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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Adventures in Fundraising: 2014 Year in Review [VIDEO]

I'm guessing that if I look at your kitchen counter or dining room table right now, there's at least one holiday newsletter sitting there. There's probably a great list of all the wonderful things your friend (or in some cases,vague acquaintance) and his or her family did this year.

Consider this the GoalBusters video version of that newsletter. And we don't even take up counter space.

The life of GoalBusters definitely had plenty of surprises this year, big and small, good and bad. Of note...
  • Visiting the NPR "mothership" in DC for a client, only to discover that Suzanne Vega is playing a Tiny Desk concert for NPR Music
  • Beginning work with two clients that dramatically shifted our client base back into public broadcasting
  • Adding a new colleague to our team, JC Patrick
  • Celebrating my birthday in Puerto Rico kayaking on a bio-luminescent bay with a gaggle of my AFP friends
Of course, there were many challenges and disappointments in 2014, and through those challenges, we learned a lot-about our profession, our clients, and ourselves.

2015 will mark the 15th year of this company, and the tenth year of Jim and I working together. As we transition into the new year, I think this quote sums up 2014 well, and is a great guiding principle for 2015:

Here's wishing you a happy holiday and a great adventure in the coming year!

Thanks for flying with us,
Founder and Partner, GoalBusters

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Life is just a pale imitation of high school"

My Alma mater, West High School, Madison, WI
In the 1980's series, thirtysomething, one character utters the line, "Life is just a pale imitation of high school." Obviously, this quote has stuck with me for a long time, among the many random verses, song lyrics and trivia trapped in my brain.

Even the most enlightened adults continue to label people for one facet of their personality--"the geek," "the jock," or "the popular girl" now replaced with "the IT guy," "the former quarterback," or "the real housewife of (fill in the blank city)." We still make decisions about a person based on who their friends are, or essentially what "clique" the person is in. We still let petty differences create big rifts that can never be forgiven. And of course, there's interpersonal drama because someone didn't do what they said they were going to do and now there's a huge blow up because you didn't get voted class president, or homecoming queen, or most likely to succeed.

But it wasn't all bad in high school, right?

Here are thoughts on things from high school to apply to adult life:

  • Some people are unexpected friends. Senior night, I ended up hanging out on the bus back to the school with a bunch of people I didn't normally spend a lot of time with. My "close" friends were no where to be found. Singing "Celebration" on the bus with people who were mostly just acquaintances was the most fun I had all night. I'm still connected to some of them 26 years later, and wonder sometimes why I didn't spend more time with them in high school. Who are people now who are those unexpected friends? 
  • Some people are not really your friends. I know I have my share of friends who at best, didn't keep in touch or at worst, totally abandoned me. Friends ebb and flow. Some people are more interested in your position in the clique than you personally. Let them go.
  • No clique lasts forever. Cliques are based on a power balance. As cliques grow, they start to lose their influence over the members. Eventually, the power shifts and new cliques form. Sometimes you just need to wait it out.
  • It might be time to graduate. You can't stay in high school forever...maybe it's time to move on to a new adventure.
  • It will seem rosier when you look back on this than it feels like right now. The nostalgia card is powerful, isn't it? Someday, with the passage of time, this will not seem like a total disaster. You'll want to go back and celebrate it, for old time's sake.

Monday, September 29, 2014

CFRE and ACFRE: Why certify?

"What do all those letters mean?"

I've been teased for having more letters after my name than are in my name. (For the record, there are actually 14 letters in my full name and only 12 letters after my name, so there.) I received my CFRE in 1999 and my ACFRE in 2010, and I proudly display those letters after my name on my business cards and email signatures.

So why should you care? Why do I care?

First, some definitions.
CFRE: Certified Fund Raising Executive, a credential for fundraising professionals worldwide with 5 or more years of professional experience in fundraising, is a practice based certification. The parallel I sometimes use is that the CFRE is like a CPA, in that you must be currently active in the field. The CFRE must be re-certified every three years and demonstrate ongoing professional practice and professional development over that period. The certification is administered by CFRE International, an independent, accredited organization based in the US.

