Interviewed by Steve Boland in the Next in Nonprofits Podcast March 2020 – click here to listen, or read the transcript below!
S: Steve Boland, host
M: Mazarine Treyz, Founder & CEO of Wild Woman Fundraising
- 00:37 – How does Wild Woman Fundraising support your organization?
- 2:10 – How to talk with leaders about fundraising turnover- how it hurts, what you can do
- 4:25 – Reasons for fundraising staff turnover
- 5:55 – Research, Facts, and Why you should take the Leaky Bucket Assessment
- According to the Bristol Strategy research, who is the most successful at keeping donors and why?
- 10:23 – How to help your staff do their best work
- These are the 5 steps to getting that major gift
- 15:23 – How to qualify your pipeline of major donors
- 16:35 – Cluing into organizational culture – keeping good fundraisers
- 22:20 – Turnover + Burnout = BURNOVER
- 25:43 – What tools should you be using for your CRM?
- How to keep from switching databases when you lose staff
- 32:37 – Why is it important to give senior leadership fundraising training too?
- 39:00 – How a leader can support a fundraiser who is growing
S: Welcome to Next in Nonprofits. I’m Steve Boland and I am very pleased to be joined today by Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising. Mazarine thank you so much for being here today.
M: It’s a pleasure to be here, Steve, thank you so much for having me.
S: I am really excited that you reached out to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart in the fundraising and development world, but before we jump into that specific area can you just explain a little bit about your business? (00:37) What is Wild Woman Fundraising?
How does Wild Woman Fundraising support your organization?
M: Certainly! For the last ten years I have been helping CEOs, founders, and other non-profit leaders with creating more fundraising revenue through a variety of channels and also through supporting their fundraising staff more effectively. So, to do that I have got a bunch of online conferences and courses as well as working one on one with people, and a membership site. So I have been doing a lot of things for the last ten years. It has been such a joy to see Nonprofits grow and to see leaders grow and change as they start to understand fundraising better. And also how board members understand how to support their fundraisers better.
S: That last part is what I was really excited to ask you to talk a little bit more about. I think we see this consistent issue within the non-profit sector of what is often referred to as burnout within development staff, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just, you know, “gosh I’ve been doing all this work for a long time and I’m tired and I need to now go somewhere else”. I think there’s a lot more to why people leave development work, or they just change to a different job within the development field.
S: But I do think it’s a consistent issue that we see with particularly smaller development staffs where there might be one or two people in a nonprofit that do development and we see transitions in the 18 month or less time frames pretty frequently, we don’t see folks sticking around. (2:10) So if you hear that question with an executive director you’ve just started working with or a new board saying “yeah we want to talk with you about this these because we have had these three or four different transitions in the last five or six years”. Where do you begin that conversation? How do you start with those folks?
How to talk with leaders about fundraising turnover – why it hurts you
M: That’s a really excellent question, Steve thank you. For a lot of us who experience fundraising turnover as a problem in our organizations (or if you don’t see it as a problem yet believe me it is) and so the research has born out. And I’m speaking here specifically about the 30 years of research that Penelope Burke of Donor Side of Leadership and the Signet Research Group has done she has shown that if you have turnover year over year for three years with your fundraiser it costs you about $600,000 and that is not including lost donor relationships. So if you are a numbers person and you’re sitting on that board and you’re like oh my god, how could we be wasting this much money? It’s not going to show up on your balance sheet, but it’s just little dribs and drabs here and there from hiring a new person to getting that person up and running, onboarding, getting them trained on the software and so on and so forth so even if you have just one year of turnover it cost 117% of that person’s salary to replace them. And if you keep your good fundraiser for over a year and hopefully longer they can raise over three years $500,000 for you and that’s just as an example.
M: They can raise 10 times their salary. So that’s a huge incentive to make sure that your fundraising staff are properly resourced and not only properly resourced, but really that everybody understands how they can help support creating what’s called the culture of philanthropy in your organization. And unfortunately when you’ve had so much turnover a lot of really good staff are going to not want to come to your organization because they see the writing on the wall and they think, you know, like when you’re dating somebody “it’s not you it’s me”, so they think it’s you. “Oh, OK this person can’t commit” or “oh OK this person has got some personal issues”. So that is something that you would have to work hard in an interview to convince a very qualified person to take you on.
