I got to hang out with my soul sister Renee Harness last week, talking leadership. If you want something magical to happen with your team, check out Harness Leadership (and thank me later). I was reminded of how beautiful leadership can be: accountability, trust, humility, encouragement. And that’s really about it. Nail those, and you will have a team willing to strive and struggle on your behalf.
Friend, when was the last time you told someone, directly and in person, “Really wonderful job!” or “I appreciate you, your talents, and your effort!”. Or simply delivered a High Five to someone to celebrate a victory, great or small?
Okay, now when did you last do this at work? With a subordinate? When did you really do this in person, and not another LIKE on the socials, or via Reply-All email? Think on it.
We have myriad challenges in our non-profit organizations. One of the biggest is that we seem to have the most difficult time celebrating success, and in simply declaring victory. The needs are so vast, and the financial strains so wearing that we forget to acknowledge our own achievements, let alone others.
Whenever I network with someone considering a transition to a non-profit career, I caution them on this reality. Our challenges are so great that we can easily forget to take care of ourselves and others. I’ve seen too many good professionals burn right out, and become realtors or wedding photographers.
This is not just a fundraising problem, but we certainly have that urgent issue in our Development departments. How are you going to encourage staff and volunteers, when most of you cannot be bothered to pick up the phone regularly to thank donors?
Which of these is best relatable to you in the past six months?
“We made fundraising goal. But marketing didn’t hit the mark, and so we missed our revised, stretch goal for June 30, and now everyone is SAD.”
“That board member only pledged $50,000 to the campaign. That’s a blow-off gift.” (Be horrified if you like, but I’ve heard this more than once.)
“The Managing Partner agreed to a measly $10,000 table, and not the $25,000 lead table we asked him for. ”
“How much money did you raise today?”
“Our Board of Directors needs to lead this. It’s not my job to get them do theirs.”
“Your thanks is in your paycheck.”
Increasingly, I see this lack of generosity a key factor in our sector’s shabby retention of both donors and staff. Of course, all of us should be self-motivated achievers, working for the job of service to humanity, in addition to a paycheck. But for many, that’s not enough to keep us around. Acknowledgement, celebration, and encouragement of wins good and great should be the foundation of communicating with all of our constituencies in non-profits.
Let’s begin today. Celebrate the next small victory you see, acknowledging as publicly as you can a job well done.
Tell your annual fund manager, “Bravo on that Direct Mail draft. Really sharp and focused.”
Tell your MGO, “Nice work on that upgraded renewal. Good progress towards the big capital ask.”
Tell your Development committee member, “Thanks for writing those thank-you notes. Hearing from a volunteer really impacts renewals rates for us.”
Tell your CEO, “Thanks for asking that Board Member. Even though we didn’t get the full $50,000 we requested, we have made progress.”
Tell YOURSELF, “I did good work this week. Time for some pork tacos.” Wait, that’s literally me.
Can you try it, even if it feels strange? Three times per week. Tell someone what a great job they are doing, and how much you appreciate their efforts and gifts. Tell yourself that as well.
Thanks for reading!