ACFRE: Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive, is a credential for those with 10 or more years of experience in the field. Unlike the CFRE, the ACFRE is a permanent designation demonstrating a senior level depth and breadth of knowledge in the sector. Candidates go through a four stage process that takes 1-2 years and is designed to determine the level of sophistication and nuance of your understanding of the profession and your ability to apply critical thinking techniques to best practices. While historically the ACFRE was tied to the CFRE, this credential is completely separate from CFRE, and is administered by a volunteer committee of AFP International, with advice from the Professional Examination Service.

Voluntary credentials
There are many professional arenas that provide certification for those committed to that career: human resources, public relations, meeting planning, interior design, software support, real estate, etc.

Professional credentialing is, in most cases, voluntary. You do not have to have a credential to practice in the field, but it is sometimes considered a competitive advantage, depending on how established the credential is. You may, however, be required to have a license; professions that require licensure are legally mandated by government entities to demonstrate a baseline level of proficiency.

To credential or not
Rory Green has written a good piece about her own debate over getting the CFRE, and I think she has some valid points. For me, credentialing is important because...
  • Desire to show long term commitment to the field. I was 28 years old when I decided to pursue my CFRE. Given that the average tenure in a fundraising position is 3-5 years, I wanted to show that I intended to stick with my career for the long haul.
  • Differentiating myself from others. I believe that being credentialed in fundraising has provided me a degree of competitive advantage in my overall personal brand. I'll admit, I have not experienced dramatic financial increases because of my certifications. The "What is a CFRE or ACFRE?" question, however, has triggered many interesting discussions about my professional fundraising philosophy with employers, donors, volunteers and other fundraisers. Regardless of their knowledge of the credentials, they remembered my commitment to fundraising.
  • Investment in the sector. The evaluation structure for either credential is intentional. For example, CFRE International goes through a review of fundraising practice every five years to determine if the exam is testing for the right domains of knowledge and to see if there have been changes in our fundamental practice. We just completed this process and, as someone who has served twice on this task force, it is an intellectually challenging exercise to look at the sector globally and hone in on the core body of knowledge. This whole process not only guides the construction of the exam questions, but also determines where there are gaps in research within the sector.

    Sometimes people get frustrated because they feel that the exam doesn't cover current practice, but the challenge is that current practice doesn't always have literature and research to back it up for testing purposes. It's not that CFRE is ignoring current practice; it's waiting for research to catch up.
  • Investment in myself. As they say, sometimes it's the journey that's important, not the destination. In my case, the ACFRE process was an intense, in-depth self examination. I had to showcase what I had learned and accomplished throughout my career to date. I had several moments when I almost gave up (ahem, three tries to pass the written exam), but in the end, had gone successfully through an evaluation process that helped me articulate how proud I am of what I have contributed to our sector.
Bottom line
Yes, some incredible fundraisers will never pursue a credential. Yes, there are people who are credentialed who aren't very good. A fundraising credential is not a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval"--you should always evaluate a person based on your own knowledge, not because some outside group applied a label. I am very proud to be both a CFRE and an ACFRE because of my personal values about investing in myself and the overall body of knowledge in fundraising. It's not for everyone, but it's certainly important to me.

Full disclosure, I serve on the ACFRE Credentialing Board for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and also serve as a volunteer for CFRE International. These opinions are my own and not an official position of either of these organizations.

A good reference guide about the difference between a certification and an academic certificate is on the CFRE website here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dear Charity: I'm So Over You.

Dear Charity,
I could beat around the bush on this, but I probably should just get to the point.

I'm breaking up with you.

I could say, "It's me, not you," but let's be honest. This is about you.

You were really nice in the beginning. I gave you a modest donation and I got a great and prompt thank you note. I thought, "Wow, good manners." There were other charities that weren't so quick to respond...I only gave to them once.

