I love TED talks. They are so great to watch on a lunch break or between meetings and learn something important in a short time. So, I thought it would be fun for FUNdraising Fridays to curate some of my favorite TED Talks for fundraisers.
My first pick is this inspirational talk from Nancy Duarte. She demonstrates that the most famous speeches share a common structure that serves to set audiences on fire for your cause.
One reason that I love this TED talk is because Nancy is a distinguished alumna of my alma mater, The University of Southern Mississippi School of Mass Communication and Journalism. Southern Miss to the Top!
The content Nancy discusses in this talk applies to fundraisers because the formula she uncovered balances inspiration and current reality. It's therefore super-useful when you're making when you're making your pitch to donors and building your case for giving. So, in less than 20 minutes, Nancy will help you to improve your public speaking and storytelling skills, so that you can put together compelling proposals for your constituents.
And of course, if you found this content helpful, please subscribe so you don't miss a single post from Real Deal Fundraising.
The importance of not taking yourself (and your job) too seriously cannot be overstated.
If you don't laugh about what we are called to do, you will burn out. Repeat: You will burn out.
One of my favorite ways to motivate the staff and get everyone giggling was to take popular memes and make them specific to whatever was the big project for our office at the time. When we launched our first day of giving campaign, the Southern Miss Gold Rush, I did a series of these that were just for us in the office. One is above. Here are a few more.
These memes worked because in the back of everyone's mind when you launch a new project is "How much extra work is this going to cause me?" Right? So, let's make fun of that together and it makes it easier to get through the day. At the very least, everyone can laugh at me for sharing such silly memes via office email.
We loved Grumpy Cat at my last office because our Vice President for Advancement was notoriously for his pessimism, earning him the title of Grumpy Cat. We even got him a cake on his birthday! Epic!!
So, lighten up and make your colleagues laugh a little. Otherwise you might end up with a birthday cake like this!
An alternate title for this post could be “How I was able to coach my daughter to complete her raffle ticket sales for dance in 30 minutes”
I had no idea it was coming but my daughter left her acrobatics class with an envelope informing us that we had to sell 20 raffle tickets at $2 each. My family has a lot going on and I wanted to finish this project quickly and simply. But, I also wanted her (at age seven) to take responsibility for this project and learn something from it.
We discussed it on the way home and I had her practice a “pitch”. It was simple: “Would you like to support my dance school by purchasing a raffle ticket for a chance to win $200 for only $2?” By the time we made it home, she had it nearly memorized. Then I had an insight! I would film a short 30 second video of her saying the line and then doing a backbend. Then I would post it on Facebook so friends and colleagues would see it.
We had commitments for the entire batch and then some in about 30 minutes! We had to pick up another 20 tickets today. There are 3 reasons that I think this little project worked so well:
The right audience
I’m pretty active on Facebook and I often post videos of my kids and their accomplishments. So, my daughter had a kind of fan club already ready to be interested in whatever she’s doing. (Don’t worry. I am super careful about my privacy settings.)
The right medium
I could have walked around the neighborhood with her or had her ask people at church to buy a ticket, but that would have taken all week probably. I’m already connected on Facebook to everyone from the neighborhood and church anyway. So, this was perfect as an initial step. A soft ask first on Facebook and if we need to go to a harder sell, we could later.
The right messenger
Coming from me, it would be people doing me a favor. That’s not as compelling as supporting a very cute little girl who just learned to do a backbend and delivered her fundraising pitch perfectly on video.
Next time you have to do a fundraiser quick for a specific purpose, consider seriously what the best niche audience is, where the best place to meet them with the pitch is (medium), and who is the best person to do the asking. If you get these three things right, you can raise the funds and raise them quick.
Glee is an amazing show. It’s the story of a high school Glee Club filled with misfits and “losers” and their journey to wholeness, friendship and (in some cases) success/stardom. I love it because it seems to be the closest thing to bringing musical theatre back to television these days. But, I also love the values and lessons built into the bones of the show.
For FUNdraising Friday, I’d like to pull a few of those lessons out and hold them up as relevant for fundraisers.
The lesson for fundraisers is that you need to believe in your mission, have a passion for it and let that shine through your work in the stories you tell. No amount of flash and trick lighting can make up for not having that.
The New Directions welcomes all races, geeks, those with a stutter, nerds, football players, cheerleaders, bullies, gays, lesbians, transgender students, the disabled and even those that can’t sing. I can’t think of a group that isn’t represented at some point in some way in the New Directions. All of these different kinds of people together make their group quirky and creative and strong. Hard to beat. The friendship formed across social groups ends up helping all of the students to survive their various life challenges.
This lesson is true for getting things done with your colleagues as well as including more folks in your volunteer efforts and fundraising/marketing materials. You need to listen to all groups of your constituency. And remember, when you are dealing with that particularly difficult donor, that all of the bullies in Glee eventually came around.