S: (4:25) So let me ask you specifically about larger versus smaller shops before we start getting into some of the reasons for this. I am more familiar with that smaller shop feel. From the outside it seems like there’s more consistency when you may have a department with seven or ten people that are working in development or more that turnover doesn’t seem to be as high. Is that a correct outsider observation or is it just as bad in big places as it is in small?
Reasons for fundraising staff turnover
M: You know, it really depends on the leadership quite honestly and it can be small that can keep people for a long time. If the leadership understands and respects and does their part in fundraising or they can turn over in three months. The same is true in large organizations. I worked with a University last year and it was wonderful to work with them, they were well resourced, but unfortunately there were some leadership issues that made people not feel appreciated and some people were looking the last time I talked with them so after being there for a year they’re like, “yeah it’s time to go.”
S: Yeah. That’s unfortunate when it happens, so I think having a conversation about (knowing that) there are just going to be natural times when a transition happens for other life reasons: a partner moves out of town and you’ve got to go or whatever. But I think more often we see these transitions because of reasons that could be avoided if there was some more intentionality or more thought around it. One of the things I wanted to ask you about was just the performance expectations within time frames as people are brought on board. And there’s a few different things around that that I see, but (5:55) I’m wondering how you approach that conversation with the clients you work with around what’s a reasonable thing to start with for a new person based on where that particular nonprofit may be in their development cycle?
Research, Facts, The Bottom Line, and the Leaky Bucket Assessment
M: Let me give you some research and some facts, Steve, because I know that a lot of your listeners are all about research and facts and the bottom line. So, I’ve just told you how much money that you lose and how much money you stand to gain if you keep your good fundraiser. A colleague of mine, Ellen Bristol, of the Bristol Strategy Group wrote two books. One is called The Leaky Bucket and the other is called Fundraising The Smart Way. If you go to bristolstrategygroup.com you’ll have the opportunity to take the leaky bucket assessment on your donors for your organization. I highly encourage everyone listening to do that, because what you will probably find is that your retention rate is in the toilet. It could be 40% it could be less than 40% it could be 30%, 20%. And when I say retention rate of donors, I mean year over year how many donors give again. So, if you have 50 donors last year and this year you have 30, or say you had 100 last year and 50 this year you have a 50% retention rate.
M: And so, if that’s the same donors that give. Not including all the new donors that are coming in and so what happens to a lot of new non-profits as they say OK what’s your Rolodex? How can you bring in more people to a highly qualified highly successful fundraiser? And what they should be asking is really in this first 90 days how would you set us up with systems to be successful?
WHO is the most successful at keeping donors and why?
M: Furthermore they should know what the retention rate is when they go into the interview with the fundraiser so that the fundraiser knows what they are walking into. If they don’t know that yet that’s a problem. Now, according to Ellen’s research most people flunk this assessment. The one organization that did not but had a really 90% success rate with her leaky bucket assessment, was believe it or not LDS a.k.a. the Mormons. Why are they so successful? Because their fundraising team has extreme amounts of resources. In the first two years they don’t expect you to raise any money at all.
M: They’re just training you and that is so far from what the initial expectations are for most nonprofits big or small as to say the curvature of the universe. So that’s why when someone comes in you say you have to raise your salary, they’re going to walk out the door again. You need to at least for the first 12 months (you could follow LDS’ example for the first 24 months) say we just want you to learn and if you raise money that’s icing on the cake.
S: I appreciate that perspective because I do think that often it is this space of, you know, we have this much of a budget hole to fill. It’s your job to fill it. Regardless of what systems we have in place how many donors we’ve had what grant relationships we’ve had, none of that. I’s just all about this thing that we want filled not where are we in our potential to raise money, but where do we feel that we are in our perceived need for how much we need to bring in the door.
S: And those things need to be looked at independently. Your ability to raise support for your mission and the needs of the mission or not necessarily the same thing. And I think that’s where some of this mismatch begins right away. I’ve got $200,000 hole in my budget you were going to get paid $30,000 next year so go raise me $200,000 and that new staffer coming in at practically no salary maybe has no experience, has no tools in the tool chest. But has a huge expectation on them and I don’t think it takes very long for them to feel like “I’m either on the right path and I can do this”. Or “good heavens I’m not feeling supported. I don’t know that I’ve got what I need. I’m not going to be able to succeed. Maybe I should get out of here before they fire me”.
