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Working with Vendors

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Videos

Late last week, a representative of one of our most important vendors informed me that he is leaving to pursue a new opportunity. After I recovered from shock and wished him well, I had a chance to reflect on his contribution to our program and the value that he and his organization have brought to mine. I have been fortunate to work with him for several years and believe both of us have learned from the relationship. We’ve also developed a friendship that extends beyond doing business together.

Some believe the client-vendor relationship is somewhat adversarial – and at times it may be – but generally I feel that most vendors are much more than companies feeding off our programs. They are valued members of the team, and should be treated as such. It’s not ‘bad business’ to develop positive relationships with these folks just because they send us bills for their services.

At the end of this post, you’ll find a video that pokes fun at the vendor-client relationship. This video has become quite famous and you’ve probably seen it at one time or another. Some parts may even ring true, unfortunately, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of some of this behavior at least once. But generally, I believe it paints an unfair picture of the vendor-client relationship. In reality, I believe the relationship is positive for both sides and I hope my treatment (and yours) is better than this.

Following are just a few guidelines I recommend when working with vendors:

1. Select vendors who match your organization’s culture and values. Look for somebody you can work with frequently, will perform work at the level you expect and will contribute equally to the project. Work WITH them to partner on the projects you work on together. They are not here only to serve you, but rather they should become a valued member of your team. They’re providing a service that you either don’t want to provide yourself or simply don’t have the ability to perform. Welcome them, as they truly are an extension of your team.

2. Once you have selected a vendor, treat them as you would any other member of your team. It’s ok to be be open and honest about your successes and failures. It’s ok to become friends. It’s ok to show them how the sausage is made. The result will be a better relationship and final product that will benefit your organization. And it makes it more fun to work with them as well. Treating them as ‘that company that just takes money to provide a service’ doesn’t benefit either party.

3. As a member of your team, treat the vendor with the same respect as you would anyone else on your payroll. Be fair. Expect the best. Set realistic goals and expectations. One of my mentors spoke often of “making insiders out of outsiders” and this is just as true for vendors as it is donors. As they learn about you and your organization, they will strive to provide the best result possible.

4. Understand that vendors receive payment for providing a service, but that doesn’t translate into being a servant for your organization. Getting the best from those with whom you partner means allowing them to provide ideas, feedback and truly PARTNER rather than simply doing as you demand. You don’t have to take every suggestion, but respect them enough to listen. Hiring a vendor who learns early on that it’s better to always say ‘yes’ will likely create a less-than-optimal result. You’re hiring them for their expertise. Let them provide it.

5. When you have problems (and if you work with anyone long enough you WILL have a problem or two) let them know. Be honest and provide feedback to help them understand what you will expect in the future. Vendors are nothing more than collections of people, and people sometimes make mistakes. You wouldn’t hold your employees to a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy and you shouldn’t hold vendors to that standard either. You obviously can’t allow repeated mistakes or problems, but don’t overreact to the first one even if it’s a doozie.

6. Be realistic. Vendors provide services, not miracles.

7. If a vendor performs well, tell others. They’ll appreciate it. If they don’t, there’s no reason to spread the word. That’s not professional behavior. If you’re asked to provide a direct reference on a former vendor, by all means be fair and honest. But don’t seek out ways to damage somebody’s reputation. Sometimes things just don’t work out, let it be. There’s nothing to be gained for unprofessional behavior.

8. Like any member of your team, a vendor must meet your expectations. If the performance level just isn’t acceptable and you’ve given it a fair shake, it’s time to find a new vendor. When severing the relationship for performance problems, let the vendor know why you are doing so and how they might improve in the future. This type of feedback will allow them to exit the situation with knowledge that may benefit them (and other clients) in the future. It’s also helpful to document these expectations and problems so you can address them with others as you search for a replacement.

9. Treat your vendors well. I know so many people who seem downright mean to their vendors. Then they sit back and expect holiday gifts, birthday cards, trinkets, etc. They want to be treated like royalty because they’re paying the bills. Try returning the favor. Remember, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Show your appreciation for their efforts just as they show theirs for your patronage.

10. Remember: you get more flies with honey than with vinegar! Having a positive relationship doesn’t have to mean becoming somebody’s best friend, but it doesn’t hurt to maintain goodwill. When you need additional service, speedy turnaround, last-minute changes or something else that involves the vendor going out of their way to make something happen, you’ll have a better chance of getting that preferential treatment if you have a great relationship. All that nagging and complaining over the years might come back to haunt you when you need them most.

I hope, for the most part, I follow my own advice. From direct mail shops to telemarketing services to consultants and beyond, I have been fortunate to work with some very good people in the business. I’ve learned from them and they’ve learned from me. They provide valuable services and we provide solid business for them. It’s a true win-win for everyone.

