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Life Health > Running Your Business

The 7 Deadly Sins for Advisors Joining a Nonprofit

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Lots of advisors join nonprofits for the right reasons. They want to give back to the community where they live and earn their livelihood. Other advisors join because they’ve heard it’s what you do to get business. They fall victim to the Seven Deadly Sins. Unfortunately, their misdeeds can make it difficult for the good agents and advisors. People have long memories. What should you avoid doing?

The First Deadly Sin – Only Joining to Get Business

You’ve seen this financial professional before. They join a group and start attending meetings. Approach everyone as if they were attending a networking event. They offer cards without being asked. If they person doesn’t want to talk business, they drop them like a hot potato. They say things like: “I’d like to go over your personal finances sometime.” They freely admit: “I joined because everyone says this is the way you get new clients.”

Why it’s bad: The regular members sense you are only here for personal gain. They feel like fish in a barrel. They think you are superficial and will easily lose interest. They avoid you. Word starts to spread. No one wants to socialize with you. They might even have a nickname for you. This strategy only works in networking groups or the chamber of commerce.

What to do: Sit quietly for the first couple of meetings. Get to know the players. Introduce yourself as ‘the new guy.” Draw them out.

The Second Deadly Sin – Joining Yet Not Contributing

The advisor joins the group and is thrilled to see community leaders and business owners actively involved. They attend meetings but don’t make an effort to meet people and develop relationships. When asked to join a committee, they agree, yet don’t attend more than one meeting. They attend fewer and fewer general meetings. They don’t attend galas or the golf outing because those cost money.

Why it’s bad: Those community leaders are looking for the next generation to transition into leadership roles. They see you as committing to join committees (good) but not following through (bad). They assume you joined to list your involvement as a line on your resume. Although they know what you do for a living, they won’t approach you for business because you don’t follow through.

What to do: Make it a point to meet several new people at each meeting. Under-promise and over-deliver. Take on one responsibility and do a spectacular job. Write checks and attend events.

The Third Deadly Sin – Being Self-Absorbed

In local community organizations, the seriously wealthy can be quite humble. Put another way, they don’t toot their own horn. This advisor misses this subtlety. They talk about their grand house. You can’t hire good help these days. I’m having my best year ever. We took an incredibly expensive vacation. Let me tell you about it. Have you seen my exotic car?

Why it’s bad: Being conceited comes across as being arrogant. Talking about how much money you’ve got implies you make your money at your client’s expense. Working with you isn’t a partnership, it’s a situation with a winner and a loser. You care more about money than people.

What to do: Listen. Get other people talking. Treat them as if they are the most important person in the room. Be complimentary. People like talking. If they get to do it, they will probably like you.

The Fourth Deadly Sin – Not Caring About the Mission

The advisor attends meetings and social events. They are easy to like. They can make conversation on almost any subject. They never talk about the mission of the organization. It might be running a hospital, funding cancer research or preserving local history. It appears they have no interest in the mission, they are only there for the social aspects.

Why it’s bad: People join nonprofits with noble purposes for a reason. The reason should be to advance the cause. Members of the group are expected to be ambassadors in the community. When someone says “What does the hospital auxiliary do?” they want to hear how you serve the community. By not taking an interest, you get people wondering: “Why did he join?” They conclude it’s to get business.

What to do: Read the organization’s literature. Look over recent meeting minutes. As you meet people, ask how they got involved. If a hospital or other institution is involved, get a tour.

The Fifth Deadly Sin – Deciding You Need to Run the Organization

Most small nonprofits are not run by executives. They might have a professional staff, but lots of the work is done by volunteers. An advisor might determine they don’t know how to run an event, conduct a meeting or raise money. There’s only one solution. The advisor must run the place, considering everyone who disagrees with them as an obstacle.

Why it’s bad: At this point, the advisor learns about the Old Guard. Although the established members might not run the organization with greatest efficiency, they are experts at freezing out someone they don’t like. The agent’s suggestions are turned down. Their offer to help or run things is politely declined. They are sidelined.

What to do: Take on a small role and do it well. Wait to be asked to assume more responsibility. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You should rise up the ranks.

The Sixth Deadly Sin – Partying Hardy

The organization has social events. They cultivate new members through open houses. Wine and beer are served. This advisor sees the event as one more party. They drink to excess. They get loud. They become indiscreet, talking about other members unfavorably. Hopefully they don’t drop client names.

Why it’s bad: Many people consider drinking to excess a sign of lack of judgment. You don’t know when to stop. You are not furthering the mission by talking with people about why they should join, you are here to party. If you talk about other people when you are drunk, they assume you would talk about them too. They think this lapse in judgment extends to your business life.

What to do: Remember the objective of the event. Be the person that checks people in. Work the room, meeting new faces. Talk about the reason for being there tonight.

The Seventh Deadly Sin – Thinking Some Tasks Are Beneath You

Local nonprofits often operate on a shoestring budget. They set up folding chairs for meetings. They do covered dish dinners instead of hiring a caterer. They stuff envelopes for mailings. This advisor thinks these are low-skilled activities. They are an ideas person, a big concept thinker. They don’t set up chairs or clean up after events. They arrive late and leave early to avoid these chores.

Why it’s bad: Some people are stuck with this task all the time. By skipping out on the logistics, it implies you think you are better than these other members. This creates resentment.

What to do: Sign up for setup. Arrive early. Pitch in to help with chairs. Serve food or be a bartender. People will see you getting your hands dirty and admire you for it.

Agents and advisors can make a positive impact at nonprofits. They can also cast a shadow that has you described as “Another advisor. Hope he’s not as bad as the last one.”

— Check out 9 Great, Good and OK Places to Meet Wealthy Prospects on ThinkAdvisor.


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