By Marianne M. Pelletier
When I was in college, I would walk past the science building on my way to take a drawing class at the arts building. In the drawing class, I learned how to hold up a pencil to find the angle of a line on the object that I was drawing.
That new skill came with me when I walked back past the science center, noticing its lines. On my last trip to visit my alma mater, my eyes immediately traced the roof lines of the science center while I flashed back to those January treks to the arts center. Even after 30 years, it was visceral for me to think of a 3-dimensional object as a series of lines in order to draw a 1-dimensional image of it.
Liberal arts educators evangelize that more than one discipline is key to a person’s professional success, and I agree – not only because I am a liberal arts graduate who uses my studies in poetry to understand the symbols in data, but also because I know that my best work is done using more than one discipline. After all, if we only have a hammer in our toolbox, we try to turn everything around us into nails.
This month’s upcoming Water Cooler Chat features Liz Rejman who will talk about how to use a different perspective on understanding the prospect journey. I’ll let her share more with you, but I’d like to use this blog post to talk about how mixed disciplines make new, nifty things happen. Let’s take a look at a few.
The best gift officer to work with is one who understands prospect research. So many fundraising shops, when they are big enough, have and Us and Them culture, and that blocks everyone’s ability to be creative. You can’t create while you are defending. A good gift officer knows what a research team can provide, how long it takes, and when the data is not available. A better gift officer is one who uses that information to qualify, cultivate, and then solicit the prospect.
An excellent annual giving manager has a good handle on what both business intelligence and data science can do for the program. Annual giving staff appear to me to be the most savvy when it comes to using Excel for analysis.
However, very good annual giving staff can also ask questions about how the totals arrived, can use the What-If tool in Excel to look for opportunities, and have enough data science tools to segment their constituency in ways that work best for the donors. Our tradition of creating a calendar that works for us, for example, actually has a mitigating effect on the dollars that we raise because someone who gave to us in March should be solicited again in February, not in September, even though September is when we like to send direct mail.
A good engagement officer has a sense of color and design, and I don’t just mean for decorating the locations of the organization’s events. Think of the colors that should go in the newsletter, or should be used in presentations to prospective donors, or should be present on social media.
We Staupellians often use our clients’ color schemes to build their graphs. A color scheme is part of the client’s ethos. Your business card, if it has any color at all, should reinforce your organization’s ethos through its colors (and its type font and its language, etc.). Indeed, very good engagement (and fundraising) officers wear their organization’s colors. To emphasize this point, I ask you to picture walking into a blue and black McDonalds.
I have a lot of hobbies because I am fascinated by a lot of things (and not afraid of learning a new discipline, thanks to my liberal arts education). I use the same technique to measure a piece of wood (as taught to me by the New Yankee Workshop) as I do to cut a piece of fabric. I recently heard that people who coil up parachutes to ready them for a flight use the crochet technique. I’m fairly sure that some day I will use my new bobbin lace hobby as an inspiration for a relationship mapping project.
What did you bring from your undergraduate education, or adult learning, to enhance your work? Feel free to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org