Donors, Fundraisers, and #MeToo

Did you know that 1 in 4 female fundraising professionals faces sexual harassment on the job? And that 65% of those women say that the Perpetrator was a Donor? I recently read the results of a survey done by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Chronicle of Philanthropy on the prevalence of sexual harassment in our industry, and the results were eye-opening.

I realize this is a tough topic. But before you move on, I ask that you don’t assume this problem doesn’t apply to you or your organization. As fundraising professionals, we are often surrounded by individuals with more power than we have, like donors, board members, and supervisors. Sometimes that power dynamic creates an environment with frequent opportunities for sexual harassment to occur.

The #MeToo movement has gained momentum and drawn attention to the prevalence of this problem in our society as a whole. In fact, the Time’s Up Fund to Fight Sexual Harassment has raised $21 million around the world in a matter of weeks.

This has the result of helping victims, including those in the fundraising profession, to feel more willing to share their experience with leadership, and to expect an appropriate response. Is your organization prepared for that scenario? If not, here are some steps you can take to be more prepared:

1. Talk about it. Share the results of this study with your leadership, your staff, and your board members. Say out loud that sexual harassment will not be tolerated at your organization, no matter who the Perpetrator is.

2. Create a process. Do your Human Relations policies tell an employee what to do if they have been a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace? If not, create a process for them to follow and make your employees aware of it. Also consider creating a crisis response PR plan you could follow if your organization is suddenly put in this spotlight.

3. Attend a training. Learn what you should do if you witness or experience harassment and how to respond if someone shares with you that they have been a victim. Some training opportunities are available with Zoe Training.

4. Say goodbye. Maybe you have a board member or major donor who is actually a Perpetrator of sexual harassment. These actions may lead to that person leaving the board or taking their donations somewhere else. Be okay with this possibility! You’re better off creating a safe environment for yourself and your employees, even if you lose donations as a result.

These are steps you can take now. Better to take them before a crisis than during or after. And even if you never have a crisis, the intangible benefit of a better culture for your staff is worth it!

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Fundraising Mistakes, Learning Opportunities

Can you help us find people with a lot of money?

I actually get asked this quite a bit. And the short answer is – no! My job is to help your organization to better understand fundraising best practices, not to play donor to organization matchmaker. And remember that part about fundraising being all about relationships? Why do we forget all about that when we want to ask someone with a lot of money to support our cause?

Whether someone has a lot of money is not the only thing you should care about. When determining who you should focus your energy on for major gifts, you should be considering three things, or LAI: Linkage, Ability and Interest.

Linkage – Does this person have some link to your organization? Does anyone in your current network have access to this individual? Has this person ever heard of your organization?

Ability – Yes, it is helpful to know whether someone has the ability to give. But remember that this is only one of the three things we’re looking for.

Interest – Does this person care about what you care about? Sure, you can ask anyone. But if you want to spend your time wisely, you will ask people who have shown an interest in charitable giving, and specifically, and interest in what you care about.

When you look at all three of these, it becomes much more obvious who you should spend your time on when it comes to major gifts. Try going through your list of “prospects” and give each of them a subjective score in each of these areas. Spend your time on those with the highest total score when you add all three together.

But make sure you don’t forget about your existing donors. They have the highest possible score in at least two of the three areas. Don’t make the mistake of throwing away a donor who has direct linkage to and specific interest in your organization, just because they don’t have as much ability as that person with a lot of money.

So, no, I can’t help you find people with a lot of money. But chances are, you can help yourself find people who will really be dedicated to your organization long term by using this LAI formula. Remember that next time a board member says you should be asking Oprah or Bill Gates for money!

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes, Individual Giving

What Every Fundraiser Needs to Know about “Snow Days”

The end of March in Colorado can be very unpredictable. Sometimes it’s 75 degrees, and sometimes we get over a foot of snow. Sometimes those two things happen back to back! As I sit here to write this blog post, my kids are home from school because they have a “snow day.” I put that in quotes, because this is the view in my back yard:

Ummm…so where is the snow? Good question. Sometime early this morning, when it was snowing, a committee in our district decided to make it snow day. It looked like the storm was going to get much worse in a short amount of time. But Colorado fooled them again, and the weather got better instead.

So what does any of that have to do with fundraising? It made me think about an organization that makes a quick decision about fundraising based only on how things “look” at the time. Sometimes such a decision is made without really considering previous trends or other possibilities.

I’ve seen organizations decide to stop doing a fundraising tactic because it isn’t improving, without questioning why it isn’t working. I’ve seen organizations ask board members or volunteers to help with fundraising, but then quickly give up at the first sign of bad weather.

Before you decide to call it a snow day, is there a chance the storm is about to let up and the sun will come out? Consider these things:
– Are we doing the same things we’ve always done but we’re expecting different results?
– Are we assuming we know the reason something isn’t working, but we don’t actually know? For example, we assume our board members aren’t reaching out to their networks because they are lazy, but in reality, they don’t feel like they have enough information to reach out with confidence.
– Are we panicking when fundraising income takes a downturn and assuming it will keep getting worse instead of thinking about the other actions we can take?
– Have you asked yourself “what is the strategic purpose of this fundraising tactic?” Are you trying to acquire new donors? Do you need a way to improve donor retention? Are you looking for a way to upgrade existing donors?

Sometimes taking a minute to slow down can keep you from making a knee jerk decision that you’ll regret. And hey, if you DID make a decision you regret, focus on what you can learn from that decision instead of beating yourself up for it. And ask others for help when you need it. Sometimes an outside perspective can be exactly what you need most.

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes, Learning Opportunities