Sculpting realistically….in the eye of the beholder

April 30th, 2016

Sculpted Maynard Jackson


The real Maynard Jackson

      The sculpting of donors and famous people as recognizable images is not easy or inexpensive. It is so subjective that you may love the result and yet the family does not. Or vice versa.

Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. was mayor of Atlanta from 1974 though 1982 and then was elected to a 3rd term, 1990-1994. He was well liked then and history has so far maintained his reputation. So much so, that the International Terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport was named for him in 2012.

In honor of that occasion, this sculpting was done by Fred Ajanogha.

Now, to me, the likeness is NOT very good, but the family was satisfied: “The artist did such a good job. His representation just seemed right at home, right down to the eyes. It was a great likeness, that seemed almost spooky at times.”

This is why sculpting of individuals is so tough to take on in honor of donors, or of donors’ family members. It’s a subjective thing. The person and their loved ones have to be happy with it. Yet, to me in this instance regarding Maynard’s image, only the hand on the chin is accurate.

Be careful if you devidence on a sculpting project. Use a realistic, tried and true sculptor. And avoid the “Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome”…..Meaning that just because everyone expects you to like it, doesn’t mean YOU have to like it. Be careful and be sure to see the clay modeling all along the way while there is still time to make changes.

You have not lived and learned until you have had the Mother of a deceased portraiture subject cry upon seeing the clay image, which I experienced early in my career with a university client of mine. The Mother hated the first clay model review that much. After (4) rounds of revisions, the situation did not improve. I was removed from supervising the sculpting phase. The foundry’s sculpting artist was replaced by a watercolor artist whom the Mother had found “in her neighborhood”. That new artist had always wanted to sculpt and this was her chance, I was told.  In the end, the final cast bronze piece arrived. The Mother HATED it and would not allow it to be used at all!

So be careful; interview artists well, and get lots of review moments for you, the subject, family members and/or the donor, all along the way. The process, done well, can be a long one and it is certainly the most expensive of choices to make in honoring folks with images. Commit to the best artist, the time-consuming process, and to the chance to steward the donor appropriately.

Written by Robin E. Williams

Gratitude Platitude

April 20th, 2016

Being thankful is a gigantic key to happiness. I’m old enough to have learned this over and over. Here’s a well-worded reminder I find helpful. Not sure of the source for this, but am certainly thankful for it.

Be thankful for what you have and you’ll end up having more.

If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.

Trade your expectations for appreciation and the world changes instantly.

Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a s successful and fulfilled life.

Lastly, I’ll remind us all, we have a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have I/you used one to say thank you?

Gratitude is Attitude

Gratitude is Attitude

Thank you for taking a moment to read my musings today.

Written by Robin E. Williams

“Donor Relations” vs. “Stewardship”

April 11th, 2016

Fundraisers toss around these two terms, Stewardship and Donor Relations, interchangeably.

I don’t think they are. “Stewardship” has always carried a fiduciary inference to me. A vital and legal responsibility without fail. On the other hand, “Donor Relations” has meant just what it implies, the relationship an organization establishes and supports with a donor. The latter term is more inclusive and actually includes stewardship activities.

I cannot convey the differences/relationship any more concisely than Lynn Wester, “Donor Relations Guru”, has. Here is a wonderful overview, based on science vs. art.

A terrific comparison, so visually well thought out. See what you think and take an honest look at your organization’s set-up. Things not clearly defined in your “shop”?  Emulate what you see below and all will smoothly transition to meaningful and purposeful actions-taken.

Written by Robin E. Williams

Donor Relations Chart2

Capital Campaigns are NOT about Raising Money!

March 15th, 2016

I’ve come to understand that Capital Campaigns are about institutional transformation…..NOT about raising money. Improved donor stewardship is key.

True transformation will ensure intensive and far reaching, change to the core concepts and values of the entire organization. So change the way you think about thanking. Out think and out thank the competition. Make Donor Recognition efforts philanthropy branding and communication tools for the organization.

Just as a non profit organization spends time and money in prep for a campaign by evaluating just what has to be done to assure such meaningful change, early on, leaders must reflect on how their decisions to thank donors can be transformed.

Are day-to-day decisions to thank donors:

Proactive or reactionary?

Motivational or as an afterthought?

Programmatically planned or “in the moment” product decision-making?

Brand supportive or non-specific?

Any campaign (and, thus, an organization’s future) is best served if its thinking about thanking were transformed fully in preparation for imminent organizational change.

Written by Robin E. Williams  

The Path Is Yours to Choose

The Path Is Yours to Choose


7 Donor Communication Mistakes by Non Profits

October 21st, 2015


The “Network for Good Blog” is a wonderful resource for fundraisers as they plan their communication efforts to their public.

This time: Avoid these 7 mistakes Continue reading »