Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Three Magic Words

Once upon a time there was a major gifts fairy godmother and she would swoop down, wave her magic wand, say the three magic words and poof! The major gift would appear -- just like that.

What, you ask, could those three magic words be?  

“Join with me”

How do they work? Well, “join with me” in learning today’s three step lesson in Major Gifts fundraising:

  1. Get your Board to give
  2. Get your Board to ask
  3. Get your Board to use the Three Magic Words
We all know that a basic rule in the world of nonprofits is that 100% of the board must give.  OK, I see a group of you thinking “but we don’t have that kind of a board!”  YES YOU DO!!  Every person who is on your board, regardless of the level of their wealth (or lack thereof), believes deeply in the mission of the organization.  Otherwise, why would they give their discretionary time to be a member of your board? So if we have established that they believe deeply in the mission, why would they not want to support that mission?  And since there is “NO MONEY NO MISSION, how can that support not include a financial donation?
We are not, in many cases talking about putting a minimum “give or get or get off” level into this equation, though this is totally appropriate for some of your organizations.  What we are talking about is helping to make the achievement of the mission goals possible…something that takes money.  That mandates asking each and every board member to make a gift to reach those goals.

I have worked with many human service nonprofits that have by-laws that require that there will be at least two “clients” on the board.  And I have found with the most successful of these organizations, it is the client who is the very first to make an annual financial contribution to the organization. I have seen some of these gifts be $2.00…and have been awed by the power of those gifts. And if that formerly homeless woman, that high-risk, single parent of a child deemed “at risk”, that unemployed and in-debt elderly gentleman can do it…then certainly every other member of the board can make an annual financial donation to the organization.   Again…how can we ask others to do what we ourselves did not think was important enough to do?

Which brings me back to the three easy steps.  These steps are as important to non major gifts fund raising as they are absolutely critical to major gifts fund raising.  Once the board member has made his or her own financial commitment, Step 1 is done. When a board member is ready to have personal conversations with others in the community (in other words has had some training in ‘how to ask’), willing (in other words has learned that passion for a mission must be followed by action towards reaching those mission goals) and able (in other words has the ability to form sentences and speak them). Step 2 is done.  And now, along with a wonderful (and short) mission story, a very few (very few) facts, much eye contact, a whole lot of active listening to what the donor has to say, it is time to ask the donor for a gift, Step 3.  And what could be more powerful than using saying “join with me”?

And you know what? Even without a magic wand, you just might get that gift!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When Are We Home?


Home is the place that goes where you go, yet it welcomes you upon return. Like a dog overjoyed at the door. We’ve missed you is what you hear, no matter how long you’ve been gone” - Michael J Rosen

In my last blog I shared that “I lived in seven different countries and felt at home in each one of
them”. Many of you followed up by asking me, how is that possible. That question triggered a conversation with my daughter, about “which one is really home?".

Once again, like with most questions in life, there is no simple answer. To this day, when people ask me “where are you from?” my answer is not a straight-forward one. Instead, I always feel the need to share a short story in response. “I was born in Israel, but I lived in seven different countries, mostly in Argentina, where my parents, my husband and children are from, and now I’m from Durham, NC”, and then I have an urge to add "I’m a citizen of the world”.   Oy!  So, where IS home?

Let’s start with question #1, how is it possible to make every place home? Well, I need to give credit to my parents for that!

-  To start, they always made me feel we were on a mission. It wasn’t about an unstable life, but a life with a purpose. We were moving for my dad’s job and we all had a share in that job. My dad worked for the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I always was a little ambassador for my country. The purpose was to bring with me my homeland and share it with my new home until I can share it with another home, and then another... and at the end we all learn that we are part of one big home.

-  They always taught me that I was part of a community that was all over the world, and being part of that community gave me a sense of belonging, wherever that community was. I can’t remember having arrived to any country and not being invited that first Friday to a family Shabbat dinner with the same prayers, tastes, and traditions we had at home.

-  They also made me believe  - and I still do!-  that there were always friends waiting to meet me in other places. I cried for a week saying goodbye to my friends, but I was also excited to go and meet those who were waiting for me. Coming into a new school it gave me all the confidence I needed to make new friends  “who were waiting for me” -- something I carry with me even today.

-   And finally, my parents would recreate my environment as if every place was the final destination, not a transition. It wasn’t about “we will live here only for two years”, but it was about “this is home now”. Believe me, it worked!

