A Little Teamwork Helps Reach Some Big Goals


Originally uploaded by maritimes online.

I am passionate about librarianship and social media, but when it comes down to the wire, I really truly madly deeply love playing sports with kids. And make no mistake, this crowd looks like they are just a bunch of kids with hockey gear on, but I can guarantee a few things:

– You cannot score on the big goalie in the center.
– You cannot keep the young man dead centre from scoring top corner on any goalie.
– The little girl in the front will have the ball away from you, passed on and in your net before you even know what happened.
– You cannot thank the two guys on the left enough. They are from Old Navy and they gave us new equipment and Jerseys so we can keep playing hard.
– You need to drop lots of money into Salvation Army kettles this year, because they are what keeps this program running.

This crowd is seriously tough, folks. Given a little teamwork from the community, they will make big things happen. Consider doing the same thing in yours!

In With the New; In With the New.

Ten more ideas about how I can make my life better, in libraries and elsewhere:

  •  Plan an unconference — somewhere, somehow.

The field needs more unconferences, and I’d like to host/organize one for local librarians this year — probably in the summer sometime.

  •  More controlled and productive computer time.

No, this has nothing to do with social software.   I just found that the end of last year turned my computer into a television/gaming system.    I have nothing against gaming or entertainment, it’s just that my kids are growing up, and I definitely want to spend more time focussed on friends, family and physical fun.

  • Two good books a month.

I want to start tracing my reading just like Jessamyn does.   It’s been a good start though.   I just finished Evelyn Waugh’s Men at Arms, which is a great book and the first of the Sword of Honor trilogy.

  • 12 Beers (or other favored beverage) for 12 Librarians

Librarians deserve a beer.   12 librarians will get a beer from me.

  • More blogging, but with more citations and reading to go with it.

One of the most satisfying posts from my point of view was my review of Margaret Somerville’s The Ethical Imagination.    I disagree with many points that the book makes, I truly felt that Somerville gets a bad rap around town undeservedly for her views on same-sex marriage.   Further, I am glad Somerville is out there with the guts to say the unpopular thing that she believes needs to be said.   True ethics may just about the opposite of being popular, in my view.

Anyway, even though my online survey (there’s going to be a results post soon!) has suggested that book reviews are not really a priority for my audience, you’ll just have to accept my indulgences here, ‘k?

  •  More fiction/poetry writing, published or not.

I used to love writing fiction and poetry.   I even won the Clare Murray Fooshee poetry prize (first place) once.    I’d like to get back to some of that.   It was a great hobby and it brings back my memories of the rec.arts.poems usenet group (which, like many usenet groups, is a mere shadow of its former glorious self).

  • Pare down the social with social.

Libraries weed books that have lost their relevance over time.   I think I need to think about the relevance of my “friends” and look at doing some serious weeding as well.   Of course, I mean “friends” as in “Facebook friends,” which, in the end, can be likened to a reference source more than it can to a “real” friend.

If you can be of use to me, information-wise, I’ll read your blog.   If I can be of use to you, read mine.   If we have some mutual co-sharing thing going on, you will make my Twitter list.   And, honestly, I’m just about finished with Facebook.

  •  Less money waste.

It’s crazy how the local coffee shop will just eat away at my wallet.   And for what?   It’s not like there is a ton of nutrition there — and it’s not like I couldn’t just drink water.   That’s all money that could go to my kids’ RESPs or some of my favorite charities.

  • No gifts please, and clutter-free-me!

Another one that is just wasteful.    Please, no gifts.   None — except maybe a book I don’t have, or a donation to a charity in my name.

I do not want anything that will end up in a landfill within a year.   I do not want to pay to store stuff that I never use.  Whenever Big Brothers, Big Sisters asks me if we have any used clothing, furniture or appliances to give them, I will say “yes.”

  •  Increase my code-fu.

It’s coming along, and I want to learn more.   At this stage, however, it’s about doing — developing skills versus learning syntax.

That’s 10 and that’s enough.   I look forward to re-visiting this list next year to see how well I did/didn’t do.

What’s on your self-improvement list?

The Kings of Philantropy Podcast on CBC — Get it Quick!

I keep saying this, but subscribe to the CBC Ideas podcast.  Do it.   Right now.   It is probably the best podcast that is not related to celebrity, comedy or music.

A new series, called the “Kings of Philantropy” is about to be nixed from the list (Ideas only keeps about 4 podcasts up on its site at a time), but listening to it on my iPod the past day or so on the way to and from work has been amazing.

It talks about the new “social entrepreneurism” that is coming out of the big dollars being made by tech and media moguls like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Larry Page.    I can speak to its relevance to libraries in a “good news/bad news” trope.

