Tag Archives: Strategy & Management

Do you think about your email marketing?

Email Marketing Matters – Part 1

We frequently discuss the merits of various ‘freemium’ model email providers with our clients.

Typically, an average client will say their tool of choice is Mailchimp. When asked why the response will either be ‘because we always have’ or ‘it’s free’ or ‘another non-profit recommended it to me’.

I’d like to gently challenge some of these assumptions.

It’s about how you think about your email marketing and a challenge to the assumption by many that it’s free. It’s not.

If you do anything beyond send batch and blast emails – this should be everyone but it’s not – and do anything at volume, it is time to question the email status quo.

What is email volume? 50,000 subscribers are a big list. But 10,000 is also a big list if you mail them every week – that’s just over half a million emails a year you’re sending. And in fact, you are probably mailing more than that as you’ll have some other emails you send out in between email newsletters too – about events, fundraising appeals etc.

If you’ve never done the maths on how many emails you send, it’s an interesting exercise to make you realise the importance of the tool to your organisation. I’ll wager that it is the single most important tool you have in communicating with all your audiences.

It’s a diversion to focus on the tool. Most of the time it matters not whether you use Mailchimp, or Campaign Monitor, or Vertical Response or anything else for that matter.

What we need to pay attention to is what you want to achieve – your strategy, the vision you’re trying to share and the experience you’re trying to give your users – more than which tool you use.

There are several key issues we need to consider. Let’s take some of the strategic considerations first.

Your customer is in complete control

So what is your vision as a charity, and how are you translating this into email?

Do you have a plan or do things just get randomly added to newsletters as you want to communicate them? Don’t be afraid to answer ‘yes’ to that question – it’s very common. But it’s dangerous.

If email is the single most important tool you use to reach your audiences, your customer is in complete control. They may decide not to open your missive, not to click or even to unsubscribe. And if they do that, you’ll never be able to communicate with them again via that means (legally) unless they legitimately re-subscribe.

For membership organisations and fundraisers familiar with attrition rates for membership and donations, try running similar kind of approach across your email list.

What are the unsubscribe triggers – do you have people on your list who are just there and never interact? How can you stop them from leaving? How are you encouraging them to stay – even if it’s passive rather than engaged?  Should you try changing your list approach to nurturing more clicks from different sub-segments?

Customer focused is key

What you give your customers is vital. It needs to be relevant to them, on whichever device they use (and being where we are today, that’s likely more than one place – i.e., social as well as email, mobile rather than desktop). They’re telling you what they want and like by what they click around not just in your emails but also on your website too. Email cannot exist in isolation from your other channels.

So we have the information to create something compelling for an audience.

More often than not we haven’t taken a step back and thought about email as something we’ve been doing for ages and doing with reasonable success – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix It’ being a useful phrase here, as well as the realistic ‘not enough hours in the day’.

But don’t wait for your customers to abandon you.

Strategic rather than operational approach

If email is so vital to getting your message delivered – both via the technical channels and messaging approaches you use – why is it so often ‘managed’ by one of the junior members of your team? It’s great that someone looks after it, and we’ve seen some great email newsletters so we know that charity brand and messaging is being for the most part well looked after. But we’d like to suggest that there’s a gap missing and some strategic focus and attention from the digital/fundraising and communications leadership will mean that the person looking after your email for you can easily make it work harder for you. Make some space to work with your colleagues on how to understand the role of email in your whole mix, where it fits, when and what works best. Pull the person who looks after your email into that conversation and listen – I bet they’ve got loads of suggestions about things to try if they had time, tools and a sense of empowerment and knew it was of strategic interest and importance.

There are more issues to consider – so this blog will continue with a part two shortly.

Resources

Can we help? 

Whatever your question, we’re happy to help.   You can

Preparing your team for a CRM project

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision Project Delivery Director shares his experience of delivering CRM implementation projects – something he’s done quite a lot of in the years he’s been a Purple Vision, and even before that in his previous life charity-side.  This is the final entry in a 4 part series  from Dan explaining project delivery issues. 

Ready, set?  Let’s go

A CRM project isn’t something that will just magically happen, sadly.  It’s something that we, as your strategic partners, will work with you on.   We need your internal knowledge to deliver the end goal, and you need our knowledge and expertise to make it happen.

It’s a win-win situation and to make the most of it, a little preparation goes a long way.

How can you prepare and plan for your CRM project?

A key element is to identify and recruit to the project team Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) at the earliest point of the project.

SMEs would be expected not only to be experts in their current systems and processes but also to be experts in the new system going forward.  They’ll work with the Purple Vision project team (which will include your project manager and any resources we bring with us such as specialist developers, data experts etc.  The exact team will depend on your project.

The whole team will deliver the project together, and reports to the Project Board.  A key part of our initial discussions with you will outline overall project responsibility and who should be on the project board.

Let’s consider how your SME’s can help.

Some key tips on how to integrate SMEs into the development process are as follows:

  • Capture ‘user-stories’ from the SMEs early on in the project lifecycle. SME’s are the folks who use the systems we’re looking at day in, day out. They know what they need to do – and what they may not be able to do now that they will need to do.  User stories help us outline what success will look like for these day to day users.  We’ll explain more about all this at the relevant point.
  • The next phase of development is managed through the running of Sprints, ensuring each user story is built into the system. SMEs would work with the Development team at this stage to ensure the user stories are fully understood and interpreted correctly.
  • When we’re working with MVP (see It’s just a phase), we make sure that as soon as the base system is available, load it with sample data and share with SME. These guys – our users – will be rigorous in showing us what might be missing to make our concept turn into reality as early in the project as possible.
  • They’re gatekeepers to others using and adopting the system. Training is key to help SME’s not only work with the development team in configuring the system but in being ready to be an advocate for the system as others in the organisations start to ask questions and get involved.  A key part of this is User Acceptance Testing – the rigorous bit where teams are let loose with real case data to make it work.

