business development, Uncategorized

Best Rejection Ever?!?!

Do you ever get that feeling? That one where, despite all your best attempts otherwise, you just can’t hate the person who rejected you?

Maybe it was the girl next door whom you’d been crushing on since age 6. Maybe it was that boss who declined to transfer you, because you were so integral to the projects at hand. Whatever it was, we’ve all been there.

Rejected. Turned down. Heard, “I can’t that night, I’m washing my hair.”

And while rejections may sting, there are some things you can do when delivering a rejections to still maintain a sense of decency and respect.

The Setup

As a freelance writer it’s up to me to source my own work. I have to go out and hustle. I have to spread my name far and wide, like dandelion seeds scattered in the wind, and hope that they land somewhere fertile where they can grow. It’s on me to cultivate opportunities, make them work, and bring them in when they’re ready, so that I can keep paying the bills and planning for the future.

One element of that is applying for some jobs in my industry. Content creation, content management, and the like. I’d love to have 2 or 3 firms with whom I’m a regular contributor, perhaps working a set # of (less-than-full-time) hours each week or month.

One of those came across my radar recently from BizLibrary. I hadn’t heard of them before, so I read their website and liked what they do. Creating content for them could be right up my alley, so I applied.

The Action

Immediately (using an autoresponder, as all good companies should do) I got a response. “Thanks for your interest. We’ll be in touch!” (Paraphrased, of course, but you get the idea.) Based on my history with job applications, I prepared for a long, quiet wait.

I full expected at least 2 weeks to pass before ever hearing from BizLibrary again. This seems to be the modern experience, doesn’t it? You apply, you wait, you wait, you wait, and if you’re lucky the recruiter will get back to you in about a month. Well past the time you’ve given up and moved on to the next opportunity.

And that’s if you’re lucky! Most of the time those applications seem to go nowhere, and you’re left wondering at the existentialistic meaninglessness of shouting into the void. You wait for a response, you hope, you pray and…

Nothing.

But this time was different.

The Response

The day after I submitted the application, I got another message from BizLibrary. A response! Whaaaaat? So soon? Must be they need more information, I thought. But when I read it, I realized they’d made their decision already. In one day.

In case you didn’t see that, let me emphasize. THE DAY AFTER I submitted that application I got a response. Not a month later. Not a fortnight. Not a week.

ONE.

DAY.

DECISION.

I’m so impressed with this action that I’m going to post the whole response here:

Hi Stephan,

Thank you for your application to BizLibrary’s Content Writer/Editor role. After reviewing your work and experience, we’ve made the decision to not move forward at this time. I hope you don’t mind if we reach out to you in the future when a position opens up that may be a good fit.

We appreciate your interest in BizLibrary and wish you success in your job search.

Best,

The BizLibrary Recruiting Team

Where’s that [LOVE] emoji?

The Reaction

Okay, so why am I so enamored with this response? Why am I writing about it, and proclaiming my “loser”-ness for you all to see? Well, I have 2 big takeaways from this that I think many more could benefit from.

1. Decide Quickly

This came in the day after I had submitted the application. This means that they didn’t sit around waiting for two weeks to look all those who’d applied in bunches. They reviewed quickly, and they decided quickly.

Frankly, this speaks to a well-honed process. We can argue whether that’s “good” or “bad” later. But, the point is that BizLibrary has their process, they followed it, and they did what works for them.

What good would waiting do? You’ve got a set of criteria that you’re going to follow, you know what you’re looking for, make the decision and move forward.

2. Communicate Quickly and Clearly

Not only did BizLibrary decide quickly, they responded quickly. Frankly, all they had to do was push a button to send me an automated e-mail. That doesn’t take a lot of work. Plus they didn’t try to blow smoke up my butt and pretend that I’m an awesome candidate, and they really wish they could, but, gee, something else just kind of got in the way. You do hear that when people “don’t want to hurt feelings.” You know what? Being lied to actually hurts more than the truth. And we can see it. It’s not fun.

BizLibrary, on the other hand, told me the truth.

It demonstrates a lot of respect on their end. Respect for me, as an applicant. Respect for me, as a potential advocate for them. (See? I’m doing it now!) Respect for their other candidates, too, who will receive their own quick decisions and communications about their own applications.

I admire that.

I take it to heart. I’ve been guilty of the other method, of lamely waiting to see if that vendor goes away. I got some bids for subcontract work once, and rather than giving those vendors the respect that BizLibrary showed me, I just let them languish without even so much as a “Hey, I’m going with someone else.”

That’s my bad, and seeing how much better it could be is telling me I can’t do that any more. I won’t.