Then, you were really good about communicating with me. You sent me emails, newsletters, and invitations to parties. You even checked in with me personally every now and then. Even when I didn't respond to everything, you kept in touch. I liked that I could learn more about you and what you were doing. I felt like I knew you.

After a while, I thought, you know, I'm ready for a more steady commitment with this charity. I don't make these decisions lightly, but I thought you were a keeper. So I increased my giving to join your ongoing monthly giving program.

At first, you showered attention on me. You thanked me for increasing my commitment. You gushed about how valuable I was. You even gave me a little gift for joining the club.

And then, after about a year, the attention stopped.

I didn't get any letters or special communication. You didn't personally call on me. It was like I didn't exist. Oh sure, you charged my credit card every month, but I didn't hear from you like I did before.

I invested all this time and resources in you. I demonstrated that I cared. And I got pushed aside for the newer donor.

It's hard feeling washed up in our relationship so soon.

So in spite of the fact that I really still care about what you do and how you change the world, I simply can't be in this relationship anymore. It's too hard for me to give so much and get back so little.

I'm sure you'll find others like me who are willing to support you. But please, don't let my relationship with you be in vain. Spend a little more time with them. Make sure they know that they are appreciated and wanted. Always deliver what you promise. Make them feel valued. Don't push them away like you pushed me away.

You'll always have a special place in my philanthropic journey, but it's better for both of us if I move on.

Good luck,
Your Former Donor

PS: Have you talked to a long-time or monthly donor recently? If not, do it NOW.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Are You Satisfied With Your Career?

"Are you satisfied with your career?" asked Joan Black, CFRE, a highly experienced and respected fundraiser based in Calgary, Alberta.

The small group of us around the table smiled.

"No, that's a real question," Joan said. "Are you?"

The five of us were participating in strategic planning for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada at their annual summer retreat. Gradually, most began to answer her question, but I didn't know what to say.

At another point in time, I would have answered, "Of course, yes." I work in the charitable sector. We do good work. We do noble work, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu!

What does "satisfied with your career" really mean?

To define this for myself, I turned to my favorite job satisfaction measurement tool, the Gallup Q12. This is a list of 12 yes or no statements that are indicators of job satisfaction.

Preliminary question: what are the elements of "my career?" 
My career is not just what I get paid to do; it includes what I do in my volunteer life, too. In my case, my volunteer work is equally, sometimes more, important to my paid work.

The 12 questions (modified a little)
Q1: In the last year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow.
Q2: In the last six months, someone has talked with me about my progress.
Q3: I have a best friend at work.
Q4: My associates are committed to doing quality work.
Q5: The mission of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
Q6: In my work, my opinions seem to count.
Q7: There is someone (in my career) who encourages my development.
Q8: Someone (in my career) seems to care about me as a person.
Q9: In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
Q10: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
Q11: I have the tools I need to do my work right.
Q12: I know what's expected of me at work.

I can confidently say that I can answer "yes" to having a best friend at work (#3); my associates are committed to quality work (#4); I feel like my work is important (#5); and someone seems to care about me as a person (#8). But the other questions, I'm on the cusp. Some of this I can control--I can find opportunities to learn and grow (#1); I can acquire new tools to do my job (#11).

The others require outside feedback. I was surprised that I couldn't honestly answer "yes" to many, until I separated my paid work and my volunteer work. I could answer "yes" for my paid work (#6, #7, #9, #10), but not for my volunteer work. Since both my paid and unpaid work are equally important to me, I realized that I need to examine and rearrange what I do for my service.

I didn't expect to be so self-reflective as a result of an organizational strategic planning session, but I am grateful to Joan Black and our session facilitator, Juanita Gledhill, MCC Group, for triggering my introspection.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

7 Signs It's Time to Look for a New Fundraising Job

Over the past year, we've worked with several people who have been in job transition--sometimes by choice, many times not. All of those who were job hunting not by choice were highly qualified, seasoned professionals who were actually accomplishing their goals. In some cases, they were even exceeding the expectations set for them.

