Last week, I had lunch with my friend and philanthropist Tassie (not her real name). She has been supporting a family for years struggling to stay above the poverty line. She has taken two young sisters under her roof occasionally instead of their going into foster care. Her update last week was heartbreaking. After six years of helping the girls, they have become resentful of her financial and emotional support. She has offered to pay for the oldest to go to college when she graduates from high school next year if she selects an in-state college. The girl’s response is that she “does not like having strings attached.” Sadly, the girl is not appreciative and does not understand what is being offered.
The next day, I met with the founding executive director of a newly formed nonprofit. I enjoy meeting with Alice (not her real name), a bright go-getter in her youth, because she is so dedicated to her cause. She is eager to learn and hungry for advice and understanding of how to raise more money to serve more students. She shares her struggles in a raw and vulnerable way, hoping for and seeking answers to her questions. Any help provided is welcomed and greatly appreciated.
What makes people open and receptive to advice and grateful for help, yet others turn their back?
Maybe the maturity is yet to come in the girl who fails to see the generosity and opportunities before her.
I hope that every executive director is welcoming to outside help and guidance.
Maybe some people don’t ask questions or seek advice because they are afraid they will look stupid. Maybe it’s Impostor Syndrome, a term used to describe those who doubt their abilities and accomplishments, despite evidence of competence. They fear they will be discovered.
For whatever reason, take inventory of yourself to decide if you are one of those not utilizing resources around you.
We are not supposed to do it all, and not on our own. We are not all knowing.
We can’t do it alone. We all need guidance, help, support, and encouragement.
While February is #DonorLove month, a time to make a special effort to show donor gratitude (See How to Knock Stewardship out of the Park article), we as executive directors and directors of development should appreciate help and assistance from others.
Start by seeking advice from board members. Not all board members are created equal! But garner their opinion, especially those with a track record of success in a particular area. Give a board member 30 minutes, and you will be glad you did. Board members are there to help you. Sometimes they are not aware or do not know how to help you as an executive director. Help them help you. Ask for their advice.
When we seek help and support from others, we
- Think bigger
- Consider options
- Solve problems
- Become more aware
- Simply go farther faster
Don’t we all want to improve, learn, and grow as leaders?
This makes for a healthier nonprofit and moves the organization forward.
We want more people like my friend Alice. She is a true leader. She asks questions so she can improve, be more efficient, be a good steward, better serve others, and achieve overall success. As leaders, this is our job.
I have worked with some nonprofit leaders not completely open to receiving advice. In these cases, the services were requested by their boss or board. That is never a good arrangement. It will not likely be productive.
Seek advice and help from others. We cannot do it alone. Look around to see who you can recruit for guidance. Read Find a Mentor Today article here. We have so much yet to learn.
Share with me below how you seek others to help you be more successful in your work.
Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].
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