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Set an Email Out of Office that Inspires Your Donors

About to set your out of office for the holidays?  This is a golden opportunity to put a warm glow on your organization right at end of year when people are thinking about giving back.

A couple of weeks ago I got the gold standard of all automatic out of office responders from my friends at Greenlights who were away from the office after their big gala.  We all know how exhausting and demanding events are.  After months of planning, recruiting sponsors and table captains, selling tickets, organizing seating charts, making name-tags, finding auction items, and writing speeches most folks are ready for a vacation, if not retirement.  But while you may be ready for some well deserved time off your constituents are at the peak of their adoration of you and positively buzzing with goodwill about your organization!  Ironically this is when they are the most likely to reach out to you - when you are taking some well deserved time away from the office.  It may be a couple of days or a week.   Usually when I reach out to a staff member after an event or around a holiday I get no response or a very brief one sentence autoresponder.  That’s exactly why Matt’s message stood out like a rose in a bed of thistles.

Here’s what I love about his message:

1)      I was thanked immediately for supporting the event – in the subject line and the first sentence.

2)      I got important “insider” info about the events success – I was told in second sentence how much they raised that night.

3)      He shared important program information – revealing the award winners were.

4)      He ended with a call to action to donate.

Whether you craft a thoughtful holiday out of the office or a post gala out of the office message, put some thought and preparation into it.  Leverage this communication to thank your constituents for their support and share a brief quote or story of thanks from a client you serve.  Include a link to give in your closing or as a p.s.

Special thanks to Matt Kouri and the great team at Greenlights for letting me use their email in this post!

Happy Holidays!

Core values: if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a leader is the importance of core values.  Core values are the foundation of how you and everyone in your company conduct themselves.  They are the enduring things that would remain if you took away everything else.  Core values require no external justification.  They are not trendy; they are primary.  They are not strategies or goals; they do not change every quarter.  They are the filter through which you conduct yourself at work.  They determine how you treat others and guide you through difficult decisions. For some, core values are nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Case in point: Enron.  Enron’s values seem like a cruel joke now:  respect, integrity, communication and excellence.  How about Dell’s?  In a nutshell the ‘Soul of Dell’ is advertised as: customers, teamwork, being direct, global citizenship, and winning.  To me those values translate to hard work, long hours, high expectations, and difficult conversations.  Even though they are called the “soul” they don’t feel soulful.

I’m especially proud of the core values we created at Girlstart, They were the framework through which we treated one another and we made every decision.  One of our core values is "No success at work is worth failure at home."  How many people ignore this lesson?  How many CEO's consistently expect their employees to put work over family?  Another one of our core values that I am especially proud of is “Have fun and enjoy the experience.”

When do you need to start creating core values?  As soon as you are ready to take your company to the next level.  When your company is small and starting out, members' values and behaviors are affected through proximity to the leader. The need for articulating core values becomes increasingly apparent as you grow. Defining core values helps maintain the culture the company holds dear.  Once defined, the values should be prominently displayed for employees and clients and reinforced through both the hiring process and in employee evaluations.

They should be short, enduring and memorable.  More than 5 core values are difficult to memorize.  Companies are wise to stick to 3-5 key values. Every company should reflect on them frequently to make sure they are living by them and check and see if they have changed so much as a company that a revisit is warranted.

The best leaders exhibit their values and ethics everyday in their leadership style and actions. If you don’t identify your values in the workplaces, mistrust follows.  People don't know what they can expect from their leaders.  If leaders have identified and shared their values and are living those values daily that visibility will create trust.

What does your company stand for?  Are core values given lip service as marketing jargon or does your leadership live and breathe them?

Here's to keeping it meaningful-


What's your elevator statement?

An elevator statement is a short concise and compelling statement about you or your business that can be delivered in the time it takes for an imaginary elevator ride.  It's your one chance to make a first impression, be memorable, open a door and build a relationship.  You have to say what you do in a way that is immediately understood and if you want more business, interests people enough to want to learn more.   It's the one statement that will close or open a door.  Once that door is closed, it's hard to recover from it.  First impressions stick.  That's a lot of pressure for a few words, huh?   Here's the sniff test any elevator statement should be able to pass with flying colors: 1) Does your mom understand it?

2) Does it prompt questions?

3) Is it generating you leads?

4) One sentence, 20 words or less.

5) 15-30 seconds.

Let's visit the third one.  I was recently at a leadership breakfast engaged in some introductions between a small group of professionals.  One man introduced himself as a CFO at a well known accounting firm and as a board member of a community group. The other person introduced themselves as a consultant.  The last person said "Yeah, I say that too but we're all in the same boat just looking for jobs."    For him, and likely for a lot of folks, consulting was a nice way to say 'job search'.  The consultant's elevator statement essentially amounted to using a generic label to describe himself and that label was perceived as a cover up by someone else.   Had he been more specific, i.e. said, "Companies hire me to train their employees how to use software to save them time, be better organized and more productive" he probably would not have gotten that response.  You can pick an elevator statement that cuts right to the chase, i.e. "I am a graphic designer specializing in logos" or you can stand out and use a statement that projects confidence and provokes interest in your product or service, i.e. "I'm hired to help employees be happier, more efficient, productive and get 5 hours of free time each week."

Whatever you choose, be clear, concise and memorable.  Now go forth and mingle!

Keep it classy,