From now on, I’ll communicate quickly and clearly when I’ve made a decision.

Props to BizLibrary for being honest, up-front, good people. I may not agree with their decision, but I whole-heartedly endorse how they told me about it.

The Aftermath

Now, all that said, I do wish the hiring process was different. I wish there were more phone calls and fewer paper rejections. I wish there was more time taken and less use of software to screen for just the right key phrases. I wish there was more dialogue and less one-directionality. More feedback.

I wish there were more temp-to-perm jobs, where you did something for a month and if it didn’t work out, you move on. No harm, no foul, no bad marks on your resume because you’re now labeled as a “job-hopper”.

I wish there were more part-time jobs, in which people could practice or try something for 10 hours a week, or some small # of contributions each time. Then, employers would be able to fill smaller needs with skilled candidates who want to contribute in a specific way, rather than having to either: ask someone unqualified who’s already on the team to take on more, or go without until there’s actually enough work to justify a whole position.

Yes, some of those “wishful” positions may exist and are called “internships”. Why aren’t they more ubiquitous? And why do we treat interns like dung when they’re there, if we really are interested in helping them to understand what it’s like to be a part of our workforce in whatever capacity we’ve got available?

I recognize that this essay isn’t going to spark a revolution in the workplace. The current environment is a legacy holdover from the good old days. Those conventions around “work” are part of a bigger conversation, a cultural mindset that we all learned due to the primacy of the the assembly line model of employment for a hundred years. We’re not going to change this battleship with just one tugboat.

But, I’m willing to gas up this Scuffy here, and see what I can do. How about you?

The Take-Away

Sorry for getting a little off-topic there with that miniature rant. I really just wanted to say, when you’re rejecting someone, be more like BizLibrary.

Follow your criteria, and then communicate quickly. Your applicants are asking you out on a date. Clearly you’ve got qualities which are attractive to them. Be respectful, and treat them like the people that they are in your response. Everyone will be better off when you do.

business development, craft, fundraising industry

The 7 People You Meet While Networking; and Why You’ll Only Work With 1 of Them

There’s a phrase I’ve heard a few times:

You’ll only work with people you know, like, and trust.

And after a year of freelancing and building my brand and business, I’m fully convinced of the truth of that statement. Since I’ve been on my own, I’ve met quite a few people. And I’m not working with them all. Nor should I.

This article will explain the 7 different people you meet while networking and demonstrate why they’re not right for you. Whether you want to work with someone is all based on combinations of knowing, liking, and trusting them.

1. People you KNOW, but don’t LIKE or TRUST.

It’s easy to meet people. Walk up to them, stick out a hand, and say, “Hi, I’m Stephan.” Have a 3-minute conversation, and you’ll know someone.

But you might not like them, or trust them. You might not like their business – perhaps they recycle old tired into playground cover material, and you are adamant that those old tires should be burnt. And you might not trust them, either, to do what they say they’re going to do. Perhaps that’s because you saw a LinkedIn endorsement that says “Hey, K. is a fabulous real estate agent,” and one from just a month before that says “K. Is the most awesome kindergarten teacher in the county.” If you see that, do you trust that K. is now going to be dedicated to your cause of IT recruiting?

Who knows, which is why K. is someone you might not trust. And so you’re not going to work with her. She’s just as likely to come in tomorrow as to leave you high and dry. And you can’t afford downtime like that.

2. People you LIKE, but don’t KNOW or TRUST

This category is for people in the public eye who align with your goals, but you don’t know them personally. YouTube stars, television celebrities, paid endorsers of one kind or another. Even local celebrities of one kind or another. Or to put it more blunt: “St. Louis Famous.” They might champion causes you agree with. You might know these [Your City Here] Famous people, but you probably won’t agree to do business with them. If they were to approach you with an opportunity, you’d politely decline.

Why? Because you don’t know them or trust them. You don’t know them because it’s hard to get to know them. It’s hard to understand whether these people really like you, too, or if it’s an act. They’re pretty good at the act, which is usually how they got to be however famous they are, and because of that it will take a longer time to get there.

3. People you TRUST, but don’t KNOW or LIKE

These are, again, people with reputations, but not the kind you want to be associated with. In the political world, they might be the Koch Brothers (on the right) or labor unions (on the left). The point is, you TRUST them to live out certain values, but you don’t like what values they espouse. So why would you want to do business with them?

More personally, this might be people you meet who just rub you the wrong way. Maybe you hear about them from another in your networking group. Maybe you read an article they’re featured in and decide, “Yeah, not worth my time.” However you learn about them, it’s clear you’re not going to be seeking them out.

