Random Thoughts on Life and Work

November 18, 2015

Care About Your Impact

Filed under: Non-Profit,Strategy,Work — Darren Mullenix @ 8:52 am
Tags: , ,

Seth Godin’s blog post for today was too good to not share.

I have worked with organizations that fall on both sides of the spectrum described in his post. And from what I have seen, those organizations that get it – the organizations that value the work their people do over the adherence to a set of prescribed actions – have a far more engaged and healthier team.

While some of the responsibility is on us to choose our tribe wisely, it is also a principle that organizations can use to impact their culture and drive the end result. As a leader, which set of instructions do you give to your team? Individually, what set of instructions do we tend to gravitate towards? One comes with continuing challenges. The other becomes rote.

I don’t need to say much more. Check it out here. Think about it.

February 1, 2012

Hard Choices

Filed under: Charities,Charity,Management,Non-Profit,Strategy,Work — Darren Mullenix @ 8:45 am

Had a difficult day recently. In a strategic shift for our department, we eliminated a position. It meant informing a staff member that she would no longer have a position with us. We had been wrestling with this for some time and finally got clarity on which way we wanted to proceed. Hated it. But it is necessary.

Brings me to the question of the day. How do you make those challenging decisions? Do you find them easy? We went through the following process:

1. Is the current strategy something we need to continue? (Lots of evaluative work done here.)
2. If no, why not?
3. Is there a more pressing need within the department and our overall context within the organization?
4. Define the need.
5. Can the current position holder fill the new role?
6. If yes – easy decision. If no – hard decision.

Now we begin the process of moving forward.

March 15, 2011

What Do You Bring?

Filed under: Charities,Charity,Management,Non-Profit,Strategy,Work — Darren Mullenix @ 8:29 am

An interesting post this morning by Seth Godin on his blog.  You can see it HERE.

When work becomes “just a job” why do you stay?  Security?  Fear?  Lack of motivation?

Maybe it is time to ask yourself, “Why?”  Why am I still here?  Why is this job important?  Why will my coworkers miss me if I leave?  Will my coworkers miss me?

I’ve been on an interesting ride lately and not sure what to make of it.  Working in a non-profit can be both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.  There’s a “call” to make a difference in the world.  That’s what brought me here.  But what am I bringing to the organization?  And is it valued and needed?  If not, maybe I should take it somewhere else.

It’s more than just doing a good job.  Anyone, with just a little bit of effort, can do that.

What do you bring?

March 5, 2011

When Too Many Are Involved . . .

Filed under: Non-Profit,Philanthropy,Strategy — Darren Mullenix @ 8:41 am

Had an interesting experience a few days ago that I thought I would share.  I’m still working through the thought process and haven’t completely decided if I am irritated or just shrugging my shoulders.

We brought in a guy to interview for a development position that we have open.  The position is a bit of a hybrid as it has to work within the development office but also interface with one of the specific ministry areas.  So the interview process is a bit weird to begin with.

The schedule was set for the day with the candidate meeting with different small groups of staff.  Now here is where it got strange.  The first meeting, which I was part of, was set with three of the development team and one person from our HR department.  Doesn’t sound too bad yet.  A couple of opening questions from the HR person.  Not too bad still.  More questions from the HR person.  And more.

And as he kept asking questions, he lead into areas where he really has no expertise and background.  I think overall, the development staff, who will have to work with the candidate, got about three questions in during the hour that we met.

I spoke afterwards with at one of the other development staff in the meeting and he expressed the same frustration.

Some suggestions for interviewing prospective staff:

  1. Set up a schedule that make sense, taking into consideration the nature of the position for which the candidate is being interviewed.
  2. Compartmentalize.  Allow the working team to meet with the candidate.  If other departmental areas will be meeting with the candidate, do that on their own schedule.
  3. Spend adequate time on a debrief afterwards.  Thoroughly discuss strengths and weaknesses that different members of the working team discover.
  4. Develop some baseline questions but allow the discussion with the candidate to flow in what I would call “directed natural” conversation.
  5. Make sure the staff who are involved in the interview process are appropriate for the level of candidate (i.e.  a receptionist should probably not be involved in the interviewing a vice-president).  That seems like a “duh” statement but you’d be amazed at what some people think is an appropriate 360 interview.