So we started thinking--what were the signs that things weren't going to end well? Here are seven red flags:

Your goals are moving targets. As you approach achieving what you're told to do, your manager changes the goal or changes the way your accomplishments so far have been measured. You're set up to never achieve closure on your projects.

No one shows an interest in your work. Yes, they'll glance at your reports, and question your tactics every now and then, but on the whole, they don't seem to think what you do matters. "I don't do fundraising" or "fundraising is not my responsibility" are common refrains among your staff and volunteer leaders.

You can't identify a single person that you work with that you trust and feel is a genuine friend. There may be people you like, and people that you sometimes hang out with, but you can't name anyone that you trust to truly have your back. They won't stand up for you if something goes wrong, especially come budget time. They are also people who talk about your friendship, but you know in your heart that if you went away, they would not just go to lunch with you for fun.

Your ideas don't seem to be valued. Every time you bring up a new strategy or idea, your suggestion is "put on the back burner," never to be seen again. New ideas that you manage to implement are not acknowledged as your idea.

Your organization doesn't invest in your advancement. You don't get promoted or get increased pay or recognition even when others do. You've hit a "glass ceiling" of sorts.

You don't feel like you fit in with the organization's culture. Perhaps you did at one time, but for some reason, on a gut level, you don't feel like you do now. Maybe there was a change in leadership on the staff or board side. Maybe there's a change with your peer group. Maybe there's a change in organizational direction. Whatever the reason, you don't feel like you fit in.

Someone's out to get you. Okay, this last one is rare. But sometimes it's obvious that someone important doesn't like you.

If you have several or all of these red flags, take the time to quantify what you've accomplished at that position, and make them as concrete as possible. Brush up that resume and update your LinkedIn and other online profiles. Rev up the networking machine and talk to your personal supporters. Good luck finding the next job which hopefully will give you the respect and recognition that you deserve!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Five Lessons Learned from Flying a Jetpack

Jim Anderson catching some air at Jetpack America
At GoalBusters, we do crazy things sometimes. One of our latest "you did WHAT?" adventures was flying water powered jetpacks at Jetpack America in San Diego, California.

Here are five lessons from flying a jetpack that can be helpful in everyday life.

Small change can make a big difference.
To navigate the jetpack, the adjustments on the control bars are minuscule. A millimeter of movement can result in dramatic changes in altitude and direction. A comparable example from my recent experience: a donor recently committed to the largest major gift in the history of a small nonprofit organization. Years ago, he started tossing quarters into a large bowl, then depositing that money when the bowl filled. That account, essentially his collection of loose change, funded a significant portion of his gift. Literally, small change!

Forward momentum is critical.
One thing the jetpack instructor wants you to do is maintain forward momentum. If you start to hover, you risk an unplanned back flip (which I almost did)! In daily life, it may feel at times that you're "hovering." Piles everywhere, lists that never get completed. Focus on getting one thing done every day--at least one thing is moving forward!

You need a coach that you can understand.
It's one thing to have a coach; it's another thing to have a coach that you'll actually pay attention to. One of the technical challenges of the jetpack is simply hearing the directions from your instructor--the jetpacks are loud and the helmets are not the best fit. While the instructor tries to coach you through adjustments, sometimes it's hard to hear or understand the terminology, or it's hard to get your brain to process the instructions quickly. When you actually do what the instructor wants you to do, things go really well!

Sometimes the greatest obstacle is fear.
I'm not a strong swimmer. Other than swimming pools, where I stick to the shallow end, I would rather look at water than be in it. Open water is scary to me. The jetpack itself wasn't that scary: it was the part about crashing into the water and not being able to surface that scared me. Logically, I knew they were not going to let me drown, but I was still a bit scared. So when I was airborne, I was tense, worrying about crashing, which made it harder for me to adjust, which made me crash. Whenever I remembered to relax and breathe, I had a much better time with the flight. (It also helped to have a very reassuring instructor.) There are other things I'm afraid of that impact my day to day, but if I remember to relax and breathe, using meditation techniques, it usually works out okay. (Except anything with spiders. Can't relax on that.)

