Archive | November 2013

Week Eight: Hut, Hut, Pike!

It was back to Seattle this week for another two day visit. This time, it was colder and darker, but I did have the chance to venture to Pike Place Market, albeit at night. Look!

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My colleague Alison joined me for this trip, so we ventured out together in the evenings. We enjoyed a glass of wine at a great little wine and coffee bar (they put those two together in Seattle, I guess) called Café Fonte. I’m not a wine expert, but our sommelier told us that the Pacific Northwest is basically a cooler and wetter version of the Mediterranean, which means amazing grapes and therefore amazing wines. We tried a Pinot Noir called Trisaetum. If you see it in your local wine store, I’d encourage you to buy a bottle. It was really good!

Aside from another trip to Seattle in the dark, this week was all about catching up. Catching up is my nice way of referring to all the unsexy aspects of consulting. This is what we do when we’re in the office, or on a plane, or any other time we’re awake when we aren’t onsite with a client. This is also the post I’ll point any of my family members to the next time they ask me what a typical week looks like for me. I’ve organized the list by subject area to make it a bit more understandable.

A week in the life of Bond:

Analytics:
One of the fun and complicated parts of my job is that it involves all parts of prospect development, which includes analytics. At BWF, we have a whole arm of our practice devoted to analytics called DonorCast (click here to learn more). The great thing about analytics is that it does a lot of the base prospecting work for an organization. Without getting into too much detail, analytics helps guide you towards the people in your database who are more likely to support your organization. Along those lines, this week I:
-Created a survey regarding the build-out of an analytics function at one client organization
-Read files related to an upcoming client visit and ran through a presentation of their predictive modeling results

I didn’t exactly do a great job of explaining what analytics is, but if you want to learn more, check out the DonorCast site or head over to Wikipedia for a general overview.

Nonprospect Research:
I read lots of files so I can get up to speed on what is currently happening with a particular client- what did the proposal look like, what materials have they sent us, what have we sent them, etc. Once I review all the files I can do fun things like:
-Compile benchmarking metrics so an organization can demonstrate improvement from FY14 over FY13
-Remote desktop into the test environment of an organization’s database to grab screenshots that might make their way into an updated policy/procedure manual

Okay, so that second one will only be fun for a couple of you, and I commend you both. For most of the rest of us, it’s a laborious task, which is probably why clients ask us to help out. 🙂

Conference Planning:
As I mentioned in a previous blog, it looks like a busy year of presentations for me! Related to that, this week I:
-Put together slides for my upcoming CASE V session. My colleague, Kimberly Priebe, and I are deep in the planning phase for this session and I’m very excited!
-Confirmed my participation as faculty at the CASE Development Researchers conference in Baltimore in March. This conference is in the early stages of preparation, but you can continue to find out more information here or check on twitter under #casedevr. I am so excited about this- this exact conference was the first one I ever attended years ago as a new researcher, so it is near and dear to my heart.

That’s it for this week- Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Week Seven: Cruze Patrol

This week, I took a quick trip to Ohio- back to the middle of the country for me! I saw snow and flat land. It was just like being at home (which wasn’t that nostalgic since I actually was home last weekend). My colleagues Judy and Katrina brought me in on one of their project teams. It was great to have colleagues onsite with me!

Before I go any further, I wanted to mention that I’ve created a new section of the blog, Vital Stats. If you want more information about my travels by the numbers, take a look. I’ll be updating it weekly.

We weren’t able to coordinate our schedules to/from the airport, which resulted in one of the more awesome inefficiencies I think I’ve ever experienced:

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We all arrived at different days/times at the Detroit airport, and each of us got a light colored Chevy Cruze! We laughed when we all pulled up at the client site.

That got me thinking, what does efficiency mean? Webster defines it as: the ability to do something or produce something without wasting materials, time, or energy. Okay, so we want to save money, time, or effort. In the case of the BWF Cruze Patrol*, we could have saved some money on car rentals if we’d been able to coordinate schedules, but would it be worth it if the flights we had to choose were more expensive, or if we had to drive to an airport that was 45 miles further out?

Looking at things from an efficiency perspective puts money, time, and effort on an equal playing field. In other words, saving time and/or finding shortcuts are a currency in and of themselves. Consider the following efficiencies that consumers will pay for…

Consumer efficiencies:

  • Premier/priority airline status: allows you to skip to the front at most airport TSA lines. Among other perks, you also get a comfy seat which is located in the front of the plane (helpful if you have a connecting flight you need to make).
  • TSA precheck: allows you to keep your laptop packed up and your shoes on in the airport security line.
  • Tailoring: pay someone else to hem your pants. I’m not talking about major alterations here, but when is the last time you took out a needle and thread to fix a loose button? Most of us are willing to pay a convenience fee to have someone else do this.
  • DVR: lets you watch TV shows when you want to and skip past commercials.