Actually, truth be told, I am a bit annoyed about the process this week.  I realize, in this situation there was much happening behind the scenes that many of us weren’t aware of.  But I hate wasting my time!

December 5, 2007

First Response

Your switchboard.  Your receptionist.  The first visible/audible face/voice that a person interacts with when contacting your organization.  (For purposes of this post I am not going to deal with response center issues.)  How many of us in the non-profit world give much thought to that donor/constituent experience.  I think we often default into two camps – the first being technology driven (let’s install systems with automated attendants) and the second being lowest common denominator thinking (let’s just get an entry level person to answer the phone).

We had a unique opportunity presented to us to reposition the switchboard/receptionist team from under the facilities department to the donor care department.  Needless to say, we jumped on it.  Our focus is to provide a top flight experience for any caller or visitor to the organization.  Now, I will admit that for many organizations budget does play a role in determining the strategy that is taken.  But I would make the argument that this is one area that you can’t afford to cut corners.  An individual who calls the organization to ask a question, make a gift, talk to a counselor, etc. and receives poor treatment will not be inclined to call again.  And it doesn’t have to be a rude response on the phone.  It can be a simple sigh as the call is answered, a confusing jumble of menu options, or a heavy accent that can turn someone away.

Think about it.

October 26, 2007

The Wired Advocate – A Follow-up

Overcoming inertia in a nonprofit can be particularly difficult.  This stems from many sources but is most often expressed in the sentiment, “We’ve always done it this way.”  As a good friend of mine often says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results.” 

Starting small with some test runs can be a great way to get past the initial ‘disbelief’ that making use of new tools will have value for the organization.  Here are some thoughts to consider:

  1. Recognize that you will likely make a mistake along the way.  The initial run may not be perfect.  That’s okay.  Learn from it, remember it, move on.
  2. At the same time, remember that quality is still important.  You can’t have a poor appearance and expect great results.
  3. Determine what you want to measure to determine success.  Dollars raised may not be the correct measurement.  Especially with your first few attempts.
  4. Remember, your audience is going to be different (probably) than your organizational website.  That’s why you are doing this.  Expanding your reach.
  5. Because of #5, don’t just repeat your website.  Provide something different, in a different tone, different appearance, etc.
  6. “Build it and they will come” is not necessarily true.  You will need to promote your applications.  Expand  your reach.  Think outside of the box.

Plan on building slowly.  Once you have established your metrics, go wider.  Determining who in the organization will be ‘responsible’ for the ongoing development and management of the interaction will come with experience.  Successful 2.0 applications will likely develop conversations with your constituency.  You need to be prepared to respond so somebody should be the designated communicator.

Hope that helps.

October 25, 2007

The Wired Advocate

Michelle Martin over at Bamboo Project has written a great post about the “Wired Fundraiser.” 

Point #2 – Not Every Wired Fundraiser Is A Champion – is important to note.  However, I would add a correlary that additional storytelling in the marketplace is a good thing.  No matter if one person or 50 people hear it.  And the advantage to the ‘wired process’ is its cost effectiveness.  In the end, what has it truly cost the organization to have someone tell the story for them? 

She hits the nail on the head with point 4.  Smart Charities Embrace the Wired Fundraiser.  Many charities struggle with the issue of control of the message.  It is difficult to lay your message in the hands of others and let them tell your story.  But done correctly, this can be a huge gain for your organization, more than offsetting any potential minimal damage that might be done.

Check it out.

July 25, 2007

Project SharePoint – Round 2

Filed under: Charities,Charity,Management,Non-Profit,Software,Strategy — Darren Mullenix @ 7:37 am

I figured it was about time to keep my proimise to update you periodically about our implementation of SharePoint. 

SharePoint is up and running and our IS team has tweaked the DNS records to allow for simple access to the site without having to remember a big long URL.  Just a nice one word access to the site.  The following pieces are being used at this point:

  • Calendar – at this time limited to a group calendar for tracking days in and out of the office.
  • Wiki – this is probably the biggest piece as we continue to load in all of the organization’s projects and cross-reference them as relevant.  This is taking the most work at this point.
  • Shared Documents – departmental procedures have been uploaded into a convenient spot so that anyone can access the procedures without having to hunt through a confusing array of folders and subfolders.

