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Gratitude in 3 Steps

January 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy

Gratitude is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

I was  struck by this definition. If you had asked me to write my own definition it would have spoken only to thankfulness.

But, wow — the readiness to show appreciation.

And to return kindness.

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share,” said W. Clement Stone, a successful business leader, motivational writer and speaker, and philanthropist who saw in his heart to donate more than $275 million of his personal wealth.

It truly speaks to the heart of our work in fundraising — allowing philanthropists, large and small, to experience the joy of giving.

And showing appreciation — in big and small ways. The easiest, of course, is to just say thank you. An email is nice. A personal note is even more meaningful.

Returning kindness — yes, this can be to whomever you are grateful. But I also see this in a larger sense; our responsibility (I believe) is to give back, to help others.

I now view gratitude as a three-step process:

  1. Being thankful
  2. Showing appreciation
  3. Returning kindness

So, at this season of giving, I have a wonderful sense of gratitude. I am thankful to so many: friends, family, our team, clients and you — the reader. Thank you for reading, providing feedback and sharing. It is an honor to connect with you.

Have a happy new year filled with gratitude!

By Jeff Jowdy
Fundraising Success Magazine

A Lesson in Work-Life Balance From 2,000 Feet

August 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy

Not far from the Vancouver headquarters of my company is one of the world’s largest granite monoliths. The Stawamus Chief rises more than 2,000 feet above Canada’s Howe Sound in a nearly unbroken vertical face. It’s a magnet for mountain climbers from around the world, who test their grit on its immense walls.

I got into rock climbing over a decade ago, as a way to hang out with friends, get away from it all and blow off steam. And I thought I’d gotten pretty good at it. But, then on a recent climb, when I was literally just a few hundred feet from the summit of the Chief, I ran into trouble. After a full day of climbing, I suddenly found myself on an exposed, overhung pitch where the rock angles outward, so you’re literally dangling over the abyss. Complicating things, I was nearly at the end of my climbing rope, which meant a 20-foot plunge to my last piece of protection (or worse) if I lost my grip.

That’s when, from the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny figure inching his way up from below, steadily, insistently, completely absorbed in the climb. He gave me the slightest nod as he passed by, finding a handhold on the difficult face and clambering up, over and onward in one motion. I could only stare. He wasn’t using any ropes at all.

Seeing that free climber really put into perspective the highs and lows of startup life for me. After all, while life as an entrepreneur can certainly be stressful and the pressures can be enormous, they’re rarely life or death.

I decided (after regaining my grip, of course) that instead of panicking, freezing up and dangling over the abyss, I’d try to enjoy the climb.

And I know climbing mountains is a tired old cliche for the struggles of starting and growing a business. The point here is it’s also always important to get away from your desk and see the world from different ledges and angles—whether it’s from a plane, a bike, a new city … or on the edge of a 2000 foot cliff.

In 2006, Ernst & Young did an internal survey and discovered that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time their employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8 percent. People who took more holidays were also found to be less likely to leave the firm.

What experiences help you maintain a healthy perspective? What do you do to keep from slipping over the edge during stressful times on the job?

May 28, 2014
CEO at HootSuite


To help our furry friends, don’t give nationally

July 28th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Annual Giving, Brian Lacy

With 70 million households in America owning pets, it’s no surprise that the TV ads with sad music showing needy cats and dogs tug at our heartstrings.

Americans give hundreds of millions a year to national animal charities. Sadly, a good chunk of that money isn’t going to help those animals. It’s going to pay a racketeering lawsuit settlement.

Last month, several animal-rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States agreed to pay $16 million to settle a suit over their alleged behavior in a different lawsuit.

The payout settles claims that they’d engaged in illegal payments to a witness as well as bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and other wrongdoings. That’s on top of $9.3 million the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals paid in 2012 to settle.

The conduct at issue is far from cuddly. Animal-rights activists sued a circus company over a decade ago, claiming elephant abuse. That suit was thrown out after years of litigation, with the court calling it “frivolous” and “vexatious.”

