In last week’s NEWSletter article I mentioned being on retreat with several of our nonprofit colleagues. We gathered Wednesday evening and worked together through Friday noon, pilot testing a service we’re considering for ONEplace. While I’m still pulling together all that I learned, I can tell you this:
It was a moment for me.
As we entered our time together on Wednesday, I marveled at what I saw. Here I was in a familiar environment. I had been on retreat at this venue several times. And, here I was with people I knew. I had worked with almost everyone there. However, these had been two different worlds for me, and now they were coming together. More than that…
It was a fulfillment of a two-year plan, a two-year vision.
Various strands of activity over the past two years were slowly woven together to arrive at this moment – and the impact hit me square in the chest. Yet, it was different.
I’ve worked on long-term projects before. In a previous job, I led a four-year effort that culminated in five regional conferences at sites all across the country. I recall the moment when we closed the fifth conference and headed for the airport. It was a sense of completion, achievement, and success.
While holding a sense of fulfillment, this recent moment pointed more to the future than the past. It was like finally cresting the hill to see the green valley below. Yes, we made it up the hill, and now the fun work begins.
So, I offer my thanks to those who participated in the retreat and to those supervisors and colleagues who supported their participation. It was a moment to treasure.
And, we’ve only just begun.
“I’m having coffee with….”
How often do you say that? Monthly? Every other week? Weekly? More?
Having coffee, tea, lunch, a drink, etc. with a nonprofit colleague means you’re making connections, and these connections energize your work and your organization.
Even if the conversation is purely social, you’re deepening your relationship. This makes it more likely that you’ll pick up the phone and call this person when you need to sound out an idea or concern. You’ll also be on each other’s radars when a future conversation touches on an issue or opportunity of mutual interest.
The idea of “building your network” sometimes gets a slimy reputation when it’s seen as serving one’s own interests and careers. Don’t throw out the proverbial toddler with the mud puddle! Developing relationships across the nonprofit sector, and especially your particular corner of the sector, is critical to your organization’s impact and your cause’s success.
The ROI on relationship building is huge and…better yet…it compounds. Don’t believe me? Not sure where to start? Ask me to coffee and I’ll explain it…ask nicely and I’ll buy.
When this email arrives in your inbox, I’ll be on retreat with a several others. Called Courage to Lead, this retreat creates space for each person to relax, rest, and listen to the quiet voice of their own wisdom.
I cherish these times.
For the past two years, I’ve been on retreat at least once every quarter. It’s an opportunity to declutter, recharge, and reconnect with what’s important. It helps me align my deeply held values with my actions and activities…to merge soul and role.
It’s also something I can carry with me. The retreat works on the principles of the Circle of Trust as developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal in Seattle. These principles (e.g., extend hospitality, listen deeply, ask open honest questions, maintain confidentiality) can be carried and practiced outside the retreat center – in the home, in the workplace…anywhere. And yet...
their power is greatest on retreat – in a community of solitudes.
You know this. You’ve experienced the synergy of several people working together. Each has his/her own unique task or challenge, but the energy of everyone doing their work creates a spirit that motivates and sustains. It’s awesome and invigorating.
This week’s retreat is a pilot for ONEplace. We’ll evaluate the experience and plan how to move forward from here. I anticipate other Courage & Renewal experiences to come through ONEplace in the near future.
Last week, Tamela Spicer (The Intentional Catalyst) presented a Management Track workshop on Event Management. During the session, we dissected the finer points of holding a fundraising event. Here are a few points to consider.
First, it’s all in the planning. My experience with nonprofits (and everyone else) is that we commonly don’t think through the details before taking on a new project. Tamela supported that opinion and advocated detailed planning (don’t forget the post-event follow-ups in the plan) and document everything as you work the plan. It helps track this event and plan for the next one.
A second key to success is making sure your volunteers have a great experience…a Wow! experience. This is respect and good hospitality for the volunteers, and it’s a great investment in building your reputation. Give them a great answer to the inevitable question, “How’d it go?” If this is done well, then recruiting volunteers for the next event will be that much easier.