I treat my consulting clients the same way. As the vendor, I am providing advice in a variety of areas, but I also enjoy developing relationships that last beyond the stated term of the engagement. I’m happy to stay in touch and hear how things are going. I continue to provide advice, and I gain knowledge from them as well. I love hearing of their continued success. I’m fortunate to have a full-time job and this allows me to be pretty picky about which clients I choose to work with. I won’t take a client for whom I can’t provide value, and I won’t take a client who doesn’t seem like they’d be enjoyable to work with. I hope the vendors we work with feel the same way.

The video I referenced at the beginning of this admittedly long post follows. If nothing else, maybe it’ll make you laugh a bit and teach you how NOT to work with a vendor.



Jeff Lindauer
Lindauer Consulting
http://getting-giving.blogspot.com

Professional Development for Any Budget?

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

Tomorrow I’m off to Chicago for my favorite professional development event of the year. I hesitate to call it a conference, and at times I’m not even sure it’s a meeting. It’s more of a convergence of some of my favorite people in the business. In fact, this year it’s been coined a scrum. You should try it.

Every year, a small group of annual giving professionals from similar programs gets together in Chicago to share ideas, look at trends and pick each others’ brains. We initially gathered because we participate in a common benchmarking group, but it’s safe to say we would continue this practice regardless. We enjoy each other and respect our various opinions too much to miss an opportunity to gather. We actually get together twice annually, but this is the meeting has the looser format. And it’s probably the better of the two.

Part of the meeting is facilitated by a consultant, part is not. We have a basic agenda of topics submitted by the attendees, but it’s really an ‘organic’ meeting. We go wherever the discussion takes us. Outsiders might consider it to be the ultimate exercise in digression. However, if they paid attention, understood the purpose and opened their minds to the discourse at hand, they’d find a very productive and informative meeting. They’d leave with a notebook full of ideas. They’d feel recharged and ready to return to their offices to put those ideas to work. And they’d have quite a bit of fun, too. I often wonder what the new members of our group must think for the first hour or two. My best guess is ‘what have I gotten myself into!?!’ but it doesn’t take long for them to become active participants. And by the end they’re looking forward to next year.

With today’s economic conditions, it’s sad but true that organizations are cutting back on professional development of all types. The days of the formal conference in an exciting city are often distant memories, replaced with a discounted book from Amazon and perhaps a webinar or two. These are great, but nothing beats substantive face-to-face interaction with peers.

If you’re saddled with budgetary constraints and unwilling or unable to invest in professional development, you’re not alone. You might consider an ad-hoc gathering of professionals from similar organizations in your area or region. You don’t need expensive conference fees, fancy presentations or luxurious surroundings – just good people, good ideas, and a shared purpose. Find an out-of-the-way hotel, share the cost of the meeting room (or find another similar venue) and stay for at least 2 days. Your only significant expense is the hotel and your experience will be worth that many times over. I do recommend getting away from the office and spending the extra money to spend the night.  Getting away means getting away even if you’re only 5 miles from home. If you want to take the next step, consider bringing in a facilitator. He or she can help guide the conversation and bring new annual giving ideas into the group. This would add an expense, but if shared among the participants it doesn’t amount to much.

I’m fortunate to have made so many great friends in this business, and I very much look forward to this seeing many of them this week. We speak on the phone often, but the magic really happens when you put us all in one room. I may eat too much and stay out too late, but it’s worth it. You should try it sometime.

Jeff Lindauer
Lindauer Consulting
http://getting-giving.blogspot.com

Do you Know Anderson Charters?

January 13th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Offbeat News

ANDERSON CHARTERS-CD-1Anderson has worked in journalism and publishing since 1978. He was a reporter for The Financial Post from 1978 to 1981. In 1982, Anderson and his wife, Susan, moved to a Orillia, where they started and published the Orillia Sun.  They sold it the Orillia Sun in 1989 but other publishing ventures followed.   In 2001 Anderson purchased the Canadian Donor’s Guide, an annual directory of Canadian charities. He used his publishing experience in the non-profit field to launch, 18 months ago, CharityCan, a website modeled on GuideStar.

Please give us more background on CharityCan.

After acquiring the Canadian Donor’s Guide, I was searching around for ways to take advantage of the Internet. I came across GuideStar and began to wonder if something similar could be developed in Canada that would give users access to detailed information on Canadian charities. CharityCan was developed – www.charitycan.ca – where subscribers can search, sort, rank, analyse and compare all 85,000 registered charities in Canada using information these charities have submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (the Canadian IRS). We have secured access to Noza philanthropic gift information so that CharityCan will be an even more powerful research service.

How does the Canadian Donor’s Guide differ from CharityCan?