The Good News:  The United States appears to be embarking on an era of progressivism and philantropy that could rival the efforts of Rockerfeller and Carnegie.

The Bad News:   The money is going to international public health, and a few swipes are being made at spending for libraries.

I wonder how we are going to find entrepreneurs in the developing world without giving the people access to the world’s knowledge, eh? — that said, public health is probably the first step for most developing countries — then we can look at schools and libraries.

There is also a good amount of interesting discussion about the challenges of accountability for social spending under a philantropic envelope, and the problems a business-minded “results focus” can have when it crosses paths with long-entrenched social systems.   An example offered is in Haiti, where a hugely amazingly high-level hospital was created to deal with public health, only to discover that a $200,000 expenditure on a better water system could help prevent visits from about 80% of their patients.

Either way, I think social entrepreneurism is a great move in the right direction.   The world is just going to have to learn more and better to get the systems right over the long haul.

Working for the Sally-Ann

So, I volunteered to handle a Salvation Army kettle for two hours at a liquor store. (For those non-Canadians out there, in Canada, all alcohol is handled by government-managed “liquor commissions” or, as we say in Halifax, the “LC.” Side note: if you listen to Sloan’s “Underwhelmed,” they make a reference to “the LC.”)

Well, I didn’t exactly volunteer — my wife volunteered and got sick, meaning I had to take over.

Anyway, I’m no Salvationist, but as I understand it, you don’t have to be to manage a kettle for 2 hours. And I think the Salvation Army can use some kettle-watchers this year. So, there it is. Why not 2 hours of your time to watch a kettle for a good cause. How’zaboutit? Go ahead and give them a call.

It was pretty amazing to see how well-received the SallyAnn is in the community. It was good fun and all I had to do was smile and say “Thank you” here and there. And actually, I have seen some of the work these folks do. Really, they are like a freakin’ army! If something needs getting done they do it on time and with hardly any budget. Putting a dollar there is like putting a fiver anywhere else.

What I’ve learned from a non-librarian about fundraising for libraries

My very favorite non-librarian, of course, is my wife, Wanda. She is a fundraising consultant and has about 10 years of experience in this realm. It is a job for which I have no skill at all.

Wanda is a master networker. She can go into a room, talk to someone for 10 minutes and know everything about her: her family, her interests and hobbies, likes and dislikes and so on. The skill that enables her to achieve this result include not only a savvy question-asking ability and a good memory, but a genuine interest in the lives of others.

Although I have done effective networking in my life, I will never be able to become a fundraiser because I do not have Wanda’s last quality. Do not get me wrong, I am not particularly self-centred or unemphathetic, but I am more interested in people’s ideas than in their lives. I love to challenge and discuss ideas and I think that is part of what makes me a good librarian. I have often thought that public libraries are much about a person’s possibilities.

I wonder if this emphasis on ideas over lives is a cultural icon of all libraries. If so, it may be a challenge for libraries when they think of fundraising.

Although I will never be a good fundraiser, I am interested keenly in what Wanda does. I love to ask her general questions about how professionals do fundraising and I thought it would be interesting to share what I think I have learned. A standard disclaimer of course: these ideas are my own and not Wanda’s. The first advice I can offer is this: get a professional fundraiser — not a librarian — to handle the fundraising. It’s the difference between making a sand castle on your own or calling an architect to build you a first-class building.

  • Lesson One: Telethons, book sales and community car washes are not fundraising

Well, this is not entirely true. These sorts of activities are called “Special Events Giving.” But I say this is “not fundraising” to say that Wanda is not a telemarketer. If you think fundraisers are just telemarketers, stop now — it’s like thinking a librarian is someone who selves books.

The money that gets raised from special events is small-time in the grand scheme of things. It can boost your collection, or pay a few extra bills, but the real benefit from special events is the community support it builds, and librarians have the community support thing down-pat. In other words, bottle drives, fundraising dinners etc. keep “giving” in the minds of their community, so you can have a positive image when you go out and do “real” fundraising.

  • Lesson Two: The big bucks is to be found from community-minded individuals, not corporations

There’s no doubt that you could get some bucks from a corporation like Microsoft. The thing to remember is that Microsoft’s primary “charity” is their investors. A CEO cannot really just say “sure, have some money because you folks are a great cause.”

Think about what this means. Would you want someone to take your money and just give it away to a charity that you may or may not care about?

So, that they can engage in charitable giving, corporations usually develop giving policies. The good news is that you can read the policy and get a quick idea whether or not the institution will consider your application. The bad news is that this money may not be as much as you think and there could be strings.

