Friday, February 26, 2010

'Donor Centred' is just jargon

Have you thought recently about what it actually means to truly be donor centred? I know we all talk about it a lot. If you throw the words 'donor centred' into a job interview people will really think you know what you are doing. I think the term 'donor centred' has become jargon.

What does 'donor centred' really mean?

As I was thinking about my next presentation to our board of directors I tweeted this question to my fundraising colleagues. Just look at the response (In reverse order of how they were received AND a cool example of why I love twitter so MUCH!):

@markyphillips We use donor 'needs', placing them at the centre of why, when and how we communicate.

@jonathongrapsas we prefer to use 'donor care'. Which is about asking, thanking, feeding back and caring. Then doing it again and again and...

@GabryelB it means getting your eyes off your organisations bellybutton and taking the view of the donors: his needs, wants, desires.

@FLA_Leah donor-centred fundraising equals heart and soul fundraising

actually don't think you should put donors needs ahead of org needs, especially if one has human beneficiaries.

@derekhumphries be courteous. Be kind. Listen. Offer more than you ask. Leave donors in no doubt how magnificent they are and can be.

Donor centered. Co-investors in making the vision a reality.

Donor centred is serving the donor in a way that puts their needs/wants first (as opposed to the wants of the org).

@agentsofgood -it means putting the donors needs, wants, everything before yours as an organization.

And I think my favourite:

Donor centered: Treating donors as partners in your mission rather than walking ATMs?

So now I'm thinking...what is it that donors need?

As a donor I know I need to be able to read the material and know that my money is making a difference.

What do you need as a donor? (Because presumably if you are a fundraiser reading this blog you are a donor too right?!)

When you are finished commenting here on your needs as a donor. Check out this great post from Mark Phillips at Blue Frog on what donors need.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The best cup of chai in the world

In a previous post I talked about pomegranate juice. Today I am going to tell you about the best cup of chai tea in the world.

I arrived in India on the red eye from London in the middle of August. In London I was upgraded to business class after charming a grumpy ticket agent and giving her a gift of Canadian maple syrup. So I had slept - a little.

I worked my way out of the airport and found my driver holding up a card with my name 'keembirli'. I followed him to a run down and dirty car, got in and hoped for the best in spite of the lack of seatbelt.

The chaos, heat, smell of the road from Jaipur to India overwhelmed my senses. It is hard to imagine anything more opposite to the Canadian countryside where I live. My driver didn't speak English so I was alone with my thoughts and became an observer in a distant land, watching everything.

Three hours into the drive we pulled over at a gas station with a flat tire. While the driver put on the spare I watched the group of people surrounding an overturned car assessing the damage of a very recent and serious accident. Naivety now dissolving I started to worry for my safety and remembered that the seat belt in the car was in fact broken.

Fifteen minutes further down the road we pulled over again. Now in what appeared to be a junk yard, I had no choice but to change my clothes and relieve myself behind a billboard. When I reappeared it was obvious we were at an Indian tire store.
There were several men walking around and kicking the tire very much like they do in Canada and probably the rest of the world. I found a patch of grass and sat down. I was alone, tired, hungry on the side of the road in the middle of Rajasthan, no telephone, no one to call, my only company some wild dogs, a cow and eight Indian men changing a tire. There wasn't a motel 6 in sight.

In time a very old man in tattered clothes and bare feet appeared. He was approaching me with something in his hands. As he got closer I recognized a china cup and a plate with cookies. 'Namaste' I said for the very first time. He looked down at the ground and passed me his gift of chai tea and a snack. I didn't know what to do so I looked to see what the others were doing. Everyone was sitting down and drinking their chai.

The hot sweet taste of the chai on that dry patch of grass filled me with comfort and faith in the people I was with. These people were good people, I wasn't alone. They would make sure I got to Jaipur by nightfall. When I finished the very best cup of chai in the world I joined the small group as they finished putting the patched up tire on the car and we continued our journey.

This wasn't a junkyard at all, it was India's version of Canadian Tire and Tim Horton's and I'd like to go back there again.
Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Traits of an indispensible person

I follow Guy Kawasaki on twitter (@Alltop) The tweets are frequent and full of gems. This video was so great I wanted to put it on my blog so that I always know where to find it. We would all benefit by watching it once a month.

Jacqueline Novogratz is the CEO of the Acumen fund and I've enjoyed listening to her TED Talks.

This clip is a great reminder of how to truly make a difference in your organization.

Jacqueline Novogratz on how to recognize a linchpin from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

Thank you for spending time here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stop complaining about your Board of Trustees and help them

Last fall at a fundraising retreat our board of directors made a commitment to create a list of ways they could each contribute to the organization. There was a menu of options created and everyone was to pick from the menu. We made sure there was a diverse list to choose from to accommodate all circumstances and financial ability. The goal was for the board to take responsibility for the organization starting by making a personal commitment. You can see the menu we used here.

Yesterday I received an email from one of our newest members. I have her permission to share with you her commitment, although she would prefer to remain anonymous so we will call her Marie. This is an actual real email from the fundraising trenches - not an example of what we should 'strive' for.