In its dismissal, the court pointed to a scheme by which the activists had paid the key witness in the case nearly $200,000. That witness had also lied to the court, and so naturally the court found him to be discredited and essentially a “paid plaintiff.” The animal-rights law firm representing plaintiffs was even sanctioned by the court.

You wouldn’t know any of this is going on from those ads with sad dogs and cats.

In fact, a lot goes on behind the scenes at national animal groups. Not all of it is bad. But many of these groups have troubling priorities.

As a 30-year veteran of the animal-welfare community, I know there’s a difference between local and national groups that the public does not understand.

One reason is the similarity in names. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, is separate from local SPCAs.

The Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS, isn’t affiliated with local humane societies, and only 1 percent of the money it raises goes to local pet shelters.

I used to work as director of education for the Humane Society of the United States.

Everything always seemed to revolve around constant fund-raising, with publicity second and lobbying also important. Direct care of animals was far from the main priority.

Unsurprisingly, then, the overhead of national animal groups can be quite high.

The independent charity evaluator CharityWatch finds that the ASPCA spends up to 35 percent of its budget on overhead. HSUS is worse, spending up to 45 percent of its budget on overhead. That adds up to tens of millions in fund-raising expenses.

Essentially, lots of money is spent on fund-raising in the name of some crisis. Then much of that money gets pumped right back into more fund-raising on the next crisis.

The big winners are the firms that send out the mail and make the commercials. The animals? Not so much.

In contrast, I have worked for local animal control and with local humane societies for most of my life. These groups need money, but they just aren’t as good at marketing themselves as a large national group with mega-sized direct-mail and TV campaigns.

These local organizations are too busy providing hands-on care for animals in their communities.

National awareness or lobbying campaigns can serve a purpose. But donors need to know where their money is going.

National groups wouldn’t raise as much money if their ads didn’t show dogs and cats, but instead the highly paid executives, lawyers and lobbyists who get so much of the cash.

The tear-jerking ads from national groups should come with a warning: If you want to help pet shelters, give to your local ones directly.

That’s a disclaimer these ads will never voluntarily include, but it is a message that any animal lover can spread to others.

June 3, 2014
By Diana Culp

Diana Culp is the managing director of the Humane Society for Shelter Pets, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a sustainable base of local support for the nation’s network of local pet shelters.

4th of July

July 4th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy

Employees Driving You Nuts? It Might Be You, Not Them.

February 13th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy

Frustrated by your employees? The problem may be you, not them.

Your employees are your business, and keeping them motivated has a direct result on your own bottom line. It’s harder to do nowadays. More than 70 percent of employees recently surveyed claim to be disengaged at work.


But, as humans, we get fed up with the people working for us. We expect them to have the same drive and energy for our enterprise as we do, even though they don’t own the business. And we may despair that we can’t control them, “fix” them or at least mold them into something closer to what we want.

Don’t despair. Often, it is the owner, not the worker, who is the biggest problem, and a few personal changes can go a long way toward improving staff morale and engagement – and keep you from getting so frustrated by the people you manage.

Consider the following four ideas.

Identify what’s most important.
Often when managers find themselves frustrated with employees, they begin to focus on small things rather than what really needs to be accomplished. While small things can become big problems, it’s important for business leaders to be clear with themselves about big-picture goals. Take an employee who is chronically late. You might feel that needs to be addressed, because you believe in punctuality. Now say that same employee is also your top salesperson. Should you work about the clock, when clearly the job results are helping you?

Set expectations. 
So many managers I coach express frustration over what their employees “lack.” But, when I ask them whether they themselves have set expectations for their workers, they almost always admit they have not. You cannoit expect your employees to be mind-readers. While it’s incumbent upon employees to communicate with each other and with managers, it’s equally important for managers and business owners to set measurable expectations and clearly communicate them to employees.