Clearly, these efficiencies vary widely, and I’m sure each of you can come up with situations that are much more applicable for you, but you get the point. As consumers, we all make decisions to take shortcuts that will make our lives easier, either because it’s worth the cost, we don’t have the time to do it ourselves, or doing it ourselves would be a disaster (this is why I will pay someone else to sew a button or prepare Thanksgiving dinner — no one needs to see the result of my efforts in either area).

Prospect Development efficiencies:

Here’s where I get all consultant-y on you…if you’re reading this as a friend of mine, this part could get a bit boring or confusing. You won’t hurt my feelings if you stop reading here (Hi Dad!).

If you’re in fundraising, esp. prospect development, read on!

Both in my time at BWF, and in some previous consulting gigs I’ve worked, I’m often asked my opinion of research resources. For future clients: please feel free to ask me, I love talking about this stuff, but here’s what it ultimately comes down to: research resources exist to improve efficiency in your shop. Don’t simply look at the cost of a new resource when making your decision. Ask yourself:

  • Is this easy for me to use? Saves Time
  • Will this give me access to some feature or function I don’t already have? Saves Effort

This applies to more than just research resources. What about creating triggers in your database so that when a gift officer enters a contact report indicating that s/he has visited a prospect for the second time, s/he receives a prompt automatically asking if it’s time to change the prospect stage from qualification to cultivation? Obviously, the specific criteria will vary from institution to institution, but you get the point. This type of thing may take a herculean effort to set up, but the potential payoff in creating efficient systems may be worth it.

By now, you may be thinking, “Bond, I get it. This stuff makes my life easier. It helps me get my job done faster or with less legwork. And it is all intensely valuable. But how can I convince my VP to invest in my go-to research resource, or to let me dedicate time to automating prospect stages?”

My friends, it’s time to once again think like a consumer. Next time you’re in a position to plead your case for more resources in front of your VP, try comparing that item on your research wishlist to flying first class and skipping ahead in the security line at the airport. In some cases, it’s the difference between making and missing a flight.

*Patent Pending. Okay, not really. I felt like it was important to note that as a firm, BWF does not support any specific car brand, and the Cruze Phenomenon was purely coincidental. Have I covered my bases now?

Week Six: Do Vampires Drink Coffee?

This week, I traveled to Seattle. If you’ve ever flown from one coast to the next, allow me to commiserate with you for a moment. Wow- that’s a long trip! I arrived in town at midnight Seattle time, which is an unthinkable time on the East Coast (I know you can figure it out, but please don’t tell me. I just told you it was unthinkable). Fortunately, I didn’t start the following morning until 9am, so I enjoyed a good nights sleep.

Unlike my previous engagements, where I was coming in at the middle of a project or wrapping things up on behalf of a colleague from BWF, this project is just getting started. And it is huge. We are developing and implementing a prospect development program with this client. What a great opportunity! I spent two solid days in interviews with various members of the team, filling my brain with tons of information and learning acronym upon acronym. I stared out the window at beautiful, tall trees like these:

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If you’re from the Pacific Northwest or Northern California, I suppose these trees are nothing. But from a lifelong Midwesterner, these are some  serious trees.

Even holed up in a conference room for two days, I can say that the city known for coffee and rainy days did not disappoint me. On day two, I commuted to the client site in a torrential downpour. Upon arriving, the project manager made homemade lattes. He brought a fancy machine and everything. It might have been the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.

Due to daylight savings and my meeting-packed days, my exploration of Seattle would have to be in the dark. I enjoyed two wonderful dinners in town. On Wednesday night, I went to the Ballard neighborhood with a college friend. Since I saw her last, she’s completed seminary, moved across the country, and become a mom, so we had a lot to catch up on! We ate at a great French restaurant named Bastille. On Thursday night, I met my uncle and aunt for dinner (My aunt is kind of a big deal. She wrote a children’s book called How Dachshunds Came to Be; click here for more info. Additional aside: I just realized I know a lot of authors.) at Ivar’s Salmon House. Holy Smokes! This was a wonderful meal. When you travel a lot for work, it can get a little lonely. There’s nothing I needed more after the completion of two full days of work than a wonderful meal with my family. Ivar’s is great- the salmon was amazing, and the view of downtown and the space needle was incredible. However, since it was the company that made this dinner so special, here’s a picture of my uncle, aunt, and me before dinner:

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I had a lovely trip, but look forward to enjoying some daylight hours on my next visit. Seattleites/frequent travelers: what should I make sure I see/do when I come back?

