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Friday, June 21, 2013

100 Days of Gratitude, Day 13: Accidental Encounters

Mabel's on Main, Scottsdale, AZ
On a regular basis, we encounter people that we didn't expect to meet. Tonight was no exception.

We just wrapped up a successful "mini" drive at KAWC Colorado River Public Media in Yuma, Arizona. We're en route to a presentation for AFP Vancouver Island and AFP Wine Country. We had a Living Social deal for Mabel's on Main in Scottsdale, Arizona, that was good to use the night before an early morning departure.

At one point, a young man approached our table and asked to take our extra chair. Moments later, after Jim initiated a conversation, we have two new table companions, Joshua and Tiffany.

During the course of the conversation, surprisingly, we discuss commitment to nonprofits. Tiffany is an active volunteer who has been clearly raised with a volunteer ethic. She demonstrated very quickly that she was excited about the nonprofit causes that she has chosen and spoke articulately and passionately about her causes.

Joshua is about to initiate a great adventure. He is going to hike through southeast Asia and support a new business there. When we met him, he was celebrating an award winning business project with his team for his (slightly) delayed senior year at Arizona State University.

These two young people made us continue to be thankful for the next generation of philanthropists and leaders. Some in the nonprofit sector are confused and perplexed by the Millennial generation of donors and volunteers--how do we fit them into the existing model that we have for our organizations?

Our answer? Don't.

Millennial donors/volunteers/activists don't want to fit into the traditional nonprofit volunteer or donor model, These young people didn't necessarily want to serve in a traditional role on a board or committee. Here are some of our ideas about Millennial generation nonprofit contributors:

  • Provide concrete ways to contribute: Tiffany saw the board of one of her organizations struggle to interpret marketing information. She said, "They were looking at all these spreadsheets, and I knew I was supposed to just observe, but I couldn't help myself when they didn't understand them. I spoke up." She knew she could contribute, so she decided to! Good for her, because I think she helped the nonprofit make a more effective decision, and was invited to serve on the board!
  • Provide something immediate to do: These two are ready to experience life to the fullest and won't be bothered with meetings, bureaucracy, and "that's the way we've always done it." 
  • Model behavior: Tiffany was very proud of her mother and mom's "Angie's Angels." From what she described, I don't blame her. Mom, an attorney, has demonstrated commitment to nonprofits both to her staff and to her daughter. Tiffany said that her mom's mandated days of service with her staff were an inspiration. Don't underestimate what your commitment to service may influence.
It was wonderful to meet such inspiring young people, totally by accident. We wish them luck and hope that they'll connect and keep us up to date on their accomplishments. I know they will both do great work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

100 Days of Gratitude, Day 12: The Team

Elta Foster, Alice Ferris, Jim Anderson & Tegwin Tiffany
Unless you're Kanye West or Donald Trump, you'll probably admit that you need other people to support and collaborate with you to in order to achieve your full potential.

I've been fortunate to be a part of many great teams from my undefeated High School Football team to record breaking corporate sales teams to the nonprofit organizations I serve today. But one of the most collaborative, supportive, fun and empowering teams I've ever been a part of was the Development Team at KNAU Arizona Public Radio. Together we achieved great things including producing the first, and only $1,000,000 fundraising year in the station's 30 year history.

The team begins with Elta Foster, the Membership Manager and the "foundation" of our team. Alice Ferris, ACFRE was the Development Director. She had just lost 1/2 her staff "overnight" when she hired me as Sales Manager. For about six months it was just the three of us doing the jobs of six people. That kind of challenge either brings you together or tears you apart. It cemented our relationships and they thrive to this day. Tegwin eventually joined us as Development Coordinator and Maddie (Synnott) Stansell rounded out our team as Development Assistant. Together we broke the records set before us and created new milestones. None of our accomplishments would have been possible if not for the strengths and sense of common purpose each person brought to the team.

We're taking Elta to dinner to thank her for being our "rock" and for her leadership and kindness. We're sending a care package to Colorado for Maddie and maybe we'll Skype to share "in person" how much her contributions and support empowered our success. Sadly, Tegwin is no longer with us, but we'll honor her contributions as well.

I've said before that all you need to create a successful team is cooperation and enthusiasm, but here are a few other characteristics that help create effective and highly producing teams.

Common Goals: Team members understand shared goals and agree that they are important and attainable.

Emotional Commitment: Everyone is personally invested in the success of the team and cares about their teammates' experience.

"We" Mentality: The team thinks in terms of "we," working together toward the same goals. Teams find ways to "pitch in," overcoming challenges and maximizing opportunities. It's unacceptable to say "It's not my job." Instead the question is always "How can I help?"

Specialized Skills: Individuals within the team each have unique valuable strengths and skills that they bring to each task and are recognized and valued by the team. Each has independent responsibilities that contribute to the common goals.

Clear Leadership: Leadership may change depending on projects, circumstances and events, but there are not battles for control during transitions.