So that’s all the people who only fit one category. What about those who fit 2?

4. People you KNOW and LIKE, but don’t TRUST

This is your lazy friend from high school. You know, the one who’s always promising to pay you back next Tuesday for a hamburger today. [Somebody get that reference!] When you see these people, you like them. You’ve hung out with them. You’ve joked around and kidded with them.

But, in the end, you realize that they’re just not going to follow through on what they said. They’ll promise one thing and fail to deliver. Then they’ll try to convince you that it wasn’t their fault, that something else got in the way, and that you should give them just one more chance. Please! They’re good for it.

And if you agree, they’ll fail you once more. For going against what you know you should do, you deserve that one.

5. People you KNOW and LIKE, but don’t TRUST

So who falls into this category? These are the people who have parallel non-business interests as you. They could be intelligent, well-read, travel in the same social circles as you do, and have similar hobbies. It wouldn’t be surprising to find many in this world like that. So what’s the problem?

Mostly it’s people who have different goals than you do. They might be trying to build your next new competitor. Or they might be trying to take down one of your current business partners. Perhaps they just got a new contract that’s going to squeeze your supply chain and potentially put you out of business. Not a good fit.

The fact that their goals don’t align with yours mean that you can’t trust them to do business together. They might say that they would be able to handle a conflict of interest, but when it comes down to it, we’re all going to look out for ourselves. We might say we’d act independently. In reality, though, we’re more likely to perform in ways which further our own vested self-interest. Same goes for them. Steer clear.

6. People you LIKE and TRUST, but don’t KNOW

These are the celebrities (local, regional, national, or international names) who are perfect for you. They align with your brand, your goals, and your ways of doing business.

The only problem is that you can’t talk to them. You don’t know them! You want to, and you want to be able to have that relationship. So you send a dozen e-mails one week, and call every day the next, and even blog about your future perfect partnership, calling them out and tagging on every social media platform. But you just can’t get any traction.

Because to them, you’re just another face in the crowd. You’ll need some way to stand out. And until you do, until you have that one-on-one connection, probably from someone who already knows the two of you and can bring you together, it’s going to remain just a dream.

And that brings us to your ideal business partner:

7. People you KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST

It’s been said before, and it will be said again, but these are your ideal business or referral partners. These are the people who are aligned with you, your goals, and the way you do business.

And it doesn’t even mean they’ll be your clients, or vice versa. These could be referral partners who know you, know your business, and what you’re trying to do. They could be simply advocates for you, and provide you a good little testimonial or endorsement. They could write you a LinkedIn recommendation. [I just did that today! Three months late, but who’s counting?] There’s lots of different ways to maximize this relationship.

The point is, you’ll have lots of connections. You might not be able to immediately figure out which category people will fall into when you first meet them. Give it time. Don’t rush it, because mistakes could hurt your bottom line and your reputation. But when you find those that you know, like, and trust, you’ll both be better off for it.

In Conclusion

You’ll run across many of these 7 people when you’re out building a business, no matter what that business is, and no matter whether that business is for-profit or not-for-profit. You’ll even meet these people in your personal relationships, or you might find them in a governing body like your city council. You’ll meet all of them at one point or another, and eventually you’ll see that they’re not all wrong.

They’re just not all right.

fundraising industry

Think This, Not That!

Over a decade ago the first book in the Eat This, Not That! (Wikipedia, Amazon.com) series was published. Inside, the authors offered audiences many food substitutions designed to allow the reader to save calories while still enjoying a meal out. Much success followed, not only because of the easy method which eliminated tedious calorie counting, but also because of the mental shift that goes along with it. It’s much easier to do something if you’re connected across both the body and the brain. Mentally, small changes are easier to enact for the long-term, and that’s when the real change happens.

I bring that up because many of the questions I hear discussed in the current nonprofit world are, I believe, the wrong ones. They are questions which distract from the real substance of the problem, they put a focus on immediacy rather than long-term value, and they lead to treatment of symptoms rather than fixing the underlying malady. So, in an effort to redirect the conversation, at least a little bit, I offer up a few that probably should no longer be asked. Instead, I offer alternatives which can change your mindset and focus your efforts in areas which will produce healthy, sustainable results.

Q1 – Don’t ask, “How can we increase donations?”

This question implies that the nonprofit is the one in control of donations. The mindset that asks this question views the donor as an ATM. All you have to do is punch in the right PIN, and everything flows from there without a hitch. If the Executive Director pushes on just the right community leaders – if the Development Direct mails at exactly the right frequency – if the Program Direct can get just the right results to prove the program worth – if the Grant Writer comes up with just the right language for that next new innovation grant application – then the money will flow like manna from Heaven. This is quite presumptuous and ignores the reality all around us: that nonprofits are in the business of begging, and when you’re begging, you are not in control.