The rollout is slow for a couple of reasons.  I want to make sure that we run it through a bunch of testing to see how it is going to function before opening it up to the majority of the staff.  Secondly, we have had some challenges in the department that have taken some focus away from the development so things have slowed a bit.

 I will say this – the biggest advantage that I can see for our application of SharePoint is the Wiki functionality.  Since this application is staying inside the firewalls, there is not a need for external sharing and some of the functionality is more than we need.

Anyway, onward we go.

July 18, 2007

Who Is Telling Your Story?

Or maybe more accurately, who is telling stories about you?

I was recently doing some surfing to find web references to my employer and discovered some interesting things.  Not that this is particularly new to anyone reading this space or other blogs in the list to the right.  If you aren’t telling your story in as many places as possible, it is likely that somebody else will be telling stories about you.  And yes, there is a distinction. 

The information that you post on Wikipedia about your organization may be consistently different than information that is posted about you by someone else.  If you allow another individual to control your story, you may be sorry. 

And what about Facebook?  Same thing.  Allowing others to dictate the interaction may not be what you want.

Now, I am not saying that you bite the hand that feeds you.  Actually, what needs to be done is create a consistent, accurate access point to your organization.  And then let your donors and constituents make use of the information.

Do you have a FaceBook group created?  Maybe you should think about how you might make use of the space to inform, encourage, and motivate your donors.

Do you monitor Wikipedia to see what is being posted on your space.  It is, after all, an encyclopedia that provides information about your organization.  Has someone done a “dump and run” on your space?  Go clean it up.

Is someone posting your media files to places like YouTube, BrightCove or other hosting sites?  Plan a release strategy that beats them to the punch and grabs viewers back to your website.

Hopefully this helps to stimulate some thinking about making use of the spaces that are available to you.  Take the time to search various locations.  You might be surprised at what you find out about yourself.

June 20, 2007

Control vs Enablement

In “enablement” even a word?  Hmmm. 

I recently ran into the wall (again) regarding the issue of control of how donations are “collected” and how donors are acknowledged.  I am a little puzzled by the response but I do understand it in a way. 

A donor recently set up a fundraising page using FirstGiving.  The donor and her spouse were off to run a marathon and thought it would be a great way to raise money for their favorite cause.  I would hazard a guess that many readers are quite familiar with FirstGiving and similar sites.   Their goal was a modest $3,000 and I think to-date they have raised about $2,500.  The event was in early May.  (A minor critique of FirstGiving – I didn’t know the donor had done this until the first check arrived.  FG should set a notification system to help charities be aware of what is being done on their behalf.)

So now we have money coming in, opportunity to respond to the supporters of this couple, but I am trapped in procedure.  Our Finance staff is concerned with how we account for the fees that are taken by FirstGiving.  Our legal office is concerned about the lack of a formal agreement between us and FirstGiving for facilitating the activity.  There is the question of FirstGiving being a “paid fundraiser” for us since they are taking a fee for “raising money”.  And a couple others are asking why we can’t set up our own similar service through our website.

Now, I am not saying that these are not valid questions to ask.  The issue has more to do with perspective than with the questions themselves.  I have tried to explain that FirstGiving is not the entity making “the ask”.  It is the individual who sets up the page.  They are just using the technology that FirstGiving supplies.  However, this seems to be falling on deaf ears. 

I offer this case study as a lesson for others.  While most of us understand how we can take advantage of this kind of web technology, there are others who are focused on “typical fundraising”.  Be aware that you will run into the occasional wall or resistance to new things.  Build your case for why this new technology is a good thing.  Focus on the advantages for donors and secondarily on the benefits to your organization.  Point out the relationship building that can be done with donors by allowing (facilitating) them to help you. 

One other thing.  Think through the issues about acknowledging donors to a fundraising activity organized by one of your donors.  Remember that they are supporting their friends and may not be connected to you at all.  You probably don’t want to automatically put them on your mailing list.  But you do want to offer them the opportunity to be involved with your organization if they choose.  Provide enough information to interest them and maybe raise their curiosity.  Then let them choose how they want to interact with you.

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