The Power of Labels

During Minnesota winters all the cars tend to become a similar shade of gray. Slush splashes onto vehicles with every trip, road salt and sand make the side panels and doors a grimy mess. And really, there’s no point to getting a wash until the forecast says we’ll have a spell with no precipitation which, let’s be honest, usually means April.

I recently drove somewhere with my daughter who informed me that someone had written “a**hole” in the dirt on the passenger side of my car. It likely would have happened in a public parking lot, since my car is parked in a garage at home. At first I laughed it off. Whatever, clearly someone was just having fun, being juvenile, they obviously didn’t know me.

But then of course, doubt creeps in. Did I accidentally cut someone off in a parking lot and they wrote that as retaliation? Did I offend someone somewhere? I tried to shrugged that off. I’ve worked hard to always be my true authentic self, if someone doesn’t like me, that’s their problem.

Of course more snow and freezing fog (freezing fog?!) was in the forecast, so there was no opportunity to get my car washed. While getting gas one day I tried to rub it off, but it was quite literally hardened onto my car in the salt grime, so I left it.

I found myself thinking about it every time I drove somewhere. It wasn’t a good feeling. I felt like I had been besmirched, slandered. It was a dark cloud came over me every time I drove somewhere, and I started dreading every trip.

Finally, we had a spell of clear weather and I breathed a sigh of relief as my car went through the car wash. She came out all shiny and pretty on the other side, scratches and all, my reliable car that both girls learned to drive in.

As I drove away, I thought about the power of that one label on my car. It was on my vehicle, not me, and yet…it bothered me so. It made me wonder…if that flippant remark written onto my car could have such an impact on my outlook, what impact do the labels I give to myself have over me? What do I tell myself everyday about myself? Are those positive or negative things?

What labels do you give yourself?

Why data integrity matters

My husband and I have been donating to an alma mater of his for years. Decades, actually. And when I say “my husband and I” I mean my husband. I have asked him to not make these recurring monthly donations, that there are other, more worthy causes in the world that we should be directing our dollars to, but he really wants to support this institution, and so we have for the majority of our long marriage.

Eventually we hit a cumulative giving threshhold and combined age that we attracted the attention of their major gift team, and I began getting phone calls. Me. The one who has been saying for years that I don’t want to give to this institution.

I spoke to the gift officer, who was kind and grateful for our gifts, and explained that he really needs to talk to my husband, I personally would not still be sending money their way and that it’s my husband who is directing the donations. I even provided his phone number so he could call him directly. He said he would make a note of it and thanked me for taking his call.

Then, about six months later, I began getting phone calls again from the institution. I let them go to voicemail for a while, but finally started picking them up. The cheerful person on the other line said, “Hi, may I speak to Wayne?”

Uh, no you may not. Because you reached me on my cell phone at work. But this time I wasn’t so helpful to explain that Wayne was my husband and to give his number.

I replied, “This isn’t Wayne’s number.” No explanation that I knew Wayne, was his spouse, no additional information was given, simply that it wasn’t his number.

Now, hopefully, they have marked the phone number in their system as a “bad” number. But they missed the opportunity to actually connect with the person who wants to support their organization.

What I’m imagining happened is that the gift officer put text into a note field that said “wife does not support, husband Wayne’s number is XXX.” And there it stayed, in a text field. Unsearchable, unattached to Wayne as a person.

This is why I am passionate about helping nonprofits build and maintain databases, so that the personal information that can connect a donor to a single potential major donor is not lost in the clouds. All it takes is one donor, one connection, to make a difference to an organization. Maintaining the data to make those connections is critical.

Coming Soon!

When I was little girl, my life’s dream was to be a world-famous author. I imagined myself living in the woods somewhere, enjoying my many dogs, spending beautiful days in thoughtful reflection, scribbling down ideas and following through with the most brilliant writing anyone has ever read. My books would FLY off bookshelves, money would roll in I would have no worries, and would be able to spend my time however I wished.

My vision did not turn out exactly the way I had imagined. (Me? Live in the woods? You’ve met me, right?) But…I do write and people read it. I know they do because my writing raises money for nonprofits. I love seeing passages I’ve written on clients’ websites, in email or direct mail pieces. Even though my name isn’t associated with those pieces, I know I created them and I get a little spark of excitement every time I read them.

Then my friend Andrew Olsen presented me with the opportunity to actually *be* an author. I’m contributing a single chapter, but it’s enough!

In about 45 days the book “101 Biggest Mistakes Nonprofits Make” will be published. Be sure to read my chapter on how you need to dig into data to make smart fundraising decisions — the devil truly is in the details!

After you read it, you will find me in my mountainside retreat in the woods. With my dogs.