bare feet appeared. He was approaching me with something in his hands. As he got closer I recognized a china cup and a plate with cookies. 'Namaste' I said for the very first time. He looked down at the ground and passed me his gift of chai tea and a snack. I didn't know what to do so I looked to see what the others were doing. Everyone was sitting down and drinking their chai.

The hot sweet taste of the chai on that dry patch of grass filled me with comfort and faith in the people I was with. These people were good people, I wasn't alone. They would make sure I got to Jaipur by nightfall. When I finished the very best cup of chai in the world I joined the small group as they finished putting the patched up tire on the car and we continued our journey.

This wasn't a junkyard at all, it was India's version of Canadian Tire and Tim Horton's and I'd like to go back there again.
Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Traits of an indispensible person

I follow Guy Kawasaki on twitter (@Alltop) The tweets are frequent and full of gems. This video was so great I wanted to put it on my blog so that I always know where to find it. We would all benefit by watching it once a month.

Jacqueline Novogratz is the CEO of the Acumen fund and I've enjoyed listening to her TED Talks.

This clip is a great reminder of how to truly make a difference in your organization.

Jacqueline Novogratz on how to recognize a linchpin from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

Thank you for spending time here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stop complaining about your Board of Trustees and help them

Last fall at a fundraising retreat our board of directors made a commitment to create a list of ways they could each contribute to the organization. There was a menu of options created and everyone was to pick from the menu. We made sure there was a diverse list to choose from to accommodate all circumstances and financial ability. The goal was for the board to take responsibility for the organization starting by making a personal commitment. You can see the menu we used here.

Yesterday I received an email from one of our newest members. I have her permission to share with you her commitment, although she would prefer to remain anonymous so we will call her Marie. This is an actual real email from the fundraising trenches - not an example of what we should 'strive' for.

Marie wrote:

Good morning Kimberley

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the Menu of Opportunities.

I have made Ontario Nature a priority for my annual charitable giving. I have a huge box of requests from other very worthwhile charities that I normally give to each year, and I plan to write and tell each of those charities that my priorities at this time are concentrated on a charity on which I am a Board Member.

And I do believe in the importance of the work of Ontario Nature. We have a unique niche and an essential job to do to protect Ontario’s Wild Species and Wild Spaces!

As to including Ontario Nature in my will. That is definitely something that I will consider. When my husband died, Ontario Nature was suggested as a memorial charity for friends to donate to.

I have informed both my Great Lakes West contacts as well as my Stratford Field Naturalists about the upcoming Ontario Nature Green Tea, and have invited them to join me as I plan to attend. It sounds like a terrific event and I’m looking forward to it.

I am happy to make thank you calls or write personal thank you notes to donors.

I would be willing to visit a prospective donor with another staff or board member.

While I find it difficult to ask for money, I am open to possibilities. I joined the Ontario Nature Team in September for the Scotiabank Marathon Challenge Charity Walk/Run, and was inspired by the sheer numbers of participants and the event itself. It was a challenge for me to ask people to support me and I found it interesting to see who donated and who didn’t. I don’t feel that I can keep asking my friends and family on a regular basis as they each have their own charities that they feel are important too.

Fund raising is not always easy, but it is an important part of supporting Ontario Nature. As I said, I’m open to possibilities.

Best wishes,


It is our responsibility as staff to stop complaining about our volunteer board of directors and to provide them with the tools and support they need to be successful.

(I've written more about this issue in a previous post and in this Civil Society article.)

Thank you for spending time here.

Board Menu

Inspired by the full board with the help of Andy Robinson and finalized by the Development Committee for board approval in November 2009.

Ontario Nature
Board of Directors
2009 – 2010 Menu of Opportunities

Thank you for being part of the Ontario Nature Board. We want to make your participation in the fund raising aspect of our organization as easy and effective as possible. To help you consider your choices, we present you with a menu of opportunities to work with Ontario Nature.

Appetizers – Sampling each of these will excite your palette and ready you for more substantial fare:

- Make Ontario Nature 10% of your annual charitable giving while you are on the Board (and hopefully after your tenure on the board ends too).

