Archive for July, 2013

Robbins emphasizes awareness and consistency in management

“Great leadership is actually the little things done consistently,” says bestselling author James Robbins in our CausePlanet interview.

I first saw Robbins’ Nine Minutes on Monday when I read the Top 10 business books of the year in The Globe and Mail news. The title of this number-one ranked book resonated with me because we all want to make the most of our time or even kid ourselves that we can beat the clock. Though, I should remind you to consider the source of this blog. Our tagline at CausePlanet is, after all, “where nonprofit leaders get smarter faster.” So when a book title mirrors my obsession with maximizing time, I can’t help but read it.

Author James Robbins delivers on his title promise: Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader. Throughout the course of this book, you will “learn a simple system to help you bring out the best in your employees, enabling them to produce results without adding hours of tasks to your plate.

Robbins’ model “is founded on nine key questions to ask yourself each Monday morning during your leadership planning time. Each question is tied to one of the nine drivers of employee engagement and will help you create small actionable goals that will inspire and motivate your staff.”

I asked Robbins in our CausePlanet interview about the differences readers experience after absorbing his principles as well as what readers will be most surprised to discover:

CausePlanet: Hi, James. I really enjoyed reading your book. I took a lot of notes in the margins and your book is already showing wear and tear after one reading! When someone applies the principles you discuss in your book, how would you describe the macro differences they’ll experience in their own behavior as managers?

Robbins: The biggest change they will notice is an increase in their awareness. I call awareness the quintessential skill of managers. If you have a clear picture of what is going on around you, nine times out of ten you will know what to do. Our problem as managers is that we get so busy with and focused on all the little tasks and details that we forget to lift our heads up and see what’s going on around us. Nine Minutes on Monday helps managers create the habit of awareness.

CausePlanet: What will our readers be most surprised to discover in your Nine-Minute process for Mondays?

Robbins: Readers will be most surprised by the simplicity of the concepts. Often when I speak, someone will tell me she has heard all this before. Knowledge is usually not our problem, but rather it’s a lack of execution regarding the basics that is. Great leadership is actually the little things done consistently. Nine Minutes helps you by creating new habits without adding a lot of extra time and tasks to your already-full plate.

How often are you tending to your leadership responsibilities? How do you maintain consistency?

CausePlanet members: Don’t forget to register for our next live author interview with Tom Wolff, who trains and consults in collaborative solutions. We’ll discuss the essential principles he explores in his book The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six Principles and Effective Tools for Building Healthy.

See also:

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work

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Leave Shakespeare out of your planned giving

“If planned giving is so good for both nonprofit organizations and the donors who support them, why don’t more organizations have a planned giving program?” asks author Michael Rosen in Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

This book addresses all the myths about planned giving that might be holding you or your organization back from tremendous opportunities. This comprehensive look at planned giving provides useful information that will help charities get started or established nonprofits refresh their approaches to achieve greater results.


Michael Rosen’s Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing looks in detail at how to promote planned gifts on behalf of your organization. While many Americans have the ability to make a planned gift, the research reveals that few have actually done so and that many more are willing to consider this type of giving. Rosen explains this condition means two things:

“First, there is a significant gap in what traditional planned-gift marketing is achieving and what people are willing to consider. Second, traditional planned-gift marketing is just scratching the surface of planned giving potential.”

I asked Heidi Hancock, a partner at Mosaic Non-Profit Development, who oversees strategy and operations for the Boston-based consultancy to join us for a guest interview about Rosen’s book.

CausePlanet: Do you agree with Rosen’s five myths about planned giving and would you add any to them based on your experience in the field with clients?

Hancock: Absolutely, those five myths are pervasive when it comes to planned giving. I find Myth One (planned giving is very difficult) and Myth Two (one needs to be a planned giving expert to be involved in gift planning) are enough to stop 90 percent of causes from pursuing planned gifts. I would add, “I can’t talk to my donors about making a planned gift because it means my cause is looking forward to their demise” to the planned giving myth roster.