It's a lot of work to make things look easy.
You got to admit--flying the jetpack looks pretty easy, doesn't it? But I was exhausted at the end of a 20 minute flight! This activity is about small muscle "twitch" movements, and way more work than it looks like. So, as is often true in life, things aren't always as easy as they look.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. Jim was incredibly happy with his flight. If you'd like to channel James Bond and try your own flight, go to Jetpack America. (Mention either Jim Anderson or Alice Ferris to get a $50 discount on your first flight.)

And please watch our videos: whoever gets 200 views, gets a free 20 minute flight! And we'd like to go back, so stay tuned for more random lessons....

Friday, June 13, 2014

Manifesto Revisited: Defining Our Core Values

The Holstee Manifesto
On my desk is a frame with the Holstee Manifesto (right). I look at it every day I'm in my office; it's been there for many years now. But even before I was introduced to this document, I created a manifesto of my own.

Years ago, after a particularly frustrating week, I wrote the "GoalBusters Manifesto." We had been doing what a lot of entrepreneurial businesses do in their early days--taking any business that came our way--and I was unhappy. So I decided to write down what we were about.

Jim was chagrined by the initial draft. His reaction was, "Are you sure you want to put this out there?" Some of it, we didn't. With Jim's input, including a very important "Jimism," the manifesto ended up morphing into our philosophy statement, which has appeared on our "about us" page since then.

As our team has grown, however, I started to wonder if this really what we were about. Do our team members have to believe in the same causes we believe in? Does the manifesto still work?

As I discussed various projects with our team, I realized that we have common values:
  • We believe in our clients and their causes.
  • Fundamentally, the cause always comes first, not personal agendas.
  • We treat people with respect and expect others to do the same.
  • Being the recipient of a philanthropic gift is a privilege, not a right, and therefore the mission of the organization and the donor's intent must be respected.
  • We value loyalty to a cause and to other team members.
  • A person's title is less important than a person's contribution to the team.
  • Everyone in an organization plays a part in philanthropy.
  • We want to make a lasting difference in the culture of an organization and the impact to the community.
  • Philanthropy is always about love.
With this in mind, I present the "GoalBusters Manifesto 2.0."

Our Philosophy (version 2.0)
We work with causes that we personally believe in, because ultimately, we can't fake it. That's also why we work with teams that show mutual respect for one another--because workplaces where people care about each other are generally more productive and more fun to be in.

We work with teams that are passionate--about the cause, about learning, about improving, about making the world a better place--because if you're not committed to your cause, why should anyone else? Charitable organizations must put the mission first, at all times. Personal goals are fine, but not if they conflict with the cause or are put ahead of the needs of the organization.

"Not my job" is not the right answer. Everyone in an organization plays a role in philanthropy: sometimes they just need to be shown where their talents lie.

Fundraising is not about "shoveling coal into a machine." Fundraising is about empowering people to make a lasting impact on their community. It's philanthropy: love of humankind.

Maybe someday I'll make this all pretty and put it on a coffee mug. For now, it's on the "about us" page. Perhaps it will trigger your own thoughts about what your manifesto is. We look forward to seeing you make a difference.

Thanks to J.C. Patrick and Richard Pirodsky for unintentionally helping me clarify my thoughts. Thanks also to our team, including J.C. Patrick, Annagreta Jacobson, and Elta Foster, for living these values every day. And of course, thanks to Jim Anderson for sticking with this crazy work we call our company. June 13, 2005 was our first day working together, and we never, ever, thought it would last this long or lead to so many interesting connections, challenges, and friendships. Jim, you have done what you set out to do at the end of 2004, "Change minds, change the rules, change lives, change the world." I look forward to more adventures.--Alice

Friday, May 9, 2014

Social Media Management in 15 Minutes or Less a Day

At the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio, Texas, in March, I did a very short presentation on how to manage your organization's (or your) social media presence in 15 minutes or less. My presentation was actually 9 minutes long, and they started shutting off the lights in the exhibit hall as I wrapped up!