M: Yeah. I mean, to have those expectations that they just fill the hole in the budget, most professional qualified fundraising staff will just run screaming. So, they end up getting somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing and then the refrain comes “you can’t just find good help these days”. And ultimately you have to ask yourself do we try to give one person seven people’s jobs wrapped in one titled? Do we try to expect them to be good at everything? Nobody’s good at everything, right? Are we trying to put all of their responsibility on one person when it should be spread out across the organization? Because if we don’t bring in money, nobody has a job. So, all of those things have to be in play for an organization to be successful it just cannot rest on one person’s shoulders. That’s unrealistic and ultimately will doom your organization to failure.
How to help your staff do their best work and how I can support you
S: (10:23) So is that something that you can help with? How expectations are both set and communicated to people in your work? Do you kind of serve in that middle ground or how do organizations best start addressing that part of the problem?
M: I do that work with people, I absolutely do, and in my book Get the Job Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide, I also did research to figure out what are the key questions you need to ask in the interview in the first 90 days, whether you are a leader or a fundraiser, to get the most out of your relationship with your Direct report or with your boss.
M: And so a few of those key phrases can include everything from, “before we leave this meeting do you have everything you need”, “do you see things here that I haven’t addressed yet”. As a leader these are some things that if the fundraiser knows more about fundraising than you do, if they’re hesitant to say that your expectations are unrealistic, those two phrases can draw out that what you’re asking for is not correct. But yes, I love helping people specifically leaders, CEOs, and executive directors, communicate better with their fundraising stuff. And also learn how to fundraise themselves so that they can be a better manager of the fundraising staff person.
S: I think one of the challenges in the fundraising world is sometimes they answer the question of how much are we supposed to go raise? Is this a question of just bringing everything you can? We can always spend the money on the mission, there’s plenty of work to do, and that sets up this dynamic of not being able to be successful because there’s just no solid goal of we are setting a plan in motion that we think reasonably gets us to this level this year.
S: And here’s how this is going to leverage into the next year and next year but not necessarily like you’ve never met something most charities that I’ve met with and talked with you ask them the question, “do you have enough money?” well no, nobody ever says we absolutely have enough money this year, we’re all set. That’s not a response I usually hear, but I think that that contributes to that feeling of boy you’ve never got the feeling of success you’ve never felt like you’ve done something if you haven’t got a benchmark for the year that says this is why we think we can get to this dollar amount. As opposed to we can just keep spending money if you keep bringing money in so go bring more money in.
M: Right. So when senior leadership including the board does not understand how fundraising works that’s what we run into which is why I love training both boards, CEOs and fundraising staff in a variety of goal setting techniques that allow you to make concrete, reasonable, actionable goals for your organization. So, for example again going back to Ellen Bristol in the Bristol strategy group she has software that allows you to track how long it takes you from identifying a prospect to asking for the gift and shortening and shortening and shortening that time. However, what people don’t pay attention to is their prospect pipeline.
M: And so if that is a word that is new to you, you are not alone when I was presenting at the Minnesota nonprofit association conference in 2018 I put the word pipeline up on the screen and most of the audience just gawked at me. And so, believe me, for a major gift officer their pipeline is clear they usually have 100 people in their portfolio, and they have been vetted and now it is up to us to make case statements for them and send them out to the world. However, the majority of us do not have a major gift officer on staff and are not paying attention to the quality of the pipeline and that’s why you should invest in software such as donor search, wealth engine, or iwave, to allow yourself to understand who is worthwhile to pursue. Because that opportunity cost is so great you could chase down the wrong person for months and what you want to do is just say OK do we like them? These are the five steps to getting that major gift
These are the five steps to getting that major gift
M: 1) Do we like them 2) do they like us 3) Do they like the gift 4) Did we negotiate and 5) Did we get the gift? Those are the five steps you could put that on the spreadsheet and go from here or you could get Ellen’s software and go to town with that. But the point is that if you don’t have qualifying criteria you could be wasting so much time and a lot of times EDs, CEOs, and boards don’t understand how to best support their fundraiser and that’s kind of what I’m trying to share with you today.
