Two Touches

Advancement professionals think about our donors and prospects regularly – whether we’re wondering if a prospect will fund a gift proposal, a donor will take our meeting request or a faculty partner will tell us if she identifies a new potential prospect. But as much as these prospects and partners may be top of mind, our actions can send a very different message. We get busy, or focused on just a few relationships, and can let months go by without communicating with those we want to draw closest.

This pattern is why I’m a champion of a Two Touches exercise: starting every workday with two outreaches, or touches, to donors or organizational partners. This habit is an easy way to ensure we start every day the right way: focused on relationships! When we begin each day this way, we’re reinforcing discipline and a focus on our most important work: building, enhancing or growing our relationships and the strategies that support them.

These daily touches are simple:

  • A hand-written note card of congratulations on a recent achievement (personal or professional)
  • An email sharing some news that might be of interest (our organizations are diverse, our outreach should be as well!)
  • A note in a birthday card that is truly personal
  • A news release that provides follow-up while rekindling the fire for your institution/organization
  • A text message with a photo of something happening at your organization (e.g. a commencement ceremony, a new wing opening or a new program opening)
  • A message celebrating a program milestone

Every strategy we build relies on a relationship, and every relationship requires interactions both big and small. Focusing on the moves is important, but our strategies need both moves (active fundraising) and interactions (passive fundraising) to truly be successful. The Two Touches technique, when implemented habitually, creates ten small interactions per week – or over 400 per year.

How would these touches strengthen your strategies?

Begin by keeping a stack of organizational note cards on your desk as an easy reminder to keep this important activity front and center. You’ll be glad to see the results of making sure your donors, prospects and partners actually know when you’re thinking of them!

Who are you going to outreach to today?

A Winning Partnership With Your Dean

When you consider your most valuable allies in higher education fundraising, whom do you think of? I’m willing to bet that for the vast majority of you, your dean came to mind quickly. And that’s because the dean’s role is irreplaceable as an influencer with prospects, advocate across campus, and champion for our cause in the larger community.

However, many fundraisers struggle to create the kind of relationship with our dean that maximizes these roles and leads to greater success. How many of us have felt that our dean didn’t understand our work, provide development enough time, or have all the tools to shine with donors?

There is good news here – these challenges can be overcome to create a strong, mutually-beneficial partnership by using techniques like those below.

  • Cultivate your relationship with your dean just like you would with a prospect – get to know his/her communication preferences, goals, and values, and celebrate his/her non-development successes.
  • Use written strategies to demonstrate a clear thought process, purpose, and outcomes for prospects, events, and projects. For example, if you are planning an introductory event, what is the realistic expectation for new prospects identified – 2 or 20?
  • Be clear with your dean about your manager’s expectations for your work – what are your metrics, are you responsible for alumni relations or pure major gift strategies, etc.
  • While it may not be fun to play the “bad cop” by adhering to naming gift policies, identifying fundraising projects that may not be viable, etc., it will help your dean save face and time in the long run.
  • Make it a standard part of prospect meetings to provide and receive thoughtful feedback afterward.
  • Get to know what your dean enjoys and excels at in dealing with prospects, and adjust accordingly. Is s/he good at making small talk with prospects, or do you need to always facilitate the rapport building? Can or will your dean make a solicitation?
  • Additionally, set your dean up on campus to capitalize on strengths, and try to avoid situations that highlight a weakness. For example, if your dean actively dislikes conflict with other deans, first flesh out the details of a shared donor strategy with another unit’s development officer before bringing all parties into the same room.
  • Protect your dean’s time by drafting donor communications and even internal communications under the dean’s name.

How many of these tips do you currently practice, and how do you think your dean would respond if you implemented more? Share your thoughts in the comments!

KDD Philanthropy offers hands-on sessions to support you doing your best work with faculty/physicians and internal leadership. Check out our offerings here, and sign up here for more insights delivered to your inbox.

Why Best Practices Matter

In the world of workplace jargon, it’s hard to think of a term that simultaneously attracts both derision and respect more than “best practices.” To best practice followers, the term conjures images of systematic processes and proven results. To deriders, it feels stifling and decidedly uncreative.

In my time as a both a fundraiser and a consultant, I have had the opportunity to work with some strong professionals advocating for important causes…and who were hampered by a lack of institutional processes and systems. However, without memorialized knowledge and procedures (aka best practices), these colleagues have lacked some of the most fundamental tools they need to be successful.

We take such great care to ensure donor updates and strategies are in our databases, and yet only the most disciplined shops are taking the time to get practices, nuances and cultural pieces in writing. The exercise of capturing such things in writing forces us to think thoughtfully through details and impact, and allows us to share these values consistently with colleagues. Every time we document and share, we re-enforce culture, provide direction and make our programs stronger.

Think about how documenting and sharing best practices like these listed below would support your team doing its best work:

  • Established tools for partnering with administrative staff in a way that consistently allows frontline-facing fundraisers to stay focused on the frontline.
  • An onboarding document that explains the team culture, and how to approach first meetings with new colleagues.
  • Documented expectations for qualification prospect meetings, including whether and how to make a solicitation in a first meeting.

