Things I learned from moving (part 2): What to keep, what to throw?

In every nonprofit I’ve ever worked with, there is a tension between saving every scrap of paper produced, no matter how useless, and paring down to a bare minimum (sometimes even beyond what GAAP would require).

But what if we need it someday?

(That’s where my emotions lie – and, acknowledging my own pathology, it’s more of a knee-jerk “what if we WANT it?”  I know full well that these things are never going to be NEEDED.)

If we keep everything, we won’t be able to find anything.

(It’s a sensible argument for data management – too much stuff, and you can’t find what you’re looking for quickly or reliably.)

Both extremes, of course, are unhealthy.  But how do you find the middle ground, how do you know what to hold onto?   Read more

Are you locked into binary thinking? (What I learned from moving part 1)

This fall, I sold my house of nine years and moved from New Haven proper into the Greater New Haven suburbs – a mere couple of miles, but oh what a difference it makes.  My new home is semi-rural (any time your landmarks are trees and other houses instead of cross streets and stores, you’re in the wild, as far as I’m concerned.  Also, there’s a horse farm, so if anything, I’d question the “semi” in semi-rural!), and it’s quite the adjustment.  But with all the chaos that’s kept me in radio silence for the past few weeks, I’ve also had plenty of time to think…packing china is particularly meditative…and I’ve got some insights to share with you.

First, selling a house is awful.  I’m sure there are exceptions to this, and perhaps in previous years or different locations it isn’t always quite so terrible, but I felt raked over the coals in nearly infinite directions.  Here’s one of the things I learned that forced me to turn my gaze back in on myself and my own professional perspectives.

Our real estate agent believed, to the core of her being, in a binary system of real estate transactions.  Selling = good, not selling = bad.  It was absolutely impossible to make her understand that we had a BATNA, and that we were not interested in selling, period – we were interested in selling at a price that made sense for our finances.  She didn’t understand we wouldn’t sell for less than our mortgage balance, she didn’t understand we weren’t interested in selling without clearing additional money beyond that (still nowhere near where we’d bought at the market peak 9 years ago).  We frustrated her, and she infuriated us.

Here’s the thing: we were both right.   Read more

Back to School Week – Show Me the Money

School is back in session, and while the kids are starting to settle, PTOs are just starting to get off the ground.   Whatever your local name is for that strange phenomenon where parents and sometimes teachers or administrators get together to enhance and supplement their kids’ experiences during the school year.  Sadly, it seems more common these days to use the PTO/PTA/Boosters moniker to refer to a group of parents who are desperate to raise enough money to put former basics back into the budget, like art, music, a couple of field trips a year…or find enough scholarship money to keep deserving students in the school.

I’ve had a couple of emails to the old mailbag asking for tips on good fundraisers for schools, and I’m deeply sympathetic – both to the parents, conscripted into service with a sense of urgency but without a whole lot of prior experience in some cases, and to the cause.  I’m a public school kid who remembers the incredibly hard work of the Parent Boosters Club, which was the only thing keeping music and arts programs in our high school during year after year of austerity budgets.  This week of blog posts, devoted to fundraising in schools, is dedicated to them.  Go Ganders!

On overconfidence

Pros, cons, and thanks

Thank you, dear readers, for reaching the end of our first week on our new site.  I hope you like it; I think it’s absolutely amazing, and want to give a huge shoutout to Gilday Creative for making us (me!) look like a million bucks.  But I’ve also noticed something about myself the past couple of weeks as we prepared for the launch – I’m much more comfortable in the backend of this site.  When I load up the home page, or a full post for preview, my heart quickens and I get nervous.

Here’s my problem, and it’s one I think many people have, particularly women (at least statistically!) Read more

Housekeeping and apologies

Fridays for You – this week on Monday.  Alas, I am having trouble with the auto-publish feature on this blog.

It’s probably me.  Safe money is that I’m doing something wrong.  But still, for the next week, bear with me as I publish irregularly.  I have a consulting practice that will take most of my time for a few days.

I’ll do my best!!!

And hey – this is a great opportunity to rename my personal development/leadership posts.  Any ideas?

Announcing a New Feature: Fridays For You!

I thought about calling this Fundraising Free Fridays, because that’s what this is…but one of the things I’m always saying is that everything relates to fundraising, one way or another…so, dear reader, I didn’t want you to think you were completely off the hook.

But here’s the thing – The Development Shrink as a blog is becoming my professional soapbox, and it needs to expand, since I have not one but two areas of passion in my coaching practice.   Read more

Regarding the Importance of Listening (in which I take my own advice)

It’s not entirely lost on me that I just wrote a whole post yesterday about the importance of listening, but have not yet had the opportunity to be in conversation with you, dear reader.

So how about it?  Comments are enabled on all the posts, or better yet, why don’t you drop me a line (shana.ross [at] and ask me your questions?  What would be helpful to you?
The Development Shrink

Next week: because someone asked – tips for taking online donations on a shoestring budget

Hanging my Shingle

I’ve decided (since I have no lawyers to tell me exactly how bad an idea it is) not to start this blog off with an unattributed picture of Lucy Van Pelt, hanging out in her cardboard psychiatric “office”…but the doctor is in.  And has the same psychiatric credibility.

This is not a blog about your actual life problems.  I can’t help you there.

But when it comes to development – the business of fundraising – that’s what I’m here for.  I’ve been a professional fundraiser in one capacity or another for over 13 years, doing everything.   Individual giving (multimillion dollar solicitations on down to small gifts); mass appeals (direct mail, email, mobile giving); events; directing volunteer campaigns; grantwriting; corporate giving; crowd funding; earned income ventures…I’ve seen most of it.

Read more