S: Talk a little bit more about that pipeline thing. Because I do think that’s critical. Some organizations that I’ve worked with where you look at the existing donor base there’s just not enough to work with yet we need more names and more people to talk to you so setting up benchmarks as things that are part of your deliverables as the fundraising team. To do the donor acquisition rather than a dollars that come in I think is such an important part of setting that expectation of this year we need to meet more people, and here’s how we’re going to go do that. And look at that as a measure of what I was supposed to do this year even though that may not result in a gift this year, (15:23) but part of that is about understanding where are the assets of the organization when you come in and if there’s just not enough people the pipeline to start with and that’s where we have to begin right?
How to qualify your pipeline of major donors
M: That’s quite so, that’s exactly right, Steve. It’s about OK how do we qualify who is currently in our database? You’re going to have some prospects in your database you’re going to have some prospects in your database and from your board members, and they need to know how they can best support the fundraiser to make those asks. So, a book that I always recommend to people that I always love is called Fired Up Fundraising by Gail Perry.
M: It’s a really excellent book it talks about ways that the board members can support an ask without actually having to ask themselves. It could be as simple as writing a thank you note or making a thank you phone call or if you bumped into somebody in the grocery store saying, “thanks so much by the way for your support of organization we really appreciate it” and that leads to the ask being successful. So, there’s good key phrases in there and obviously for some organizations that cannot be in person you’ll have to do more virtual sort of engagement, but in this age where we are doing a lot more virtual engagement we are going to make new strategies to connect with our donors.
S: (16:35) I think that looking at how we bring those people into the pipeline though and looking at those tools and the events themselves as part of the measure of success and supporting the development staff person so that they know look we get that it’s not only about this today’s gift but it is about next year‘s gift and the gift that’s coming after that. So we need to put those in as benchmarks that were measuring and rewarding and excited about when people do and not only you know here’s how much money we need to plug into the budget. So I think that donor acquisition strategy question of not only where are they in the pipeline, but getting more of them in that pipeline and the people that have not yet been connected with that mission is something that should be rewarded within the development world, but doesn’t always I think and up as a key metric that people are seeing and their performance reviews about that part of the work or at least I don’t see that as much do you?
How to clue into org culture – keeping good fundraisers
M: No, I don’t quite honestly. And that’s one of the key questions I tell fundraisers to ask in the interview in which people are interviewing them should have an answer for, which is “how do you celebrate what’s working here?” and that will give you a big clue into what you just said: the organizational culture and making those little celebrations when something good happens. Like, “oh we had a good donor meeting and it went really well” or “hey you know we have three people on our pipeline this week high five we started out with nothing and now we have three”. So, just celebrating little tiny wins and asking what their love languages is and then giving them some aspect of that in a gift. Some people love words, I’m one of those word people, so just getting to know people better and what motivates them will allow you to give them meaningful praise don’t you say “good job”, say “I love how you… did something very specific”.
S: I think that’s important to recognize because sometimes of course the exact flip of this happens. And I have run into this in my professional life where a fairly large gift will drop out of the sky. It really wasn’t that we worked on it for years, and all the rest of it, but we did connect with somebody about the mission of the organization we were representing they were excited about it we were excited about it and it was the right time. And they just hit a fairly large gift and everybody was kind of like “hey congratulations that’s wonderful”, it’s like, well, yes, we did the right things by asking and all that, but the fact that we put for a little effort into that and got a fairly large gift out of it does not mean that this is how it always happens.
S: And if you expect that to happen again next week but that’s going to be a problem. And we really need to get expectations around most of the time this takes a while to bring people in talk with them about the mission and see where they’re engaged all those things before we get to that larger gift. So, I love to kind of think about that part of the burnout question and why staff turnover so much is that sometimes that part of the work doesn’t get recognized. And when the flipside of it happens where it’s kind of reluctantly just kind of easy all of a sudden for a larger gift to come in, that can set up odd expectations going forward when people sort of think you’ve done it once why don’t you do it again next month?