- Meet with some existing donors to learn why they support Ontario Nature.

- Help bring more volunteers to the development committee.

- Tell two family members, friends or colleagues why you joined the Ontario Nature Board and ask them to join you in supporting Ontario Nature in their charitable gifts this year.

Entrees – We anticipate that everyone will have an appetite for at least two from the main course:

- Include Ontario Nature in your will.
- Tap your network of service providers such as real estate brokers, financial planners, accounts or plumbers who could serve their customers better by sending a subscription to ON Nature to their best clients.
- Help to host an event for supporters, or invite supporters to an Ontario Nature event.
- Visit a prospective donor with another staff or board member.
- Make a presentation to a member nature club about your favourite Ontario Nature program (or all their programs) and end the talk with a request for each member to join you in financially supporting Ontario Nature.
- Make thank you calls or write personal thank you notes to donors.
- Join another board member, volunteer or staff member on a second meeting with a donor and help plan the specific request for donation.

If you have room –

- Make a challenge gift.
- Identify new prospective donors.
- Come up with an idea of your own to support environmental causes and Ontario Nature

Table Etiquette
Please help staff maintain neat and tidy records by taking notes immediately after you speak or meet with an Ontario Nature supporter. We adhere to professional guidelines about privacy that will help you know what type of information we maintain.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why don’t women have a greater profile?

There is an interesting discussion happening right now thanks to an article Rowena Lewis wrote for Civil Society. When almost half (47%) of the senior leadership roles in the third sector are filled by women, Rowena asks why women don’t have a greater profiles?

In a follow up blog called ‘Invisible Women in Fundraising’ on the same website someone named ‘Susy Who’, not her real name - which is ironic given the content, says ‘I am filled with gloom every time I read about the appointment of yet another middle aged, middle class - normally ex-forces - male to a senior position in a charity.’

‘Susy’ missed the point. This isn’t a whinge about why there aren’t more women in senior leadership roles. Rowena is lamenting the lack of high profile women. Women who are willing to be bold, take public risks and yes, write under their real names. It is true, I can think of many fabulous women doing great work in the sector. However, there are very few who are – publicly putting themselves forward - so that we can look up to them and be inspired by them.

For some reason we generally seem to be holding back from asserting ourselves as mentors and sector leaders. So why don’t women have a greater profile in our sector?

I've been working in this business for close to ten years and it is just in the past eighteen months I have started to be more ‘out there’. It has been a very interesting experience. In my opinion there are five key ingredients required to putting yourself at the front publicly.

1. Ambition
2. Ego
3. Thirst for knowledge
4. Assertiveness
5. Willingness to come forward.


Women may think that an ardent desire for rank and power is a bad thing. So they shy away from being ambitious. Men might think of ambition as a desire to achieve a particular end. It’s all about framing.

A good friend of mine (John) said to me last week. ‘Kimberley I just think people don’t know what to do with your ambition.’

It is true. I am ambitious. I’m on a mission – you can read my mission right here on my blog. I also have a personal plan for how I’m going to accomplish my mission. The consequences of achieving my mission will be a bigger paycheck and a higher profile. The result, I hope will be improving peoples lives. I will have a larger impact, so that when I die, my children see me as a hero who made a difference. That is my mission.

As far as what other people need to do with my ambition. NOTHING. It’s mine and seems to be serving me rather well, thank you.

It’s okay for women to be ambitious. Just don’t hurt people along the way – bring them with you.

2. EGO

At a conference two years ago my session was up in the same timeslot as a very ‘famous’ male speaker. While surveying the rooms with a colleague I commented on how the other speaker had a much bigger room than I did. The response: ‘He needs a big room – to fit his giant ego.’ At the time I thought these words were really unkind. They certainly were intended that way. But over time I’ve watched presenters and have presented at more conferences myself. Ego is fundamentally important to setting yourself apart as a speaker.