Planned giving offers such creative ways for a donor and a cause to work together to achieve a donor’s personal goals alongside an organization’s goals. These goals are often reached during the donor’s lifetime. Not all planned gifts come about like a Shakespearean tragedy where everyone dies. Some of my favorite planned giving stories demonstrate tremendous impact; benefit the donor, his/her family and the cause; and nobody dies to make it happen!

Join us for our next installment with Heidi Hancock about Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. We’ll feature her answer to what readers will be most surprised to learn in Rosen’s book.

Are you guilty of believing one of the myths discussed in this post? If not, what else is stopping you from inviting your donors to consider a planned gift?

CausePlanet members: Register now for our next author interview with branding expert and author, Jocelyne Daw, on Wednesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. CST. We’ll discuss her book Cause Marketing: Partner for Purpose, Passion & Profits.

Not a member yet? Get smarter faster and learn more about access to our summary library and author interviews or try us out and download a free sample or purchase single titles that interest you at our store.

By Denise McMahan

See also:

Our summary store for titles about fundraising

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Naysayers, roadblocks, and ways forward: Building consensus around your fundraising plan

This was originally posted at

Last week, Ann and I attended a great session of our Consultant Leadership Forum at the Denver Foundation. It’s a group of about 30 consultants – from a variety of backgrounds – who serve the nonprofit sector in our area.

We gather once every couple of months and our conversation generally centers around a particular book or article.  The sessions are curated by CausePlanet (and if you haven’t checked out their great site, it’s chock FULL of wonderful resources).

Last week we talked about the book Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down by John P. Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead.  It’s all about how you present your ideas and work them through to consensus.

Sound like something that fundraisers need to think about?  We’d say YES!

The best fundraising programs are constantly reinventing. While we always want to use best practice and learn from testing, we also need to look for new ways to engage and deepen our relationships with our donors.

But very rarely in a nonprofit organization are you able to implement fundraising ideas without generating consensus around them.  And as fundraisers if we don’t generate buy-in for our ideas, who gets the blame when they don’t work? We do.

And rightly so. Because if done properly, fundraising speaks volumes about the ethos, character, and potential of the organization.  A bad fundraising strategy can boomerang back to the whole organization and give it a black eye.  It needs to be properly vetted.

But generating buy-in for fundraising ideas doesn’t come easy.  To begin with, people are often skeptical at best, hostile at worst, about fundraising.  Add to that a few misconceptions and a dose of  “that’s too much work” and you’ve got yourself a big fat zero – the status quo.

In our practice, we work hard to build consensus around fundraising ideas.  We try to get as many people as possible to put ideas on the table.  And then we use our experience to craft a vision and strategy that is then taken back to various constituencies and we ask them to improve it, punch holes in it, make it better.

What we emerge with is a better, stronger, fundraising plan that everyone feels they own.

Along the way, we find that there are plenty of “naysayers” as the authors Kotter and Whitehead call them and they are the folks who can derail buy-in (generally unknowingly) through four strategies:

1.  Idea killer: This is when irrelevant facts are introduced that muddy the conversation enough so that people are bewildered and move away from the idea.

Roadblock: We see this most often when people who have been in an organization for a long time bring up something similar to the new idea that was tried before.  They can throw all kinds of information into the process about something that no one remembers and so can’t refute.

Way forward: If this happens, we try to “park” the past and encourage the group to go back to real data to draw lessons from what really happened.

2.  Death by delay: This is when people balk at new ideas because they seem like too much work.  It’s the “we have too much on our plate already” line of thinking.

Roadblock: This is a typical one in fundraising and nonprofit work.  We’ve all heard this, right?

Way forward: The way we deal with this tactic is to give people a magic wand: “What would it take for this to happen?”  “Let’s pretend we had all the resources and time in the world. How do rate that idea now?”

3.  Fear mongering: This is when something emotional is brought up in the conversation that stops movement and raises anxiety.   It’s basically pushing hot buttons.

Roadblock: We see this a lot in the form of “this other organization sent me something like this and I hated it” or “This won’t work, I never answer the telephone and no one else does either.”

Way forward: We actually do an exercise where we ask people to stand up and repeat after us, “We are not the donor”.  We encourage decision-making based on facts, numbers, and our own unique donor audience, not on how we feel about fundraising personally.

