Inspiration from Under the French Fries

French fries with salt
Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Inspiration comes when you least expect it. While having dinner with my children at McDonalds, I was challenged by the verbiage on the tray liner. You know the tray liner – that piece of paper lining the tray that usually contains a special offer for an amusement park or a promotion of the latest McFood. But this time it was a statement about McDonalds’ corporate beliefs, starting with “We believe that when you say something people should be able to believe it.” They concluded with this statement: “To be the best company we can, we have to create the best opportunities. And we’d like to believe that some of the best ones around, are right here.

So here’s the challenge to us in the nonprofit community: do we offer our employees the best opportunities around? Do we invest in their training and development? Do we let them try new things? Do we listen to their ideas?

Many – maybe even most – of our employees took their current positions because they believe in the mission of our organizations. Sure, they need the paycheck but there are plenty of places to get those. Do we capitalize on their commitment to our organization?

Although we often blame ‘tight budgets’ for our lack of employee development, some opportunities are free. Even the opportunities that require some budget are worth it. By investing in an employee’s next step – through training and opportunities – we develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

Training and education
The nonprofit sector has a language all our own and some basic training will benefit employees at every level. Watch for web-based trainings, share interesting articles or invest in training from a professional association like AFP.

Opportunity
Find where their interests lie and let them work on a project, try out a skill or pitch in when things are exceptionally busy. Look for areas where your organization is lacking talent, social media for instance. Challenge an employee to become a specialist in that area by researching best practices in other organizations.

Feedback
One of the most valuable things you can provide aspiring leaders in your organization is honest feedback on their performance. Find places they can improve and be proactive in providing the opportunities needed to make those improvements. Don’t wait for annual reviews, provide ongoing feedback so your team can be constantly improving.

I have no idea what kind of workplace McDonalds truly is. But I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years. Can the employees in the nonprofit sector agree with the statement on my McDonalds tray liner: “we have to create the best opportunities. And we’d like to believe that some of the best ones around, are right here“?

Are You Interesting?

Photo credit: William Leonard
Photo credit: William Leonard

Are you interesting? As a fundraising professionals, our job is to develop relationships on behalf of our organizations. If we are going to do that well, we have to be interesting. How do you get interesting? Get out of your office!

Many fundraisers wear ‘working all the time’ as a badge of honor. They brag about being the last one to leave the office every night and repeatedly work on weekends. I’m here to tell you to stop doing that. Leave on time. Stay out of the office on weekends.

There are reams of research that prove you have to step away and unplug occasionally to be your most productive. Now I’m adding another reason that is specific to fundraising:
if you work all the time, you won’t be interesting;
if you aren’t interesting, your prospects and donors won’t want to talk to you;
if your prospects and donors don’t want to talk to you, you won’t be a good fundraiser.

Here are 5 ways to make yourself more interesting this summer. Whether you have vacation time available or just need to leave the office on time, try these and let me know how it works.

1. Get outside – get out of your cell phone’s service area or go somewhere not safe for your technology (think water, sand, wind, rain). Go for a hike, kayak, paddle board, sit on a beach. Visit a national park or just sit on a park bench.

2. Read fiction – Remember how teachers used to describe reading when you were young? “ Visit a foreign land, travel in time, meet famous people.” That still applies! Not sure what to read? Here’s what’s on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

3. Read nonfiction – Try the latest business book or revisit a classic like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here’s the New York Times nonfiction best sellers. 

4. Eat something new – Try a new restaurant, experience a new type of food or check out a local dive. Did you know that Food Network has an app that lets you search for featured restaurants? Have you checked to see what local restaurants have made it on the air?

5. Be a tourist in your hometown – no matter where you live, visit a few places that are tourist destinations. Visit Trip Advisor, then for “Where are you going?” type in your own city and select “Things to do in.” Have you been to all the places that come up on the list?

What does all of this have to do with fundraising? NOTHING! That’s exactly the point. If you work late every night and all you think about is fundraising, no one will want to talk to you. So go – get out there and make yourself more interesting. Your donors will be glad.

What Do People Think When You Walk in the Room?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re excited to have this guest post from friend and colleague Ashley Pero

I enjoy arriving to meetings early. This isn’t just because I am extremely punctual, I also love to people watch. (You do too, don’t you? It’s okay, I won’t tell!) I often find myself wondering what people think when they are people watching me. I will be honest, some days I shouldn’t receive a glowing review. You cannot be “on” every day and no one expects you to be, but that doesn’t stop people from forming their opinions about you and your level of competence.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on Take Control of Your Professional Presence at the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay. The program is taught by a wonderful consultant, Margarita Sarmiento. (I highly recommend that you take part the next time it is offered.) Margarita explained not only the importance of your professional presence, but also how to improve your presence and control the image that you portray to the world. Below I have shared a few tips that everyone can incorporate to improve their image in and out of the office.

  • Smile! Not everyone is a natural smiler, but you can make an effort to smile at people. This simple act makes you seem more open and approachable.
  • Make eye contact. Eye contact shows that you care enough to pay attention to the other person. Even if that just means stopping what you are doing to ask if you can continue the conversation later when you can give it the appropriate attention.
  • Lead by example. Make sure your actions are demonstrating what you expect of others. People mimic the actions they see most often.
  • Look the part. Always make sure your outfit meets the 4 P’s: polished, professional, pulled together and people friendly.
  • Make your comments worthwhile and memorable. This will sometimes require you to stop and think about what to say, but it is worth the extra time.
  • Know what you’re projecting. Always ask yourself, “What message am I sending right now?” and adjust if needed.