Ahead of your project starting, consider who your subject matter experts may be and consider how to free up some of their time to engage in the project when it kicks off.  It need not been an arduous commitment but our experience is that it is easier to release staff to add these tasks to their to-do list if they’ve been considered ahead of time.

Read the full blog series: 

6 things to do while everyone is on seasonal break.

Our Marketing Director, Mags, is a bit of a one for getting organised.  In this post, she shares here tips for stealing a march on 2017 and using the time between Christmas and New Year for maximum benefit and impact. 

It’s Christmas break! Yay.  The days between Christmas and New Year are a strange time, leaving some of us delighted to be spending time with our families, eating copious leftovers and some of us delighted to be anywhere but!  In one way or another, work continues, arguably often at a slower pace (as everyone else is off) but with a keen understanding that, come January, things will take off again very quickly.

Extensive research* reveals that there is a correlation between your boss being away and the degree to which your inbox is swamped.  This, in turn, can correlate between how on top of your to-do list you feel, how many new tasks are coming in and how calm you feel about impending deadlines.  Worse, you know it’s going to be super-busy between January and Easter (because it always is) when everyone is focused on the new year, change and getting things done.

Over the years, I’ve learned this time between Christmas and New Year is really important to stealing a march on the months ahead.

Here are my 6 to do’s for the seasonal gap. 

1          Niggly to-do list leftovers

There are always things on your to-do list that get knocked down because while you give them credence and importance, they’re either nice to haves, non-essentials or not a major priority.  Start knocking these off your list.  Go back through them, collect them into one place and figure out if they really are still to do, or because you’ve left them so long they’ve become a bit obsolete (count this as a victory and tick them off!). Can you scratch some off the list, and focus on the ones that really do matter and just get them done and dusted?   The other important lesson for me in all this is that I often end up with lists in more than one place (notebook, post-its, some in the CRM, some in my inbox). How can I keep on top of a list when I have lists of lists?

2          Get ahead with the planning

Come the new year onslaught how are you going to cope?  Get busy with your diary to get ahead of that game.

  • Block out space for regular tasks in your schedule so they don’t get forgotten
  • Schedule in recurring and important meetings if they’re not already in place.
  • Go through project plans – are they up to date? If not, get on top of them, and anticipate where blocks of your time may be most in demand to complete tasks – get these in the diary (in pencil or its digital equivalent ‘tentative’– you can’t be inflexible but you can try and take control of your own workload)

3          Research

Your planning grid will probably reveal the need for some solutions or a bit of background reading – get ahead with this now.  Set up folders and bookmarks in your web browser so you can bookmark pages and easily refer back to them when you need them but start to think about where your knowledge gaps are now and find key resources that everyone will find useful in completing a project.   This is a good task to do with a cuppa (or even a cheeky middle of the day snifter) and some Christmas cake.

4          Turn off your email

This is the perfect time to get as much stuff done as you can without interruption.  It’s a great time of year to turn off your email and avoid being distracted by other things and just crack through some of the things you need to get done.

5          Keep an eye on the clock

If you’re the kind of person that’s early into the office and often gets involved in working until later to ‘just get this finished’, make a special point of not starting work until you are supposed to and finishing on time.  I promise this will feel a bit like a holiday in itself and no-one will even notice. It’s only a few days and you should only be working those hours anyway.  And if you’ve turned your email off too you’ll be amazed at what you get done in the ‘proper’ amount of time. It is interesting how much we think other people notice if we are at work late each day – some do but in the main, no-one cares about your hours – they care about your output and outcomes instead.

6            Clear down your inbox

Once you’ve done some solid graft, take some time to clear down your inbox.  This is one of my favourite things to do before I switch off for New Year if I have been working the time in between.   I love to delete or clear out as many emails as I can.  It is virtually impossible to have a completely clear inbox, but the feeling of being on top of things that you get from having a very lean inbox is very satisfying and I remain determined to keep it as clear as I can for as long as I can.  (end of the week, usually). It’s an important psychological switch for me. I bet there are things you’re hanging onto as they’re a reminder to do something – get them on your list instead- where they belong.

* It doesn’t matter where I’ve worked or at what level this is a truth universally acknowledged.

It’s just a phase …

Dan Lockeretz, Purple Vision Project Delivery Director shares his experience of delivering CRM implementation projects – something he’s done quite a lot of in the years he’s been a Purple Vision, and even before that in his previous life charity-side.  This is the second in a series from Dan explaining projet delivery issues. 

Turns out your family is pretty much right. About everything.  Darn it.

Remember ‘don’t bite off more than you can chew’ or ‘you’ll never manage all that’. They were right.  Not about your ability to eat the whole Christmas selection box (just me then?).  Same as they were right when they said “it’s just a phase”.

Not about your excellent taste in hairdos and clothing (just me again, then?).

But if they’d been talking about CRM implementation, they would have been absolutely bang on.

A phased approach

When considering how to blend the right CRM implementation approach for your organisation, we very much encourage a phased approach.

We advise that you start with the very minimum you need to, and then build on all the additional functionality in phased stages after that.  This is known as implementing the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) – “a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development

In the real world of CRM implementation, the MVP means delivering the system with the only the very essential feature in the first instance.

Moscow?! 

As part of any Discovery Phase, and during the collation of user stories, we would typically conduct a priority rating using the MoSCoW system.