One of the early theme songs of Glee is “Loser Like Me”, a song about how those who don’t fit in during high school have success later. Success comes to the misfits usually because of (not in spite of) what made them an outcast.
This is important for fundraisers because we cannot predict who will have success later. Consider this fellow, Robert Morin, a frugal librarian who recently left his entire estate (worth $4 million) to the University of New Hampshire. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a good reminder that we should treat all donors (and all people) with the same respect.
Most fundraisers have to travel for at least some portion of their time. My daughter (now 7) was very spirited and attached to me. So, I didn't travel without her until she was 3 and a half. We are are very lucky because my husband is a stay-at-home dad and he was happy to travel with me to conferences a few times a year. Since we homeschool, they still travel with me quite a bit
Luckily, my son (almost 2) is a bit more independent and doesn't mind short-term separations. This means that I travel without my kids more and more these days. And it's important to me to keep connected to my kids when I'm on the road. Some days it's really tough because my schedule is packed, morning to night. Other times, I'm just exhausted from time changes and travel delays.
Here are some quick ideas that have worked for me to stay connected with my kids when I'm on the road.
1) Facetime and Skype
This one is obvious but it wasn't that long ago that these tools weren't widely available. Now, they are available to use almost anytime and anywhere on your phone. I can call from the airport, hotel or even when I'm out and about. These tools are especially important for my son who is too small to talk on the phone or understand when I send messages in any other format. With my daughter, I get updates on what she did for school work and her current projects and with my son I mostly sing songs that we sing at home, etc.
2) Flower power
My daughter and I have a thing that whenever she's not with me, I take pictures of beautiful flowers and send them to her dad (or sometimes grandmother) so she can see the flowers. But, really it is just a confirmation that she's continually on my mind and she gets to be a part of the trip. Beyond flowers, I also take pictures of anything that I think she would love to see or would find interesting. (Photo above was one of the pictures that I took and sent to my daughter while I was in Boston today.) I took a trip this week and she got 5-6 flower pictures, a picture of a replica ship from the Boston Tea Party, and a picture of the pastry cases in a fabulous cannoli shop.
If your kids are like mine, they have ENOUGH knickknacks. Our fridge isn't magnetic and I can't abide the idea of trying to keep a snowglobe from breaking in my luggage. So, we have a few preferred types of souvenirs: pencils (that she can use for her schoolwork and be reminded of our travels), patches (which we sew on her travel backpack), and educational books or coloring books.
Do you have travel rituals that keep you connected with your kids when you are doing work travel? Any additional good ideas for the little kids?
If I ever saw Mary Louise Parker in an airport, I would probably run to her screaming, “Oh my Gosh! Nancy Botwin!” and hug her. After security pulls me away from her, I would consider a peak experience of my life.
Weeds is one of my shows. I haven’t just seen the entire series. I’ve seen the entire series (all 8 seasons) multiple times. I love the quirkiness, the drama, the humor of it all. If you have never seen it, it begins as a show about a suburban housewife in California who sells marijuana to make ends meet after her husband dies of a sudden heart attack. It starts there but the twists and turns the series takes is absolutely addictive.
So, for a show with arguably shaky moral grounding, what can non-profit fundraisers learn from this show, particularly from Nancy Botwin?
You really can take inspiration from anywhere. Even a fictional drug dealer can be a source of motivation. If Nancy Botwin can survive and thrive, you can too.
I work from home and it is difficult to get enough movement when you walk basically to the kitchen, your office and then to your bedroom every day. I had gotten lax in my exercise regimen (what there was of it) and was waking up feeling stiff and sore every morning.
So, for these reasons, I decided to challenge myself. I wanted to do two things every day: at least 20 minutes of yoga and get 10,000 steps. I add a daily entry indicating that I have done it on my Facebook profile with a status update and the hashtags: #yogaeverydamnday and #10Ksteps. Probably it annoys more than 3/4 of my Facebook friends, but I don't care. In my opinion, I'm helping them with their own practice of scrolling past things that annoy you.
By Day 10, something weirdly amazing started to happen. I had had a terrible day. My kids had gone bonkers. It was a weird, off day and I basically ate my weight in Mexican food to cope. It was 9PM, my children were finally asleep and I only had like 3,000 steps.
What did I do? I stayed up until midnight and got those damn steps, that's what I did!
I could have just stopped posting about it on Facebook and no one would have noticed or cared. But, at this point, I was invested. I didn't want to stop for one bad day and have to "start over" with another 30 days.
Intractable stubbornness had set in. That stubbornness made me do it because I wanted to, just because. Even though it was hard. Even though there were no gold stars and no one would have cared if I stopped. Now, I'm on Day 15 and I'm starting to see more and more benefits, but the biggest is just the satisfaction that I didn't freaking quit.