So, now here's the presentation in blog form. The video presentation is even shorter than at Conference: it's FIVE minutes. So there.

Here are the primary tools I mention:
Content aggregator: Feedly
Content queue: Buffer
Feed management: Hootsuite
Follower management: CrowdFire
Email filters: I don't go into a whole lot of detail here, so check out DottoTech for great tutorials on Gmail.

And the deck was created in HaikuDeck.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app


Monday, April 14, 2014

Las Vegas Recommendations

Quentin Lee, a friend of my son and I, is on a national tour of the Broadway Production of Porgy and Bess out of New York. He's performing in Las Vegas this week so I offered him some tips on restaurants and entertainment. I thought I'd share them with all of you. I'll add to this list as time allows. But here are my top of mind favorite places that a starving singer can afford to enjoy.


Hash House A Go Go $$ - (At the Plaza at the end of Freemont Street)
Unreal "Twisted Farm Food" massive portions reasonable prices.

Lotus of Siam $$ - (On Sahara)
Try EVERYTHING! I especially love the "appetizers"
Nam Kao Tod (crispy, spicy ground pork)
Mee Krob (sweet, delicate, delicious)

Raku $$$ - "Chinatown" 5030 W. Spring Mtn Road
This is were the "other" Las Vegas Chefs come to eat. Amazing, creative, small dishes to share. Try EVERYTHING! Here are the FoodSpotting Photos.

Sweets Raku $$ - Next door to Raku it is ASTOUNDING.
True culinary art. Kind of pristine, white decor with open kitchen. Reminds me of Japanese Sci-Fi because of the minimalist design. Only 4 dishes offered each night. They are perfect.

Mon Ami Gabi $$$ - In the Paris Casino. Excellent outdoor dining right on the strip. Go for the ambiance and enjoy breakfast or brunch and bloody mary's and/or mimosas. 


Ghostbar Palms (across from the Rio). Incredible views, excellent rooftop experience, active dance scene, excellent "showman" bartenders

Voodoo Lounge - Rio - Similar experience to Ghostbar 

Three floors, very hip. "Experimental" drinks on the 2nd floor. Ask for the "Fire Breathing Dragon" (with nitrogen frozen rasberries) or the ??? can't remember the name but it's served with a flower bud that stuns your mouth and then gradually changes causing the drink to change flavors as you drink it. Very cool.

Red SquareMandalay Bay
It's a great restaurant too, but unless I want caviar, I just go for the bar. Very, very cool. Sit at the Ice Bar or visit the "Freezer." You can get a Frozen photo opp with your drink if you ask when you order for a fur coat photo.
Most of the top FoodSpotting Photos are Mine.


Stratosphere Highest thrill rides including world's highest controlled free-fall

Neon Museum 45 min tour of classic Vegas Neon.

That's a taste of one of my favorite cities. I'll add more when I can.


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Alice Ferris LinkedIn Facebook Twitter pinterest Skype alice.ferris

Thursday, February 20, 2014

You are a Person NOT a Company - "BAD LinkedIn Connection Requests"

I NEVER accept a Facebook friend request or a LinkedIn invitation to connect from a company. DUH! You are not a company. You are a person that incorrectly set up your LinkedIn profile. 

Please feel free to copy and paste my standard response below as a reply email to anyone who sends you an email to become friends on Facebook with or connect on LinkedIn with their "Locksmithing Company" or "Real Estate Agency." It's written for LinkedIn, but minor edits will make it apply to most social media platforms.


Hello, I received an invitation to "connect" with your business. Your have incorrectly set up your LinkedIn profile. Businesses can't have personal LinkedIn "connections." Businesses should create company or organization "pages" and you as an owner should have a personal profile where you are identified as an individual, by role at the company and THEN you can invite others to connect with you personally and/or "follow" your company. Your profile isn't a person's profile it is currently set up as basically a Yellow Pages ad. Businesses who set pages up as "people" either don't understand Linkedin's policies, or worse are purposefully attempting to use LinkedIn as a direct mail/spam marketing device. LinkedIn is designed to be a networking tool for people, NOT a solicitation tool for companies. If you want to connect as a person, please send me another invitation from a person's profile.