Hold yourself and your employees accountable. 
Lack of accountability creates bad habits and mediocrity. If employees are not meeting expectations that have been clearly defined, it’s imperative to address that immediately. If you put it off, you run several risk. The employee’s habit might be harder to break later. You will create a bad office morale situation by letting one person “get away” with something. And you can cause mutual resentment that can be toxic, particularly for a small business. What’s more, you have to lead by example. Admit your mistakes and hold yourself accountable. True leaders are not afraid to admit when they’re wrong and that organically commands respect.

Be more open with feedback. 
Employers and managers commonly use annual reviews as the only forum for providing feedback to subordinates. Yet, formal yearly reviews are just that — a formality. The most productive feedback to employees is more organic and ongoing, where a job well-done is acknowledged and weak performance is addressed in real time. Again, this is a chance to lead by example by asking for feedback from your own employees. Few managers think that it’s a good idea to solicit ongoing feedback from workers for fear it can break down the structured organizational hierarchy. However, managers have the ability to set the tone of how feedback is offered and received. Implementing a common practice where feedback is offered in a professional manner and for the sole purpose of increasing productivity for optimal results instantly raises the level of internal communication and mutual respect.
BY  | November 8, 2013

How to Get Ahead When Nobody is Watching

February 12th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy

You’re busy. You’re stressed out. Some things aren’t going your way. Sound familiar? That’s how we all feel sometimes, and that’s certainly how I felt two years ago, the day I met Sheldon Yellen for the first time.

I was interviewing Sheldon, the CEO of global property restoration company Belfor, who had just appeared on TV’s Undercover Boss. I was behind on a couple of deadlines at work, and I hadn’t recently had the time with my kids that I so cherished. Despite the fact that I was supposed to be interviewing Sheldon, he insisted upon asking me questions to get to know me better, and somehow I shared my stress with him.

I’ll never forget the advice Sheldon shared with me right then and there:

Do the right thing, when nobody is watching.

“Be kind,” Sheldon said, “and you’ll feel better. Be kind to the people at work, and be kind to the people you love, and be kind to strangers. When you’re by yourself, write a kind letter to someone, ‘just because’. You’ll feel better, and the crazy thing is, that’s how you end up getting ahead.”

Coming from just anyone, I might not have taken that advice very seriously. How does kindness help you get ahead? But coming from the leader of a global billion dollar company with over 6,000 employees? I had to take notice.

We all try to be kind everyday, but right then and there, I began more actively trying to institute kindness into my life – be it through random acts of kindness, kind words to a teammate, caring acts to a client, or kind handwritten notes to my colleagues, friends and family.

Two years later, I can’t report a direct correlation to my getting ahead – I’ve been very fortunate and successful over the last two years, but it’s been impossible to prove a direct correlation between kindness and success. Still, I can report that kindness always leads to improving my mood, and an improved mood often leads to improved productivity, and that often leads to success! The thing is, whether or not kindness helps you get ahead, this much is true:

Every time you’re actively kind, you’ll feel better.

Today is global World Kindness Day, and all around the world, thousands of organizations and people are celebrating by actively working on being kinder to others. Sheldon and his team at Belfor are celebrating with a #LettersofKindness campaign on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedInClick on the link, write a letter of kindness, and Sheldon will actually print it and mail it or hand-deliver it to someone in need of some support!

You’ll immediately feel better – and who knows, you just might turn your day (or week, or month) around, and get ahead.

Yes, it’s easy to be cynical, and remain busy, and focused on yourself and the many tasks at hand. Then again, is there any downside to kindness?

Happy World Kindness Day, and here’s to hoping you celebrate with Sheldon and me – today and everyday.

November 13, 2013

Dave Kerpen

6 Simple Mindfulness Practices To Reframe Your Perspective

September 14th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy


This is your life.

Do what you love and do it often.

If you don’t like something, change it.

If you don’t like your job, quit.

If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.

If you’re looking for the love of your life, stop; they’ll be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If so, you might be one of the 100 million people who’ve read and shared the Holstee Manifesto.

Have you ever wondered, how did this manifesto come to be? (I certainly have.)

