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Asking matters – a short story

I was working with a board this weekend, helping them start the journey for an upcoming fundraising campaign.

At dinner Friday night, one of the board members told me one of those wonderfully encouraging stories about volunteer involvement in fundraising.

The story goes like this:

My client’s dad had been a salesperson all of his life. So he was very comfortable with reaching out to people and asking them for something, even folks he didn’t know well.

The church to which his father belonged had started a major fundraising campaign. As they were reviewing their members for whom to approach, there was one person on the list that was not a large donor and also not well-known to the other congregants, but had been a long-time member of the church.

My client’s father decided that he wanted to go and meet this gentleman.

To shorten the story, when they met, this older gentleman asked “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for years for someone to come to ask me.” Then the gentleman left the room and came back a few moments later with a check for $50,000 as a contribution to the campaign.

Enough said.

Strategic insight of the Johari Window

I’ve been thinking about the strategic insight that can be gained through the Johari Window*file-page1

The Johari Window is used to improve interpersonal communications and team work.  It was developed by and named after psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955 (Joe + Harry =Johari).

One idea behind the Johari Window is that we all have blind spots about ourselves that we want to diminish.  Reducing these blind spots requires seeking out feedback from others.

We also have information about ourselves that we hold back from others or that they are not aware of just by interacting with us.

The Johari Window provides an opportunity for self-awareness and trust building by asking us to be more forthcoming and transparent as well as soliciting feedback through a process of self-discovery.

Sounds like a great organization strengthening tool, doesn’t it.

Understanding the Johari Window provides insight on how our organizations can be more strategic.

And more effective.

It strikes me that the Johari Window can be useful when applied to our own organizations.

Here at Cause & Effect we preach the importance of seeking information outside of your organization.  That involves staying up-to-date on what is happening in your field, understanding societal trends, and having critical knowledge about what is happening in your community (at whatever scale you define community).

Yes, some of this can happen by being an informed consumer of the news and professional journals. Other parts of this need to come from listening to your supporters and other critical constituents.

Having these conversations is firmly embedded in our work in strategic planning and fund development. Every once in a great while we get talked into short changing this process and regret it immensely. Why?

Because not only are these conversations wonderful ways to engage your constituents, you and I actually learn stuff that matters to your organization by seeking out their experiences and wisdom.

Important stuff.  Strategic stuff. The kind of stuff that is a foundation of intelligent opportunism, one of the five bedrocks of strategic thinking.

Strategic Insight of the Johari Window worth discovering

In the worst and rarest cases, you might discover truly incorrect or damaging information floating around about your organization or its people.

More likely, you’ll find that despite your ongoing communications, very little of your message is being absorbed.  Knowledge about your work might be very limited.

You may discover how limited your own knowledge is of what’s happening in your field or your community.

Most importantly, you can discover what matters to other folks in their personal or organizational lives.

With this information in hand, you’ll be able to reflect on how well you are delivering value to your constituents.

And what you need to do differently to matter more.

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*There is much more to learn about the Johari Window. Here’s an excellent read:

http://www.businessballs.com/johariwindowmodel.htm

And for ideas on who to get started, see

Stop Talking to Yourself

Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Where to involve your board

How prepared is your board chair?

For the past year, I’ve been working with a research team  of really smart colleagues (Debra Beck, Judy Freiwirth, Mike Burns and Mary Hiland)  to better understand board chairs.

Chairs were asked two sets of questions around these topics:

  1. What they did to prepare for becoming chair
  2. How they understood their role in relation to the rest of the board, to the CEO and to their community.

The Alliance For Nonprofit Management is releasing a sneak peek infographic today with a few highlights from the study. The full report is due out in January.

Here’s just a taste of what we found.

Alliance Publishes one of Largest National Studies on Board Chairs  Alliance Online - Mozilla Firefox 12212015 11552 PM

 

Claiming your promise with your mission statement

IMG_3038I read a lot of mission statements. Most nonprofit mission statements are focused on how the organization goes about its work.

Too rarely does a mission statement confidently offer up its promise of betterment for its community.

Don’t get bogged down in all the stuff you do. You don’t need to throw the kitchen sink at your mission statement.

Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation threw down a mission challenge in  “The Eight Word Mission Statement” in the September 18, 2012 Stanford Social Innovation Review. The eight words: “a verb, a target population, and an outcome that implies something to measure.”

I agree that “razor-sharp” clarity about where you are going enables you to be strategic, adaptable and clear on where you are heading. That’s why I’m such a stickler for developing a clear theory of change/logic model and include its development into the strategic plans I work on. Plus, I learned long ago, that having a theory of change and logic model upped Read more

Make your appeal donor-friendly – a checklist

People give to people. Use a personal voice in fund appeals.Before you sign off on that spring mail appeal to donors, take one last look. Have you really done everything you can to help friends like me respond with a donation?

Have you addressed me personally? Have you used the word “you” in nearly every paragraph? Have you thanked me? Have you shown me how important I am to your work?

Have you used a human voice? Use the singular pronoun “I,” not the snooty “We.” Speak the everyday language you would use with a neighbor or friend. Replace insider jargon with words your Mom would understand.

Have you asked me clearly for money? Don’t try to sneak up on me with your ask. Tell me up front that you’re writing for my help with an important need and what specific amount or range of contributions you’re hoping I’ll consider. Then remind me again at the end (after you’ve made me care).

Have you explained how my donation will make a difference and to whom? A story or testimonial from someone who benefited from my past donations adds credibility to this promise.

Have you created urgency? Why do you need my money right now? To earn a matching gift? To be sure you can serve every deserving student when school opens?   Read more