  • Must have – essential features for success
  • Should have – should are essential features but not necessary to be delivered as immediately – they could be delivered as a second phase
  • Could have – typically these would be features that improve user experience or user satisfaction but aren’t functionally essential. If the budget will stretch to it
  • Won’t have / Would like (but probably won’t get!) – the key stakeholders agree that these are not part of the process because they are lowest payback, not immediately essential or perhaps more appropriate for a further development stage of the system (eg in a years’ time at review).

This begins the process of ascertaining what the MVP is that could be launched at the point of go-live.

This reduces the length of the initial phase, brings users on to the system as early as possible so they can actually see it and understand it, and it ensures a low priority requirement does not eat up time and budget in the first phase.

Add integrations … 

Similarly, with system integration, it is unlikely that all systems will need to be integrated in phase 1, so the process of prioritising the ‘Must Have’ points of integration applies here also.   We therefore recommend a phased approach to bringing in the different points of integration.

The downside to this approach is that it may not be completely understood how each area will be integrated or developed from the first point of go-live.

he risk therefore is that subsequent changes, additional costs, or difficult issues come up after the point at which the system is being used live.

This risk can be mitigated through thorough discovery and business analysis across all areas, so the understanding of those areas and requirements are well understood from the outset and the project team have less chance of being faced with a surprise requirement.

Think customer, not data

Quite rightly, when we think about data, the first thing we think about is data protection.  Security. The laws and regulations which govern how we store and secure customer details, compliance with laws, directives and regulation – or the codes of best practice – that we use in storing and securing customer details.

Add a few strong passwords, find an organisational data protection officer, add a dose of corporate responsibility and the right personal approach and you’re safe.  Phew!

But as other more erudite articles on this theme show, it’s not *quite* as easy as all that.

We’d like to add another dimension to the debate.

Data = customer

Data is the word mentioned first in the phrase data protection.

We think it’s because it’s the most important part. But where does it come from?

Data comes from our customers.

Data is about customers.

How we treat data, and our responsibility to it, is a reflection of how we treat our customers.

Data – and data protection – is as much about user experience and customer care as it is technical systems and compliance.

You may call the people in your organisation different things – customers, partners, prospects, stakeholders …. The words don’t matter. The sentiment does.

Surely this is all just semantics? 

It’s much easier to be animated, interested and excited about people than it is about data.   It’s easier to think about data protection if you are applying people to the process – this is about our customer, what’s the right thing to do for them?

And as for doing the right thing by them – here’s our 5 point roadmap to help you keep on top of your data

Silo the data silos

At the risk of sounding patronising, it’s really hard to look after data when it’s all over the place.  Data silos are common in organisations – donations and enquiries in one place, website and social media date elsewhere, perhaps even data about members and their registration data kept somewhere else.  Never mind our personal preferences for spreadsheets a plenty.

Part of your organisations roadmap should include integration of data.  This may not happen overnight but it should be a priority for many reasons.

The very first of these is that you cannot properly manage and use your organisations data – or support your customers – if information about them is in multiple places.   The second of these is that you’re not using a full 360 view of your stakeholders to make decisions if your data is not integrated.  You may be missing key changes or trends.

If it’s not on your list, chances are it won’t happen

Data needs to be looked after.  There are tasks to be done to keep it clean and in tip top condition, useable, current and informative. Let’s be very realistic, unless you’re some kind of Super-Manager, it’s very hard to keep on top of absolutely everything, and inevitably some of the tasks which are not seen as urgent or vital to move forwards, will move down the priority list.

I’d urge you to make weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual tasks relating to your data a priority.  A very simple reason is that the time it takes to do the task will become greater the longer you leave it.

If someone has been making a basic data entry error for 6 months, that’s a lot more knitting to unpick than a month’s work.

Pragmatically, for many of us while we know data is important, data tasks could be some of the little jobs that make our heart sink (all jobs have them) and don’t fill us with excitement.  All the more reason to deal with it when it’s small!  Make sure your data tasks are on your priority list.

Be on hand to help, monitor and manage

There are those of us that get excited about databases and systems.  Then there are the rest of the organisation who kind of know there’s a system, might have to interact with it but are not quite sure of what it is or why.

Sharing insight across the organisation helps everyone understand the relevance and importance of what’s in the system and how it can help you with your shared vision.

It also highlights you to the organisation as the person who carries the mantle for it and people can approach you for guidance more easily.

A champion is also useful for new starters  helping them get started and look after data in the right way, right from the beginning.

Stay enthused

The landscape we work in changes all the time – new tech, new programmes, new opportunities.  Not all of these will be relevant to you, but it’s important to keep an eye on the trends, innovations and updates that take place.

Find a blog you trust (this one is a great start!), and just scan it every week or so.

Keep in touch with your implementation partner or vendor – some may offer ongoing training or updates for clients.

Find ways to keep up with the new, fresh and exciting so you maintain your enthusiasm data, your systems and approaches and it isn’t something else ‘to do’ but is something else to grow and develop.

Health checks

Just as you will occasionally seek medical advice if there’s something wrong, you can do the same with your CRM.  If you have an issue, call the partner who helped you install it – you may have sensibly bought some after sales support from them, or they may be able to offer this to you on an ad hoc basis.  Healthcare is about prevention as well as cure.

An investment in the health of your system will help keep it working smoothly – and if you don’t have the time or expertise to manage it in house, you will need to recognise and allocate an ongoing sum to seek the help you need.

You’ve invested a lot of time and money in the system; don’t forget to protect your asset.

Find out more

Purple Vision offers health-checks for Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce as well as support with data, analytics and CRM.  Contact us to find out more.

