Nonprofit Periscope

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Archive for November 2010

Sometimes it does hurt to ask.

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As a development professional, I think of my home mailbox as my little fundraising lab. Every week I get a flurry of donation appeals from groups I’ve given to in the past, as well as some I haven’t, and on the elevator ride up I run a quick triage:

  • Maybe
  • No
  • Why did I even get this?

For months I’ve been getting appeals from a global nonprofit whose work I respect. They focus on a single condition, and their results are both visible and inspiring.  My little cousin was born with this condition, so I have a personal connection to the nonprofit. I’m an ideal annual-level donor for them. And they seem to know it, because they mail me an appeal EVERY MONTH.

As fundraisers like to say, the worst that can happen is that a prospect says no. But that’s not really the worst that can happen.

We’ve all gone through this: you get a donation appeal, you send back $25, you mentally check it off your to-do list…and then they ask you again. Often, you get the next appeal–from the same group, remember–before you get an acknowledgment for your first gift. And when that second one comes, you think, “Wait, didn’t I just give these guys money? What do they want now?”

Which is exactly what I thought every month as that aforementioned group’s logo peeked up at me from my stack of mail. Finally, my escape came: an appeal that said “Give now and we’ll never ask you for another dollar!” Yes sir, I thought. That’s exactly what I want. They got another $20 and I got a sigh of relief. Freedom! No more guilt at recycling the envelope, unopened, with the disfigured child on the front, a single tear sliding down his face.

Until the next month. You know what happened. Cue disfigured-weeping-child envelope with enclosed fundraising appeal. Cue disbelief, perhaps naive. This time, I didn’t just say no. I felt officially alienated.

There are many reasons this organization could have sent me an appeal immediately after I literally checked the box that said “Please remove me from mailing list.” Among them:

  • Their administrative staff hasn’t entered my mailing preference in the donor management database yet
  • I’m on more than one of their mailing lists
  • They always ask please-remove-me donors one more time
  • They figure it can’t hurt to ask again

Of those reasons, only the last two are reprehensible, even disrespectful. No, my hand didn’t skid across the please-remove-me box by accident. Yes, I thought you meant it when you said you’d never ask me again. I feel like whoever’s on the other end of that trifold two-color mailer is definitely not listening to me.

As a fundraiser, I understand the need to ask. But as a donor, I’m baffled by the lack of comprehension that I don’t want mail from this group anymore. My fellow fundraisers–and I ask this purely out of curiosity–what possible reasons do you have NOT to listen to your donors?

Whether you’re a donor, a fundraiser, or both, you probably have experience with this. Do you agree that sometimes it does hurt to ask?


Written by eclawson

November 11, 2010 at 4:06 PM

As if you need a reason to be a nonprofit rockstar

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I’m a Millennial, and I like my information bite-sized.  But trying to learn things that way–mostly online–can be a piecemeal effort, and at heart I’m more old-fashioned: I love books. So I was tickled when I heard Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris were crafting a book of advice on nonprofit careers. The result: How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar, which debuted today in both e-book and print formats.

Full disclosure: I was invited to read and review an advance copy, and if you click the link to the book above and decide to buy it from there, I receive a small portion of the sale price. Come on, though. I studied ethics at Oxford. I won’t fawn over a book for a kickback; I’ll fawn over it because it deserves said fawning. Luckily this one does.

I’ll keep this review brisk, because I like long book reviews about as much as you do, and your time is better spent reading the book than reading my blog post about the book.

Reasons to read How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar:

  • Curation. It rounds up the most reliable nonprofit career tips from across the Internet–expert blogs, Twitter, news interviews, etc.–and presents them in a coherent collection that’s easier to navigate and notate than that folder of bookmarks I painstakingly saved. This alone makes me a fan.
  • Relevance. It references up-to-date career search tips, emphasizing social media and other techniques that are still crossing over into the HR mainstream and therefore benefit from explanation.
  • Well-roundedness. It includes tips on managing your finances, work-life balance, and other things that seem peripheral to a career but affect it more they get credit for.
  • Ambition. It lists ways to advance your career no matter what phase you’re in: volunteer, intern, entry-level, mid-level, senior, etc. Even if you’re already the boss, you can always get better at it (as both Rosetta and Trista know personally, since they’re now bosses themselves).
  • Details. It suggests exact phrasing for milestones such as negotiating a raise. I know, I’m not in it for the money either, but tip #41 alone is worth the price of the entire book several times over.

Rockstar’s weak spots have already been observed by Trina Isakson, and I agree with several of them, including:

  • The book feels written for Millennials. I would add that this makes sense given the often fledgling careers of people in my age group. But the recession has sent people of most generations into the job hunt, many of whom who could benefit from Rockstar if it had a less age-specific feel.
  • As an introvert, I also find some of the imagery and tips better suited to extroverts.

In addition, as a diehard reader of Rosetta’s blog and a catcher-up to Trista’s, I realized with a jolt that some chapters were recycled almost wholesale from existing–and free–content on said blogs. On one hand, this briefly made me feel like a sucker. On the other, let’s be honest: it’s efficient. Like I said, the real gem of this book is its accomplishment in curating content that is far more useful as a collection than as isolated bits in cyberspace.

That aside, Rockstar is a book worth reading and sharing. For me, it came along at the perfect time: in danger of drifting into career doldrums for a few weeks, I snuck a few pages in my cubicle this afternoon and hit the list of ideas for tip #32: “Fall back in love with your job.” Thank you, Rosetta and Trista. It’s about time I did.

Written by eclawson

November 1, 2010 at 9:25 PM

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