4.  Ridicule and character assassination: This is when someone plants doubting seeds about the person whose idea it is. “No one else does this” or “you don’t know that” are two variations on this theme.

Roadblock: This doesn’t seem to happen that often directly in our experience, but insidious comments (that you aren’t quite sure how to take) are common and ideas are much more readily accepted if it’s someone who is at the top of the organization than further down the ladder.

Way forward: This is why it’s so important to gather all different points of view.  The best ideas come from the front lines and the front desk.  The top doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas, so we make sure everyone is heard.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In our Consultant Leadership Forum session, we discussed the idea of actually putting these four roadblock behaviors up for discussion before we even begin any sort of process. Maybe if we started by naming them, we’d all be more conscious. So few of us are even aware that we are doing these things.

In fact, I KNOW that I have been guilty of a few myself!  How about you? Have you had any experiences with fundraising naysayers?  How did you work around it to build consensus?

See also:

Ideas we discussed during the session: CLF.PeerIdeasBuildingBuyIn.July18.2013

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Toss your crusty plan and embrace a fresh approach

If you’re like some Boomers and Traditionalists, you may be asking “What’s all the fuss about Millennials?” If you’re a Gen X-er, you may be tired of hearing all the fuss since you’re sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials—both very large and vocal. No matter when you were born, if it was prior to 1979, you have to put away your crusty plan because the “next greatest generation” is here.

We’ve recently featured Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement by Kari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann in our summary library of recommended reading. Cause for Change is a compelling read about reasons for including Millennials in your strategic planning. It not only reinforces what we’ve read in Fundraising and the Next Generation, it provides a framework we introduced in my last post.

When I asked Saratovsky and Feldmann about some of these crusty attitudes and the rationale for engaging Millennials rather than asking them to adapt, Dunn-Saratovsky answered in the following way:

CausePlanet: If older generations (Boomers and Traditionalists) ask why they should accommodate Millennials’ workplace preferences versus asking Millennials to adapt to current organizational culture, what is the rationale you would recommend our readers share?

Dunn-Saratovsky: The Millennial Generation is now the largest age group, outnumbering even our Baby Boomer parents. The majority of Millennials came of age during the first decade of the 21st Century and it was at this same time that rapid advancements in technology were also taking place.

But beyond just a comfort and familiarity with technology, Millennials are bringing a different set of values and characteristics into the workplace and creating a change in how work gets done. Millennials tend to work more effectively in teams and oppose hierarchical structures; they crave transparency and feedback, good or bad; and want to challenge the status quo and exercise their entrepreneurial spirit. These changes in the workplace if embraced by organizational leadership can help all generations come together, ultimately leading to stronger organizations and better performance in the community.

Millennials’ social mindset is also a significant factor. A report released last year by Net Impact showed most Millennials said having a job that makes a social impact on the world is an important life goal. In fact, students said it was more important than having children, a prestigious career, being wealthy, or being a community leader —ranking only below financial security and marriage. This mindset is something that is important for organizations to recognize as Millennials are taking jobs that may pay less but have a greater social return.

Do you discuss how to engage Millennials in your strategic plan? If not yet, why? If so, tell us about it.

Save the date for our live interview with coauthor Kara Saratovsky on September 12 at 11 a.m. CST when we discuss how to cultivate and communication with the “next greatest generation.”

CausePlanet members: Register now for our next author interview with branding expert and author, Jocelyne Daw, on Wednesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. CST. We’ll discuss her book Cause Marketing: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits.

Not a member yet? Get smarter faster and learn more about access to our summary library and author interviews or try us out and download a free sample or purchase single titles that interest you at our store.

See also:

Fundraising and the Next Generation

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia

Image credit: Oh Geez Design

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PODCAST: Should nonprofits own or lease their space?

Special thanks to Richard Linzer for the author interview and lively discussion last week about Cash Flow Strategies. We covered a lot of interesting ground with our listeners and one area in particular was the discussion about owning or leasing your office space.

