Archive for Governance

Great Free Way to Keep Up With Donors

You know, some times you just think people know what you know if they are young and smart and a great leader? Welllll, last weekend I was working with just such a CEO, Beth Lloyd at Volunteer Hampton Roads in Norfolk, VA. We were strategising about her board retreat that I was facilitating the next day, and I asked how she was keeping up with current donors, most of whom foundations and corporations. I mentioned, “Of course you are using Google Alerts.” Her pretty brows furrowed and she said, “No.”

It took literally about 2 minutes to set it up with just the words, “Volunteer Hampton Roads.” All you do is go to the home page of, type in “google alerts” and fill in the words or phrases that you want reports about. Then a message is sent to your e-mail address, you confirm that you indeed want this info, and Bob’s your uncle, you are in business.

Ten minutes after setting this up, Beth got an alert. One of her collaborators had thoughtfully posted a job on his website for a position she wanted to hire for, thereby helping her expand the search. I said, “You need to thank him.” Beth said, “Of course I will.”  Now this is where being an older, bossy consultant comes into play. I said, “Pick up the phone this minute and make the call before you touch the computer again.” Beth, being a quick learner and realizing that I outweighed her, picked up the phone and left a very gracious message. Another message came a few minutes later from a colleague touting Volunteer Hampton Road’s programs. Beth picked up the phone, another quick call, leaving a message.

At the board retreat, we suggested that one of the “ask averse” board members take on the role of helping with relationship management of a portfolio of donors so that Beth can continue to go into the community and make the major asks. All this person would need to do is keep a google alert list of current donors and send cards, notes and make the occasional call on what is going on with the individual, foundation or company.

You got to love a free way to keep up with donors. And getting to work with smart boards and leaders who implement immediately compouds the joy.

Mildly tech-savvy Granny, Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP

p.s. Beth, you are no doubt getting an alert about this. Have a great week!!!


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What Great Donor Customer Service Looks Like

Great customer service to donors is almost a nonsequitor, which is why it is so important to celebrate it when it happens. Last weekend, I went on the website of The Missouri Botanical Gardens to make a small donation in memory of a friend’s partner’s parent who died out of town. I had only met my friend’s partner Scott twice and never his parents. It was simple and easy to make the donation. Since I didn’t know Scott’s deceased parent’s name, I filled in the on-line form with “Scott’s Mother.”

First thing Monday morning, I got a call from Ann in the development office of The Missouri Botanical Gardens. She called to alert me that she had looked up the obituary and it was Scott’s Father who had died! She then proceeded  to offer me her name and phone number in case I needed help in the future with a gift.

I am sure Scott would have forgiven me if I had botched the gender of his parent who had passed, but I didn’t have to ask for forgiveness thanks to Ann. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to give a larger donation!

Gender-confused fan of Ann, Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP

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Choose Your Clients Wisely

I really blew it on Monday morning. I got up at 4:30 a.m. I read my notes. I did my hair. (Everyone knows you can’t do adequate strategic planning with bad hair). I stopped by Northwest Coffee for a double latte. I was loaded for bear.

I showed up 15 minutes early to begin facilitating the meeting. I was to run a series of committee meetings to help the board and stakeholders create a strategy for growth over the next 5 years.

We began at promptly at 7:30. 30 minutes into the meeting, one of the board members said, “I am really confused here. What does all of this have to do with governance.” I brilliantly replied, “This is the program committee meeting.” Everyone assured me I was in error. All 7 members of the governance committee were suddenly reassured that they weren’t crazy. It was their consultant who wasn’t making any sense.

I had done something I am truly embarrassed about. I had wasted my client’s time. They couldn’t have been nicer. They even rescheduled a follow-up meeting to work on real governance issues, not the program issues I had been prattling on about for the first 30 minutes of the meeting.

I felt like a total moron. Has my life been difficult lately? Yes. Should it be my client’s problem? No.

Not only will I make an end of the year contribution to these wonderful people, but I will also find a way to make this up to them.

Choose your clients wisely. We all fall on our faces periodically. It is nice to have someone lend a hand to help you up rather than stomp on your crumpled body.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, embarrassed in St. Louis

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Is $4 Million A Lot of Money? What Does Your Nonprofit Board Think?

Is $4 Million dollars a lot of money for your board? Well, it certainly is a lot of money to pay for a dress, a pair of earrings, a pair of golf clubs. Is it a lot to pay for a condo? A 12 family apartment building? A payroll for 80 employees?

I asked this question during a retreat, “What would it take to deal with this problem for the entire city.” Someone came up with the figure $4 million.” To most of the people in the room, it could have been $4 billion. Only one person said, “Is that all?”

Every board needs someone who is used to dealing with big numbers and has a comfort level with them. The member doesn’t have to have the money, but a familiarity and comfort with thinking big and expanding the horizons of the group. (Although if someone would be able to write the $4 million check, it would have been interesting to see what the reaction would have been!)

I did a retreat for a group where more than 51% of the group were on disability. The CEO’s salary was so low, it wasn’t even on the chart on the Association of Fundraising Professionals Salary index. No one in the room, including the CEO, had a clue. If something happened to her, she could not be replaced for anywhere near this salary. No one was financially literate about salaries. Good, caring people. But NO ONE knew how underpaid the CEO was.