Why am I posting about stubbornness on a blog post that's FUNdraising Friday? For a few reasons:
All that said, where in your work can you activate the power of intractable stubbornness? What areas of your personal life could benefit from the same mindset?
I'm a HUGE Michael Phelps fan. When I did my recent post about "Be Like Mikhail!" it could very easily have been about "Be Like Michael!" instead. He is a similar inspiration in terms of excellence.
If you haven't been following the Olympics, one of Michael Phelps' opponents was trying to annoy him and psych him out before a race and his response was a facial expression to rival Grumpy Cat! Who knows whether he was just in the zone, truly annoyed or just doing isometric warm-ups, but it set the internet on fire for a while.
An informal caption contest was raging with the hastag #Phelpsface. Anyway, I was a bit inspired and create a number of non-profit and fundraiser things that make me go #Phelpsface. Here's the collection for your Friday laugh:
When you're an annual fund person interviewing for a #majorgift position and they like you but think you don't know how to #ask. #phelpsface
When people ask you if plan on working in #phonathon forever. As if you have a #calling for it. #PhelpsFace #telefund #punny
When you hear "all we need to worry about is #donorretention. This year we're cutting the budget for acquisition." #PhelpsFace #fundraising
When someone uses 5 different fonts and 3 different styles of bullets in one document. #Phelpsface #graphicstandards #pleasenocomicsans
When it's 20 mins after the meeting start time and the Skype call hasn't started. #PhelpsFace #nonprofit #fundraising
When somebody suggest not calling #youngalumni because "they have too much #studentloan debt. #PhelpsFace #phonathon http://bit.ly/2aKm9NZ
When a manager doesn't require 3 asks for callers, they trust them to do their job. #PhelpsFace #telefund #phonathon http://bit.ly/2bpP2U5
When leadership says they need annual giving to cut the budget 10% but bring in 20% more funds. #PhelpsFace #annualgiving #fundraising
When it's 4 weeks into calling, your manager shows up and the seats are half empty. #PhelpsFace #phonathon #telefund http://bit.ly/2bovCuE
When administrators want to shut down #phonathon calling because of three complaints. #PhelpsFace #fundraising #telefund
When people say, "all fundraising will be done with QR codes in the future." #PhelpsFace #fundraising
When you tell someone you work at the #phonathon and the reply is, "so you're a telemarketer." #PhelpsFace #fundraising
When you're at a conference and someone says, "Direct mail is dead you know." #PhelpsFace #fundraising
When you send an email about a thing you need today and get and "out-of-office" reply. They'll be back in two weeks. #PhelpsFace #nonprofit
When you sent save-the-dates and invites (email and mail) and a board member says, "oh, I didn't know about it." #PhelpsFace #nonprofit
If you're not familiar with the film, Office Space, get thee to your Netflix list and order it up straightaway.
Anyone who works in an office must see this movie because it not only provides catharsis for the modern worker (there's scene where the characters destroy an evil printer), it gives us perfect metaphors to describe what we don't like about our work.
You see, I'm a fundraiser. I am focused on all things forward and outward. As a consequence, I am terrible at getting my expense reports done on time. Expense reports are important and I realize this but I cannot seem to get them done on time! This causes some problems for the accounting staff. The photo above is my "punishment" for one of the times that I turned my monthly expense report in 11 days late. I tried to look as remorseful as possible.
We called the expense reports "TPS reports" because they had to be done in a certain, specific way and the fundraisers always seemed to be getting it wrong. So, even if it was done on time, you usually had to modify somehow to get it right after turning it in the first time.
So, for your Friday fun and entertainment, I give you the Office Space scene RE: TPS Reports. Enjoy!
If you're at least my age, you probably remember the old Gatorade commercial featuring Michael Jordan with the jingle "Like Mike, if I could be like Mike. I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike!" The theme was excellence and striving for near super-human ability.
Well, I'm not much of a sports person, but dance I understand. So, today, I present one of my favorite ballet numbers and ask you to "Be like Mikhail!" Mikhail Baryshnikov is one of the most outstanding dancers to ever perform. The choreography in this routine from Le Corsaire is so vibrantly energetic and obviously difficult but delivered so effortlessly that it takes your breath away. He soars across the stage. He's in control of each movement but so comfortable because of his practice and repetition that it appears spontaneous. Glorious! This number shows off Baryshnikov's excellence in all aspects: technique, performance, athleticism, musicality, and panache!
Can you strive to be this confident, this excellent, this marvelous at your job?
This is what you are spending your life doing, why not be great at it?
Can you complete your role with such a high level of awesomeness that your inspire others to "wanna be" like you?
Show your optimism and passion so obviously in your work quality that it is absolutely contagious! That's fun fundraising!
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.