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How to Communicate with Donors & Supporters

IMAG2832Do you know Ron Barb? Chances are you don’t, unless you’re from Logan County Kentucky or you work in the plastics industry. I didn’t know about Ron until today, when I read an article on newsdemocratleader.com that referenced him and the great work that he’s leading in Logan County. I was so impressed that I decided to share the article with the world – particularly those that work or volunteer in the Not-for-Profit, Independent Sector.

You may be wondering what can not-for-profits learn from a plant manager in the plastics industry. More than you realize my friends, more than you realize. You see Ron is the chairperson for the allocation committee for the United Way in Logan County. This isn’t his full time job – it’s a volunteer position that he assumes, like many others across the country, that are committed to doing what they can do to positively impact their local communities.

There are a few things that Ron and the entire team at the United Way of Southern Kentucky got right with this article that I think needs to be highlighted for the benefit of others in the sector – and not just United Ways, but anyone that’s attempting to communicate their value to stakeholders:

  1. The messenger is just as important as the message. Notice, the article isn’t referencing the CEO of the United Way or the other staff. They’re talking about Rob Barb, the volunteer committee chairperson, who has a full-time job as a plant manager. Sure the CEO could have been featured, but there are times when all organizations need to be strategic about whom the message is coming from. Last time I checked, plant managers are pretty busy people and the fact that Ron Barb devotes a portion of his valuable time to the United Way’s efforts speaks volumes to others regarding the importance of servant leadership.
  1. Thank donors/supporters in a meaningful manner. Ron does a phenomenal job thanking them and connecting them to the work of the United Way and their partner agencies. Consider this line from the article, “Your contributions have helped reach 7,956 individuals in Logan County last year alone, out of a little over 27,000 people in the county. You should be proud of yourselves.”  His message is directed to the Fiscal Court – a public body within the county – and Ron is thanking them and showing the impact of their contribution in a public forum. This is a meaningful “thank you” because public bodies get their fair share of public disgruntlement and disagreement, therefore it’s nice to appreciate them in public and give them a space to show the good they do.
  1. Quantify the good that was done. In this article, Ron is giving an update to the Logan County Fiscal Court on the impact that the United Way and their partner agencies are making through the supported allocated via the Fiscal Court. He’s telling a story where their involvement extends beyond a contribution; they are part of a solution, a story, and can be proud of their efforts.   He doesn’t just give them abstract statements like, “you made a difference” or “you helped change a life” or “the community is a better place” – he quantifies the difference, the better and the change.   Some examples include:
    1. 1,040 youth in Logan County received sexual assault prevention education services through United Way partner agency Hope Harbor.
    2. 293 nursing home residents received visits and complaint resolution services from the Barren River Long Term Care Ombudsman program resulting in improved quality of life, quality of personal care, interpersonal skills, and socialization.

Thanks to Ron Barb and the entire United Way of Southern Kentucky family for reminding us of how to communicate with our donors and supporters – great lessons and reminders for all of us. I suggest you read the full article at the link below – you may find some additional lessons.


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The Value of Time Off


During a recent coaching session a young lady shared with me a challenge she faces on her job. Let me start by saying that I don’t get the sense that she’s a serial whiner or complainer, neither do I get the sense that she doesn’t like her boss and is just looking to rock the boat. After spending time coaching her boss and fellow employees I get the sense that she really loves her job, but she has a challenge that’s wearing her down, threatening her morale, and causing her to question her value.

Things are great at her job until it’s time for her to request time off. Even if she requests time off in advance she gets, in her words, “grief, griping, and groaning.” She feels that she does a great job, I’ve seen her work therefore I can concur, so she feels that time off every now and then for life events such as getting married, a child’s doctor appointment or meeting with a child’s teacher at school shouldn’t be that big of a deal, especially since the job doesn’t require face-to-face client contact. She can catch up on any lost administrative time later in the evening at work or on Saturdays, but. her boss doesn’t like the idea of this. In the words of her boss, “She’s paid to be here from 8am – 5pm, so I want her here from 8am to 5pm.”

Notice the language used by her boss – “She’s paid to be here…” After talking to her boss, I realized they had been dealing with the symptom not the problem or its root cause. This whole challenge of requesting time off is really about different expectations of what work is, what work looks like, and what people are paid for. For instance the young lady would frequently say, “you don’t pay me to be here, you pay me to get things done and whether I’m sitting here or not, I’m getting those things done and more.”

There are several lessons we all learned during this:

  1. In some cases, there are generational differences in the way we define and describe work; this was definitely the case here. The boss (in her 60’s) was taught and therefore believed that work was about being in a place for a certain time period and if you weren’t in that place for that period you weren’t working. The employee (in her 20’s) believed that she needed to be in a place for a period of time, but that didn’t define or constrain her work space. There’s a difference between a place of work and work space. Many baby boomers are accustomed to going to a place of work. Many millenials thrive when they are allowed to be creative when defining their work space.
  2. The term “boss” is one of those words that’s beginning to get some resistance because it creates a mindset between the authoritative figure (boss) and the subordinate (employee) – when’s the last time you heard someone referred to as a subordinate? My point exactly. I’m not anti-hierarchy and yes, the buck must stop with someone, however I believe the culture of having a “boss” versus the culture of being a leader are two different things.
  3. The third lesson we learned is that people have lives. As areas of their lives evolve it will have an impact on other areas of their lives – so yes, home life will have an impact on work life. This notion that my home life never impacts my work is a stretch for the average person’s reality.
  4. Some of us have been conditioned to give more credence to the activity than the accomplishment. The average employer evaluates or assesses an employee’s performance based on “activities performed” not “results accomplished”. Activity is the means, accomplishments are the results – many workplace disagreements arise from the fact that supervisors and managers believe that controlling the means guarantees results. That’s not the case in many places. When possible give your people the opportunity to modify the means and watch results soar. This takes courage and humility.
  5. Employees don’t necessarily consider their paycheck as a sign of the value they provide. The young lady in this story made very good money, but regardless of the check, she felt undervalued because her boss couldn’t see the commitment in her willingness to work from home to make up for lost time and the fact that all of her past accomplishments were discounted when she asked for time off. Please understand it wasn’t the denial of time off that was the problem, it was the grief, groaning, and griping – all of that made the employee feel unappreciated and “less than”.


What other lessons do you see here? Any recommendations for the boss or the employee?


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