I love days that I get to work in my office.

It gives me some quiet time to think and plan.  But today, my solitude has been interrupted.

Sadie is a rather large kitty and has decided that she wants to sit in my lap.

She’s one of our older cats and she’s a big girl (16 pounds!).  Not only is she in my lap, but she’s purring to beat the band and insists on keeping her paw on top of my arm, making it difficult to type.  Why she isn’t upstairs pestering my daughter, I don’t know.

Now, you probably know I love my critters.  This one included.  I just don’t love her when she gets in my way.

Which reminds me of a donor story I heard today.

My friend Lynn is an Executive Director of a good-sized organization and has a new facility manager she just hired.  He’s working out great and is following her directions for keeping things clean and tidy.  There’s a long-time volunteer who also happens to be a major donor who has taken it upon himself to tell this young fellow everything he needs to know.  The only problem is that the volunteer/donor is giving the staff guy different instructions than what Lynn did.

So for Lynn, this volunteer/major donor is kind of like the cat in my lap – I love you, but don’t get in my way.  If the proverbial cat gets too big (if the volunteer/donor gets too caught up in being in charge) it can really cause problems.  Best to deal with it as soon as possible.

Lynn feels a bit caught between a rock and a hard spot. My suggestion is that she sit down with the volunteer/donor and go over the procedures for the facility and get his buy-in.  She should also let him know that she’s got the new guy well-oriented and is supporting him.  She should probably go one step further and ask the volunteer/donor to let her know if he sees things happening that he thinks needs to be addressed with the new guy.  And find a way to let the volunteer/donor know that it’s not his job to tell the new kid what to do.

This is a tough situation, trying to keep the volunteer/donor happy and engaged, but keep him out of staff business.

What would you do if it were you?  Click on the comment link and let me hear from you.

Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can convince Sadie to go find another lap!



  1. The key, in my mind, is to get them on the same page. As a counselor, I saw the classic “mom and dad are telling the kid different things” routine. As far as I can see in this, no one really benefits. Mom and dad are at odds, and the kid is confused because he or she ends up in a can’t win situation (i.e., If I make dad happy, mom’s mad. If I make mom happy, dad’s mad.). Your comment is valuable to me because it highlights the importance of open communication in business settings, and the value of being able to share ideas honestly with one another. I wrote a piece recently (see http://tinyurl.com/yz5hmxj )about an approach to management and facilitating more open communication in nonprofits that might be beneficial. Thanks for the post.

  2. I would agree with Scott’s comment. I would also ask, “What responsibilities has the organization provided the volunteer/major donor?” I believe major donors should be directly involved with the organization (in a positive, supporting way) so they know they are donating to an organization that has impact. I also believe nonprofits need to view volunteers as an extension of the staff and utilize them for more than licking envelopes and going door-to-door asking for donations. Does the volunteer/major donor have appropriate responsibilities? Is the volunteer/major donor being recognized in a way that he/she feels appreciated? These are questions that should also be asked in resolving this situation.

    • Scott and Roger, I appreciate your comments. It’s clearly not an easy situation to fix and definitely must be handled with skill and grace to retain the donor.

      I’ll keep you all posted about the situation and how it plays out.


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