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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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