Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Favorite Fundraising Productivity Tool - Call Reports Made Easy

I am not writing this blog post. Instead, I am in the midst of my daily commute to work, and speaking into a headset, with my laptop open beside me on the passenger seat. Virtually all of my "writing" these days is accomplished through a dictated first draft followed by revisions at my desk. 

As a fundraiser, I have a love-hate relationship with call reports. I love to read them and I hate to produce them. When preparing to visit a prospect, I appreciate the insights and background of a call report in the file. When I returned from a donor visit, I have more urgent tasks to accomplish than
laboriously recording what I just saw and heard.

Dragon Dictate solves that problem. Now, when I hop in the car after a fundraising visit, I fire up the MacBook, strap on the headset and capture details that would otherwise drift away before I get back to the office. The next time I speak with the prospect, I will have his dog's name at hand, or I will recall the book she was reading. Those are the gifts that a good call report can deliver, but my middle-aged memory cannot deliver that level of detail without help.

Of course, Dragon Dictate is not without flaws. It sometimes mistranslates my spoken words, so proofreading is an absolute must. I once dictated a coworker's job title as "Institutional Advancement Coordinator" and it came out as "Delusional Advancement Coordinator", which we agreed was more accurate.

More alarmingly, it has not yet realized that my expletive-laced advice to other drivers on the road need not be recorded. I fear that some future fundraiser for my employer will be baffled why "use your %$*# blinker" shows up in the middle of a donor's call report.

There may be even better products out there.  I have heard that Siri works well on iPhones and iPads, and I have not explored the universe of other dictation products.  At the time I was in the market, Dragon Dictate had the best reviews, so I bought it.  If you have other suggestions, please share in the comments - I'm not getting paid for this endorsement.  But whatever you use, I highly recommend incorporating dictation into your productivity tool box.

Obligatory Tangentially Related Joke (long one!): An ambitious yuppie finally decided to take a vacation. He booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life.....till the boat sank. The man found himself swept up on the shore of an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing. Only bananas and coconuts.

After about four months he is lying on the beach one day, when the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen rows up to him. In disbelief, he asked her: "Where did you come from? How did you get here?"

"I rowed from the other side of the island," she said, "I landed here when my cruise ship sank." "Amazing," he said, "you were really lucky to have a rowboat wash up with you."

"Oh, this?" replied the woman. "I made the rowboat out of raw material that I found on the island: the oars were whittled from gum tree branches, I wove the bottom from palm branches, and the sides and stern came from a eucalyptus tree."

"But-but, that's impossible," stuttered the man, "you had no tools or hardware, how did you manage?" "Oh, that was no problem," replied the woman, "on the south side of the island there is a very unusual strata of alluvial rock exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into forgeable ductile iron. I used that for tools, and used the tools to make the hardware."

The guy was stunned.

"Let's row over to my place" she said. After a few minutes of rowing, she docked the boat at a small wharf. As the man looked onto shore he nearly fell out of the boat. Before him was a stone walk leading to an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white.

While the woman tied up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man could only stare ahead, dumbstruck. As they walked into the house, she said casually "It's not much, but I call it home. Sit down please; would you like to have a drink?"

"No, no thank you" he said, still dazed, "can't take any more coconut juice."

"It's not coconut juice," the woman replied. "I have a still. How about a pina colada?"

Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepted, and they sat down on her couch to talk. After they had exchanged their stories, the woman announced, "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable.  If you would like to take a shower and shave, there is a razor upstairs in the cabinet in the bathroom."

No longer questioning anything, the man went into the bathroom. There in the cabinet was a razor made from a bone handle. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge were fastened on to its end inside of a swivel mechanism.

"This woman is amazing," he mused, "what next?"

When he returned, she greeted him wearing nothing but vines strategically positioned and smelling faintly of gardenias. She beckoned for him to sit down next to her.

"Tell me," she began, suggestively, slithering closer to him, "we've been out here for a very long time. You've been lonely. There's something I'm sure you really feel like doing right now, something you've been longing for all these months? You know..."

