Jimmy LaRose & NANOE, “Let’s Agree to Disagree”


Jimmy LaRose & NANOE, “Let’s Agree to Disagree”

Jimmy LaRose & NANOE, “Let’s Agree to Disagree” is my take on Jimmy LaRose and his unconventional approach to nonprofit leadership.

Do Jimmy LaRose and I agree on everything? Hardly. We can’t even agree on first names.

We’ve had several hours of phone conversations and e-mail exchanges, and there are numerous topics and issues we simply disagree on.

But what I admire about Jimmy is that no matter what our differences are on various nonprofit management and fundraising issues, it’s never personal to him and he refuses to let the disagreements get in the way of our friendship, our collaborations, and particularly, mutual respect for one another.

Another quality I truly admire about Jimmy is his unabashedly firm commitment to being a truth teller. He’s not interested in winning nonprofit popularity contests. He is devoted to sharing the theories, beliefs and best practices that he’s learned over a remarkable career to strengthen the nonprofit sector. 

He has espoused several contrarian ideas such as paying board members, hiring powerful CEOs, and consolidation among nonprofits sharing mission space.

Jimmy and I have known each other and collaborated in various ways such as writing projects for about five years.

It started when I wrote a brief profile about him in my monthly newsletter, Stratagems. It was far from a fluff piece, but he went out of the way to thank me for the work I put into it.

He sent me a copy of his book, Re-Imagining Philanthropy. It does a beautiful job of reflecting his gritty philosophy, especially the emphasis on making sure that every penny and every hour donated to the nonprofit sector achieves the strongest possible return. He doesn’t like waste and redundancy.

Jimmy LaRose & NANOE, “Let’s Agree to Disagree”

Since launching Eskin Fundraising Training in 2018, I have repeatedly emphasized that most nonprofit leaders are afraid of asking for gifts for their favorite causes because they really haven’t experienced a genuine solicitation for themselves. This is a fear of the unknown.
Through more than 150 workshops and webinars, my job has been to demystify the art and science of fundraising for professional and volunteer non-profit leaders.

My wife Andrea and I have witnessed on numerous occasions nonprofit leaders who said they could never ask for gifts replace fear with confidence and comfort as they became productive fundraisers.

Jimmy LaRose & NANOE are not proponents of board and volunteer fundraising. Our viewpoints on this subject are different.

But over the last several years he has invited and published numerous guest articles and blogs on his websites and advocating my perspective on the art and science of fundraising that can be taught, practiced and learned.

In other words, he has been happy to publish someone like me who shares very different viewpoints. I see that as a marvelous part of his character, courage and wisdom as a leader.

Frankly, I think the nonprofit sector will benefit from more honest and frank debate, and a respectful exchange of differing viewpoints. Time after time, we are learning that there is no single, perfect way to do things.

Quite the opposite, we can grow and learn from those who think differently. It’s dangerous when leaders believe there is only one path to follow.

I proudly refer to my webinar audience as a learning community of professional and volunteer non-profit leaders. No one (that certainly includes me) has all the answers. During our hour-long Zoom webinars, we encourage audience members to come on camera and openly share questions and experiences, and to challenge what they’ve heard from subject matter experts who join me in making presentations.

Over the past two years of the pandemic, pivot and hybrid have become popular words in our new vocabulary. To survive — better yet, to thrive — the non-profit sector has had to challenge long-established ways of doing things and be innovative to be successful in telling their stories, nurturing friendships, and most critically, raising funds to advance their missions that touch, improve and save more lives.
Solicitations are probably the most profound example of innovation and creativity. Most of us were taught the best (and only) effective way to ask for money, especially major gifts, was in face-to-face meetings. The pandemic and realities of social distancing closed the door to that best practice.

We discovered the power of virtual fundraising and making asks, even for major gifts, via video-conferencing. The way we met changed, but not the underlying objectives of getting donors to like, know and trust us.

The facts speak for themselves: A record $471 billion was donated by Americans in 2020 from bequests, corporations, foundations, and mostly from individuals. When you combine giving from individuals, bequests and family foundations, the giving slice rises to a whopping 87%.

Many of us were forced to work remotely from our homes over the past two years. Co-workers, board members and volunteers embraced new technology to keep in touch and work as teams to continue the momentum of their organizations. Many studies show that participation in such meetings actually improved.

American philanthropy didn’t fall apart. In fact, being open to change and innovation has strengthened our sector in timely ways.

Did we all agree on these new ways of doing our business? Certainly not. But most importantly we were open to debate about the advantages and disadvantages of varying approaches.

Another great example is special event fundraising. Non-profits were forced to make difficult decisions between the continuation of in-person events or pivoting to virtual or hybrid events. Success was enjoyed in all three types of venues.

You can bet there were plenty of lively discussions, debates, and yes, disagreements.

But the capacity of non-profit leaders to listen to each other, understand other perspectives and reach compromise and consensus empowered their organizations to continue to move forward. When we have different opinions, do we risk losing friends and fellow board members? On the contrary, I believe we strengthen our commitment to our respective organizations by coming back to the missions which are the basis of our bond.

All of this brings us back to Jimmy LaRose, who has been challenging the status quo and prompting the nonprofit sector to consider new and better ways of conducting its business for decades before the pandemic hit.

Jimmy understands that not everyone will always agree with him. I don’t agree with him on every issue. But I totally respect his commitment to healthy debates, listening to those who might disagree with him, and always putting serving the mission and impacting societal change ahead of personalities.

I believe our nonprofit organizations will be best served by the Jimmy LaRose leadership model. Be honest with yourself, respectful of others, and keep your eye on the prize of doing the best possible job of promoting good works.

Jimmy LaRose & NANOE, “Let’s Agree to Disagree” was posted at Eskin Fundraising Training
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