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Do you remember the old Ford Motor Company slogan that stated, “Quality is Job One?” Ford sold a lot of vehicles using that promise. They persuaded car buyers to buy THEIR product, under the belief that the manufacturer had a strong commitment to producing a quality product. But this raises these and other questions: “What does quality mean?" Or, “How will I know quality when I see it?”

The Beatles tune, Let It Be, written in the 1960’s by Paul McCartney is catchy and profound! In the 3rd stanza it goes, “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.” Please allow me to shine a bit of light on your advancement/stewardship planning with this song as a backdrop.

Of the $335 Billion dollars given last year in America, around ten cents (10) of each dollar given by check or wire transfer was written by a Foundation. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on Monday 14 April, 2014. The Article titled “Family Foundations Adopt New Mantra: Let’s Spend It All” by Veronica Dagher. A narrative about Family Foundations in America. 24% of those family foundations intend to give all of their assets away during the lifetime of the existing directors.

  If you are involved in non-profit ministry and/or fund-raising for long, you will probably hear the term “elevator pitch.” Are you familiar with it? From Wikipedia, ”an elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.” (Pincus, Aileen. "The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch".)

So how many leaders in your organization does it take to change a light bulb?  Answer: Change - what do you mean, change?! Change does not come easily for many.  That’s true with individuals and it’s true in the leadership of many nonprofits.  While too much change certainly can do major harm, not enough change can be equally damaging.  We all learn from successes and failures.  Over the years, I’ve encountered both and have learned some lessons.  Allow me to share a few.

When employees arrive for their first day at Apple they are greeted with this inspirational note: "There’s work and there’s your life’s work. The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple."

How do you know when the donor isn't ready? If you've been involved in development work for long, you've probably had a situation where you made the “ask” of a donor before they're weren't ready. How so? A couple of differing ways, probably – either they were offended, said “no”, or gave a significantly smaller amount than you hoped for. No worries, we have all been there a time or two. Maybe a better question is - how can you know (for next time)? The relationship between a donor, the development staff person or volunteer assigned to the donor, and the institution in need of support is a tricky one. There are guidelines of when a donor is ultimately “ready” for solicitation, but no hard, fast rules. Every donor, every organization, and every campaign is different.

I recently read an article written by Jim Mathis and produced by the Christian Businessmen’s Committee. In his introduction, he stated:  When I was about 12 years old, my father took me to a hardware store to buy my first set of real tools. Among the first items I acquired were needle-nose pliers. They came with a lecture from my dad that he had already given me many times about the importance of having good tools, knowing how to use them, and taking care of them. He always concluded with the admonition, “Take care of your tools and they will take care of you."

Frustrated with not hitting your stride in your advancement work? Wondering how to kick-start an action plan that leads to increased productivity and results? Asking some candid questions may be very helpful. But rather than ask the standard assessment tool questions that often appear on evaluations, consider asking some more penetrating questions. While working with a client recently, I was asked to do a performance evaluation of each person on the advancement team. I pulled up each person’s position description and asked them to answer five key questions. Their responses were submitted in brief written form prior to our meeting and they became a great springboard for discussion and action plans.

Jesus gave Peter and John some unusual instructions to make preparation for what would be the Last Supper. “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” “They left and found things just as Jesus had told them” (Luke 22:10-13a).
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