There are lessons all around us if we’re willing to look.
I’m big on creating systems in your office to make fundraising (and everything) run smoother and easier. Here’s a great experience I had a couple of days ago which reminded me of the importance of systems.
I drove my Mom to Kentucky for a memorial service for my uncle who passed recently and on the way home, we stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast. I’m not usually a big Waffle House fan, but it was convenient so we decided to stop. It was crowded and we took a seat at the counter (which I liked because I could watch the cooks).
It became very clear very quickly that the group of people working (and there were several) were not working together as a team. If there was a system for taking orders and filling them, they either weren’t trained on it or they were ignoring it.
After 30 minutes, we still had not been served and I noticed lots of other customers looking quite annoyed. There was a man with an official looking name tag and clip board watching, but he did nothing to help the misfit crew. I would love to know what he was doing, because he clearly wasn’t there to help!
There are so many details I could share about this particular experience, including the waffle cook who poured the batter into the waffle irons, neglected to set the timer, then walked off. When we finally asked when our waffles would be ready, the waitress, opened the waffle irons, saw the scorched waffles, then dumped them in the trash. Someone else rushed up, poured more batter in, and when the waffles were done, quickly carried them off to another customer. Grr.
I was totally fascinated at the dysfunction of it all. Mom was so mad she could have bit a nail in two.
So, what are the lessons here and how do they apply to fundraising?
First, have a system. You want to make sure that every donor who interacts with your organization has a good experience. How do you do that? Have a system in place. Make donors a priority. Make sure you thank them appropriately. Do you consistently send a warm, sincere, prompt thank-you letter? Are you writing the letter at the moment you need it or do you have a letter ready to tweak and use whenever it’s needed? Systems will help you make sure that things are done consistently and smoothly, and that will ultimately help you raise more money.
Second, have the right people in the right spots. In the Waffle House kitchen, there were 2 people cooking, and it was clear they knew their job. But everyone else seemed to bounce from one thing to another, with nothing really getting done. Calling out the orders was definitely a place where things broke down. A waitress (not ours) called out our order (reading it wrong) and we were initially served toast and eggs (definitely not the waffle we ordered). Where was the team leader? Where was the manager? There was no one managing the chaos that morning. Make sure the people on your team are in the right spots and know what their job is.
Third, make sure people are trained and provide support. I’m thinking that the waffle cook who neglected to set the timer, then walked away either forgot part of his training or got distracted by something more interesting. Someone should have been there to remind him to stay on task. Your people might be staff or volunteers. Either way, make sure they know what they’re supposed to do and be there to answer questions for them to help them be successful in their jobs.
So, that’s how my waffle got burned. A busy morning added pressure to a weak, non-working system where people weren’t clear about their roles, and weren’t supported by a leader.
By the way, my Mom swears she’ll never go to Waffle House again. I’m skeptical, but if I decide to go again, I’ll definitely be watching to see if their system is working.