For those of you who are not familiar with Cash Flow Strategies, it is a simple and easy approach that involves using cash flow for budgeting, forecasting and monitoring. This book shows readers how cash flow analysis can resolve complex problems and allow you to formulate strategies that enable your organization to achieve more mission for less money.

Additionally, Richard and Anna Linzer present bold methods for acquiring much-needed capital and specific examples of how other nonprofits have compensated for gaps and appropriated surpluses in revenue.

Learn more about Cash Flow Strategies in our Page to Practice summary library and summary store . Or you can purchase the book and accompanying CD with a Cash Flow Forecaster and Real Estate Calculator at the Linzer’s website . There you’ll also find their additional books including Money Matters! A Kit for Nonprofit Board and Staff Members, It’s Easy! Money Matters for Nonprofit Managers, It’s Simple! Money Matters for the Nonprofit Board Member and The Cash Flow Solution.

CausePlanet members: If you missed this interview about Cash Flow Strategies, download the archive. Register now for our next live interview with Jocelyne Daw about Cause Marketing: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profit

Not a member yet? Learn more about our summary library of recommended reading, live interviews and interview archives.

See also:

Cash Flow Solutions

Nonprofit Sustainability

Zone of Insolvency

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Engage the “next greatest generation”

“Even though Millennials are the next generation of donors and constituents, leaders spend far more resources focused on maintaining their existing supporters rather than trying to cultivate new ones—so much so, that they cannot see beyond their current donor strategies and systems to a future where those supporters are no longer around,” assert the Cause for Change coauthors, Karatovsky and Feldmann.

There is a reason the authors call Millennials the “next greatest generation.” They stand to inherit the largest transfer of wealth; they are larger in size than the Boomer generation; they were raised on community service; and they put their money where their mouths are—with speed and efficiency online, no less.

Nonprofit leaders cannot afford to put next generation engagement on the back burner. Millennials stand to positively affect the world around them, so much so that organizations that waffle will be left behind. We asked Karatovsky and Feldmann a question about their engagement platform and about managing expectations in our interview. Feldmann answered these two particular questions.

CausePlanet: Your Millennial Engagement Platform is a central framework you touch on throughout the book. Will you explain why this framework is important for your readers to apply and its relationship to culture?

Feldmann: It was important for us to provide readers with actionable steps to be Millennial-ready. Regardless of size or resources, every organization can adopt certain strategies to take the first step in connecting with Millennials. After this initial connection, the organization can develop deeper and more meaningful engagement that ultimately builds toward culture change within institutions. We structured the Millennial Engagement Platform on a set of principles we call BUILD. An organization must: 1) Be unified as an organization in working with this generation. 2) Understand the complexities of this generation’s environment. 3) Identify those seeking to make a difference. 4) Lead through engagement rather than participation. 5) Determine what Millennial success looks like to your organization.

CausePlanet: What are the best ways to manage (board and executive) expectations when it comes to Millennial engagement and/or fundraising campaigns?

Feldman: Boards should look at Millennial engagement from a lens of participation and action rather than dollars. I know this is not the answer most boards want to hear. Before estimating potential dollars raised, we should focus on how many will like or retweet campaign messaging, share it with their peers and ultimately give. We know Millennials are giving in small amounts to roughly five organizations every year. Therefore, the goal should be for organizations to take a constituent engagement approach with giving as a pinnacle action of such engagement. This means that our expectations of Millennials being “givers” in the immediate is unlikely but will happen over time.

Join us next week when I ask the authors about the single most important takeaway they hope readers consider when engaging Millennials.

Save the date for our live interview with coauthor Kara Saratovsky on September 12 at 11 a.m. CST when we discuss how to cultivate and communication with the “next greatest generation.”

CausePlanet members: Register now for our next author interview with branding expert and author, Jocelyne Daw, on Wednesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. CST. We’ll discuss her book Cause Marketing: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits.

Not a member yet? Get smarter faster and learn more about access to our summary library and author interviews or try us out and download a free sample or purchase single titles that interest you at our store.

See also:

Fundraising and the Next Generation by Emily Davis

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia by Brad Szollose

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