Week Five: Initiation

Hello friends! So far in my adventures, I’ve written four installments of this blog, each taking place in either DC or Minneapolis. Kinda repetitive, right? Well not this week –I had my first official trip someplace else! I ventured to…Oklahoma City!
Yee-haw!

yeehaw

Well, not really. That’s what I thought OKC would be like, but I saw no cowboys. There is a Cowboy Hall of Fame (it’s got a new name now, but Cowboy Hall of Fame just sounds cool, so that’s what I’m calling it) in Oklahoma City, and my clients were even nice enough to give me a free ticket! Sadly, I couldn’t go as the museum is open from 10am-5pm. That’s the thing about being a consultant (or probably any job where you travel for work, unless your job is to sight-see or eat delicious food) — you don’t really have the time to do anything fun in the city you visit. So…if anyone reading this is going to OKC before the end of the year and you’ll be able to do some midday sightseeing, drop me a note and I’ll send you a ticket to the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Then you can go and tell me how cool it is!
Okay, back to this week. In Week Three, I was granted Honorary Minnesotan status by my friend and colleague, Mark Egge. This week, I believe I’ve officially earned my consultant street cred. In this business, crazy things happen, and you have to be able to go with the flow and/or have a Plan B. Here are the ways in which I was tested this week (Did I pass??? Read to the end to find out!):
  • Disclaimer: this one has nothing to do with consulting, so it’s more an example of how I failed to exercise general common sense. My trip started with a weekend layover in Chicago to celebrate the wedding of two of my favorite people, Brett and Laura. Their ceremony was at Navy Pier and it was beautiful. We celebrated with champagne and tiny desserts, which was perfectly appropriate for a ceremony that ended at 11am. I am a dessert fan, and tiny desserts mean that you can have infinitely more dessert, so I loaded up! After the champagne toast, my friend Mark and I went out to grab lunch before the celebration reconvened later that evening. I ordered some fish sliders and fries, and felt ill a couple bites in. By 4pm, I felt so ill that I ended up skipping out on the evening party altogether. Life lesson from my stomach to my brain: never eat the sweetest thing ever and immediately follow it by the saltiest thing ever. It won’t end well.
  • Fast forward to OKC. Upon arriving at my hotel on Sunday night, I opened up my laptop to get some work done before my client engagement the following day. My laptop screen was cracked, resulting in the rest of the display being a big, scrambled mess. Have you ever even tried to pick up your dry cleaning on a Sunday night? Don’t bother; the dry cleaners isn’t open. No one is open on Sunday night. I called the number I was instructed to call only in the event of the Blue Screen of Death (I figured this qualified figuratively even though it wasn’t technically a blue screen), and got a call back not too long after. The tech I spoke to was very nice and helpful, but acknowledged that he couldn’t do anything for me that night. They would overnight me a replacement the following day, meaning I’d receive it at the client site the second day of my engagement. Looks like I’d be working on my iPad until then. Interesting background on this story: apparently, the version of laptop I have is notorious for having problems, and nearly all of my colleagues have had one break on them, so now I’ve joined the club. As a former computer services person, it causes me great shame to say that I destroyed a machine within a month of getting it, but in my new world, I just went from consultant to Consultant. Graduation! Life lesson learned: swaddle my delicate new machine in bubble wrap in all future travels.
  • I woke up on Monday morning and mapped out directions to the client site. If you read my post from last week, you know that DC traffic is awful. When I work in the office, it takes me about 90 minutes (one way) to get to work. So client engagements are like a commuter vacation for me. Sure, I have to fly to get there, but once I’m there, I’m usually at a hotel within a mile of the client site. I was about a mile from one of our OKC clients, but not the one I was going to visit. My client was a full 30 miles away! Looks like I’ll get to see what Oklahoma City traffic is like too! Life lesson learned: be sure to specify which client I’m going to see when making travel arrangements, and review my travel information before embarking on the trip.
So…did I rise above my trials? In spite of these challenges and mishaps, I had a wonderful two day engagement with the client, and I enjoyed what I did get to see of Oklahoma City (which was extended thanks to my 30 mile commute). On Monday night, I went to a part of town called Bricktown for dinner and had a great BBQ pulled chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun (it’s covered in cheese and sauteed mushrooms):
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What a wonderful introduction to Oklahoma City. Next time, I hope I can visit the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

For anyone who is keeping track, I’ve now survived near-certain creepiness in a deserted parking garage and I’ve successfully navigated a week of travel/consulting mishaps. Stay tuned for more…