M: Right. And you know case in point when I was working at a domestic violence center, we got a huge bequest from a long-term volunteer who died of COPD a.k.a. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. And she smoked her whole life and she was on a ventilator, that’s what happens right? We had no idea she was going to leave us her estate it was wonderful and it was a boon, but those planned gifts (they can totally drop out of the sky) can take 20 years before they come to fruition and a lot of fundraisers because of the way that they are being measured will tend not to go for those because no one in the organization is going to be around when it actually comes in. They’re not going to get that instant pot a positive hit of, “you did it” so that’s one of the great untapped resources of the fundraising sector is planned giving.
M: And so creating that mindset of how do we manage expectations, and make that shift? I would say in the first 12 months, do not ask your fundraiser to raise any more money. If they do, count that as a cherry on top, but just say, “look we want you to know the programs”. And if you’re hiring them form within growing your own fundraiser as it were, they should know the program already but now it’s about messaging. And you have to invest in their professional development to make sure that they know all of the things they need to do to be successful in the role.
M: As well as investing in some mentoring or coaching for them and making sure that they have all of the technical tools as well as the resources inside of the organization with people to be successful. If they feel that they are too much put upon they are not going to be interested in sticking around. But if you were growing them from within, which unfortunately most nonprofits don’t do. As we saw in the underdevelop report most nonprofits are like “well, if you’ve already made a lot of money, you’re worth it. But if you’re just coming in and we’re just training you up you’re not worth it”.
M: And there’s this unrealistic kind of mindset of coming back to Puritans, honestly, that rich people are smart and know everything and poor people are dumb and know nothing right? So that’s why we trust Mark Zuckerberg to fix New Jersey schools and Warren Buffett to fix malaria. When honestly this is something that Dan Pallotta talked about in his uncharitable books is that we assume that if you didn’t get paid a lot of money your opinion is not valuable. And a lot of times all consultants are doing is coming in and staying with the staff have been screaming for nine months.
Turnover + Burnout = BURNOVER
S: (22:20) I think you’re exactly right but I think that raises two other questions that I wanted to get at with this burnover, burnout turnover kind of question…
M: Ha-ha, burnover, that’s a good one.
S: I have unintentionally combined those two things but, you know, the turnover and the burnout things are related. But burnout isn’t so much I think the right word because I do think it is a mismatch in expectations most of the time and not so much I can’t possibly raise money anymore, but I can’t raise it here where I don’t have the time and the space to do the things that are necessary to be successful and then everybody doesn’t feel good about my job.
S: I don’t think that’s the same thing as burnout I think that that’s a staff member saying, “I can’t succeed with the situation, I will go somewhere else and try to negotiate a space where I can be successful”. And you know, unfortunately, I see this far too often that somebody leaves to another organization and the exact same thing happens in 18 months. They’re gone for there too and then they go somewhere else, so I want to get back to the kind of homegrown what do you want to do when you invest because I think part of that is a natural reaction to not wanting to put a whole lot of money into the development department. And that they’re like will just hire somebody that’s younger in the work for us to really smart person we’ll get them trained up it’ll be great. And maybe there is some space for that, but I want to talk first about the idea of somebody who does understand that process perhaps better than anybody else on staff right now and how they can come in and negotiate something successfully. You mentioned a couple of questions you encourage them to ask, but I do think that part of the burden comes back to the executive director and hiring board and what not to listen to those folks that are maybe worth a little bit more in salary because they really are bringing that much more experienced into play, but you have to kind of trust them and turn over a little control to that space to them.
M: Well, you have to treat them like they are I see you as well so if they come in and you wanna make them development manager but the sole fundraiser staff person. You’re not showing donors that they should meet with this person, you’re showing them this is how much we value you as a donor. We’re going to have you with a manager instead of a CEO or a director or CDO, so if you want to have access to those higher-level people you have to get this person the resources. Just like a high-level sales person. So give them that VP or CDO title, get them a nice office to meet donors in and give them a budget to take donors out to lunch. Give them a travel budget.
