Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Is Your Fund Raising Group Harry and David or

Last week, Harry and David, the venerable, been-around-forever, Christmas gift company filed for Chapter 11 bankrupsy reorganization. I, for one, am glad to hear that they are attempting to reorganize as I can’t imagine a Christmas without someone sending me their Golden Pears. But, then a little over a year ago, I thought I had seen the last Chevy as GM was headed for the scrap heap of automotive history before Uncle Sam stepped in.

Would I have made it through life if GM would have disappeared? Would the sun have come up if there were no more Buicks, Corvettes or Chevy trucks? Heck, I’m old enough to remember American Motors and Rambler, both of which are now long gone from the automotive scene. The truth is that life would have continued on just fine “thank you very much.” Today, I am driving a Nissan.

So, now it’s Harry and David’s turn to figure out how to be relevant and run a profitable business. I’m pulling for them and might even send some of their cheese or fruit to loved ones next Christmas, but, after that, it is up to the people running Harry and David to get their business model humming profitably again.

And then there is Zappos, for those of you that haven’t heard of them, is an online retailer of first shoes and now apparel and accessories. Zappos was started in 1999 and as their CEO tells it, sales in 1999 were next to nothing. But, in less than eight years, sales had topped a billion dollars. In fact, Zappos' growth was so fast that it caught the attention of another online retailer by the name of who bought them in 2009.

So yeah, Zappos can sell all year around whereas Harry and David really make it in the fourth quarter of the year. But, come on; Harry and David has been around for 75 years, Zappos only 12. General Motors is over 100 years old and Hyundai and Kia haven’t been selling cars in the U. S. for more than twenty years and they seem to be doing just fine without bailouts or bankrupsy.

The point is that no organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, is guaranteed success; mine included. Each generation of leadership has to face the challenges of their time to not only stay in business, but also, to prosper.

Fund raising organizations are no exception. And, especially for those fund raisers that have been around a long time, these are very challenging times. In fact, it may be the most challenging time ever.

If you want to be successful you don’t study failure; you study success. While we are not planning any trips to visit Harry and David, our first trip taking nonprofit fund raisers was so successful that we are lining up trips with other clients to visit Zappos. I don’t know about you, but, I want to learn from an organization that grew from “next to nothing” to a billion dollars in less than eight years. Join us.


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