Also, some companies and individuals send bulk direct messages to their contracts. If they are sending unsolicited marketing or sales offers, they are spamming their contacts and they are violating anti-spam laws, they are in violation of LinkedIn's Terms of Service and they are abusing their relationships with their contacts. There are staff members of a Northern Arizona radio station that are notorious for this egregious spamming practice. I hope this is not one of your practices.

Good luck with your business.

Feel free to edit the above message to fit your circumstances and degree of annoyance.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chinese New Year Traditions for Nonprofits

Happy New Year! Chinese New Year, that is.

On January 31, 2014, Chinese communities throughout the world begin two weeks of celebrations to mark the lunar new year, the year of the Horse, the culmination of many preparations and traditions that have been in place for generations.

As we begin this new year, here are some of the traditions that can be productive to apply to your nonprofit life:

Conduct a thorough cleaning. Of your database, that is. Are you collecting useful information? Is it organized the way that is productive? Are there pledges that should be written off or past donors that can be archived?

Reconcile old debts and grudges. It's not just about money. Are there people to whom you owe follow up, or prospective donors that you should "bless and release?" In some cases, you're better to let a donor go than continue to pursue a gift that doesn't work for the contributor. Reassess the donors that are in cultivation and decide what you need to do to move them forward or to move them on to another cause.

Give "lucky money." The iconic red envelopes are given to children to insure that they have good luck for the coming year. In the same vein, think about your own philanthropy and consider a gift to a charitable cause that is not the one you work for. Was there an organization you missed in December? Is there a new cause you would like to support? Being a donor makes you a better, more aware fundraiser.

Look forward, not back. Earlier this month, you may have assessed how things went last calendar year. Now is the time to finalize the calendar year plan if you haven't already. If you've already set goals for the year, plan out milestones and action steps now.

Wear red. This has no translation to the nonprofit field. It's just good luck.

Celebrate abundance. The New Year's Eve dinner is traditionally a large celebration for the family to celebrate how much wealth they have, regardless of what actual physical wealth they hold, and carry over that optimism to the new year. Too often, with the bustle of the holidays and year end giving campaigns, and the stress of having to raise every dollar, development program staff do not have the time to celebrate the generosity of their donors and the successes of their efforts. Now that the year end gifts have been processed and thank you letters sent, take a moment to be thankful for the support you receive. Gather those close to your cause and say, "We have so much!"

Wishing you, and your nonprofit, prosperity in the new year! Gong Xi Fai Cai!

(This was first posted in 2012. The original post is here.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

6 To-Do's For Fundraisers in January

It's January. Time for personal resolutions, goal setting, and...fundraising stress! So how will you cope?

Why is January so tough? Most say it's because...

1. People don't historically donate much in January because they gave in December or they're dealing with post-holiday financial stress.

2. You were so focused on your year end campaigns, that now you have to deal with the follow up--thank yous, data entry, customer service issues, fulfillment of any benefits.

3. Even if you're not on a calendar year budget, there's something about a change in year that has people thinking about resetting goals. So what have you raised lately? Since January 1?

4. If you took time off during the holidays, now you have to catch up. If you didn't take time off during the holidays, you're now dealing with a deluge of emails and tasks from others who did. Either way, everyone is trying to make up for a slower work time at the end of the year.

Don't panic. (Yet.) Try this short check list to get the year off to a good start.

1. Set deadlines.
Get a wall calendar that has the entire year on it. Yes, it's low tech, but it's amazing how seeing the "year at a glance" can help you get projects done.

Calendar mailing dates, event dates, monthly ask goals, grant deadlines, cultivation plans, etc. After the major deadlines are on the calendar, put other "mini" deadlines on the calendar if you need to. Color code it, if that's the way you roll. Display in a prominent place where you and others can see it.

