Sculpting donor images for application onto a donor recognition display can be daunting. At Robin E. Williams Incorporated, we have managed close to a hundred artists in the process over the years. It isn’t cheap to do, nor is it a breeze to manage donor and fundraisers’ expectation. But no matter how tough, if handled with care, the donor will feel well stewarded throughout the process.
Some go well. Some are a nightmare. Some donor faces and profiles are easier than others, but mostly it is the talent and empathy of the artist that matters most.
Here I want to talk about a specific challenge.
The display here is for Endowment Giving at Columbus State University, in Georgia. The gift being honored is for at least $1,000,000.
In this case, a dual bas relief is required. Turns out, the man’s image was easier to accomplish than his wife’s. She’s a beautiful woman with voluminous, wavy hair, wide and expressive eyes and a brilliant smile. We knew going in that translating her into bronze might be tough. I had no idea how difficult.
We started with the most economical approach: using the casting manufacturer’s in-hour artists. $900. After nearly 4 months of back and forth, this is where we stood.
For nearly $2000 more, the client approved use of another sculptor with whom we had had success before to “fix the wife”. From October 2014 to April 2015, we endured 7 rounds with this artist, including work on site with the donor at the table. Here are those renditions!
Things were NOT improving! As can happen, sculpting worsens as tries multiply. And then there is the empathy part. When the artist said to me: “I just don’t do ‘pretty’!” I knew this was a road to nowhere for the client in his quest to honor his donors. I asked that I be allowed to find a new artist, and fast.
The client, whom I have known for many years, is always committed to having the donors well served. In some ways, his persistence in getting this right has meant an even happier outcome than if the sculpting effort had gone well the first time (and sometimes it does!). That commitment to the donors led to our search for a prominent artist in our southeast US region, which I found: Wesley Wofford. I met with him, showed him our past efforts with the endowment display and also the history of these donors and their disappointments to date.
He bravely took on the assignment and achieved success within one round of submittals! What a joy he was to work with and what joy he brought to the donors: she told our client, “I can honestly say I’m very pleased.” So set your budgets wisely and choose your artists with care.
Written by Robin E. WilliamsFiled under About Us, Donor Recognition Programs, Non-category, Recognition Environments | Tags: Best Practices for Donor Recognition, Fundraising, Stewardship | Comments Off on Sculpting Lessons for Donor Recognition
As a Donor Recognition Program Consultant, I am sometimes asked back to a client’s office to initiate services aimed at furthering their thinking about thanking, to enhance policy decision-making and/or to instill administrative efficiencies in their Stewardship efforts to thank donors.
This morning I received a newsletter from our business consultant, Dave Baker of “Recourses”, that articulated my own experiences and inner-evaluation when “returning to the scene…”
Here I paraphrase his remarks to fit my clientele and experiences. I am hopeful that a few leaders in non-for-profit organizations may benefit by the introspection as well:
When asked to embark on “repeat consulting for a client, … I was surprised at how little things had changed since I worked with them and wondered why….” I understand that “working with any advisor is a painful process, but it’s designed to be a good investment rather than a fair bit of pain for just a little bit of gain.” Here’s the insight shared by Dave Baker.
“She (the client) initiated the re-engagement, so I presumed that I wasn’t blamed for the lack of progress, but I can’t help the introspection. Did I misread her situation? Did I not work hard enough to suggest a solution that she could realistically implement? Was everything good except that I wasn’t present enough during the implementation period?
Each of those reasons has been true at one time or another in a consulting career that spans decades, but it’s rare and I nearly always catch it in time and make it right, where appropriate. This time, though, I decided to chart out the simple…but profound…reasons why change might not take root…”
I, too, wondered why clients keep trying different things and can never seem to get rid of those weights that keep them from soaring above the fray.
Here are 4 reasons Baker offers as to why firms are held-back. “Getting unstuck is going to require ‘action; action will be inspired by these qualities’ and lacking any single one of them can hold you back:
- Courage. This is the stuff that helps you” hold your place in the marketplace, “dismiss that talented jerk who doesn’t fit the culture, and muster the internal strength to dissolve the ‘corporate and individual partnerships‘ already broken. If you don’t have enough of it (courage), gather the right people around you….
- Insight. Having just lauded courage,…why reinvent the wheel if a peer “organization” has already figured something out, saving you from wasteful experimentation. If you implement the suggestions of ‘the other organization‘, indiscriminately, you’ll end up with an average firm. But you can get valuable insight from many places. There aren’t many good books on my subject, but as their consultant, I’m here to ‘to suggest and evaluate new insights‘. Believe me, I want to say. “Another great source of insight is hiring a couple of great employees who have worked at “successful non profits” before. Resist those who can’t envision ‘bigger challenges‘ or don’t want to get their hands dirty with real work or don’t value your culture….
- Discipline. Give me a choice between the brilliant ‘leader’ who flits from one shiny object to the next or the dedicated “leader” who keeps doing smart things and I’ll always take the latter. Discipline covers a multitude of sins and it means that things get done. So they actually do a little bit of research, they write a short e-book, and they sit down and actually manage people. These are the folks who inspire me. I’ve seen many ‘organizations‘ who have all of the ingredients of success except
- Killer Instinct. When I initiated a massive research project studying 13,000+ people in the marketing field,… only one pattern surfaced around “a leader’s” personality profile and that was their killer instinct, which is my summary for their ability to make decisions, value control, take risks, and win. It’s what helps ‘leaders’ turn a mess of circumstances into a thriving ‘non profit‘”.
Filed under About Us, Donor Recognition Programs, Robin E. Williams, Think Before You Thank | Tags: Best Practices for Donor Recognition, Stewardship, Think Before You Thank | Comments Off on Believe in your Consultants
Donor Recognition is simply under-utilized as a tool for building a culture of philanthropy for a non-profit organization. Donor recognition is to be plaques, parties, personal conversations and perpetual.
It simply begins with your own unique, strategic and focused thinking about thanking. It’s usefulness is bought to bear by your attention to and application of its potential as a proactive partner in all efforts toward enhanced and broadened giving for your organization. Continue reading »Filed under Best Practices for Donor Recognition, Donor Communications, Donor Recognition Programs, Non-category, Philanthropy, Robin E. Williams, Stewardship, Think Before You Thank | Tags: Best Practices for Donor Recognition, Donor Recognition, Fundraising, Healthcare Philanthropy, Stewardship, Think Before You Thank, Trends in Fundraising | Comments Off on Donor Recognition: 7 Strategies
A picture is worth 1000 words….done well, like this University has, a single picture is worth $1000s!
Years ago my firm worked closely with Columbus State University (GA) to establish a recognition program brand: a signature for philanthropy on their campus.
They have remained committed and true to that brand. They consistently present their philanthropy brand as a sort of “visual byte” throughout fundraising collateral, give-aways and campus recognition.
I urge you to establish your own visual signature and then work to integrate it throughout all that is fund-raising.
Written by Robin E. WilliamsFiled under Best Practices for Donor Recognition, Donor Recognition Programs, Philanthropy, Recognition Environments, Robin E. Williams, Stewardship, Think Before You Thank | Tags: Best Practices for Donor Recognition, Donor Recognition, Fundraising, Philanthropy, Stewardship, Trends in Fundraising | Comments Off on Stewardship: Picture-perfect