Generosity Transformed

Early on in my career, when I described what I did in my various jobs, people would often say, “Oh, so you’re a fundraiser.”  I would vehemently deny this (not that there’s anything wrong with fundraising!) because it just wasn’t the way I saw myself.  I didn’t actually ASK people for money- oh, no- but it was my responsibility to plan and execute a program, and it was necessary to have the funding for the program as well….so I went out and “found” the money.  How did I do this without asking? The answer is: I created relationships.  I went out and met with people.  I schmoozed.  I drank a lot of coffee.  I spent time getting to know them and together we figured out how they could best participate in supporting the organizations and programs I was working with.  Many of these relationships have lasted 20 years or more, and have traveled with me through my career, sustaining me and my work.

In their new book, The Generosity Network, Jennifer McCrea and Jeffrey Walker showcase this perspective in transformational fundraising.  By operating with the assumption that people want to make a difference, you can tap into their lives, listen to their stories, and channel them towards the worthwhile causes that they want to support, by creating connections.

What’s the best way to facilitate these kinds of connections?  How can you open up the process and allow the generosity inherent in people to flow?  A few suggestions from McCrea and Walker:

  • Ask the right questions: Get into a deeper, more meaningful conversation by asking questions that enable the other person to tell you about who they are, how they think, and what their values are.  Ask a lot of “why” questions to keep the conversation flowing.
  • Leave your ego behind: The conversation should not be about you and your organization.  And if you are meeting with a BIG NAME or celebrity, know that you can hold your own with them and that your story is as important as theirs in developing a relationship.
  • Be awake and aware:  I hesitate to use the term “mindfulness” but that is indeed what McCrea and Walker use in the book.  What this means is be open to all of the possibilities and new experiences that meeting new people presents to you.  Don’t have any preconceived notions or set yourself up for failure (or success).  Just let it happen and allow the relationship to take hold and grow.

This can have far-reaching effects on your organization, helping you to access the right board members, reach your target audience and, yes, improve your bottom line.

Good luck on your journey!


How Do You Find Your Best Path?

As a nonprofit leader, when is it time for you to look for help in addressing the weaknesses in your organization?  If you are from the corporate world, how do you engage your company's resources in philanthropic ventures that align with your values and those of your employees?  How do you develop the relationships that can lead you along your best path, toward growth and visibility and success? It's a given that you will not always have all the answers you need to do your work.  Sometimes you need someone with an objective perspective to spark fresh thinking, or someone who has a deeper understanding of the issues you are facing and the possible solutions, or someone with an awareness of best practices that can help you make choices.   Who is that someone??

A consultant can play the role of advisor, analyst, diagnostician, teacher and problem solver, depending upon your needs.  They can help you identify and address key challenges, changes in organizational structure or direction, and questions about mission alignment. The right consultant can perform specific tasks such as conducting a search for a new CEO, providing a board development workshop, creating and implementing a strategic planning process, and helping to cultivate new relationships with corporate partners.

I like to think  that in my role as a consultant, I am the student to my client in some ways, and the instructor in others.  The dialogue that evolves from this dynamic is candid, objective, inquisitive and informed, and leads to workable goals, shared expectations, and long-term, sustainable success.

You can find the consultant who is the best fit for your needs by asking a few questions of yourself, your organization/company, and the potential consultant:

  • What AREN'T we capable of doing ourselves to foster growth or maximize our mission? Almost every organization faces this at some point: what needs to happen next that we just don't have the skill set to accomplish on our own?
  • What outcome(s) would we like to see?  You will need to have some idea of what you want a consultant to focus on.
  • What are the costs of hiring a consultant?   Especially for smaller organizations, it can be difficult to justify spending needed resources on something (or someone) outside of program or operations.  But sometimes you need to invest in the future, and there are many consultants who will work with you on their fees to fit with your budget.
  • What are the benefits of hiring a consultant? Aside from addresssing the specific needs you are hiring them for, a consultant can provide a different, objective perspective on various aspects of your business.
  • What is our timeline and what are the deliverables?  Being clear about this from the beginning, and having shared expectations, will enable you to have the best outcome.
  • Are we able to give sufficient time to a consultant to orient them and keep them on track?  This is something many clients don't realize is an important part of the consultant/client relationship. A consultant will need direction from you in order to do their job properly.
  • How do we vet the capabilities of potential consultants?  Ask questions about previous experience,  get references and request work samples.  If the consultant will be working with staff and/or Board members, have them participate in the vetting process.
  • What type of experience do we want in a consultant?  Someone whose capabilities and strengths are a good match for your needs.
  • What other attributes should we look for in a consultant?  Someone who will listen as well as speak.  Someone whose opinions come after careful consideration.  Someone who will be honest with you.  Someone you can trust to keep your confidentiality.

Good luck as you search for the best way to find your path!