M: All of these things, so a lot of what is really holding fundraisers back is that under resourcing of their programming. Even if you bring in a very good person I know an organization that just hired a new person and she doesn’t have a desk. I mean this is a real thing she’s got her laptop underneath sitting in the corner and it’s just unreal to me that people can be like we really want to raise more money and then make this kind of mistake. And so I am not going to name names, but I feel sorry for this person because she’s not being set up for success. They have a donor database, which is a place to start, but does anybody know how to use it? it’s really difficult they cheaped out and went with salesforce, pro tip: don’t use Salesforce.
S: (25:43) I’m glad to hear you say that because I want to talk about the tools. I want to come back to the idea of growing your development from less experienced people because I think that’s important. But I do want to ask about this because you get that “hey salesforce 10 free licenses nonprofit success pack let’s just go with that”, but I do think that there’s a balance of knowing what tools you need and which ones to use versus well we have to pay for the most expensive Blackbaud product because it’s the most expensive Blackbaud product versus do we need a product that you know this particular team can really use to do the work that we’ve targeted. Rather than just I know about Blackbaud so let’s buy Blackbaud versus salesforce at the other end of it. There’s a lot of range in there in tools and what you can pay for in order to support this work, so I think it has to kind of go hand and hand with our conversation of how are you supporting your staff as what are these tools that also cost them money to invest in, but not necessarily just for the brand recognition of the tool.
What tools should you be using for your fundraising database/CRM?
S: Right. So, I would not use Blackbaud either. Most nonprofits do not need that. I think you need to talk to a good donor database expert, Robert Weiner is one that I know of who is quite good. If you look up RLWeiner.com I think is his website he’s done several webinars for me about how to choose a good donor database. What a donor database should allow you to do. The reports you should be able to draw out of it. Everything from who gave him the last 18 to 24 months, to how many people have given multiple times in the last year, to the top number of donors like the top amount that they’ve given. Recency frequency and monetary value, RFM, are the number one things you should be looking at, but on top of that your donor database should be able to talk with a software that helps you look at who else have they given to and who do we know on our board that knows them and so that is where iwave, donor search, and wealth engine come in. So I’ve already mentioned those before you should decide which one is for right for you but of course Inten also comes out with a donor database report that you could use as a small nonprofit to see what are the pros and cons of each of these databases and which one should we choose. And ultimately that is a system that is going to decide some of the success and failure of your program if you have no database you should just get that figured out first and then you are going to be setting up your fundraiser for success. And again, free database is worth exactly what you pay for it.
S: (28:20) I think that the salesforce on the flipside of that the crappy kinds of tools if you’ve got somebody who just lives in that space and is willing to do it they can be successful I think the challenge becomes if that person leaves the organization. How easy is it for the next person to come in and pick up the free thing the crappy kinds of things the data base tools they work. They’re fine, but there’s a fairly small segment of the professional development world that really knows how to take advantage of those. If you want the ability to have somebody to step in and use that if there is going to be a transition that’s I think a thing for the board and leads to really consider outside of who is our fundraiser today. But what do we as an organization feel like we can really support long-term because we don’t want to be switching his databases every time we lose staff?
How to keep from switching databases when you lose staff
M: Well right, and so that’s why I wouldn’t use salesforce because one of the organizations that I know that got it had to spend a whole year porting their data over and get a year of training for their staff person who could leave. And so that person had to go physically to another location to get trained multiple times which cost the organization money in multiple ways. Now one person knows the database and that one person could leave like you said and really and I cannot stress enough please look at having a consultant come in or looking at the NTEN research around this to decide what is right for your exact size of your organization, the number of donors you have. Once to sign a contract with Blackbaud they will not let you get out of it and that was a rude awakening for a client last year and they really suffered because of it so, and they don’t have that many donors so that said please just because you know my name don’t assume that I name is right for you.
S: (30:22) knowing that part of supporting your fundraising and your development teams is going to be around the right tools database being a primary one, but there’s others. Now that I think that question of I’m bringing in that more experienced person and we’re going to negotiate around what their expectations are so that they don’t feel like they can’t be successful those are great things. But if we do it the other way around and get back to the thing we talked about with kind a growing your own internal talent. You do find that really smart person who should see a couple years out of college and they love your mission they’re really connected to it they understand it and you think wow maybe this person can take on this role and do that? You mentioned training and other types of support mentoring, how do you coach through a decision like that to invest in somebody who doesn’t have a lot of experience in this yet but maybe could be very successful at it if they were supported and given enough time?