We all want to make a great impression, first or otherwise, but sometimes forget that people are always observing. It only a takes a little more thought and a minute at the most to act on any of the tips above, but the benefit to your image is invaluable.

What other tips do you live by to improve or maintain your image?

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.

5 Nonprofit Career Tips

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re excited to have this guest post from friend and colleague Ashley Pero

“What career advice would you give the students?” the pre-panel prep sheet asked. I was asked to sit on a panel at The University of Tampa discussing careers in the nonprofit sector for students and alumni. Career advice? In Ashley-fashion, I started by completely overthinking the question… then I got realistic, it was 5p on a Thursday and some of them had to be there for credit – what might I say that would keep their attention. Here’s what I came up with… a few things I’ve learned as I’ve navigated to where I am today.

  • It’s okay to not know everything. It’s not okay to not try and figure it out. We are in age where there are so many resources available to help us do almost anything – use them! That might mean calling on a colleague (more on that below), a consultant, or just digging in and figuring it out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it’s how we learn and grow.
  • Connecting is about more than just a LinkedIn request to connect. Having colleagues that you can call for advice or bounce ideas off of is critical to success. And when it comes to looking for a new opportunity, they are going to be the ones to help you find what you’re looking for. It’s easy to neglect those relationships, but it’s also easy to keep them alive and well. A quick coffee before work, an email with an article that would be helpful for them, a quick call to see how things are – those small gestures build relationships and relationships are what it’s all about.
  • Be a lifelong learner and ask questions. People are generally willing to tell you if you ask. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but if you wonder why something is done a certain way just ask… maybe your idea to improve it is a good one. A great place to get those ideas? Read, read and read some more. There are so many industry specific blogs, trainings and general knowledge out there if you take the time to find it and take advantage of it. Be curious!
  • Other duties as assigned. It’s always there and the percentage of time spent on it varies – other duties as assigned. The words “that isn’t my job” should never come out of your mouth. Those other things, big and small, help you prove that you’ll do what it takes to get the job done and that’s an admirable trait. Just know when to say your plate is full, your quality shouldn’t suffer because you take on too much.
  • If you don’t know where you want to go, someone else will decide for you. Not many people I know have decided what they want to be when they grow up and that’s okay, but don’t let someone else decide for you. Take time periodically to be sure that what you’re doing now will somehow help you get where you think you want to go. Be confident in your skills and abilities and don’t let someone else devalue them and decide what you’re good at.

What else would you add? What was the best advice career wise you’ve been given?

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.

Letter to a New Development Director

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A colleague just got a great new development job. I started thinking of what I would tell him if he asked me (and he hasn’t but since this is a great outlet for unsolicited advice I thought I would share).

Dear friend,

Congratulations on your new position! Fundraising is an extremely challenging and immensely rewarding profession. I’ve thought of several things I think you should do in your first few days and weeks in your new position. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Get a good support system – sometimes development can feel very lonely and frustrating so make sure you have a good group of colleagues outside your organization who can encourage you and tell it to you straight.
  2. Join a professional association – development is a profession and our professional associations offer much of what we need: continuing education, a code of ethics, research, and advocacy. AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) has local chapters throughout the US; several right here in the Tampa Bay area (Suncoast, Southwest, Nature Coast, Polk). There are others for specific parts of the nonprofit sector like education (CASE) or healthcare (AHP).
  3. Read, read, read – there are great books and blogs (like this one!) about fundraising. Read them. Not all of them, not all the time but make sure you are spending some time refreshing your skills and recharging your batteries.
  4. Go home on time – I’m sharing this advice given by author Penelope Burk at the AFP Planet Philanthropy Conference in 2012. I was shocked when I heard it. Some of us think that we should be working day and night to get all of the money raised. Penelope pointed out that if we are working all of the time, we won’t be that interesting when we interact with donors. Have a hobby, exercise, spend time with your family – stay interesting.
  5. Practice your listening skills – 2 of the great thinkers in the field of development have written extensively about this. Karen Osborne has a free resource on her website, Asking Strategic Questions. Jerold Panas dedicated a whole book on the subject called Power Questions.
  6. Learn the key things about your organization – a great book on this subject is The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave by Harvey McKinnon. Check out those questions and make sure you can answer them for your new organization.
  7. Go get a story and be ready to tell it – every organization is full of stories about the impact they are making in their communities. Make sure you can tell a firsthand story that illustrates that impact. This may mean spending some time in the patient care areas, museum floors, classrooms, or labs of your organization.
  8. Make time and budget for training – as you build your team, pay attention to the areas where they need additional training and the ways you can help them prepare to move up. Same goes for you, too. Don’t get so busy in the job that you forget to keep yourself current.
  9. Enjoy it – fundraising is a challenging and wonderful profession. You are a part of changing the world and you should enjoy it.

I’ll close with: I’m happy to help however I can. Good luck!

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.