6 Considerations for the #ConsultantContinuum

Every week, I have a chance to talk with someone in the industry about “becoming a consultant”. I love helping anyone understand what their professional vocation should be. These calls trend toward a handful of common themes–thought leadership, travel, doing vs. winning the work, etc. As a result of these discussions, I’ve distilled the six primary considerations when you’re wondering whether consulting is for you.

All of these considerations operate along a #consultantcontinuum. Think, “travel all the time” to “no travel”or “pre-set salary” versus “paid only when you bill”.  So, when looking below, consider where you feel comfortable compared to what the consulting gig may offer. Be honest! You can lie to yourself about “traveling being fine if it’s only 50% of the time” only to realize that this means 125 nights in a hotel each year. In my case, that’s great for my Hilton Honors account and hard on my family.

Where are you along the Continuum?

Consulting Consideration Continuum
Considerations for the #ConsultantContinuum

So, Consideration 1: are you a thought leader or a great “do-er”? This is really the difference between consulting and contracting, where “leading” is better but harder. If you don’t like to write and present, leading is hard to achieve.

Consideration 2 involves “Travel.” If you won’t/don’t travel, there’s a good chance you can be successful locally but limited regionally, which diminishes your impact.

Consideration 3 involves how you’ll earn compensation. If you need to bill a client for work in order to be paid, there is more risk (and likely more reward via bonuses).

Consideration 4 concerns whether you need to get your own work or will be given work by others. By far, the more work you “get”, the more challenging your consulting may be (due to constraints on time, competition, etc.).

Consideration 5 (Team v. Solo) relates to whether you will be a solo practitioner (which can be lonely and risky) to a team-based consultant, which comes with its own pros and cons. If you love QuickBooks, then solo is more viable.

Finally, consideration 6 reflects the type of consultant you want to be. Are you a “coach” or a “contrarian”. My experience is that coach-based consultants tend to balance these considerations better while contrarians gain their credibility by focusing on often-minor findings, and frequently burnout their clients and themselves.

Where do you land? In my opinion, the closer you are to the left side of the #consultantcontinuum, the more likely you will enjoy consulting and its rewards. Not a thought leader, no biggie but the authors and speakers in your niche will eat your lunch. Not one for travel? Local consulting can work but most pools are shallow. Looking for a salary guarantee regardless of billings? You may be in the wrong place. And, finally, if you want to be “right” more than be “helpful”, you may be a great consultant but your clients may beg to differ.

So, what did I miss? Where do you put yourself here? Would you like to talk about consulting? If so, drop me a line. And, best of luck figuring this out.

 

 

Mindset Impact: Beloit’s Mindset List and Your Team

Have you seen the Mindset List? Beloit College creates a list of realities for incoming freshman that help inform their faculty. It’s turned in a thing, really. It’s fun, it’s insightful, and it’s useful. For example, you may not know “1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.” for those in the class of 2021.

What Does this Mean for Us?

For those of us in higher education advancement, this list is a good barometer of our incoming classes. Beyond this, I wanted to see what it would tell us about advancement users–what can we learn from the Mindset List….from 2007.Beloit 2007 Mindset List

Think about it: many of our 20-something colleagues are experiencing one of their first jobs when they join our advancement teams. Their experiences are shaped by their mindset, some of which will mirror what they were like when they entered college.

So, what was the mindset of the class entering 2007? Here are a few items that may reflect on advancement operations:

  • “19. They have never been able to find the “return” key
  • 20. Computers have always fit in their backpacks.”

What does this tell us? For starters, some of our new colleagues expect today’s lingo and increasingly convenient hardware. For too many, we deal with the iPhone problem (which, not coincidentally, launched in 2007). Our consumer lives team with awesome tech and we head to the office to be told to “click the return key” in our decade old documentation while working on often outdated tech. At a minimum, we need to recognize the differences in mindsets across our colleagues.

The rest of the lists are useful, too. The 2008 list provides #44 “They have done most of their search for the right college online” tells us just how likely every new teem member is to demand web-accessible tools. The message in all of these mindset lists is clear: know your audience….and these lists will give you a look into their perceptions and realities.

Curious what the future holds for us? Check out investor guidance from our market’s leader

Are you wondering what the year has in store for the nonprofit industry? One great place to look for such guidance are the public filings of Blackbaud, one of the industry’s leaders in advancement tech.

Have a look at their most recent filing to get a sense of where they see the market ($7 billion in “total available market” seems a little aggressive) and where they’re investing (payments, finance, and a few other areas have the least penetration and the most potential).

Click here for this interesting view into the advancement industry.