M: So, I was in this position last year when I was mentoring a new development director and what we did was I gave her the access to all of my ten E-courses which have 119 CFRE credit associated with them (CFRE stands for certified fundraising executive). I encouraged her to keep track of all of her metrics to make experiments. That’s really what the first year should be about: helping this person experiment, not just learn but feel that they are not being penalized for making a mistake or so-called mistake when really just a learning opportunity.
M: A lot of non-profits do want to penalize people unfairly for “wasting money” when if it was a learning experience it wasn’t a waste. That’s something to think about when you’re growing somebody internally is how much support can we give them for mentorship coaching. I had a retainer contract with this client so for a year we worked together. At the end of it I realized I should’ve also worked with her CEO so that he could have been able to be a better manager of her. That was my mistake, so at the end I started asking him could I coach you as well to be a better manager and he wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to learn fundraising and that’s what I knew that this person wasn’t probably going to be as successful as they could be or should be in this role, and that you know that person should probably just find another organization where they can be successful.
S: (32:37) That’s such an important result of this whole thing and that sometimes that’s where it comes down to and hopefully this conversation will help other organizations avoid that part of it. I appreciate your guidance here about it’s not just that new person that’s coming in that’s going to need that training but the rest of the staff, the CEO, the president whoever needs to understand how to work within that framework if they’ve not done it successfully.
Why is it important to give the CEO and senior leadership fundraising training too?
M: That’s kind of what I keep coming back to and that’s why I created the nonprofit leadership summit because I really wanted to help senior leadership understand this is what fundraising is even on a high-level here’s how you can be successful and here’s how you can support and manage your staff more successfully. If one person who is a developments director tries to do a major gift program on their own, they’re not going to get anywhere they need the board and the CEO to be on board and that was what was holding this person back. They had goals we made timelines and then they blew by because the other group of people wasn’t willing to work with that person. Tools that can help you aside from databases include knowing your e-news letter software, knowing how to make graphic design in Canva, knowing your website software, and knowing now in this age of virtual meetings how to do a successful online donor meeting.
M: I would recommend zoom it’s one of the things that I’ve had great success with. It is becoming more and more available all the time and I’ve used other things like go-to meeting and go-to webinar and so on but I prefer zoom. This is something that you know you as a CEO or nonprofit leaders can have State of the Union addresses with people who are worried who can’t leave the house right now and say, “hey I just want to check you in and make you aware of things we are doing to continue to use your donations in this time of great change”. So that’s actually one of the things I’m going to start writing about is how to have better online meetings with donors and that’s something that people should really start hiring for: people who can create better online community.
S: I should mention that we are recording this sort of right at to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic stuff. We are just in this time of huge uncertainty. Everybody is social distancing and or working from home and it is changing the nature of how the development works pretty substantially. If you are listening to the six months later who knows what the world is going to be looking like much further into this, but it is I think that question of who are you hiring to do this work.
S: I think successful development staff in my experience tend to be pretty good utility fielders. They are folks that can manage a little bit of Canva here and communication software here and donor database over here and just be good in a meeting, but it’s hard to look at a resume of somebody who has not done this before who wants to transition into the work and go “oh yeah you can be successful at this”. It’s a very difficult thing to know who are you going to grow into this role with your organization if they’ve just not done it yet. (35:50) Do you have any tips or tricks on how to help people both decide whether they might feel good at doing this work because not everybody does, but also who could be successful in that space?
M: Yeah and you know what I suggest is have people take the Strengths Finder test everybody in the office take it so that she can see where peoples areas of genius lie because everybody is really good at one or two things. You can’t just be the stellar neurosurgeon, and classic car restorer, and ballerina and incredible chef all in one person. That’s kind of what we ask our fundraisers to do. So if you identify a need inside of your organization, and this is where a consultant could really come in and help you, say look here’s your fundraising plan here so she said he want to do we know the most successful way to fundraisers individual giving so you create an individual giving plan that meshes with your communications plan. If that’s the case, you somebody who’s a really good writer who can help you long-term message to the groups that you want to message to and help you get really specific and clear with stories and speak to them.