 

 

 

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Internal barriers to fundraising success – the battle within

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. This is the fourth and final in the current series of blogs.

The battle within – internal barriers to fundraising success

In 15 years working as a fundraiser in charities large and small, the greatest challenges on most occasions were not

  • the economy
  • donor apathy,
  • difficulty finding and retaining good staff
  • having an emotive cause to tell donors about.

The most common –  and energy sapping  – challenge is gaining and retaining the co-operation of colleagues in other departments, senior management and trustees.

Don’t complain – get buy-in

Without emotional buy-in and practical commitment to fundraising from colleagues and volunteers, the fundraisers will always be working with one hand tied behind their backs.

The hurdles can take many shapes. They might include a lack of understanding or disinterest in donor’s needs, to low levels of co-operation when trying to get ‘raw material’ for your case for support. The most difficult to overcome is a wobbly or non-existent business plan, leaving you with no foundation for your case to donor ‘investors’.

I am not here to give fundraisers licence to complain to colleagues.

Ultimately you must work with what you can get. But fundraisers must express their professional needs (the tools you require to get the job done), firmly and constructively.

Time dedicated to creating an environment that is more friendly to fundraising, is time very well spent.

Let’s look at some of the reasons for this strife and some possible solutions.

  1. A misunderstanding of what fundraising truly is

Like a lot of fundraisers, I used to see myself as Robin Hood. Taking from the rich and giving to the needy. This is entirely wrong.

A fundraiser’s skill is in what they can GIVE to a donor, not what cash they can take.

Non-fundraising colleagues may see fundraising in a Dickensian vein – fundraiser as Oliver Twist with a begging bowl.

This view is even more damaging, as it describes a one-way process in which the person asking is totally lacking in power.  Who wants to be a beggar?

Too many charity staff view fundraising as a necessary evil, like having to call the plumber in to unblock a toilet!  No, no, no!

Fundraising it is at the very heart of this thing we call ‘charity’. It’s about making a precious connection between those with a need (beneficiary) and those with the means to meet that need (the donor).

It’s a fundraiser’s responsibly to promote this healthier and more accurate picture. There is no quick fix, but a fun and engaging fundraising induction process, for all staff and volunteers is a great place to start.

  1. Lack of professional respect

Within the voluntary sector, there are two kinds of professionals.

Those that work directly with services users / carrying out charitable purposes (social worker, scientist, teacher etc) and those who do a job in support of that first group (accountant, fundraiser, IT worker etc).

Almost without exception, the first category are looked on as ‘heroes’ within the charity (no problem with that!).

However, ‘support staff’ are too often taken for granted, or in the worst case, seen as a terrible ‘drain’ on income. This is nonsense. Of course overhead must be justifiable, but each half depends on the other to get results. Like two blades in a pair of scissors or two wings on a plane.

Fundraisers should lead the way in advocating for mutual respect across the departments, seeking to influence senior management and trustee behaviour in this area.  Creating ‘buddy’ links between teams can be an effective way to build respect and co-operation.

  1. Lack of commitment at senior level

If the first two factors exist, chances are that this third factor is in play too. It may be the cause or symptom. Either way, if your chair of trustees and CEO do not have much time or interest in the fundraising function, it will struggle to perform.  I say ‘function’ rather than fundraising. All CEOs and trustees are interesting in fundraising performance. Fewer, however, want to get involved in the process.

But involvement is essential. This is because fundraising is very much a team sport. To mix metaphors, there are certain ‘roles’ that have to be played by non-fundraising people. For example, a wealthy donor is going to want to meet the organ-grinder (not the monkey). There are few things more painful, for a fundraiser, that sitting alongside a bored CEO, across the table from a keen major donor prospect.

Then there is the budget round. Enthusiasm for and commitment to fundraising (in the good times and bad times) is essential to get the long-range investment needed to grow income, on a sustainable basis.To use a biblical phase, one should not “muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain”. Or to put it another way, its illogical and wrong to send the team that raise most (or all) of the money to the back of the queue, when resources are being distributed.

In terms of solutions, for those leaders that are not naturally enamoured by the prospect of going out into the world to ask for financial support, my advice is to appeal to issues closer to their heart. Make the connection between fundraising’s success and their pet interest.

 

As a consultant, I’ve worked with dozens of charities, varying hugely in size and cause, but one constant remains – those charities in which fundraising is valued as a professional skill-set and colleagues are well informed and co-operative, succeed.

Learn to love fundraising and it becomes the charity’s heartbeat.

Some recommended further reading:

  • ‘Relationshift’ Revolutionary Fundraising’ by by Michael BassoffSteve Chandler (Robert Reed Publishers) 2010. Simply the best book for debunking damaging fundraising myths.
  • ‘The Porcupine Principle’ by Jonathan Farnhill (pub. DCS) – Equally insightful and entertaining. Clearly explains fundraising’s role in the big picture.

About Purple Vision & Fundraising

Purple Vision has a long pedigree of fundraising – we say it’s part of our DNA.  Our expertise is in the intersection between fundraising and technology – translating both specialist areas into practical solutions.  But behind that is our vision to support charities to set the right direction and strategy to achieve their goals – on a day to day, weekly and monthly basis, as they stride towards achieving the big, hairy, audacious goal that is your vision and mission.   Our fundraising consultancy services cover a wide range of areas from the strategic and visionary to the practical and data driven. Our expert team speak fluent non-profit and are on hand to share their expertise as you need it.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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Trustees with pom-poms

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. This is the third blog in his series. 

Trustees with pom-poms: How to bring out the best in your ‘overlords’

The last article I read on trustees was a bit like a Spotter’s Guide to Rare Birds.