The real giving comes from individuals. “Bill Gates,” you say? Well, yes. But remember that everyone knows that Bill Gates has money, so everyone will be asking him. That’s probably why he developed the Bill and Melissa Gates foundation, to help him and his wife manage their giving.

Wanda likes to recommend Thomas Stanley and William Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door to others. The thing she tries to say is that there is some good money to be found in quiet neighbourhoods. Many millionaires are millionaires because they do not have a lavish lifestyle. They choose to save their money rather than live in expensive or lavish communities. Then  they leave large bequests or gifts to an institution or charity that really tugged at their heart strings and did not forget them in their campaigns.

  • Lesson Three: Being a rich person’s friend and being an influential fundraiser are two different things

My home town, Halifax, Nova Scotia has a reputation for hosting an “old boys network,” meaning that many influential decisions are supposedly decided on golf courses, among a small group of people, usually men.  Some people think that they way to make big money (through fundraising or sales or whatnot) is to wine and dine some rich mogul, speak smoothly and suavely and then tell them they should consider parting their cash on some product or charity. This idea of an “old boys network” is very much overstated, but even if there was a group of “old boys” making decisions, this strategy is a poor approach to fundraising.

I know a few people with funds to spare. I have absolutely no influence on how they would spend their money. Think about it. How many of your not-so-rich friends would part with large chunks of their money to the library simply because you asked them to. Ok. So the occasional pin or box of cookies. Or $20 at Christmas in lieu of gifts. What about asking them to up that $20 to $1000, $5000 or $10,000?

Now how do you think that affluent person feels about you asking them to donate big cash, simply because it is your place of work and they have lots of money?

  • Fundraising is 75% research, 15% networking, 9.9% planning and 0.1% asking for money.

Ok. Think about giving $1000 to one charity. I’m saying $1000 because I know this is a fairly large (but not impossible) chunk of change from a librarian’s salary. Where is the money going to go? It’s not going to go to your friend’s charity I’ll bet — not unless that friend has demonstrated to you that that charity is going to address something that is extremely important to you.

So now think that you want to ask me, Ryan Deschamps, for $1000 for a charity.  Any one. Let’s say it is not a library for now.

What might you do?

Well, if you are smart, you will find out as much about me as you possibly can. So, you ask around, search the Internet and so on.

What kind of information do you need? Well, how about finding out what charities I donated money to previously? I believed in them before, why not now? What are my big policy interests? Community Development? Education? Health and Fitness? Young People? World Peace? What are my personal constraints? Am I renovating my house? Are my kids starting college? If so, you might consider waiting a little before asking me.

Then you might say “hello.” If you are like Wanda and have a genuine interest in the lives of people, you will ask me to talk about myself and share my interests. You might here my say something like “Man, literacy is such a big issue. Kids are coming out of school these days and they can’t even write a half decent report!” or maybe “This city needs more ideas to get things cooking” or “wow. Diabetes is such a killer, it’s so scary and yet so preventable too.”

Ding-ding-ding! You now have a better idea of what pulls my heart strings.
Once you know my interests, have met me once or twice, then you come up with an asking strategy. Are you going to call me directly or are you going to get my wife, a good friend, or a co-worker to ask me? Are you sure that $1000 is the right number to ask? Might I be willing to put more in? Might I think that $1000 is a crazy insane amount of money to put into a single charity and then not even give you $100?

After all this work — this is when you ask. And chances are, it is your only shot at my $1000. If I say “no,” you can’t really come back and ask for more or less or for support in another cause. That would just be annoying to me and I would tell you to “get lost.”

These are a few tips I have created based on the 1%  I know about Wanda’s job. My hope is that it puts a different spin on fundraising for librarians old and new.

I do have to say — yet again — get a professional to help you out with any big campaigns.

At the beginning of this entry I said I am not a good fundraiser and that might be because I am a librarian. I always think about people for their possibilities. I want to open the doors of knowledge to people so they can be what they want to be.  This is the attitude I get from alot of other librarians too.
The money collected from fundraising may be about possibilities, but the actual fundraising is not. Fundraising is about the lives of donors. A major gift (ie. not Girl Guide cookies) means something to the people who give them. It is not a social activity or an exercise in invention, but an attempt at self-actualization. It is one of the truly great ways to say “I am a human being and I care.”

Maybe marriage is a good analogy for a major gift. A major gift is a marriage to a good cause. It needs to feel like “the right thing to do” at the pledge, the point of giving, the morning after that, and for every anniversary hence from paper to diamond. People give because it makes their lives more whole. As iconic as those achievers of the “Great American Dream” appear, they are still human beings who are in need of fulfillment like everyone else. For some givers, libraries may just be the source of fulfillment they are looking for.