My husband always reminds me, it has to do with my personality. But more than that, it has to do with my choice of how I want to live. I could cry for what I am leaving behind, or I could choose to believe that what I have I can still have anywhere I go, and what was there for me will still be there even if I move.

Now to question #2, which one is really home? That’s a more philosophical question.  At this point “home” is larger than a country for me. Yes, Home is the country I was born in, no doubt about it, even if I left at a young age and even if when I visit (visit home?) I feel a stranger in many ways- from my accent to the way of living.  But I belong there, and belonging is home. Home is being with my childhood friends wherever they are around the globe every time I see them. Home is always when I’m with family who is also happened to be spread out around the world. Home is when I taste that food from that country where I used to live.  Home is listening to the languages I was born into. Home is listening to the songs I grew up with. Home is my parents. Home is being with my husband and my kids even if it is in a hotel room. Home is my house no matter where it is.  As Rabbetzin Twerski wrote “home has nothing to do with bricks and mortar and furnishing, it has everything to do with the spirit which fills it”.

There is a famous song in Spanish, “No soy de aqui, ni soy de alla.” which means “I’m neither from here nor from there”, but I'd rather sing it  “I’m from here and I’m from there”.

Home is a feeling, not a place. To me “home” is a state of mind, not always a single  place but many places. Home is a place that goes where I go.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Change is Inevitable, Suffering Isn’t: Strategies for Managing Change

After 35 years of working hard and loving every minute of it, my mother is retiring.
For my mom, this moment came as a surprise. Of course, a part of her brain was aware of this reality but the other part was in a complete denial. 
For some people, work is a paycheck; a means to get the bills paid and live life. For others, work is a sense of purpose; a validation that their existence means something to someone and that by doing their job and living their life purpose...the world is becoming a better place. For my mom, the latter was the case and this is why it felt to her that someone had just turned off the lights in the middle of the show. 
In Israel, we have a perfect example that age has nothing to do with who you are and what you are capable of doing.  Shimon Peres, at age 90 and Israel’s President, is living proof that as long as you feel you have something to contribute to the world, then it is your obligation to do so.
So the question to ask is, why is it so confusing and scary, at times, for people like my mother to retire.  I think the answer lies in our ability to manage change or better yet, manage life transitions.
Transitions as a Journey Across a Bridge
Some of the changes in our lives are by choice and our response to the change is positive. Other changes are being forced on us and our response to them might be negative. Either way we need to realize that we are leaving something behind (if we get married – we leave our single life behind, when we start a family – we leave our freedom and sleep behind, when we lose our jobs – we leave our routine and security behind, when we age – we leave our youth behind and all the possibilities we could have had). That is when the journey starts. It is like crossing a bridge. Sometimes we are excited about the journey, and sometimes we are scared. Sometimes the bridges are short and the view is spectacular and sometimes it is long and foggy and we can’t see what’s on the other side. At times we run fast on the bridge, can’t wait to start the new chapter in our lives and sometimes, we refuse to take a single step, holding on to the railing and keeping looking back to all the things that we left behind.
Harry Woodwards, in his book “Navigating Through Change” has identified four human reactions to change:
·         Confusion – “I’m ok but my whole world is destroyed”
·         Denial – “If I don’t talk about it or think about it – it doesn’t really happen to me”
·         Anger -  “Just as it happened to me, it will happen to you too!”
·         Loss – “Who am I if I am no longer have my career or my identity as a spouse?”
All four reactions have a positive aspect (in moderation) and negative aspects that we must watch out for. We have the ability to recognize the type of reaction that we have, validate our feelings and deal with the difficulties. If we choose to stay “stuck” in any of the reactions – we will never be able to progress in the transitional journey and start a new chapter.
Managing the Road Blocks
Sometimes transitions are difficult because of the things that keep holding us back. My friend and colleague, Myriam Khalifa, had suggested that there could be others areas in our life other than our reaction to change that we should look at, such as: 
·         Others – beliefs and thoughts of people who are close to us. For example, “my parents raised me to always put my family first, before my own needs”.
·         World – circumstances in our life, such as financial crisis, “our mortgage is upside down”, conflicts in the middle east etc.- all that prevent me from leaving the place I am at now.
·         Work/Stay home – logistics around the house, commitments that we have at work/home. For example, “my paycheck is really good, even if I’m unhappy with my job”. Or, “I don’t have time for what I really want to do since I have to be here for my children”.
Sometime we are so bogged down by the roadblocks that we can’t even start thinking of our dreams. Every time we dare to come up with a new idea for ourselves, a roadblock pops in our mind and we soon let go of our dreams. Why not, instead of letting go of our dreams, let go of the roadblocks. This does not mean letting go of the people and responsibilities we have. It means, letting go of the thought that we can’t do things because of our responsibilities.
Tools for Dealing with Transitions:
  • Recognize and identify the situation: time of transition. What kind of bridge it is? Where are you on this bridge?
  • Re-connecting to your core essence. You are much more than the roles you have in your life.
  • Understanding the natural process of transition and the kind of reaction that you have.
  • Make an inventory – what has really changed in your life and what has stayed the same?
  • Allow time to mourn. Even if the change is positive – you are leaving something behind.
  • Try to enjoy this time of uncertainty. Dare to dream again about a new bright future. Stay open to new ideas and thoughts.
  • Take care of yourself!  What makes you calm and happy? – Do it!
  • This is the time to rely on your support group (friends and family). You are always there for them…it is time for them to remind you how wonderful and capable a person you are!
  • If the change gives you some free time – enjoy it.
  • Don’t worry!  Its going to be OK. Your body is feeling the stress, allow it to breathe deep and relax.
  • Let your emotion be. The more you try to fight sadness and insecurity – the more power they will have over you. We all want to feel positive feelings, but there are other kinds too. Recognize your own feelings and don’t let them take you off track.
  • Be brave – trust your core essence and god’s gifts
  • Instead of saying “I used to be” or “I had” – say: “I hope to be” or “I plan to do”
  • Even if feels that someone had turned off the lights...we always can turn them back on.
I’d like to wish my mother a smooth journey crossing the bridge into retirement and finding a new and fulfilling new chapter in her life.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Chicken or the Egg – Part II