 

 

Advancement technology satisfaction survey

Zuri Group and EverTrue recently conducted a thorough survey of advancement users’ satisfaction with their systems. The central finding was that users are unimpressed with their resources. Dissatisfaction with databases, reporting tools, analytics resources, and other important fundraising tools was often 40% or more. And, the typical response for nearly all of the questions was “it’s ok”, which means that “Meh” is the average sentiment among our users. You can check out the report here: The Advancement Technology Landscape 2017 – EverTrue and Zuri Group

Here’s a sample of the report that highlights the challenges faced by our advancement technology environments:

Advancement technology satisfaction
Reporting, a central solution for advancement programs, is failing to meet demands.

The trend for the survey suggests that “common” issues (like gift processing) received better satisfaction scores whereas more innovative and new areas, such as social data management (which only a few companies, like EverTrue, really address) and analytics, received lower satisfaction scores. Some of this may simply be the typically slow technology adoption our industry experiences. However, it is important to move beyond the “we don’t have the money/time” argument and start to examine the roots of these issues and how your institution can begin to improve satisfaction.  Our users clearly want more and better solutions.

 

There are some solutions and some ongoing obstacles to improving the advancement technology landscape. To solve the issue, non-technical tactics like building trust and negotiating expectations are more important than you might think. Delivering on the fundamentals–accurate, complete and timely data–and adopting a PR-style, metrics-driven strategic information management approach will gain some favorable survey points. However, the lack of funding for, and innovative technical solutions to, fundraising applications remain pretty substantial problems. Thus, expectation management will be a critical component of your effectiveness.

What is your team experiencing? How have you improved user satisfaction at your institution? Share your best tips and tricks to help tackle this ongoing challenge.

 

The New Fundraising Calendar: NOW!

Consumer experiences shape much of our constituents’ fundraising lens. For example, I’ve written extensively about the #iPhoneProblem. This “problem” doesn’t mean iPhones are bad; to the contrary, they are so good our nonprofit tools simply can’t keep pace with users’ expectations (see our recent technology satisfaction survey for details: https://goo.gl/M1PIy5). This spreads to issues like use and reliance on mobile functions, which are creeping up the charts for donor giving preferences, for example. All of this consumer experience impact increasingly affects how we plan, schedule, and execute our fundraising strategies.

One need look no further than “Giving Tuesday” (i.e., philanthropy’s response to “Black Friday” and “Small Business Saturday” gimmicks) to see how our strategies and calendaring are being shaped. Giving Day efforts by universities (which I appreciate, for the record) feel a little like GroupOn specials. The provenance of GoFundMe pages is becoming harder to discern….am I giving to my alma mater or some guy at my alma mater? Overall, urgency and immediacy are prime objectives in this new approach. “Act now, before it’s too late!”

An interesting article in the Atlantic (https://goo.gl/jRfajb) assesses the impact of constant marketing to prospective students. For fundraising, the trend is similar. The days of a year-long direct response calendar are numbered. 24/7/365 strategies like peer-to-peer efforts are starting to look as if they can outstrip time-honored phonathon efforts. For example, one university’s recent Giving Day resulted in 1,800 new donors among the 12,000+ donors to that effort, totals that far surpassed the more tedious phonathon efforts to date.

So, what does this mean for nonprofits? For starters, rather than that year-end pitch to all of your constituents, more and more immediate solicitations (ideally conducted by peers, such as alumni reunion classmates) are to be expected.

As this GivingUSA chart suggests, giving is remarkably stable and generally finite and therefore nonprofits must try their best to get as much of the pie as possible. Now! That year-end big mailing? Do it sooner. That email communication plan? Start it today. That reunion fundraising effort? Get it moving. Don’t have a good peer-to-peer tool? Get one, fast!

Some of this is hyperbolic, of course, yet the message should be clear. If your fundraising schedule calls for raising most of your money with calendar and fiscal year-end pushes, by the time you reach many of your prospective donors, they will have already given….just not to your organization.

3 Glimpses at New Advancement Technology Survey Data

EverTrue and Zuri Group partnered this fall to conduct a survey of advancement professionals to understand current sentiment about the advancement technology landscape. It’s a big study, with dozens of questions and hundreds of respondents. We are just getting started with the analysis. Here’s a quick glimpse into the our survey in advance of the AASP Summit #AASP16.

The survey reached a broad group: 646 responses from 434 institutions. And these respondents represent all aspects of advancement, including 11% among vice presidents and nearly 180 advancement services professionals. Here’s the breakdown by role and area:

While our analysis has just started, one important reporting issue jumped out at us: while reports are considered useful, access to reporting is considered a real problem. These two charts show that satisfaction is much greater for reports than for users’ access to them. This raises the obvious challenge–how do we make our often inefficient, sometimes hand-crafted reports more readily available for consumption?

