Are fundraising professionals “ashamed”? Too busy? Too lazy?

question1Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “I’m Ashamed?,” John talks about an old Danish proverb that goes something like this: “He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning.” This post and the proverb made me think of so many of my friends who are fundraising professionals, and it got me wondering if “shame” has something to do with how they shy away from engaging board members, donors and fundraising volunteers.

Some of you are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about because every time you show up at a fundraising event you see volunteers running in every direction. So, let me provide a few examples:

  • questions5 Too many resource development plans (aka fundraising plans) are written behind close doors without any input from those who we depend upon to help with implementation. And then we wonder why no one is jumping in to help and why board members are acting as if to say: “That’s not what I agreed to do … go implement YOUR plan.”
  • Too many donors make one charitable contribution and then are never heard from again. I don’t see many fundraising professionals picking up the phone, organizing lapsed donor focus groups, meeting individually with, or surveying these donors and asking a few simple questions.
  • I certainly hear many of my fundraising friends complain about how their executive director is disengaged from the fundraising program. However, I don’t see many of those folks exhibiting tenacity by asking-asking-asking. There are so many different questions to ask an executive director, and I witness lots of surrendering before they get to the second question.

I could go on and on with examples, but I’ll stop here because I think the better question, which is posed by the Danish proverb, is WHY don’t we ask more questions and WHY don’t we ask for more help?

So, I thought about the WHY and here are some of the possibilities I came up with:

  1. questions11The Danish are right . . . some people feel a sense of shame in asking for help. It gives people the impression that you’re not capable of doing the task at hand, even though you might be perfectly capable and trying to cultivate, engage, steward, etc.
  2. It is easier to just do it yourself. Asking and involving others usually means investing more time in doing something. Even though a case can be made for it being time well spent, it is easy to rationalize and justify not doing so because your calendar and task list is slammed.
  3. There is a sense of having “job security” in being the only person making the agency’s fundraising program work.
  4. Perhaps, it is simply a matter of not caring???

I’m sure there are a number of other possible explanationz, but it is Friday and thought I should ask you for some help.   😉

Please take a moment to ponder WHY and then scroll down and share one additional explanation in the comment box below.

Have you ever sat in a meeting or training, had a question and not asked it? Have you ever been in a board meeting marveling at why a board was making a particular decision and not jumped in with your questions? Have you ever been in front of a donor and not asked a ton of questions about what makes them tick, who they really are, and why they’re giving to you?

After you think through some of these questions, you’ve earned the opportunity to peek at some of the following websites that speak to the issue of asking good questions:

You should also go back to a series of posts I wrote a year ago on this subject:

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Questions every non-profit executive director should be asking

Yesterday’s post was titled “Excuse me, but I have a few questions” and it introduces a series of posts this week and next week focusing on the importance of asking questions as well as on who should be asking what. Today’s post looks at the executive director and some of the more powerful questions they could and should be asking.

As I mentioned yesterday, Tony Stoltzfus explains in his book “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions” that there are many reasons why asking questions is important. I highlighted the following three reasons:

  1. Asking empowers
  2. Asking develops leadership capacity
  3. Asking creates authenticity

I believe the very first reason in this list explains why non-profit executive directors need to get better at asking questions of their board members. The following is what Tony says about  “asking empowers”:

. . . roughly 80% of the time, I find that they already know what to do: they just don’t have the confidence to step out and do it. Self-confidence is a huge factor in change. When you ask for people’s opinions and take them seriously, you are sending a powerful message: “You have great ideas. I believe in you. You can do this.” Just asking can empower people to do things they couldn’t do on their own.

Sure, Tony is talking about executive coaching in that passage, but in some regards executive directors serve as a coach to the board of directors. At least sometimes . . . right? (Yes, that job involves a weird little dance and sometimes the board leads and other times the executive director leads. Sigh!)

I cannot tell you how many non-profit executive directors tell me that their board members are disengaged. While there can be many reasons for this phenomenon, one reason could be that the executive director is doing too much talking and not enough asking. Think about it for a moment.

When I decided to open The Healthy Non-Profit LLC  last year, I saw a blog post from Seth Godin titled “Questions for a new entrepreneur“. After reading it, I posted it to the bulletin board in my office. I periodically go back and re-read it because the questions he suggests a new business owner ask are right on target. Here are a few of those questions that I think are applicable to non-profit executive directors:

  • Are you aware of your cash flow? What’s your zero point? What are you doing to ensure you get to keep swimming?
  • What’s your role?
  • Are you trying to build a team?
  • Why are you doing this at all?

Circling back around to the idea of engaging board members, here are a few questions I found in Tony Stoltzfus’ book “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions” that I believe non-profit executive directors should be asking of their board members in committee meetings and in the boardroom:

  • Where do you see this going?
  • How do you want things to turn out? What’s the best possible outcome?
  • What do you think this looks like from the other person’s point of view? (e.g. donor, client, staff, etc)
  • How do you feel about that?
  • What are the real issues here?
  • How should we make this decision?
  • What do you need to know to make a great decision?
  • What would a great decision look like?

I believe the following Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation can best summarize how important a good executive directors can be to their board of directors, especially if that executive director knows how to ask really powerful questions:

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

What questions do you hear being asked by executive directors? Are they powerful and engaging questions? Please use the comment box below to share a few examples.

We will continue this series of posts focusing on the fine art of “asking questions” next Tuesday because tomorrow is “Organizational Development Friday” with John Greco and Monday is, of course, “Monday’s with Marissa”.  Tuesday’s post will focus on powerful questions that board members should be asking both of themselves and their executive director.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Excuse me, but I have a few questions

If you are an executive director, fundraising professional or board volunteer of a non-profit agency, then you are a leader. There is no arguing this fact. It is a basic truism. As a non-profit consultant, I am always assessing the effectiveness of an organization’s leadership group, and one of the biggest things I look for inside the boardroom is “who is asking questions” and “what types of questions are being asked“.

Tony Stoltzfus wrote a book that is popular among many executive coaches — “Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Questions“. At the very beginning of this book, he outlines some of the reasons why asking questions is more powerful than just talking and telling. The following are three of those reasons that I believe apply to your non-profit organization:

  1. Asking empowers
  2. Asking develops leadership capacity
  3. Asking creates authenticity

Let’s zoom in and examine exactly what Tony says about the second reason . . . “asking develops leadership capacity”:

Leadership is the ability to take responsibility. A leader is someone who sees a problem, and says, “Hey — someone needs to do something about this! And I’m going to be that someone.” Simply asking, “What could you do about that?” moves people away from depending on you for answers, and toward taking leadership in the situation. Asking builds the responsibility muscle, and that develops leaders.

What questions do you ask yourself and others? What questions are board members asking often? What about donors . . . what are your donors asking you? Do the people who your agency serves ask questions. If so, what are they?

Today’s blog post is what I call a “springboard post” because it will serve as a launching pad for a series of future blogs. So, tomorrow’s post and next week’s posts will zoom in and look at powerful questions that different stakeholders typically ask and what you should do about it and how you should encourage it. So, stay tuned to DonorDreams blog, and in the meantime please share some of those powerful questions you’ve used or heard others use in the comment box below.

I think Rudyard Kipling stated it best, when he said:

I keep six honest serving-men,
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847