As fans of Veritus become partners with us, we often hear a familiar refrain along the lines of: “I’ve been dying to work with you all. I’m excited to put all that I read about in your blog and books to use.” We also get a lot of questions about what Richard and Jeff are really like, but that’s another blog altogether.
Some of these fans excel in implementing The Veritus Way. As each quarter ends, we review client results. Most see success from The Veritus Way, but some eclipse all expectations. One organization we work with has exceeded the previous year’s giving and the current year’s annual goal by the third quarter! The question is: how?
It comes down to three things: leadership embraces change, fundraisers implement the system, and – wait for it – they have fun. These simple things are possible at every organization. It’s great if you have all three. But even one of these will help propel positive results.
Leadership Embraces Change
It’s amazing to me when an organization hires us because there is a pain point, but then in our first meetings, the theme is: WE do things this way. There is no give. They want to pick and choose the pieces of The Veritus Way they will implement.
Everyone can benefit from an outside, expert perspective. Think about how this may work in another area of life. I’m presently hiring a personal trainer. It’s going to be uncomfortable to meet a new person and reveal the areas where I am most in need of help. That’s a silly statement. The trainer is an expert and can probably assess my fitness level in a few seconds. Plus, I’m coming in having expressed my pain point: I want to be in better shape. There are areas where I think I’m strong, but others where I know I need someone to give me direction. Can you imagine if I said: I’m here to get stronger, but please don’t talk to me about my arms, legs, abs, or glutes?
The best leaders we work with are willing to be vulnerable and let us see all their best systems, plus those that may need some help. They’re willing to essentially say, “We’re comfortable with our system, but we think we can do better. What do you suggest?” The leader at the organization referenced above spoke to one of our new partners and then shared with me what he told them: “Don’t piecemeal this. Go all in. The Veritus Way works when you do it all.”
Fundraisers Implement the System
This is perhaps the hardest of the three points. To carry my personal trainer illustration further: there’s a big difference in me hiring a trainer versus being compelled into the situation. If Jeff called and told me he’d hired a personal trainer for me, I’d be a little miffed. Even though that’s very generous and for my own good, it feels invasive. I know my weaknesses, but when someone else sees them, it’s painful. Even when they offer to help!
So, we understand the difference between a leader who hires us and the fundraiser who actually has to work with us. The gift officer has often not had a say in this new partnership.
Still, everyone can use a coach. It is the frontline fundraisers who are key to successfully implementing The Veritus Way.
As with any new situation, there may be some initial adjustment. It’s not always an easy adjustment. I’ve coached people who hated Veritus initially. Along with not having a say in the new partnership, there are personal challenges. I think of two gift officers who are not system people. The idea of tracking donors and making long-term plans in black-and-white felt foreign to these two gregarious, outgoing, relationship-building experts. But in the end, both thanked me for walking with them. They realized their relationship-building was strengthened when they had a clear direction. They embraced The Veritus Way and succeeded. By the way, they happened to work in different organizations where leadership was an issue.
Whatever the setting, success comes when fundraisers implement The Veritus Way. Long-term practice of our systems and structure brings positive results.
Remember to have fun with it
We say it often: fundraisers have the best job in the world. It’s a calling, and it’s wonderful. It is also a lot of hard work. So, we need to find moments to enjoy the work!
Here is where there are things leaders can do to help fundraisers enjoy their work. It may start by setting the tone. Back to the organization who has exceeded goals already this year: the leader has a “DEP Party” annually. What’s that? Three days that are blocked off for the fundraisers to develop their Donor Engagement Plan. Nothing else is required those days. No meetings, no other deadlines, and a lot of fun in the office. (I’m hoping to be invited next year because it sounds like a blast!)
There’s more. That same group of fundraisers took the acronym DEP and its phonetic equal of “depp” and have decided that all their spreadsheets will be named after characters in Johnny Depp films. I can’t help but chuckle when one of them emails to ask me to help them with their “Edward Scissorhands.” It’s silly, right? But it shows that they have fun.
It’s wonderful to help fund mission, but none of us are single-handedly responsible for solving the world’s ills. We can enjoy our work. Yes, it is a job, but it’s a joyous one. Embrace the fun!
That’s it. Three simple things we’ve observed that lead to incredible success. While we can’t control other people – like the boss who won’t change or the fundraiser who struggles, we can own our strengths, weaknesses, and our attitude.
Lisa Robertson is the Director of Client Services at Veritus Group. She has over 25 years of experience in non-profit leadership, serving as an executive, program director, and special event coordinator. Lisa has been responsible for fundraising, donor/constituent relations, marketing, and internal communications. She has a dual degree in Communications and Political Science from the University of Washington and worked as a sports reporter and editor before entering the non-profit sector.