If you are going to stand up in front of hundreds of people who have paid to be there, you bloody well better think that what you have to say is important and worth listening to. You need to be confident, entertaining and set yourself apart from the delegates. The best actors and entertainers know this. The best, most in demand, highest marked speakers at fundraising conferences know this too. Is it a coincidence that the ones who come to mind first are all men? I think not.

As women we are taught ego is a negative thing. For a high profile sector leader it is extremely important. It’s what gets you a plenary session.


To be a mentor, leader, high profile influencer you need to know stuff. In fact the more I learn the less I know.

Its Saturday morning, my house is a mess and I don’t want to do anything else but write this blog. At the moment I have four half read books beside my bed. The Rules of Management, Maverick, Forces for Good, The Leadership Challenge.

I’ve been living in this house for ten years and don’t have window treatments. Just good blinds with all the hardware exposed. Last night I did not watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. I started this blog.

My dear husband feeds us, shops for us and thankfully when he isn’t here – the kids can now cook. No one cleans really - except me about once a month or so.

Of course it wasn’t always like this. When our kids were little I was at home with them. Breastfeeding and making bread from scratch. I even had a sewing machine and designed little bibs that I sold to other mothers. We bought groceries from the money I made. I loved those years, and will always be glad we made that choice. AND it was a choice. We made bread because we couldn’t afford to buy it.

As women we CAN ‘have it all’. I just think it unhealthy to expect to have it all at the same time. In my opinion more women aren’t in high profile positions because they either carry the weight of most of the household responsibilities or perhaps have hobbies and other interests. I went to a book club once (actually I started it) but they didn’t want to read Jim Collin’s books – I did. Career and family doesn’t have to be a choice – it just needs to be sequenced.

Knowledge is necessary if you are going to teach anyone anything. It takes commitment and time to read and write.

4. Assertiveness

Assertive women are often labelled as aggressive. Assertive men – strong leaders. I absolutely love this clip from Mad Men. I can’t embed it in the blog but you can see it here

Peggy asks for an office that she has earned and deserves, and then she apologizes – saying she didn’t mean to be impolite.

I also love this article about Hillary Clinton – a strong woman I admire very much. The article ends by saying ‘And that’s the best thing about Hillary Clinton—she has a way of making sure everyone knows she’s there.’ This is something we can aspire to and learn from.

5. Willingness to come forward

I know of two partners of two famous consultants who prefer to quietly change the world without a public spotlight. I feel a little sad about this because I suspect they are rather brilliant women and I’m not going to receive the benefit of that brilliance. But I understand it because as soon as anyone steps in the spotlight people will talk about you. Some of the things they say won’t be nice. Most of the people who say not nice things about you – will in fact be women. I guess its part of our make up. That is the risk of having a high profile.

So it is hard sometimes. Lately I’ve been thinking of putting my head back down. Questioning why I’m compelled to write, blog, tweet, speak. Thinking that maybe it is self serving and all about me. There is no money attached to it. In fact it costs money. I can be successful at work without it. Honestly, I was ready to delete the blog and walk away. But then two days ago I was talking via Skype to a fabulous young fundraiser I met in India. She had no idea I was feeling depleted. She thanked me. Told me I inspired her, she looks up to me. Feeling incredibly unworthy, I was inspired by her. Of course I quietly cried - something else women do that men don’t. (Their loss)

There are lots of ways to change the world. Not everyone will be comfortable with a high profile. We are lucky in North America though because I actually can list more than ten women who have personally influenced my life and my career. But you may not have heard of them.

We do need women to be ambitious, egocentric, hungry and assertive. As women we need to support and help each other to do that.

But mostly I think we need women to stop complaining about inequity and to just get to work making the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. I can’t think of anyone who would like a senior level position because of their gender. Senior level positions should be given to the best candidate. Period.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Creativity at its best!

The images were part of one of those horrid email chains that landed in my inbox. Actually my daughter received it and thought I might like this one so she sent it to me.

WOW! So creative, interesting, funny and...well...kind of gross.

Let's all try to add a little of this to our work!

If you know where these images came from please do tell us! It's all a bit of a mystery at the moment.

Thank you for spending time here.