If you can’t talk about the big numbers, you can’t ask for them. Every nonprofit does not have to be large, but if there are people you want to serve and aren’t, get someone in the room who doesn’t think $4 Million is big bucks!

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Asking big, but shopping the sale rack.

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On Being a Mentor and Having a Mentor

Karyn and GregI got off to a very rocky start with my mentor Karyn Buxman. When I joined the National Speaker’s Association 14 years ago, Karyn was assigned to be my mentor. I e-mailed her. I heard nothing back. I called her. Again silence. I wrote her. No word. Finally, I called the head of the program and I said, here’s the deal, I have no feelings about this woman, I’ve never met her. I don’t know her. I need help. If she doesn’t have the time, get me someone else. He got hold of Karyn. She called me and we met. Karyn’s Mother had big time health problems. Karyn was traveling like a mad woman. We agreed that she would mentor me and she would get back to me within 48 hours when I needed help. It was the beginning of a kick-ass friendship. Knowing that I would need publishing help down the road, she was considerate enough to fall in love with and marry Greg Godek who now also mentors me. Now that is a seriously considerate mentor!

I have a big challenge right now trying to decide how many books to publish with the NY Times, Parade Magazine and Scholastic Parent articles about to burst on the scene in November and December. Greg has been helping me decide whether to turn my book Raising Charitable Children over to a major publisher or a friend of his who is a distributor. God bless having smart friends.

Meanwhile, I have been mentoring an emerging speaker. I met her while work with a battered women’s shelter. She is a board member of the shelter. She has a powerful story to tell. We’ve worked together to craft her story. The first time she told it to the board, she got a standing ovation. The first time I got a standing O, I’d been speaking for three years! Karyn used to tell me “You’ve done well little grasshopper.” My little grasshopper has wings. She gave me permission to share this e-mail with you:

“As you know I haven’t done much in the way of my desire to do public speaking.  A few weeks back I was in San Francisco and one day I was touring the city by myself.  Seeking some “me” time, I sought out a church I knew had a labyrinth.  As I strolled through the church I came upon a side chapel that had a podium with the Bible on it.  Approaching, I realized the Bible was opened to my most favorite passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Everything Has Its Time.  As I stood there with my hands resting on the podium a lump formed in my throat and tears in my eyes.  I felt I was finally “at home”.  Soon I was filled with great internal peace and a strong voice within that said “YES…this is it!  Getting a message out to others is what I am supposed to do!”  For years my question to God has been “What do you want me to do with all of “this” — all the experiences you continue to bring before me?”  I continue to receive individual pieces of the puzzle but I can’t seem to put it all together.  I have visions of what I believe will be, but I don’t quite know how to put it all together.  As I stood there and read the passage I found comfort in the words….For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven….

I am so glad to have you in my life….you are truly an inspiration.”

If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you aren’t mentoring someone, offer.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, Mentor, Mentee

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The Magical Week

We’ve all had weeks where nothing goes right. Last week was just magical. I went to work in Williamsport, PA for the First Community Foundation of Williamsport, which is actually the 6th Community Foundation in the US. My hostess, Julie Adams, was hyperventilating big time. In the past, they had a dinner, but it had gotten to the point where the banks that bought a table were sending their tellers, so they thought they’d have a speaker instead. Enter moi. Julie and I talked about having an afternoon workshop on getting your board involved in fund-raising. Her goal was 50. It sold out at 165, the max the venue held and there was a waiting list. The afternoon session went great and Julie went from grey to pink. My friend David Strom (A fabulous man to know) had pitched a story to the NY Times about my book “Raising Charitable Children.” They bit. I got a call from the Times and they asked if they could send a reporter to Williamsport. I thought for about a nanosecond and said yes. Not only did the reporter show up, but so did PBS to film the Raising Charitable Children speech. I had forgotten that I had signed a release. It just kept getting better. Three flights later, I was in Oklahoma City. It only takes as long to get from Williamsport, PA to Oklahoma City as it does to get from LA to Melbourne. (In case you were wondering). Again, I had a fabulous hostess. Not only did Gayle Farley take me out for great Mexican food, but when I got back to my amazing hotel room at the newly renovated Skirvin Hilton, a bag of designer chocolates arrived in my room. Heaven. I did my speech, hopped on my 7th and 8th flights of the week and arrived home happy on Friday night. On Saturday, I had a phone interview with a reporter who wanted to know about family giving traditions. I had no idea what publication the reporter was from. I asked her. She said Parade. I asked which Parade. She said THE Parade, the magazine with the largest distribution of any magazine in the world. I just sat there stupefied. We chatted for 45 minutes. She told me that on Monday she would be talking to Bill Clinton for the same article about his book “Giving” and to expect a call from a fact checker and that the article will appear on Dec. 16. I hung up. I stared into the horizon and had a moment of utter contentment. Perhaps this week there will be a cure for cellulite. One can only hope!

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Knowing Your Client’s Donors

I was doing a keynote for the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Michigan State University in Lansing two weeks ago. As usual, I had written up my handouts and sent them a month in advance. One of the slides was about “Avoiding The Amway School of Governance.” I describe how Amway used to dragoon people into meetings without telling them that the meeting was really about recruiting to sell their products. I talk about how board members are asked to join boards and are also not told what it is actually expected of them. How was I to know that the meeting was in the Amway Auditorium? Gulp!

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