So, rumor has it that some of you had a bit of a conversation around my last blog “What comes first,   Of course since I live in the 1950’s, in other words not on Facebook, I have absolutely no idea what all you guys said.  But thanks to my dear fellow My Jewish Coach, Donna Schwartz, I have, in spite of crashing my 1950’s computer, kicking and screaminly entered your universe and joined Facebook!!!
the chicken or the egg?”

As soon as I accomplished this ever so mighty feat, I felt really proud of my very clever self.  But there was one small problem…I have absolutely no idea what to do now.  And most importantly, I have no idea how to communicate with you guys (please note that a guy is very often a woman!) when each and every one of you decide that the following is something you simply do not agree with!

Yes.  I still believe NO MONEY – NO MISSION.  Yes, the MONEY must come first.  That being said, without a compelling mission, (remember your really, really really great idea from last month?) finding the money is gonna be a tad difficult.  Does that mean that the MISSION comes first?  Hum. I do believe that we are now smack dab back in that whole chicken and egg conundrum.

So now here are the three Jane P. Stein recommendations for getting around this whole mishegas.

1.     Take that really really really great idea – now becoming in your own mind a sorta mission statement – and call the very smartest person you know.  To qualify who this particular very smart person should be, it needs to be someone with a whole boat load of money and a willingness to part with it for organizations with compelling missions (you know…that guy with the philanthropic soul). 
2.     Make an appointment (a date for coffee or “just 15 minutes of your time at your office”) to meet face to face.
3.     Use the nine magic words “I really would love to pick your amazing brain” followed very quickly (no breathing allowed) by the eight even more magical words “I promise I won’t ask you for money”.

And BINGO!  You are on your way!!  This is your opportunity to test drive your idea.  Call it your very own personal feasibility study (and just like those fancy and very expensive feasibility studies we all know and don’t particularly love) your very smart person knows that you will be back one day asking for money!  But at this meeting, DO NOT ASK FOR MONEY…and if this very smart person begs you to take money to get started, please, please keep your promise and DO NOT TAKE THE MONEY.  You are there to paint the picture of how much better the world will be with the implementation of your mission idea.  This is your chance to engage another person into dreaming your dream with you. 

Of course if you cannot engage this very smart person into dreaming with you, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.  No engagement, no money.  No money, no mission.

But if you see this guy’s eyes light up.  And you see this guy move forward to the edge of that great big scary office chair, pitch your little heart out, but be sure that you take a whole lot of the time to get input from the very smart person. 

Because once that input starts getting put in, you will find yourself with a new partner to your dream…one with the money (and the friends and the contacts and the connections) to get your mission up and running.  And then guess what???? MONEY AND MISSION!!!