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the guys at Holstee to dive into why Holstee exists, to hear more about how they are reframing the way we look at art with their latest product on Kickstarter (check it out–it’s awesome), and learn where the company is going next.

Where it all began is in 2009, in the midst of one of the country’s worst recessions, when brothers and cofounders Dave and Mike Radparvar quit their jobs to dive headfirst into building a dream company with good friend and founding partner Fabian.

Rather than write a business plan, they sat together on the steps of Union Square to write down the things in life they wanted to work toward, value, and not forget. From this, came the manifesto.

What they didn’t expect is that the declaration of truth that they originally wrote for themselves would eventually pen the direction of the company, and inspire millions along the way. It’s just now, four years later, that they’re able to articulate why the company exists.

“Holstee exists to encourage mindful living,” Mike says. “We grew up in an age where faster, cheaper, and bigger were valued above craftsmanship, values, and quality. We hope to change that for future generations.”

What exactly is mindful living, you may be wondering?

In a world where multitasking and information overload are the norm, mindful living, as defined by Holstee, is “to be fully aware and to appreciate the impact of one’s actions.”

“Mindfulness inherently makes us more curious and encourages us to ask why.” says Mike. “We live in an age where transparency and authenticity are the new kings.”

So how does one integrate mindful practices to enhance quality of life?

Here’s how the guys at Holstee practice mindfulness, which you, too, can begin implementing today:

1. Presence. 
When in conversation, give someone your fullest attention. Put the computer away, turn your phone on silent, and get lost in the moment with that person. Be fully interested, rather than interesting.

2. Architect your life. 
Be considerate and intentional with your life decisions. Rather than let life happen to you, author the story of your life. Author and philosopher Howard Thurman says it best with, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

3. Personal time. 
Taking time for yourself creates clarity and renewed energy. At Holstee, they strongly suggest all teammates take their birthday day off each month. In a startup culture where personal and working hours tend to get blurred, this creates space and perspective.

4. Ask “Why?” 
Why am I doing this? Why are we creating this product? Why is this a design principle? Asking “why” encourages you to go deeper and become more aware of what’s driving you, and whether or not you want it to be driving you.

5. Know your food and appreciate meals. 
What are you eating and where did it come from? As a society, over the last 50 years, we’ve created a knowledge and geographic gap as we’ve distanced ourselves from our food. To stay aware, the team at Holstee cooks in the office almost every day, and meal times are savored without work.

6. Understand the impact of what you buy. 
Transparency is slowly being built into the operations of many forward-thinking companies. This movement is a direct result of the increasing number of people asking questions about the clothes they buy, where their electronics come from, and brands they choose to support. Before buying, understand the impact.

National Catholic Development Conference 2010

If you will be attending the National Catholic Development Conference in Chicago, please come and visit with me.  Brian Lacy and Associates will have Booth 322 from Sunday September 19 through Tuesday September 21.  On Monday morning at 9am we will host a roundtable entitlted “Interesting New Ways to Boost Direct Mail Results”.  Can’t make it to conference, but you live in Chicago and work in development, every evening great groups will be going out to dinner to talk about development.  Call me (860-478-9291) or email me ( if you want to join a dinner group.  I can likely hook you up wth a group interesting in the same aspects of development as you!


Brian Lacy

Non-Profit Doomsday Passes

June 15th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy

BrianLacy Suit Photo (Upright Shot)Doomsday has passed for as many as 400,000 of the more than 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the US.  Most should have stopped issuing tax receipts on May 15, 2010.  Many likely still are.  If you work or volunteer at a small non-profit, or received a tax receipt from a very small non-profit recently, read on …

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires the IRS to revoke the federal tax exemption of any organization that has failed to file three consecutive annual returns (Form 990-N, 990-EZ, 990, or 990-PF).  Historically, only nonprofits with annual gross revenue in excess of $25,000 were required to file Form 990.  Now, all nonprofits are required to file.  There are no extensions.  Organizations that fail to meet the May 15 deadline this year will be required to re-apply for 501(c)3 status.

Brian Lacy