Marie wrote:

Good morning Kimberley

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the Menu of Opportunities.

I have made Ontario Nature a priority for my annual charitable giving. I have a huge box of requests from other very worthwhile charities that I normally give to each year, and I plan to write and tell each of those charities that my priorities at this time are concentrated on a charity on which I am a Board Member.

And I do believe in the importance of the work of Ontario Nature. We have a unique niche and an essential job to do to protect Ontario’s Wild Species and Wild Spaces!

As to including Ontario Nature in my will. That is definitely something that I will consider. When my husband died, Ontario Nature was suggested as a memorial charity for friends to donate to.

I have informed both my Great Lakes West contacts as well as my Stratford Field Naturalists about the upcoming Ontario Nature Green Tea, and have invited them to join me as I plan to attend. It sounds like a terrific event and I’m looking forward to it.

I am happy to make thank you calls or write personal thank you notes to donors.

I would be willing to visit a prospective donor with another staff or board member.

While I find it difficult to ask for money, I am open to possibilities. I joined the Ontario Nature Team in September for the Scotiabank Marathon Challenge Charity Walk/Run, and was inspired by the sheer numbers of participants and the event itself. It was a challenge for me to ask people to support me and I found it interesting to see who donated and who didn’t. I don’t feel that I can keep asking my friends and family on a regular basis as they each have their own charities that they feel are important too.

Fund raising is not always easy, but it is an important part of supporting Ontario Nature. As I said, I’m open to possibilities.

Best wishes,


It is our responsibility as staff to stop complaining about our volunteer board of directors and to provide them with the tools and support they need to be successful.

(I've written more about this issue in a previous post and in this Civil Society article.)

Thank you for spending time here.

Board Menu

Inspired by the full board with the help of Andy Robinson and finalized by the Development Committee for board approval in November 2009.

Ontario Nature
Board of Directors
2009 – 2010 Menu of Opportunities

Thank you for being part of the Ontario Nature Board. We want to make your participation in the fund raising aspect of our organization as easy and effective as possible. To help you consider your choices, we present you with a menu of opportunities to work with Ontario Nature.

Appetizers – Sampling each of these will excite your palette and ready you for more substantial fare:

- Make Ontario Nature 10% of your annual charitable giving while you are on the Board (and hopefully after your tenure on the board ends too).

- Meet with some existing donors to learn why they support Ontario Nature.

- Help bring more volunteers to the development committee.

- Tell two family members, friends or colleagues why you joined the Ontario Nature Board and ask them to join you in supporting Ontario Nature in their charitable gifts this year.

Entrees – We anticipate that everyone will have an appetite for at least two from the main course:

- Include Ontario Nature in your will.
- Tap your network of service providers such as real estate brokers, financial planners, accounts or plumbers who could serve their customers better by sending a subscription to ON Nature to their best clients.
- Help to host an event for supporters, or invite supporters to an Ontario Nature event.
- Visit a prospective donor with another staff or board member.
- Make a presentation to a member nature club about your favourite Ontario Nature program (or all their programs) and end the talk with a request for each member to join you in financially supporting Ontario Nature.
- Make thank you calls or write personal thank you notes to donors.
- Join another board member, volunteer or staff member on a second meeting with a donor and help plan the specific request for donation.

If you have room –

- Make a challenge gift.
- Identify new prospective donors.
- Come up with an idea of your own to support environmental causes and Ontario Nature

Table Etiquette
Please help staff maintain neat and tidy records by taking notes immediately after you speak or meet with an Ontario Nature supporter. We adhere to professional guidelines about privacy that will help you know what type of information we maintain.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why don’t women have a greater profile?

There is an interesting discussion happening right now thanks to an article Rowena Lewis wrote for Civil Society. When almost half (47%) of the senior leadership roles in the third sector are filled by women, Rowena asks why women don’t have a greater profiles?

In a follow up blog called ‘Invisible Women in Fundraising’ on the same website someone named ‘Susy Who’, not her real name - which is ironic given the content, says ‘I am filled with gloom every time I read about the appointment of yet another middle aged, middle class - normally ex-forces - male to a senior position in a charity.’

‘Susy’ missed the point. This isn’t a whinge about why there aren’t more women in senior leadership roles. Rowena is lamenting the lack of high profile women. Women who are willing to be bold, take public risks and yes, write under their real names. It is true, I can think of many fabulous women doing great work in the sector. However, there are very few who are – publicly putting themselves forward - so that we can look up to them and be inspired by them.

For some reason we generally seem to be holding back from asserting ourselves as mentors and sector leaders. So why don’t women have a greater profile in our sector?

I've been working in this business for close to ten years and it is just in the past eighteen months I have started to be more ‘out there’. It has been a very interesting experience. In my opinion there are five key ingredients required to putting yourself at the front publicly.

1. Ambition
2. Ego
3. Thirst for knowledge
4. Assertiveness
5. Willingness to come forward.


Women may think that an ardent desire for rank and power is a bad thing. So they shy away from being ambitious. Men might think of ambition as a desire to achieve a particular end. It’s all about framing.