She stared into his eyes. He couldn't believe what he was hearing:

"You mean-- ?", he replied, "- I can check my e-mail from here????"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Am I Writing this Blog? (Hint: I'm not job-hunting or consulting)

A friend and former boss called me last week to say a few nice things about this blog and then he asked if I'd gotten permission from my current boss to launch it. "No," I replied, "should I have?" "Well, he might think you're looking for a job…" 

I hadn't thought of it that way, but I suppose my friend has a point. So, let me put it out there, in case you've been reading my musings on guns and minutes, or falling in love with my amazing jokes, and thought, "wow, that's the guy we need in our office." Well, sorry, I'm currently spoken for.

Sincerely, I am writing this blog because I like to write, and I like to share information and opinions about nonprofits. Writing is a kind of analysis for me. When I start writing about a topic that interests me, it forces me to examine my own thoughts while articulating them.

It's not all high-minded idealism, though. I'll admit that I check my stats and get a slight ego stroke with each visit.

Along the same line, approaching an awkward level of honesty, I want to raise my profile in the nonprofit community. I have a pretty good range of experiences and I am egotistical enough to think my voice deserves to be heard. More selfishly, while I am currently very happily employed, there is no such thing as job security in the fundraising business. Having a larger reputation and network of contacts might come in handy some day if I need to find a new job or develop a consulting business.  

In the meantime, though, my goal with this blog is simple.  Post good stuff regularly, build readership, and have some fun.  

Obligatory Tangentially Related JokeJoe started getting terrible headaches.  They finally got to the point that he went to his doctor, and the doctor examined him, sighed and looked grave.

"Joe, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is I can cure your headaches... The bad news is that it will require castration. You have a very rare condition which causes your testicles to press up against the base of your spine. The pressure creates one hell of a headache. The only way to relieve the pressure is to remove the testicles."

"Doc, I can't live with this pain anymore.  I can't stand it.  Go ahead, let's do the surgery . . ."

A week later, the surgery was finished, and he left the hospital.  He didn't have a headache, but he was obviously kind of depressed.  He figured that he would go ahead and buy himself a new suit, and at least feel good about how he looked.  When he left the hospital, his mind was clear, but he felt like he was missing an important part of himself. 

He walked into a suit shop and told the salesman, "I want a new suit - the best suit in the store!"

The salesman eyed him briefly and said, "Let's see... size 44 long."

Joe laughed, "That's right, how did you know?"

"I'm a professional, and I've been working here for 30 years.  It's my job, and I'm good at it."

Joe tried on the suit. It fit perfectly. As Joe admired himself in the mirror, the salesman asked, "How about a new shirt?"

Joe thought for a moment and then said, "Sure..."

The salesman eyed Joe and said, "Let's see... 34 sleeve and... 16 and a half neck"

Joe was surprised, "That's right, how did you know?"

"I told you, it's my job."

Joe tried on the shirt, and it fit perfectly. As Joe adjusted the collar in the mirror, the salesman asked, "How about new shoes?"

Joe was on a roll and said, "Sure..."

The salesman eyed Joe's feet and said, "Let's see... 9-1/2... E."

Joe was astonished, "That's right, how did you know?"

"I'm good at my work."

Joe tried on the shoes and they fit perfectly. Joe walked comfortably around the shop and the salesman asked, "How about a new hat?"

Without hesitating, Joe said, "Sure..."

The salesman eyed Joe's head and said, "Let's see... 7-5/8."

Joe was incredulous, "That's right, how did you know?"

"30 years of experience."

The hat fit perfectly. Joe was feeling great, when the salesman asked,

"We might as well get you completely outfitted. How about some new underwear?" Joe thought for a second and said, "Sure..."

The salesman stepped back, eyed Joe's waist and said, "Let's see... size 36." Joe laughed, "No, I've worn size 34 since I was 18 years old."

The salesman shook his head, "No, absolutely not. You can't wear a size 34. It would press your testicles up against the base of your spine and give you one hell of a headache."