One more highlight: make sure your event shows your core purpose. It can be popular and fun, but if people don’t know what they’re supporting then you’ve done little to connect with that donor.
And a final word: don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. If you meet all your goals, you may have planned too easy.
One of the unique things about working at ONEplace is that we are the only management support organization (MSO) in Kalamazoo dedicated to capacity building for area nonprofits. Statewide, we are one of nine organizations doing this work, all with our own specific service models. Two weeks ago, staff from all nine MSOs came together for a retreat. It was a rare opportunity to share the same space and learn from each other.
The session that resonated with me most focused on a timely issue: partnerships. The social sector generally promotes the value of collaboration (yes, including ONEplace!) and we all know the advantages, e.g. greater efficiency, wider impact, etc. So, why don't we all have more major partners in our work? Certainly, a lack of time and resources to devote to figuring out where partnerships would be appropriate is a factor. But I wonder if there are two other major roadblocks: 1. a lack of information on how the process could work; and 2. examples of actual successful partnerships.
The Powerful Partnerships session was a case study presented by Yodit Mesfin Johnson, Chief Relationship Officer at NEW. She explained in depth how she executed a nonprofit-private sector partnership between NEW and Zingtrain (the training arm of Zingerman's Deli) to develop Leadership DELI. This program helps Ann Arbor area nonprofit leaders learn specific skills that will push them through the leadership pipeline.Yodit shared four key characteristics of powerful partnerships:
1. Clearly defined roles
2. A common set of values that drive outcomes
3. Understanding that joining together offers clear mutual benefit
4. A willingness to be flexible
This case study gave me a lot to think about. How can Kalamazoo County nonprofits use partners in the public or private sector to fulfill their missions? And, how can ONEplace be a resource in the process? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.
It seems this one question almost always comes up. Be it a struggling nonprofit, an association of service providers, a stable nonprofit, an ad hoc task force, a civic club, or any other service-providing entity, they all end up discussing essentially the same concern:
How shall we choose to participate?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended a variety of meetings and each discussed the dynamic environment around them. Each struggled with concerns over funders and fundraising, communications and marketing, as well as governance and board development. Each felt pulled in various directions, stretched beyond capacity, and blocked at several turns.
The biggest barrier was often identified as not having enough time.
The biggest barrier, however, was a failure to choose.
It’s the organizational version of “my eyes are bigger than my stomach.” We consistently bite off more than we can chew. Or, to be more precise, we don’t accurately weigh the cost of decisions, especially those decisions to take on more work. We’ll put more on the already-full plates of staff and volunteers and name it all as “high priority.” It only creates misery and, at best, mediocrity, and it needs to stop.
Choices – good, wise choices – must be made.
If this sounds familiar, then start with the assumption that every line of business, every service or program requires more work (time, energy, money) than you currently understand – say, twice as much. Then look at what that means relative to the quality and sustainability of the services you provide, including: staff development and turnover, relationship building and nurturing with many stakeholders, regular and consistent communications and public relations, and periodically evaluating and updating your services and the systems that support them. If you need help with this, ONEplace can assist you.
There’s always more to it than meets the eye. So, it’s time to choose. Otherwise, choices may be made for you.
Like most of you, I struggle with how to get the word out. How do I best let people know about the services we offer and encourage them to take advantage of them? Marketing. It’s important, yet it’s elusive and often stays on the back burner.
In a recent Entrepreneur article, Jurgen Appelo points out that we no longer need broadcast-based marketing (“Hello everyone! This is what we do!! We are very cool and awesome! Hello?!”).
He sets out 3 rules of marketing for the 21st century:
“Pull, don’t push. Make sure that people can find you using Google, social network and/or market places. Attract them with great content.
“Show, don’t tell. Make sure people can see with their own eyes that you are awesome. Those who are cool and remarkable don’t need to say it.
