I’m working in a large and successful family business in the financial services area. My last name is the name of the business, and it’s well known in our community. I’m proud of my name, and just as proud of the many philanthropic contributions and sponsorships our company is known for. In fact, every employee in our business is encouraged to serve on a board, or to volunteer for a particular cause they find meaningful.
And that’s where my question lies. I am well trained for my position, but I’m hardly a senior leader. My focus now is on learning my job, doing it well, and thinking about the role I might take in the future. But I’m getting too many calls now about influencing my mother and father (who own the business) to make charitable contributions to a variety to organizations. I’m finding this very frustrating…and also distracting. I don’t get calls from the organizations we already support–they know who to call. The calls to me are from organizations we haven’t sponsored before. And some of the callers sound around my age-so I think I’m viewed as the millennial who can get them “in the door.” I guess I’m feeling a bit used.
Do you have any suggestions about how to handle this?
Your question is similar to one I answered a few weeks ago, when another daughter described getting calls from frustrated customers because of her last name. It’s wonderful that you are part of a successful business and that you are proud of your family’s contributions to your community. But I can certainly understand your frustration.
Here are some ideas to consider:
1). I know you know this, but keep in mind that it’s not easy to ask for money. Whether you’re a development professional, a staff member, or a board member at a not-for-profit agency or organization, asking for money makes people uncomfortable. If you serve on a board one day, you’ll probably be in that role yourself. So as you respond, you can be very gracious and warm and respectful-but also clear and straightforward as you suggest that the caller contact the person responsible for handling donations and sponsorships in your business (you probably have that person’s phone number handy already!).
2) Are you fully aware of your company’s strategic goals and interests in philanthropy? Many organizations focus on certain issues and make their investments there consistently. This is a good time to understand the choices that your parents have made thus far-and why-simply as part of deepening your learning about the business and your community.
3) I think it’s highly likely that you will continue to get these calls. It’s also likely that you will be viewed as someone with “donor potential”. Perhaps these calls can also be an opportunity for you to develop your own interests in philanthropy and community service. So (within reason) you may want to take the time to listen to the caller’s request, to ask good questions so you understand their organization or agency, and then to consider whether that organization might be a good fit for your talents and interests. Perhaps you’d like to be on a task force, or attend an event, or serve on a board there. I’m suggesting that you “reframe your annoyance”…and view each call as a chance to consider ways you might develop your own skills and interests.
4) One of my first podcasts was with Penny Friedman, an expert on philanthropy who has considerable experience with family businesses. You might enjoy listening to her ideas, too.