Instead, ask this: “How can we strengthen our relationships with our donors?”

This mindset change recognizes that the donor is in control of the money, and the nonprofit can only do their own part. They can only be the best organization they can be, providing the appropriate interventions at the right times to the right people. They don’t control the donor’s wallet or heart. But when you view the world through the lens of strengthening relationships, and actually doing the same, the donations will naturally flow. They will come in the form of higher donor retention, stronger advocacy and easier recruitment of volunteers, and, most importantly, more long-term partners rather than one-time hand-outs. So, to get more, focus not on getting, but on giving: giving your audience a better relationship experience, one that gets them to fall in love with you over and over and over again.

Q2 – Don’t ask, “Why do people give?” Instead, ask, Why do people avoid?

We know that acquisition rates are under 2% for naive direct mail. With renewal rates under 50%, those that do give a first time aren’t very likely to give again. Overall, the United States directs only 2% of GDP to philanthropy. This includes giving to religious institutions, which, for many, may be up to 10% of their income. So if some are giving 10%, and the average is only 2%, there must be a lot of the audience that’s giving nothing.

And yet, a vast majority of the surveys reported in the public space, and many of the internal studies that nonprofits commission, consider only the 2% of the audience that is actually giving. They try to identify “ideal donor profiles” and create a “donation likelihood index” to improve their acquisition efforts by targeting cultivated, maximized lists. I get it – that makes sense. Because it’s the data that you have, so you do the best you can with it.

But, what if you could find out about the other portion of the audience that is giving nothing at all? What if you could find out where their priorities lie? What if you could offer them a solution to the problems they see in their neighborhoods, and do so in such a compelling way that they would feel remiss if they didn’t give? It would be well worth the investment of any nonprofit to understand more about those who haven’t given and tailor their approaches to acquisition and retention in such a way that targets the other 98% of GDP instead.

Q3 – Don’t ask, “Can I afford this in my budget?”

I’ve run across multiple nonprofits that have struggled to advance because a project “wasn’t in the budget”. Again, I understand that Executive Directors have to answer to Boards, and they have to be responsible stewards of the funds entrusted to them. They should not be spending wildly or on programming, material, or services outside of their mission. However, if an opportunity comes along which would significantly improve your nonprofit’s position, either in the community, or financially, or with a certain supporter segment, you would be unwise to ignore the value in such actions.

Instead, ask “What would be the ROI on this investment?” When you view expenditures in this way, as an investment in the programs you provide and the people who deliver them, it’s acceptable to go over a hard-limit dollar budget. I mean, if I could guarantee you $10,000 for a $1,000 investment, that sounds like a great reason to go over budget by $950. And while there may be no guarantees in things like new copiers, outside consultant reviews, or a membership in a professional association of like-minded organizations, simply saying “it’s not in the budget” is not a good reason to ignore the opportunity.

Q4 – Don’t answer, “What do you do?”

This question, when asked by someone learning about your organization, is often answered with “Well, we service A, B, and C with programs X, Y, and Z.” And while that may answer the question that was asked, it’s a missed opportunity. It’s analogous to cough syrup suppressing the  symptoms of deeper problems. You can apply medicine to make the cough go away and no longer be a bother without actually fixing the underlying issues. When the medicine’s effects wear off, the symptoms return because the problem never got solved.

In the same way, answering the question with programs and services is speaking about the surface solutions to long-term problems. Instead of answering this question immediately, consider rephrasing. When someone asks, “What do you do?”, try answering with, “Allow me to rephrase the question. What is it we want to see in our community?” Then, you can talk about the goal of a poverty-free region; or a community in which all kids read at grade level; or a neighborhood where abandoned pets can find love and homes with holes in their heart can find companions to fill them. It allows the chance to talk about the future you wish to see, and the long-term goals of the group, rather than just the here and now.

Here and now is important; you don’t get to where you want to go with just ideas and dreams. You have to put the effort in. But when you focus on just the programs, you miss the chance to inspire your audience to join you in making the community that they want, too, even if they would never consider supporting a program that you’re promoting right now.

Conclusion

Consider a mindset redirect – instead of asking questions about the now, about what’s immediately in front of your eyes, try reframing. Focus on where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and whether or not you can inspire partners to support you all along the way. With that kind of long-term mindset you can ask, and answer, the right questions about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.