The Canadian Donor’s Guide is a traditional media publication similar to the Yellow Pages.  It is an advertiser-driven publication with listings and display ads taken by Canadian charities. We have also been very fortunate the last few years to have a the Bank of Nova Scotia as Guide sponsor . It is a niche publication providing information in the planned giving space to professional advisors and attorneys. The Internet has given us the opportunity to publish a Digital Edition.  Your readers can view the Digital Edition at www.donorsguide.ca.


How does Canadian philanthropy differ from American philanthropy?

Canadian philanthropy differs very little from American philanthropy.  However, as Canada’s population is one-tenth the size of the United States, many new trends and ideas take root in the U.S. before crossing the border. As well, per capita giving by Americans exceeds that of Canadians, by about two to one. Canadians give more than Europeans – it’s just that the U.S. leads the world in philanthropy. Notions of self reliance are more firmly rooted in America than in Canada. Historically, Canadians have accepted a greater role for government in the economy than Americans.  This may be changing.  Also higher church attendance is the U.S. is a factor in per capita giving statistics.

 Brian Lacy

A Personal Request for Haitian Relief

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

I have personally attended mission trips to Haiti and to visit Haitian slaves who harvest American-bound sugar in the Dominican Republic.  Last year a crushing hurricane reduced the poorest country in the western hemisphere to even lower living conditions.  Ten of thousand were reduced to eating mud-cakes, which they continue to consume due to insufficient food supplies.  Now, Haitians have experienced the strongest earthquake in the history of the island they share with the Dominican Republic.  The American Red Cross says 3 million people are affected.  If can make a contribution to any of the charities offering aid at this time, please do so.  I have included a link to UNICEF’s relief donation page.   You can also call 1-800-4UNICEF.

Brian Lacy



Study on Volunteering

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch Form Alliance and Release Landmark Study1 on Volunteering

Volunteers2 Donate, On Average, 10 Times More Money than Non-Volunteers

BOSTON, Dec. 3, 2009 — Americans who volunteer their time and skills to nonprofit organizations donate an average of 10 times more money to charity than people who don’t volunteer, according to a comprehensive national study on volunteering released today by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund (“Gift Fund”) and VolunteerMatch.

The study found many Americans have a strong commitment to community service, with 43% volunteering in the last 12 months. More than a quarter (28%) of Americans, however, have never volunteered.

The study marks the start of an association between the two organizations. The Gift Fund is the third largest public charity3 in the United States and VolunteerMatch is a national nonprofit organization and the Web’s most popular4 volunteer resource. Under a new initiative launching today, visitors can now search VolunteerMatch’s award-winning network to discover volunteer opportunities with 73,000 participating organizations nationwide. The Gift Fund is the first national donor advised fund to have such an association with VolunteerMatch.

“This is exciting data that reveals a tremendous opportunity to tap the American spirit of volunteering and giving,” said Sarah C. Libbey, president of the Gift Fund. “Most Americans are motivated to volunteer to support a cause they care about. Yet, three in ten can’t find an organization that matches their interest. Together with VolunteerMatch, we’re offering a solution.”

“We always knew that volunteers pour their heart into making a difference, and now we know they put their money there too,” said Greg Baldwin, president, VolunteerMatch. “We’re proud to be working with Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund to help people put their time and treasure to good use.”

The volunteer study, conducted Oct. 21-25, 2009, looked at the community-service commitments and perceptions of more than 1,000 Americans nationwide. It reveals some key insights.

Volunteers Donate Significantly More Money to Charities than Non-Volunteers

The study found that the average amount of money donated to non-profits by Americans who have volunteered in the past 12 months is $2,593 annually, more than 10 times the average $230 donated by Americans who have never had a volunteering experience.

Two-thirds (67%) of Americans who have volunteered in the past 12 months say they generally make their financial donations to the same organizations where they volunteer. And, those same active volunteers say they are more likely to increase their charitable donations in 2010 when compared to people who have never volunteered (32% of volunteers compared with 26% of non-volunteers).

Most Americans Have Volunteered

The study showed that 72% of adult Americans (18 years old and older) have volunteered at some point in their lives, and 43% are currently volunteering or have within the past 12 months. More than a fourth (28%) have never volunteered.

Many Barriers to Volunteering

The top reasons cited by Americans for not volunteering, the study found, were lack of time (46%), lack of interest in volunteering (32%), pressure from organizations to give more time than people want to give (32%), and the inability of Americans to find the right organization to match their interests (30%).

The Gift Fund study also found that six in 10 (60%) Americans say that charities have become too much of a big business and nearly as many (56%) believe that many charities have disorganized management. These attitudes are especially prevalent among people 55 years old and older.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for nonprofits to build greater awareness and understanding of how they manage their organizations by sharing insights into their funding structure, project management and volunteer coordination practices,” said Libbey. “Transparency through open and frequent communication with current and prospective donors should always remain a priority.”