M: That’s my specialty, that’s what I love to come in to do. Then you need somebody come in and take those relationships to the next level and they probably have to be you know on staff, a major gift officer actually leading people through how to build these relationships and maybe going to meetings. If they can and if they can’t online. Growing somebody internally I actually have an e-book on this called Your Nonprofit Leadership Career Path, which I’m happy to share the link with you. I created this after four years of doing my online conferences on careers and how people move on up in their careers and fundraising. It’s really here to help you look at what are the specific fundraising tasks you need to be good at? What kind of personality do you have to have to be good at them? And looking at you can be way more specialized inside a university setting, for example, than you can at a tiny nonprofit and so seeing what’s going to make you personally happy and then knowing where to slot people in. If somebody says, “I love databases” that would be great, but they’re probably not going be a good development director if that’s all they love.
S: I think that’s a really interesting of you can’t be an absolute stellar expert and every one of these areas but I do think that looking for that ability to adapt and learn to some degree in some spaces. I’ve got one of the clients I work with is really good in meetings with potential donors and he believes in the mission is great talking about it, but will not use a database form for the life of him. He absolutely hates the stuff. That’s more work on my end. OK we go in and we understand that, but if you’re going to hire somebody that’s really good at that part then they’re going to need support from somebody else on the team to do the database. Or the Canva thing, where I’m a horrible graphic designer I just can’t do it for the life of me so I know that about me and I know I have to hire other people to do that part even though for them, it’s fairly quick and easy. But for me, I just never feel like I do it well so I just know I’m a pretty good utility player in some of these areas, but not that one.
S: (39: 00) So I see we’re running a little low on time and we’re going to have to wrap this pretty quickly, so I do want to ask you to kind of think a little bit about If you’ve got that homegrown person coming up and you’ve given them that first year. You start seeing some of these things emerging, how do you then continue to support them moving forward as they start to get into the more meat and potatoes of the role after they’ve had that learning thing, while still saying it’s OK to start having some expectations at some point you do have to do have to produce sooner than later?
How a leader can support a fundraiser who is growing
M: Ideally this person is good at building relationships. If that’s the case then they need major gift training in that first year. Once they get that major gift training they should be working alongside the board and the other senior leader ship team with that training. So that they know OK here’s I’m going to slot you into this piece and how I’m going to fit in that piece and this person is going to do the research I’m going to go out and do the ask and then we’re going to come back and we’re going to create a strategy to get this gift over a period of three years, for example. So we have a pledge and we’re going to make a compelling case statement for this person.
M: If you want know the number one way to fundraise, it’s face-to-face fundraising it works better than anything else. Everything after that has diminishing return. So getting it to the place to build those relationships is year one, and then year two is working those relationships and hopefully by that year you’re having those in person meetings if you haven’t already had them in the first year and you’re saying OK great, we’ve talked with you about what you want to see happen in this organization we’ve made a project we think you’d get excited about now it’s time to make it happen.
M: What do you say? Let’s put your money where your mouth is? It’s not as crude as that, but it certainly is what you’re essentially saying even in a nicer away. Having this expectation would be simply having, and I have this thing called Beyond Cash Dashboard which Peter Drury put out for my online conference as well which is: it’s not just about how many asks do we do? It’s about how many touches did we have? It’s about how did this fit in with the greater strategic plan? What did I learn from this? What did the team learn from this? How did I grow professionally? That’s some things to also measure in the first year and after.
S: Yeah, and so much more that we could touch on if we had another hour and a half to talk about how institutional giving fits into this different from individual. Because I do think that that’s another challenge of where some of this turnover happens is people want you to be the best grant writer as well as the best major gifts officer etc. but we really do need to wrap up right now so I just want to acknowledge my gratitude for your time to talk about this and ask you to tell people where they can learn more about your work?
M: Oh, yes! Thank you so much, Steve. So, you can learn about my work at wildwomanfundraising.com. There is also mazarinetreyz.com. I am very excited to connect with anyone here who wants more information about how to make the most of their fundraising capacity and messaging during this time. I’m very excited to chat with you so thank you so much for having me again, I really appreciate it.
S: Absolutely, we will have those links in the show notes and I just want to say Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising, thanks so much.
M: Thank you!