Celebrations of Success: Long term goals can be draining. Strong teams find reasons to celebrate small successes in order to improve morale and provide motivation.

Thank you to the people that create teams that work. It isn't easy and takes time to mature, but when it works the end result is exponentially more than what you could have accomplished alone.


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Monday, June 17, 2013

100 Days of Gratitude, Day 11: The Coach

I am extremely grateful for all of the coaches in my life. These are the people who want you to succeed beyond all else. They take both pride and joy in providing guidance on how to do so. We all need coaches and the smartest among us are the people eager to find others who can coach and mentor us for success.

Alice and I interview a lot of people as we lead focus groups, feasibility studies and donor outreach efforts. It seems that nearly every one of them is a coach in some way.  They provide diverse perspectives that we may not have understood before. They reveal networks and connections that we were unaware of. They point us toward opportunities that we were oblivious to.

The easiest way to find a coach is by asking questions and being open to learn. If you want to engage a coach, you have to value their opinions and knowledge. It's important you objectively evaluate the information they provide even if it creates cognitive dissonance for you. It might be hard to embrace, but you are not always the smartest person in the room.

Dr. William J. Rugg, VP/Provost, NSU
One of the most significant Coaches in my life is Dr. William J. Rugg, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Provost at NSU. I called Dr. Rugg tonight and shared with him what his coaching has meant to me. While I was a student at Northern Arizona University, Dr. Rugg was my advisor for a time. He helped me find a path and his support and guidance were the principle empowerments that helped me earn an internship in New York with the International Radio and Television Society. That opportunity changed my life. I was one of only 2 interns hired that year. The career that followed led me to the opportunities that I enjoy today. For that, and so much more I am eternally grateful to Dr. Rugg and to Denise Rugg, his wife.

The best coaches invest in us. They've decided that "we" are worthy of their time. Time is often the most valuable thing they share with us. They invest that time working to enlighten us. When they succeed, they help open our eyes and point us toward opportunity. 

Good Coaches Provide...
  • Insight about people, organizations and conditions that you don't have experience with.
  • "Ah-ha moments" by connecting dots where you hadn't seen relationships.
  • Connections with others who support your cause.
  • Direction about how to navigate within complex communities and organizations.
  • "Left Field" revelations that you were clueless about.
  • Warnings about hazards to avoid and "problem children" you may have to manage.
  • Clarity about "doability." They help you understand what is possible.
    Thanks again to the coaches we meet each day. We appreciate you investing the time to help us learn and grow.

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    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    100 Days of Gratitude, Day 10: The Cheerleaders

    I'm grateful for all of the people who enthusiastically encourage others to do good work, congratulate them on their successes and help keep up morale when someone needs a "boost."

    You can probably rattle off a quick list of the cheerleaders in your life. They are family, friends and collegues who were thrilled for you when you applied for a new job or went back to school or volunteered at your first nonprofit.

    They may be that person at work that checks in on you when you're working on a project and with a few kind words and a smile, rekindles your energy when you were thinking of "taking a break" or worse, giving up.

    Cheerleaders validate your strengths, wisdom and capabilitites especially in the times you struggle with frustrations and self-doubt.

    Like you, I have a long list of Cheerleaders who are consistently "there" for me but I had to pick someone to be the first person I called. It was easy because Mary Black started a "cheer" for me as I was writing this blog. Mary is often the first person to cheer Alice Ferris and I on as we're working on a project, the first to applaud our performance at presentations and the first to celebrate and share our successes. I'm taking Mary out for cocktails and I'll bring along a bottle of Grey Goose for her as a "thank you" for all the support she provides us and others. 

    Real cheerleaders like Mary aren't just Polyannas, that flatter you with meaningless platitudes and sweet cheerul cliches. Real cheerleaders pay attention. They understand what you are trying to accomplish, why it's important to you and the obstacles you're faced with. 

    And if you fail or things don't go the way you hoped, your Cheerleaders will still be there for you. They will be the first ones that offer a hand to help you up if you stumble. They dust you off, give you a hug and then nudge you back the direction you were headed. They never doubt you for failing, they celebrate you for trying and encourage you to try again.

    Sometimes these cheerleaders are people we've inspired, and often they become our inspiration. They make it easier to keep believing in ourselves. We find ourselves thinking of our cheerleaders as we take action. We see their face and anticipate their reaction as we make choices. They are constant reminders that we are not "in this" alone. Someone is invested in our success. And we won't let them down. We can't let them down.

    Here's to our Cheerleaders! "GO TEAM!"

    There are countless ways for you to be a Cheerleader. Here are 3 suggestions of how you can be someone's Cheerleader today.
    1. Recognize someone publicly for work that they've done.
    2. Encourage someone's progress on a project or goal they are working toward.
    3. Praise someone for their kindness, generosity, tenacity or wisdom.
    See, that was easy.


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