Public recognition vs. Public service

In my consulting life, I’ve helped a bunch of startup nonprofits get started.  But that’s also one of the jobs I turn down…a lot.  I have a hard time working for folks I don’t believe in, and I see far, far too many individuals who want to start their very own nonprofit instead of taking an entry-level job and working their way up in established organizations.

A rather good article by Amy Schiller at The Baffler made me think a little bit more deeply about what’s happening in those situations.

She writes about the rise (and foibles) of “philanthro-capitalists” – paralleling my ambitious future founders in naiveté and hubris.  The thing I am intensely interested in is the strong desire to get individual recognition – for being a founder, for being a savior, for being a hero who is smarter that everyone who has come before and lo, has fixed our problems.

It strikes me as a cultural psychology problem. Read more

Developing an inner management team

I have a strange personal relationship with McKinsey…in many respects, I think they’re amazing.  I trace a good deal of my better consulting traits (partially the way I structure analysis, partially the way I present myself) to working with a ton of McKinsey “alumni” early in my career.  If I were ever to work for a gigantic consulting company, I’d do my best to get in with them.

Of course, on the other hand, I decided not to work for any of the big consulting companies, and there are good reasons for that.  Perhaps a story for another day…this preamble is all to say that I pay attention to the “Insights & Publications” section of the McKinsey site, and you should check out this article from the March McKinsey Quarterly by Nate Boaz and Erica Ariel Fox. Read more

Training for Fundraisers: what do you need?

There’s an interesting question that’s been posed to CEOs and EDs of nonprofits who participate in the LinkedIn group sponsored by Bridgespan: “What training do you offer your fundraisers to make them more effective at the sales side of the nonprofit world?”

Check out some of the responses here.

I’m interested in the general question of what training you offer fundraisers, period.  Sure, there are the formal educational programs, certificates and degree programs alike, offered at credible institutions…and I imagine that there is or will soon be a cottage industry aimed at test prep for the Certified Fundraising Executive exam.  I’m going to ignore those for the moment – I’m asking more about how organizations train their own fundraisers.

What training do fundraisers need?  What do you want your fundraisers to know?

Here’s my official call for comments and/or private emails with thoughts.  In return, I will, during this calendar year, develop at least one curriculum for use (FREE!) in house, wherever you are…


Trust meditations

There’s this video, making the rounds on social media.  I love it for two reasons: first, I love watching slow motion acrobatics with beautiful people. Second, I kind of dig the new age calm of the narration, entreating me to learn to trust.

Take 3 minutes of your day and enjoy the eye candy and relax.  Then, when it’s over, go ahead and shake it off, smile to yourself, and say “Hooey!  This is hooey!” Read more

It matters what you wear (lawyers edition)

I was interested to read Amanda Hess’ recent Slate article on the perils of wardrobe choice for lawyers.  There’s a very strict, if not obvious or consistent, code of propriety for men and women – she outlines some of the challenges that apply to everyone, as well as the disproportionate impact on female lawyers, who had to pass the bar like everyone else but get reduced to sexpots if they wear the wrong heels.  The gender bias starts with the click bait title: Female lawyers who dress too “sexy” are apparently a “huge problem” in the courtroom.

None of this is a surprise to me.  One of the workshops I’m called upon to give at the undergraduate level at least a couple of times every year is my spiel on “Wardrobe – why you need to look the part.”  It’s the least fun workshop I give; pretty much just me, showing slides of good and bad wardrobe choices and getting the kids to articulate their assumptions and biases about a person based on their looks.  It’s ugly, it’s problematic on very many levels, and I keep doing it…because people really need it.

So here are some of my insights, based on four years of telling people how to dress for job interviews and internships. Read more

Quick Tips: Online Survey Tools

I often use online surveys in my consulting work, and the existence of free and good survey tools is not a secret anyone should be keeping.  (Want meaningful results?  You’ll still hire someone who knows what questions to ask, who to ask, how to get them to fill out your forms, and how to interpret the answers.  But I’m honestly shocked at the number of people who just don’t know they can build a survey cheaply or for free.)

Here are some of my favorites. Read more

How to get talent to quit, or how to lose donors?

I love sharing (and commenting extensively) on some of the best and worst articles I find around the internet.  Here’s one from Mel Kleiman on Ragan (a communications news compiler) on the Top 10 ways to get your top talent to quit.

Straight up, it’s really good advice for managers.  Taken together or separately, these are things that create toxic, unpleasant, and talent suffocating work environments.  So if you manage people, or better yet, have power over overall organizational norms/rules/practices, go read it!

But I’ve been doing development work in my consulting life of late, trying to help several boards wrap their head around how to help and empower and manage their lead fundraisers.  And predictably, these groups overemphasize the importance of getting new donors.  We just need to build our base, I keep hearing.  How do we bring in new audiences?

But God Bless the Authority of the consultant, because I don’t think they’d listen to the same admonition coming from one of their staff…You’re getting ahead of yourself, I’ve said twice already this week.  What are you doing to keep your current donors?  Read more