2. Tune up your lists. 
When's the last time you looked at your priority donor lists? Prospect lists? Look at them and reorder them if needed. Also, look at your goals, which are lists in a way. Do they need updating?

3. Stop doing one thing.
We have a tendency to add things to do in January. Resolutions almost always require starting something new. Why not stop something to make room for something new? Identify one thing that you're either not good at, don't enjoy, or can easily and cheaply delegate.

4. Ask for something.
Just because we typically do a lot of asking in November and December doesn't mean we can't ask in January. Talk to someone and ask for something. Maybe it's a gift that you've been developing for a while, or volunteer help, or a donation of services, or simply advice. Ask.

5. Change one thing, but only one.
Okay, it IS resolution month. Pick one thing, and only one thing, that didn't go as well as you would have liked last year. How can you change it, and how does it fit into your existing deadlines and lists? Is it connected to your "stop" item? How can someone help you with this change?

6. Celebrate success.
During the holiday season, fundraisers are often too busy to celebrate the successes of the year. So take a breath and recap what you accomplished last year. Thank your team in ways that are meaningful to them.

Celebrate all you have accomplished so far, so that you can have the motivation to move forward again.

Happy New Year!

What Potlucks Say About Your Organizational Culture

Office potlucks. In some companies, they are a treasured, anticipated tradition. In others, it's a dreaded obligation that people look forward to being over. So what do they say about your organizational culture?

In a successful potluck, i.e., a gathering where guests bring a dish to share with everyone else, all guests participate and bring their best, and the guests generally enjoy each other's company and the food. If your office potluck doesn't go well, here are ways to interpret the things that can go wrong.
  1. Only a few play. I attended a potluck once where only about a quarter of the guests brought a dish. Some tried to make what we had feed everyone, but in the end, people just left. This sometimes can be an indication of guests not wanting to invest personally in their work environment. Another indicator is office decor--how many personal items (photos, desk items) are around?
  2. People bring what's easy. At another potluck at that same organization, we had several bags of chips and one person emptied out the candy bowl in the reception area to bring for their "dish." In this case, guests resented that the company was not willing to invest in a small lunch for the staff. The perception was, "the company is being cheap."
  3. No one wants to go. Maybe people don't want to spend time with each other? In one situation I observed, guests skirted the edge of the room, swept in and snagged what food they could put on a plate quickly, and went back to their offices. This organization has many silos, and these silos were demonstrated in the potluck attendance.
Good teams generally enjoy each other's company, so I use potlucks as a litmus test for how people get along.

This post was really just an excuse to write about food. We post a lot of photos about food, so for more randomness about our favorite travel hobby, visit our Facebook page, or Foodspotting pages by Alice and Jim.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why I Like TripIt

I do all the GoalBusters travel arrangements. I know I should delegate this, but, in reality, it's one of the things I like to do. I enjoy it!

One of the tools in our travel toolbox is TripIt. This is a total fan post, so bear with me. (I don't get compensated for this, by the way.)

There are several things I like about TripIt:

1. I can forward confirmations for hotel, air, car, restaurants, etc. from most travel websites and it creates a master itinerary for me/us. Since I don't have a travel agent, it is kind of my "virtual agent" organizing all the details into one place.

2. When I travel, I can access the TripIt site from my phone and get all my travel information on one schedule. It also calculates directions, so I know where I'm going.

3. It live updates flight status when I access it on my phone, so I know in advance about delays or gate changes. On the Pro version, I can also search for alternate flights.

4. More than one person can collaborate on the same itinerary. So if Jim schedules something, he can add it to the schedule, and we'll both see it the next time we log in, or get emailed that something was scheduled. I can also provide access to other people, like clients, so they can schedule me too.

5. It let's me know which connections are nearby. I've had some connections proactively contact me to schedule meetings when they know I'm coming.

For TripIt Pro, I also get the added benefit of tracking my frequent flier points or miles, and more importantly, the membership numbers. I've been much better about adding my member numbers to hotels in particular, getting me some perks on occasion. Check it out here.


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