Schmoozing 101

I often speak with clients about the virtues of hosting open houses, annual celebrations, and other events that bring people into closer contact with their organizations. And I’ve come to recognize a particular panic surrounding these occasions: some people are afraid that they won’t know what to say or how to act once the guests arrive.

This is not an unusual worry. In fact, I once worked at an organization that held a major annual event with over 500 guests. One year, a few weeks before the big celebration, the C.O.O. asked me to lead a staff training on “Schmoozing 101.” And so I did: it was like a one-hour finishing school for socially anxious middle-aged people. I’m not sure it helped my colleagues back then – despite my best efforts, I remember seeing them during the event clumped along the walls like nervous 7th graders at a school dance. But it was fun for me to try to turn the practice of social mixing into theory.

And today, for the shy among you, here’s my on-line version of that Schmoozing 101 curriculum. Continue reading

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Power

There are few places in public life where there is a greater imbalance of power than between a private foundation and a nonprofit grantee.

I’m not saying that a foundation has more absolute power than, say, the Pentagon or Exxon-Mobil. Of course it doesn’t. I’m simply stating that the imbalance of power is more extreme between private foundations and grantees than between almost any other set of institutions in the country. Continue reading

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Making “The Ask” For the Faint of Heart

So here’s the scene:

You’re approaching a donor for a gift to your nonprofit organization. She responds enthusiastically and wants to help with the project.

According to conventional wisdom, this is when you ask her for a specific dollar amount: “Mary, we’d like you to consider a gift of $10,000.”

But this is one of those times when I think conventional wisdom has it wrong. Continue reading

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Some Nerve

It turns out that my last post, “Deluge,” really hit a nerve.

I received triple my usual number of blog hits, four times the usual number of on-line comments, and dozens of emails and phone calls, including some from professors, congressional aides, and financial advisors.

Here are my responses to some issues they raised. Continue reading

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