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Development Officers: Build Your Appetite for Something New

My husband, Yiannis Kaloyeropoulos, is a wonderful Greek country chef, so we have delicious food every day in our home. Spanakopita, moussaka, lemon chicken with roasted potatoes, grilled pork and vegetables, salads. His plates usually include beets, zucchini, peas, peppers and many other sides. As wonderful as the Greek food is, I still don’t want to eat the same style of food every day. I like to change it up.

In the same vein, take a look at your development activities…are you doing the same thing every day with your donors and prospects? Are you making the same types of phone calls? Is this approach boring you, your constituencies as well as your staff and leadership? Change your recipe for fundraising success. Build some excitement for everyone and do something different.

Here are some new ideas to consider:

  • When was the last time you told a story to a donor? Don’t have one? You should get one, get two, and develop them into something riveting that will catch the heart of your prospect or donor. You will create something so memorable, possibly transformational for some donors, which will help you to increase revenues.

  • When was the last time that you invited a donor or group of prospects in to meet your leadership and tour your facilities? Why not showcase the facilities for a new constituency so that you can develop solid new prospects? Why not schedule a 90 minute session after work hours, meet your prospects or donors and introduce them to someone who is doing something new within the organization? It is a great way to make new connections and solidify existing ones.

  • What about looking at your area of responsibility and shaking it up a bit? A colleague, Tara Covelens, and I thought of a new way to look at Surgical Oncology. A “Night at the Theater” was born. Guests met a key leader in oncology and then experienced a rare opportunity for a hands-on robotic mock surgery in the operating room. Everyone was thrilled and the surgical experience was absolutely memorable. Easy to produce and very easy to repeat. Expenses were minimal.

  • Is your year drawing to a close? How were your revenues? Whether on target or not, start the new year with a plan to try and reach your goal in the first six months. This gives you plenty of time then to plan for next year, raise the overall bar for your fundraising, and simply decrease your stress levels overall.

  • Are you feeling alone? Not connecting as well as you would like with your leadership? No one to help? Consider developing a group of volunteers who will help you, drawn in by your mission and personality and that of your leadership. This is a real opportunity to extend your reach and develop more friends as well as a broader base of donors.

  • Can you turn your typical recognition events into a destination evening for new donors or prospects as well? Can you reach out to your prospects who have not yet given or donors who are not quite at the evening’s threshold for giving and ask them to consider their gift now or present an opportunity for them to increase their gift so that they can be part of the event? Our teams helped to develop several very effective evenings when we did just that around the Pittsburgh Wine Festival and several other events, especially in people’s homes.

  • Has your staff been attending educational seminars or presentations? Hosting them at something local that is of interest to everyone is a great way to show your colleagues and teams that you value them in many ways and appreciate their efforts. And they will appreciate the time with you.

  • Have you thought about your own delegation strategies? Rather than attending a regular standing group meeting, can you salute one of your staff in a way that communicates trust, and ask he/she to attend in your stead? Not only does this free your own schedule, but it gives the staff member a chance to network with a new group of people and showcase their own talents. Discussions following these meetings also help you both to build your own relationship further.

  • Has a volunteer called you and asked you to do something that seems like a wild goose chase? Someone who may not be as well directed as he/she could be and has time on their hands? Perhaps this time you should go and let the experience be a teachable moment, building your relationship together in a stronger way. This experience taught me that one has to be very careful in what one chooses to do, but it can result in a significant gift. And the time invested was not overwhelming.

  • After reviewing your career, do you find that you are a little bored and would like to do something new? Do you have hobbies that offer an opportunity for a full-time job? Or can you take a look at something new within your own field of work—perhaps consider working with another organization since a change of culture can do you good. What about looking at building on your skill set and joining a wealth advisory firm? What about working with a firm focused on recruitment? What about working with a firm that can allow you to travel the country? What about starting your own consulting business? (Now, this is a novel idea!)

If you simply feel exhausted from the work that you are doing and the stress that you are experiencing, take some time off and experience something new. Stay vibrant. Try something that will shake up the routine. Every day offers something different and life is very short.

When I got to that point, I decided to move to Athens, Greece. Living in Greece brought me a lovely husband and beautiful daughter. I worked within another culture and gained incredible personal and professional experiences. And I deeply love my friends there. Now I speak another language and see many things in a very different way. And with these photos you can see some of the fine cuisine that we have in our home…I love Greek food, but I do like to change it up sometimes and go out for Thai!


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