There were descriptions of the pecking ‘Critic’, the deafening ‘Know-it-all’, the shy ‘Quorate’ (just-making-up-the-numbers) and the ‘looking-backer’ with a memory like an elephant. You get the idea. Lots of fun, but not that helpful really.

Perhaps becoming a trustee myself, a few years ago, changed my point of view.  Suddenly, I became a lot more tolerant and understanding of my own trustees when I was doing my day job.  I now had the advantage of knowing what if feels like having to make life-changing decisions with scant information. Or to be more honest – having scan-read an excellent report by the CEO moments earlier in the car park.

The mode trustees operate in can and should flex from meeting to meeting and moment to moment, based on need.

For example, they may need to play the role of

  • Border Guard – enforcing boundaries
  • Ambassador – pressing the flesh at the gala dinner
  • Inspector – holding the Executive to account.

But the default position, in my view, should be

  • Cheerleader – close your eyes for just a minute and imagine your trustees with pom-poms in hand, going rah-rah-rah on the touchline.  Nice idea, isn’t it?  I am not saying trustees should give the CEO and staff an easy ride and praise them unceasingly. But their highest calling should be to encourage and support.

How do you bring these qualities to the fore in your Board?

What’s the driver?

My key advice is to understand what really matters to them, what motivates them to give up all this time for your cause.

Just like ‘normal people’, trustees have an iceberg quality to them – most of what there is to know is way below the surface. People become trustees for a very wide range of reasons. Getting to know your trustees outside of formal meetings is an essential way to unpack some of that. I don’t mean spending hours in the pub (although there’s nothing wrong with that).  It could be spending time with them, visiting a project. I’ve found in the past that long drives present a great time to talk honestly – in part, because there’s less need for eye contact and it feels less like an interview or confrontation.

Knowing what your trustees really care about helps you to frame your communications with them – written and verbal.  There is little point focusing on an area that means nothing to them – finding shared interests offers them a way to become your supporter.

Managing Expectations

Clearly defining what is expected of trustees also goes a long way to avoiding bad habits developing.  The Charity Commission have some excellent resources on the subject.  Beyond the legal obligations, the battle ground then becomes what sits under the ‘executive’ responsibilities and what sits under ‘governance’.

Sometimes it is black and white, but more often there are shades of grey and collaboration is essential.

NB – I have a useful diagram about that and will send your a copy if you ask nicely.

Read body language and react

This is a really useful bit of advice I have been benefiting from for years.

It’s a tell-tale bit of body language that lets you know someone is flexing their authority – Resting Hands Behind the Head with Elbow Jutting Out.  I call it the ‘Cormorant’ (Google for a picture). It’s usually interpreted as a sign of superiority or big-headedness, but it’s not quite as simple as that. It is certainly more common from middle-aged male chairs than any other category of person I’ve ever met or worked with.  In any case, when spotted, I wouldn’t quite say that you should disregard everything the person then goes on to say, but it certainly should set off alarm bells. If the chair and the CEO start doing it at the same time, it’s best to duck for cover!  And perhaps suggest a quiet drink so you can start the process of assessing interests and areas of activity that will have them waving pom-poms for you rather than causing major issues.

In short, poor relations between the CEO, Executive Team and the Trustees can be the quickest way to ruin an otherwise fantastic organisation – we can all think about organisations where this may be the case – either through direct experience or confidential conversations with charity-based colleagues.

Don’t let things fester.

Get expert support to help build a culture of cooperation and cohesion and have your ‘overlords’ waving pom-poms and supporting you every step of the way.

Some recommended further reading:

For a copy of Phillip’s grey areas diagram (described above) please email [email protected] referencing this blog.

About Purple Vision & Fundraising

Purple Vision has a long pedigree of fundraising – we say it’s part of our DNA.  Our expertise is in the intersection between fundraising and technology – translating both specialist areas into practical solutions.  But behind that is our vision to support charities to set the right direction and strategy to achieve their goals – on a day to day, weekly and monthly basis, as they stride towards achieving the big, hairy, audacious goal that is your vision and mission.   Our fundraising consultancy services cover a wide range of areas from the strategic and visionary to the practical and data driven. Our expert team speak fluent non-profit and are on hand to share their expertise as you need it.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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A handy ‘cut-out and keep’ guide to Vision, Mission and Values

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs.  This is the second blog in his series – more coming soon!  This series – tackling vision, mission and values.  

Your ‘Cut-out and Keep’ guide to charity Vision, Mission and Values (or VMV)

Even seasoned charity professionals can get into a pickle trying to explain the difference between their Vision and Mission statements. Get trustees involved in the discussion and add in Values and Ethos statements and it won’t be long before half the room is tied in knots and the other half is running for the door. But help is at hand!

Here is a short summary of useful definitions, you can cut-out and keep for the next time someone (maybe you) gets into a muddle.

Vision Statement 

A compelling and inspiring description of the difference the organisation will make, e.g. ‘A world in which every child has access to clean water’. This is about your charity’s aspirations and what it hopes to achieve in the longer term; maybe many years into the future. It should infuse the organisation with a sense of purposeful action and motivate others to commit their support.

In the corporate world, vision statements have a bad press – perhaps justifiably. Marketing teams for vacuum cleaners or toothpaste companies may find themselves desperately trying to make the every-day and banal into a ‘noble cause’. As a result, they often create meaningless, glib or even cynical phrases. But in the third sector, a vision for a changed world is what we are all about. So, we don’t need to gild the lily. You can be highly ambitious in your statement, so long as the need you aim to address is a genuine one. Just in case it is not already clear to you, your vision statement is NOT a vision for your organisation (“Operating nationwide by 2020”), but for the change you wish to effect in the outside world.