What do best practices like these have in common? They have core principles that apply to fundraising everywhere, and can be amended to fit the precise needs of your institution. And, they require focus to create and adhere to. How would that discipline and consistency benefit your efforts and teams?

To build the skills that will help you develop your own best practices, join me for Fundraising Essentials Bootcamp on March 2.

The Power of the Briefing

You’re a development officer, looking forward to a prospect meeting next week. The location is booked, prospect confirmed, and your faculty champion has agreed to join you. You’ve discussed this meeting with your faculty partner, so now you’re good to go, right? Not quite… a meeting without a strategic and thoughtful briefing is a waste of time for both the donor and the champion.

The written briefing document is an irreplaceable tool in staffing faculty, physicians, volunteers and organizational partners/leaders who are so important to our work with prospects and donors.

As someone who has staffed leadership, and been staffed as leadership, I have seen too many briefings that miss the mark. These briefings missed desired outcomes, sought after goals, or why my presence in a meeting is important. I have reviewed briefings intended for key institutional leadership, and could not discern what role they should play, and why that might be important to the overall strategy. I have read pages of background information, none of it tied to the purpose or reason for the meeting. Or worse, too much background with no connection of dots. I have received briefings an hour or two before a meeting … far too late to be able to contribute to a strategy, let alone be prepared for the meeting I was to attend, lead, or otherwise add value to.

However, briefings can be a vehicle for us to do some of our best work. Are you ensuring they serve this purpose?

When our partners give their limited time to development efforts, we must steward that time effectively. This means preparing them to be as effective as possible, and demonstrating confidence in our strategy and our use of their time. The written briefing accomplishes both of these items in one efficient tool.

Why? Because a briefing document ensures you and your institutional partner are on the same page, with key messages, goals, and information recorded clearly. It demonstrates the larger strategy by including context and vision, further building respect for the process and the expertise of the development officer. And, it clearly demonstrates thoughtfulness for the role of this partner, and a respect for his or her time.

The written briefing must incorporate key elements to achieve all of these goals. To serve your prospect/development strategy, it should include:

  • Purpose of the meeting or event – placing it in the context of an overall strategy
  • Role of the partner in the meeting or event and in the larger strategy – demonstrating that his or her presence is a good use of time
  • Key talking points – who is responsible for carrying which key messages
  • Anticipated outcomes – and how to get them

And, don’t forget the logistics too:

  • Dress code
  • Location and parking instructions
  • Critical times for participation (if an event)
  • Phone number for a staff member who will be available that entire day in case of emergency or last-minute request or question

Remember, our prospects and donors want access to leadership, and including institutional partners in our work provides this entrée. Access helps move relationships, and our job is to make it as easy as possible for our partners to provide it.

When we implement this tool of the trade, we get rich returns. By putting our most professional foot forward, we earn the respect of our colleagues and secure the strategic outcomes we need. Our partners and our donors deserve this effort!

 I challenge you to implement or retool written briefings and share your successes here!

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Do You Need a Detox?

We’ve all been there. We’re making dinner with the family, or out for drinks with friends. A few minutes in, we sneak a look at our phone. And again a few minutes later. And then we realize – or perhaps someone tells us – we’re not really present. Rather than being fully engaged with friends and family, we’re keeping an eye (and our mind) on our work.

If you know me, you know I can be a workaholic. I know exactly what it’s like to feel the need to constantly monitor and respond to my email. The constant tug of “just one more reply.”

Which is why what I really needed was a cell phone detox. I needed to set limits on my availability for work, and restore some balance to my life. I had that opportunity in February, and forced a cell phone/electronics detox upon myself.

Study after study tells us the same thing: working more than 55 hours per week is directly correlated to negative health outcomes. And all for naught: according to the Washington Post article “Stop Touting the Crazy Hours You Work. It Helps No One,”

Studies have shown that after about 50 hours a week, productivity actually decreases, and it plummets after 55 hours, leaving no detectable difference between those who work 56 hours and those who work 70.

So, I decided to set limits. While on vacation, I get one hour per day of phone use. Then the rest of the day, my phone is on airplane mode so I can take pictures. And, my husband and I have instituted a weekly phone-free date night.

Once I got through the initial withdrawals (and they were not nearly as awful as I thought they would be … It was actually liberating!), I realized something important – that I have control over my time, and that there are solutions to the constant pinging of the phone, and logging in more and more hours. When I exercised those solutions, I felt less pressure to always be available, and less stress.

This isn’t surprising – just this summer, a group of researchers released “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect,” a study that shows workers are exhausted not just because they respond to emails in their off hours, but more so because of the drain of being constantly available. The mere act of being at the ready, phone by your side, just in case is even more damaging than sending the email response itself.

For those of us who are supervisors, this study shows the need to disconnect for ourselves, but also for our teams. We can set the example that some companies are now enforcing, limiting hours that workers can email.

My techniques won’t work for everyone. But there is a solution for each of us, whether we’re setting time for ourselves, setting an example for employees, or setting boundaries with employers.

And from a former cell phone addict, I urge us all to give ourselves permission to unplug, unwind, and recharge. Our industry, colleagues, and work will benefit!

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And for the first 50 who need an extra push, email me and I will mail you a cell phone sleeping bag! We all need to start somewhere. Use this bag as a reminder, and your permission to unplug!