“Share, don’t beg. Don’t annoy everyone with 20th-century marketing tactics. Thanks to transparency, when you behave like a beggar, everyone will know.”
Two comments. First, I must underscore Appelo’s assumption that your marketing includes “great content” and that your organization is “cool,” “remarkable,” and “transparent.” Great marketing cannot make up for a great organization, so your best marketing strategy begins with becoming a great organization.
Second, if I could add one more word to his list, it would be targeting. Marketing is no longer a numbers game – connecting with 0.5% of a huge mailing list. Rather, it’s a strategic game – smaller lists, higher response rates.
Strategy requires more thought, more planning, more testing, more tracking. Yet, over time, we’ll learn where our audience resides and what messages motivate response. In short, we’ll become more relevant.
P.S. Find out more by participating in the upcoming Marketing Makeover 2015 webinar.
Summer is often seen as a different time. The fact that school is out of session affects many. Also, people just get out and about more often. At ONEplace, we continue doing what we do, but this summer affords us opportunity to do something new.
This summer we’re doing some experimenting. We’re testing three services that look to extend our depth and breadth.
Courage to Lead – Introductory Retreat: This three-day, two-night retreat provides a slow-paced, reflective experience designed to reconnect us with our values and passion. Based upon the work of Parker Palmer, the retreat follows the design from the Center for Courage & Renewal. (more info)
ONEplace On the Road: We’re leaving the friendly confines of downtown Kalamazoo to bring selected Management Track workshops to the wider county. We’ll be in Oshtemo on June 2, Richland in July, and Portage on August 18.
Lunch & Learn: These noontime discussions focus on the gnawing issues that plague most managers. Bring your questions, your concerns and your lunch, and we’ll explore research, best practices, and helpful hints from colleagues.
So, try one or more of these this summer. Do some experimenting yourself. Perhaps we’ll all learn something along the way.
We’re all working together, that’s the secret. Sam Walton
Collaboration is about being who you are and speaking what you see. Lynn Serafinn
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Henry Ford
[add your own synergy-laden quote]
For the past three years, one of our key strategies has been to encourage strong, collaborative connections. As one executive director is fond of telling me, “If you want to increase your organization’s capacity, collaborate.”
Collaboration and cooperation is something we encourage, but it’s also something we practice.
In the past, ONEplace has cooperated with the Arts Council, Volunteer Kalamazoo, the Cultural Data Project, Kalamazoo Bar Association, and others to bring workshops and service opportunities to the nonprofit sector. Looking ahead, upcoming collaborative efforts at ONEplace include:
By working together we can move the needle on some of the most entrenched issues facing our community. I know many of your organizations are doing this. Please use the Comment tool and let us know how you’re building strong, collaborative connections.
Earlier this month, John Greenhoe (WMU Major Gift Officer) presented Opening the Door to Major Gifts (also the title of his best-selling book). During the session we examined the process of making Discovery Calls as well as solutions to common mistakes.
A Discovery Call (also known as an Identification Call or Qualification Call) is a face-to-face visit with a prospect that you believe may have the capacity for making a major gift. While rarely done, tracking Discovery Calls keeps you apprised of how many people you’re putting into this pipeline and the percentage of those who eventually make a major gift.
Often, nonprofits don’t support making Discovery Calls because they don’t involve making an ask. Yet, John recommends developing an organizational culture that supports making Discovery Calls. These visits open the door to deeper relationships, greater trust, and larger gifts.
John also reminded us that fundraising is still a young industry and much of it is “largely a business of figuring it out on your own." So to get started, he suggests: (1) Plan time each day for making phone calls to schedule the initial visit; (2) When you get the visit, be yourself – tell your story and show your enthusiasm; and (3) Celebrate small victories because it is difficult, and you’ll hear “no” more than you hear “yes.”
During the program, John also recommended Gail Perry as a resource especially for smaller nonprofits. Find out more on major gifts on Gail’s website.