Mission Statement (or Purpose)

This is a declaration of the organisation’s core purpose. A mission statement answers the question, “why do we exist?”. It may sketch out the core activities you are committed to, for the foreseeable future, but shouldn’t try to be comprehensive or too rigid. However, to avoid too much abstraction, it helps to illustrate with practical examples of what you do. Your vision may change very little over time, but your mission may well need to adapt to account for changing needs, circumstances and opportunities.

Still not clear on the difference between ‘vision’ and mission’?  Try putting ‘ary’ on the end of each. A ‘visionary’ looks to the future and imagines what could be possible. A ‘missionary’ is someone who carried out the work to bring the vision into reality.

Values

These explain what we stand for and believe in. Principles, ideals and characteristics that define the culture, standards and aspirations of the organisation. e.g. ‘Professionalism’, ‘Ensuring Fairness’, ‘Working in Partnership’ or ‘Advancing Knowledge’, backed-up by the beliefs that underpin them and perhaps examples of how they will be lived out, both internally and externally.

It’s hard to be original, but avoid single words like ‘Passion’ or ‘Inspiring’ unless you can define them and make them specific. In reality, no one value will be unique to your charity. Your values ‘fingerprint’ comes from how you combine and define them.Values come from the beliefs held by leaders and founders, which are then adopted corporately.

A clearer expression of those beliefs might sometimes be set out in an Ethos statement; particularly in the case of faith-based charities.

Please don’t plaster your values statements on huge bill boards around the office. If you do, that is a sure sign they have made no impact and never will. Rather, they are for the more subtle processes of staff induction and appraisals and to help to inform your decision making.

It should be a sober thought that the true values of your organisation are those actually practised and modelled by the most senior members.

Changing, updating or adapting your Vision, Mission and Values (or Ethos) statements

If having looked at your vision, mission and values (or ethos) statements you feel that they are not up to the job, then commit to changing them. Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

• DON’T make the error of failing to check back to your charitable objects to see what, legally speaking, you are limited to doing.
• DO have a frank and open debate (trustees and executive together) about the strengths and weaknesses of your current statements and new needs.
• DON’T try to write them ‘by committee’, better to assign the job to a proper ‘word-smith’ in the team. Further feedback can then be taken.
• DO involve staff and volunteers, in test-driving prototype statements, but don’t try to make it a democratic process.
• DON’T use 20 words when 10 will do. In fact, every word has to be able to justify its space.
• DO use the most accessible language you can without ‘dumbing down’. If the statements need further explanation, then you’ve failed.

Tackling miss-matches and gaining consensus

It often helps to have an objective voice in the room, when tackling these sometimes thorny and emotionally loaded topics. I am biased of course, but I would recommend gaining the support of a seasoned consultant to help facilitate this process, to make it as pain-free and productive as possible.

Revising your ‘foundational statements’ should be much more than a cosmetic or marketing exercise. It can be the catalyst for re-invigorating your charity and super-charging your business plan.

About Purple Vision & Fundraising

Purple Vision has a long pedigree of fundraising – we say it’s part of our DNA.  Our expertise is in the intersection between fundraising and technology – translating both specialist areas into practical solutions.  But behind that is our vision to support charities to set the right direction and strategy to achieve their goals – on a day to day, weekly and monthly basis, as they stride towards achieving the big, hairy, audacious goal that is your vision and mission.   Our fundraising consultancy services cover a wide range of areas from the strategic and visionary to the practical and data driven. Our expert team speak fluent non profit and are on hand to share their expertise as you need it.  Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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Advice for a new Fundraising Director

Advice to a newly-minted Fundraising Director

Philp R B&W

 

Philip Roethenbaugh, a skilled fundraiser and our expert/go-to Associate Consultant for fundraising services shares his considerable knowledge with fundraisers via a series of blogs. 

 

 

Becoming the Fundraising Director of a national charity was a goal I set myself quite early in my career.

Once I attained this ‘lofty’ position, whilst my fundraising skills were well honed, the learning curve suddenly steepened. As the manager of a large department and a key member of the wider leadership team, new skills had to be learnt quickly and some old habits broken.

Whilst I suspect some things in life have to be learned through personal experiences (the hard way) there is room to benefit from the experience and mistakes of others.

My top 10 tips for new Directors of Fundraising

 

 1. Fully embrace your place at the ‘top table’ 

Don’t let misdirected humility and self-deprecation undermine your position of leadership. That’s no good for anyone. You’ve earned this, so don’t be intimidated. Your new peers may have more years experience, but never see yourself or operate as a ‘junior director’. Look into ‘imposter syndrome’ if this tip resonates. Fully play the role you’ve been given. Remember, you are always being watched! Your conduct and standards of behaviour can have enormous effects (positive or negative) on your team and the credibility of the organisation.

2. Consistently sell a vision for your department

Leave no-one on your team in doubt as to what standards are expected, both personal and professional. Deal with transgressions swiftly and consistently. Use a number of methods and situations to explain what success looks like. Be prepared to repeat yourself – often.

3. Really know you numbers (financials, fundraising targets, historical data etc)

There is often a lot of this to remember, so keep a summary with you at all times. Refer to it frequently, until the numbers are imprinted on your mind. Easy recall will enhance your authority within your team and across your peer group.

4. Trust your team of experts

You don’t have to be the guru of every fundraising technique. Hire the very best people you can afford, trust them to get on with their work, but remember you are entitled to question them and expect evidence for the conclusions they come to. Delegate the tasks, but never delegate responsibility for the outcome.