More than a third (38%) of those surveyed say they want to see immediate results when they volunteer, while 44% indicate that if an organization cannot take advantage of their specific skills, they will likely volunteer elsewhere.

Changing Attitudes Toward Volunteering

Almost half (47%) of those surveyed say volunteers today are more motivated by what they get from the experience than by what they can do for others. Half (51%) are more likely to volunteer for an organization that has other volunteers in their age group. This attitude is especially prevalent among those under 35 years old (59%). Adults under 35 are more likely to volunteer in order to network professionally (33%) than adults 55 years old and older (14%).

Regardless of the motivation, the act of volunteering remains valued. Six in 10 (63%) Americans cite a renewed sense of the value and importance of community service within their network of friends and family. The study found that two-thirds (66%) believe “true philanthropy” includes the giving of both time and money, with one-fifth (19%) saying that every American should be required to give a certain percentage of both each year to nonprofits. When asked if volunteers should be provided an incentive, such as a gift card, to give of their time, the vast majority (84%) disagreed, believing there should be no incentive or reward attached to volunteering.

Top Reasons to Volunteer Include Supporting a Cause, Setting Family Example

Seven in 10 (72%) say supporting a cause they care about is among their top reasons to volunteer. Other top reasons include: because it’s the right thing to do (69%), to fill an unmet need in the community (54%) and to set an example for family and children (53%).

Almost one-third (31%) of the respondents say they are more likely to volunteer time given the recent economic downturn. Among those who volunteer, almost half (49%) do it monthly or more frequently. Nearly one-third (31%) volunteer a few times a year.

The mission and work of an organization is a big factor in whether people choose to support it (61%), as is the fact that an organization is serving local community needs (59%). Roughly half say the reputation of an organization and being able to use a specific set of skills are also key influencers on whether they volunteer.

Volunteering Habits Vary By Education, Age and Gender

Volunteering rates increase with education. Six in 10 (61%) Americans with post-graduate degrees volunteered this year, compared with 56% with college degrees and 36% with high school degrees. Middle-aged adults aged 35 to 54 years old are more likely to have volunteered this year (54%) than those younger (33%) or older (38%). Women are more likely than men to volunteer monthly or more often (54% for women vs. 43% for men).

Donations in 2010

While most people surveyed don’t plan to increase their charitable donations in 2010, nearly three in 10 (29%) do. Of those who expect to increase their donations, one in four (23%) plan to increase them by less than 5%, four in 10 (43%) by 5% to 10%, and 15% by more than 20%. Almost half (45%) of those who plan to increase their charitable donations say it’s because they’ve seen the good that donations can do.

The Methodology

Data for the Gift Fund’s survey was collected via telephone by Harris Interactive from Oct. 21 to Oct. 25, 2009. It included 1,005 respondents at least 18 years old.

About Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund

The Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund was established by Fidelity Investments® in 1991. The purpose of the Gift Fund is to further the American tradition of philanthropy by providing programs that make charitable giving simple and effective. As of Sept. 30, 2009, more than 56,000 donors had recommended grants totaling more than $9.5 billion to over 130,000 nonprofit organizations nationwide since the Gift Fund’s inception.

About VolunteerMatch

VolunteerMatch is a national nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities by helping good people and good causes to connect. Its award-winning online service, www.VolunteerMatch.org, makes it easy to find a way to make a difference by location, expertise, or availability. VolunteerMatch provides many of the nation’s most recognized businesses, campuses and organizations with Web-based solutions to facilitate and track volunteer engagement at local and national levels. As the #1 ranking for “volunteer” on Google and Yahoo!, the VolunteerMatch network regularly welcomes more than 180,000 visitors each week and has become the preferred volunteer recruiting service for tens of thousands of participating nonprofits across the country.

1 Survey conducted via telephone by Harris Interactive from Oct. 21 to 25, 2009. It included 1,005 respondents at least 18 years old.

2 Volunteers are defined as those who volunteer currently or have volunteered within the last 12 months.

3 The Philanthropy 400, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 2009 (based on contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations).

4 According to data from Google, MSN and Yahoo!.

Harris Interactive is not affiliated with the Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund.

The Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund (“Gift Fund”) is an independent public charity with a donor-advised fund program. Various Fidelity companies provide investment management and administrative services to the Gift Fund. The Charitable Gift Fund logo is a service mark and the Giving Account is a registered service mark of the Trustees of the Fidelity Investments® Charitable Gift Fund. Fidelity and Fidelity Investments are registered service marks of FMR LLC and used by the Gift Fund under license.

Boston Children’s Hospital

January 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Videos