We are working on a thorough report from these survey results. In the meantime, ask yourself whether your useful reports are less accessible than your users would like. If so, consider automated dissemination of reports (think: monthly email blasts, ideally with links to secure locations), dashboards, and self-service functions that will put data in users hands more effectively. If you’ll be at #AASP16, let’s connect and discuss what we’re seeing in our technology landscape.

Update: the full survey is now available here. What we found overall was that this dissatisfaction with technology is endemic. None of the areas had significant satisfaction levels. Particularly when we think of the “it’s ok” response as an indicator of mediocrity, the results are clear: advancement technology is not meeting users needs. As we move away from the basics (database of record, gift handling), we find the satisfaction goes down. So, the opportunity we face is that more complex and innovative needs require the most attention. Let’s hope we can get better and better tools to move the needle from mediocrity to magnificence.

Subtle Clues to Leverage for Gift Administration

How to Leverage what we Learn
How to Leverage what we Learn

The Wall Street Journal’s article on JP Morgan’s new $10,000,000 cap for accounts in their private banking area. On the surface, this seems like an issue only for the 1%, but philanthropy, of course, is affected substantially by this group. So, their banking issues are our philanthropy issues. And, this particular issue can be leveraged to improve operations and gift administration.

“How so?” you might ask. One specific consideration is how gift administration can learn from and leverage details about donors’ bank accounts. Here’s how:

  1. Banks Matter. If a donor is nice enough to write a $50 check to your organization on a JP Morgan Private Banking account (look at the middle left of the check, typically, to find the account type), that donor might have easily added a few zeroes to the gift. After all, those account holders are deca-millionaires!
  2. Numbers Matter. Have your team check the check number. That nice donor writing check number 35780 likely has substantial cash flow; the average donor will likely write just a few thousand checks in their lifetime (and Millennials may write nearly none at all).
  3. Name that Donor. Check accounts held in trust, with “TTEE” listed, and other such naming conventions likely mean that the donor has enough assets to have placed them into a trust. This is a typical move for those who will be affected by probate court upon their death…and, right now, that means having more than $5 million in assets via your estate.
  4. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Have the gift team look at what else the check tells us. If there check has puppies and mentions the Humane Society, for example, you know where the donor’s heart is.

These tips and tricks should be applied to improve your day-to-day operations. Establish a process whereby gift analysts can forward such findings to the research team or gift officers so you get some added movement on these donors.

What other tricks would you suggest to improve gift administration? Your comments on this would be welcomed. Happy fundraising!

Donor Data Management position

If you’ve interested in steering the Blackbaud CRM implementation at a complex, multi-state health system, this manager of donor data management position in the Detroit area will be a great opportunity. Trinity is a wonderful employer and the leadership for this area is seeking a partner. Have a look at the position description (here) or click here for Trinity’s HR site.

Facebook is making some game-changing tools available

If you haven’t checked out https://nonprofits.fb.com/, do it. Now. This is Facebook’s effFacebook's Nonprofit Support Pageort to streamline a bunch of useful resources. Some of this is new but much is tried-and-true. How to reach your constituents. How to make it easy to give a gift. How to activate supporters.

Well, what are you still reading this for. Check out the site. And, let me know what you think. It may not change how some of us fundraise, but it will change fundraising for the better.

3 change management lessons learned from (attempted) travel this week

Many of us have been affected by this significant snow storm, most much worse than me. I was set to travel to LaGuardia tonight but the travel gods had other plans. This puts me in a pickle. I was heading to a client site and we have a great deal to cover.

As I waited to hear back about my airline alternatives to get to the NYC area before heading to LA this week, a few “ah-ha” moments popped to mind:

  1. Know your resources. When you’re in a bind, great problem-solving resources are essential. Do you have the right numbers in your contacts? Can you have someone help solve one problem (flights) while you solve another (rental cars). If not, get prepared for the unexpected. This approach–having plans B-Z and assignable resources in the wings–is also vital for great change management.
  2. Focus on the fixable. Being mad about the snow is like being mad about the sunrise. However, planning and preparation might make it easier to focus on what can be fixed. Could I fly, for example, to any of the other airports in the area? Can we still cover our subject matter remotely (yep!)? When can I get back to the area (two weeks!)? So, while not ideal, this change isn’t going  undo progress and there is no sense becoming unhinged about those things outside of my control.
  3. Prioritize your outcomes. In rough weather travel, as with change management, some things matter more than most. With travel, your wallet and passport can solve a ton of problems. With other changes, having your key stakeholders on board with a new direction in the face of change can make all of the difference.

As the great Mick Jagger once said (over and over again) “you can’t always get what you want”…which is so true in the case of travel and change management. As he told me “If you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” In my case, I now need to get to California. Safe travels!