5. Manage upwards effectively

For starters, do follow the old adage of “under-promise and over-deliver”. But more than this, really get to the bottom of what your CEO deems is most important, beyond the obvious of hitting income targets. You need to influence the rules of the game. What could be (objectively speaking) a great year for your department, will not be seen as such if there is a mismatch between goals agreed at the star of the year and those achieved. Don’t allow yourself to be set up for failure by goals or targets that are not realistic and not suitably resourced.

6. Fight for investment in fundraising

Do your homework; build compelling evidence for your arguments. Repurpose those same powers of persuasion you use when inspiring donors to invest. Stand up against those that would starve fundraising, by a misplaced devotion to reducing all ‘overheads’ at all costs. See Dan Pallotta’s excellent TED talk on the subject for encouragement.

7. Use your political savvy

Understanding the political power dynamics within the trustee board is essential (See the last point). You can either be buffeted by them or harness them to achieve your goals and what is in the interests of the charity’s beneficiaries (mutually inclusive I would hope!). The key to this is getting to know each trustee personally to understand what motivates them. It may not be what you expect, or actually what they say it is. You’ll need to discern this yourself, partly based on their actions.

8. Be an internal ambassador for fundraising

Don’t expect other departments to appreciate or even understand what your team does. Get out there and share the good news of how fundraisers support them in achieving their aims. Demand equal professional respect between your team and those working directly with beneficiates. Each needs the other.

 9. Take action now for 2026

It is tempting to focus almost exclusively on this year’s needs. Be brave enough to lobby for the long view. What will the person in your chair in 10 years time be pleased you set in motion? A community fundraising programme, a robust legacy marketing cycle, a management training programme?

10. Get a mentor or coach

You may now be the most experienced fundraising practitioner within your charity. So if you haven’t done so already in your career, you’ll need to look outside to find the people to learn from, challenge you and enable you to reach higher.

11.  Relax and enjoy yourself!

I said 10 tips, but really there are 11 and this is important.  You’ve got one of the best jobs out there, one in which you can have an enormous impact on an important social issue, with people that share your passion.

 My recommendations for further reading:

• ‘How to Lead’ and ‘How to Manage’ two volumes by Jo Owen (pub. Prentice Hall). You’ll never look at management and leadership the same way again. Very practical, very clever, ideal for ongoing reference.

• ‘Four obsessions extraordinary executive’ by Patrick Lencioni (pub. John Wiley & Sons). I fully recommend working through Lencioni’s full works.

‘The Porcupine Principle’ by Jonathan Farnhill (pub. DCS) – Equally insightful and entertaining. Ideal to share with new recruits to fundraising.

Purple Vision and Fundraising

Purple Vision can help with fundraising requirements across the spectrum of technical, people-related and strategic.  Our services include:

We can help with full strategic reviews of your entire fundraising operation, or help you to focus on a key area you’re keen to develop.  We’ve been fundraising consultants since 2003, and our fundraising people are committed and passionate about supporting non profits to grow and achieve their full potential.

To find out more about fundraising services, call Keith Collins – Customer Solutions Director – via 0845 458 0250 or use our online contact form.

Resolutions – start, don’t stop!

It’s 2016!

Welcome back to work!  

Typically, things slow down a little for many in the non profit sector over the two week period of Christmas and New Year.  Not for all of us of course, as many who provide front line services have still been hard at work while the rest of us have wallowed in being indoors (enforced by weather and visiting relatives?) and had a chance to recover from 2015 and face down a whole new year.

For those of us who have had a chance to reflect on the past year and look at the new one ahead, I’m sure several things have come to mind.  Lots of personal things you’d like to do and plan to do this year – from big things like move, change jobs, move on with relationships, through to small stuff like promising yourself to not eat all the chocolates and eat more veggies instead.

Resolutions

I am not a fan of new year resolutions typically.  In the broadest possible terms, you can change anything you do – your attitude, behaviour, approach, how you dress, what you eat, whether you can be bothered to go to the gym – at any time of the year.  You don’t have to wait until the darkest month of the year to to it.  But New Year – linear calendar new year, or any other new year that you have –  is the one time you do get pause to reflect and so on one level it makes some sense.

But what are you reflecting on?

It’s fairly typical to hear people reflect on the more negative aspects of life and think about what they want to stop doing.  For example, if you want to stop smoking, lose weight.  On the face of it these are great goals, but they’re also huge.   It is very hard to stop something, particularly when parts of it may be out of your control.  It is much easier to change something or start to do something differently.

Start doing something instead

I’d like to ask you to flip your thinking.  I think you’ll find it more successful in the long run.  Start do do things instead of stopping doing things.  Its much easier to start afresh and with a new page – just look at the list you left on your desk at the end of last year.  It feels easier to start a new list on a new page than work through half completed scribbles.  The personal gaols like stopping smoking can work in the same way – you want stop of course, but does it sound easier to say  I will start having 20 cigarettes this week (rather than 30 or 25?).

And then starting with something and working towards it is easier to it.  It’s really hard to stop smoking full stop.  Not impossible, but hard.  If you keep trying and fail you’ll lose heart and are back to square one. Better instead to make small steps of progress towards your end goal – whether smoking, or another goal.

Some of this is about language and semantics.  Stop is negative.  Start of change is positive.  All of us respond better to positive feedback than negative – its easier to process and put in context.  So let’s use that knowledge to make positive differences in our life.