A good friend of mine (John) said to me last week. ‘Kimberley I just think people don’t know what to do with your ambition.’

It is true. I am ambitious. I’m on a mission – you can read my mission right here on my blog. I also have a personal plan for how I’m going to accomplish my mission. The consequences of achieving my mission will be a bigger paycheck and a higher profile. The result, I hope will be improving peoples lives. I will have a larger impact, so that when I die, my children see me as a hero who made a difference. That is my mission.

As far as what other people need to do with my ambition. NOTHING. It’s mine and seems to be serving me rather well, thank you.

It’s okay for women to be ambitious. Just don’t hurt people along the way – bring them with you.

2. EGO

At a conference two years ago my session was up in the same timeslot as a very ‘famous’ male speaker. While surveying the rooms with a colleague I commented on how the other speaker had a much bigger room than I did. The response: ‘He needs a big room – to fit his giant ego.’ At the time I thought these words were really unkind. They certainly were intended that way. But over time I’ve watched presenters and have presented at more conferences myself. Ego is fundamentally important to setting yourself apart as a speaker.

If you are going to stand up in front of hundreds of people who have paid to be there, you bloody well better think that what you have to say is important and worth listening to. You need to be confident, entertaining and set yourself apart from the delegates. The best actors and entertainers know this. The best, most in demand, highest marked speakers at fundraising conferences know this too. Is it a coincidence that the ones who come to mind first are all men? I think not.

As women we are taught ego is a negative thing. For a high profile sector leader it is extremely important. It’s what gets you a plenary session.


To be a mentor, leader, high profile influencer you need to know stuff. In fact the more I learn the less I know.

Its Saturday morning, my house is a mess and I don’t want to do anything else but write this blog. At the moment I have four half read books beside my bed. The Rules of Management, Maverick, Forces for Good, The Leadership Challenge.

I’ve been living in this house for ten years and don’t have window treatments. Just good blinds with all the hardware exposed. Last night I did not watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. I started this blog.

My dear husband feeds us, shops for us and thankfully when he isn’t here – the kids can now cook. No one cleans really - except me about once a month or so.

Of course it wasn’t always like this. When our kids were little I was at home with them. Breastfeeding and making bread from scratch. I even had a sewing machine and designed little bibs that I sold to other mothers. We bought groceries from the money I made. I loved those years, and will always be glad we made that choice. AND it was a choice. We made bread because we couldn’t afford to buy it.

As women we CAN ‘have it all’. I just think it unhealthy to expect to have it all at the same time. In my opinion more women aren’t in high profile positions because they either carry the weight of most of the household responsibilities or perhaps have hobbies and other interests. I went to a book club once (actually I started it) but they didn’t want to read Jim Collin’s books – I did. Career and family doesn’t have to be a choice – it just needs to be sequenced.

Knowledge is necessary if you are going to teach anyone anything. It takes commitment and time to read and write.

4. Assertiveness

Assertive women are often labelled as aggressive. Assertive men – strong leaders. I absolutely love this clip from Mad Men. I can’t embed it in the blog but you can see it here

Peggy asks for an office that she has earned and deserves, and then she apologizes – saying she didn’t mean to be impolite.

I also love this article about Hillary Clinton – a strong woman I admire very much. The article ends by saying ‘And that’s the best thing about Hillary Clinton—she has a way of making sure everyone knows she’s there.’ This is something we can aspire to and learn from.

5. Willingness to come forward

I know of two partners of two famous consultants who prefer to quietly change the world without a public spotlight. I feel a little sad about this because I suspect they are rather brilliant women and I’m not going to receive the benefit of that brilliance. But I understand it because as soon as anyone steps in the spotlight people will talk about you. Some of the things they say won’t be nice. Most of the people who say not nice things about you – will in fact be women. I guess its part of our make up. That is the risk of having a high profile.

So it is hard sometimes. Lately I’ve been thinking of putting my head back down. Questioning why I’m compelled to write, blog, tweet, speak. Thinking that maybe it is self serving and all about me. There is no money attached to it. In fact it costs money. I can be successful at work without it. Honestly, I was ready to delete the blog and walk away. But then two days ago I was talking via Skype to a fabulous young fundraiser I met in India. She had no idea I was feeling depleted. She thanked me. Told me I inspired her, she looks up to me. Feeling incredibly unworthy, I was inspired by her. Of course I quietly cried - something else women do that men don’t. (Their loss)

There are lots of ways to change the world. Not everyone will be comfortable with a high profile. We are lucky in North America though because I actually can list more than ten women who have personally influenced my life and my career. But you may not have heard of them.

We do need women to be ambitious, egocentric, hungry and assertive. As women we need to support and help each other to do that.

But mostly I think we need women to stop complaining about inequity and to just get to work making the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. I can’t think of anyone who would like a senior level position because of their gender. Senior level positions should be given to the best candidate. Period.

Thank you for spending time here.