It is not always easy to start something or change something.  Sometimes stop sounds simpler to write.  But take the time to make that a more positive frame for yourself.   I’d start by writing your list out – whether work or personal to do.  Then look at how you can flip it – what is in your control to achieve? What behaviour or action do you need to do differently to be able to deliver the change you want to see?  How can you plan for this?  Are there steps and milestones along the way?  What do you think might happen to get in the way of you achieving what you want to?  How can you mitigate that risk?

There are hosts of reasons why we don’t do what we say we’ll do 

There are hosts of reasons why we don’t achieve what we know we should – or want to achieve.  When you’re making plans, you’re in a different place than when you’re delivering the work – that’s when you’re stressed, tired and while doing the work not always doing it with enthusiasm, passion and commitment.  Real life gets in the way too – who can be 100% when you’re concerned about getting the boiler fixed or a sick relative, or worried about money.  Be realistic when you’re planning things – but still push yourself to excel.

These reasons that get in the way of success are never going to stop.  It is *always* going to be this busy – and get busier in real life and work life.  We are going to have find ways to cope.  I think we all recognise in ourselves that we think ‘I’ll get past this piece of work then take some time to plan‘.  And I think we can all recognise that this time probably doesn’t happen.  You’re already into the next thing.  If you thought like this last year about getting organised, why do we think that this year is going to be any different?  I think we’ll make more progress if we realise that this is how it is now – there’s no point hanging out for a break in the pressure of work to get organised.  You have to do it now, while the modern madness of phone, email, web, home, work, balance – stress – is going on around you.

We have to adjust to this, or ultimately we personally will lose out – lose opportunities, lose personal time to stress and worry, let work take over personal space.   It doesn’t mean roll over and do everything.  It means adjust our approach to deal with it.

It sounds harsh and negative and like we’re all under pressure the whole time.  But I think if we face up to the fact that this is how the world mostly works now, its easier to deal with.  We can wish it was different of course, but if we bury our heads in the sand about it and dream of a time when we are able to have time between projects, tasks, every day pressures, then I think we are not being realistic or honest with ourselves about how the world around us has changed.  It is certainly like it in the commercial world, and all the signs are there in the non profit world that these pressures are getting worse – lots of conversations last year.  A great signal is when someone asks you how you are, and you reply ‘busy’.  Busy is not the right response.  Fine, thanks.  Just getting over a cold.  Feeling great, actually. These are responses to an enquiry about your health and well-being (however much as Brits we realise this is not a time to actually tell someone how you are ….). Saying busy is a sign that you’re not really paying attention to that question and are thinking about all the other things on your list that need to be achieved.

If you don’t recognise any of those pressures, you are lucky.  Do what you can to keep things as they are.

What’s all this got do with work?

A happy you is a productive you.  You’ll be happier and more productive at work if you feel more in control of your time, work and approach.  Your boss will be happier and you’ll receive better feedback if you deliver what you agreed and are mindful of your colleagues.   Being an active participant in life at home and work makes you a better, happier person who is able to manage to live both to their fullest – and do more than ‘just survive’ the year ahead and keep your head above water. No-one wants to live like that.

My four simple things for 2016 to be better personally and professionally

On the face of it, none of these things I plan to start doing this year are either innovative or particularly hard to achieve.  But I know that I didn’t optimise my time last year around these areas, so by starting to do this will make a positive difference on the year ahead.   I always reflect on life a lot when it comes to my birthday time and I count how well I feel I am doing with the passing of the years and whether I am happy with where I am and what I am doing – so I know I will be able to assess whether this is having an impact later in the year and will be able to look at what else I can do to achieve things.  I’m happy to share my four key things and be held accountable for them by sharing them publicly.

Everything about our jobs in non profit is about making the world a better place to be for the beneficiaries we work with.  But I think we can only really do that when we are also being the best we can be in our own lives too.  So my work/personal ‘hacks’ for the year ahead are really really simple and will help me cope with a rapid pace of change.

  1. The daily list – a clean page every day.  No recriminations for not doing everything on the previous days list, just a new start, every day.
  2. Take lunch – whether you get a half hour or an hour, this is critical time to mark out in your calendar.  It’s a win-win for you and your employer as it means you know you can make time to call about the gas bill or catch up with personal email and concentrate on work when you should.   It is also a great time to get some air and take some exercise.  If you’re too busy or have too many commitments to get to the gym, even a 10-15 min walk every day will make a difference to your health, and your ability to do your work.  Sit back down at your desk with a clear perspective on what to achieve in the afternoon.  Most of us don’t have life and death jobs, so can really do this.  How many of us do?
  3. One life, one schedule – Of course, personal and work appointments are not the same but your life is a whole and our ‘new ways of working’ often blur distinctions.  I’m going to try a  whole life planning approach and use only one system to record actions and plans.  Update or synchronise your work calendar to your personal calendar or vice versa and you’ll never again be making an excuse for an important late meeting as you forgot you had parents evening.  Use the same way of keeping notes or reminders  (Google Keep, MS One Note, Ever-note etc) or find a sync between them so you can easily jot down things you remember (like the need to call a colleague about a project while you’re in the supermarket, or make a call about the gas bill when you’re in the midst of a conference call).  I think ultimately this will save time and mean I am able to be focused when I have the time to commit to small or big tasks at home or at work with minimal distraction or loss of focus on either.
  4. Be more focused – as many jokes as apply about being able to properly multi-task, there can come a time when you have 10 tabs and 10 sheets open and you enter the wrong thing in the wrong place or all the tasks somehow take all day to achieve. Some tasks need focus and attention.   I think that by recognising this, I will be able to achieve things more quickly and use less mental energy in the process as I try and remember what I am trying to juggle.   If you have a ‘stop doing too much’ goal or resolution – this would be the flip positive approach.

 

Here’s to a healthy, happy and productive 2016.