do I not add any value to the conversation?

ImagesI was talking with my friend the other day about something that had happened to me recently in regards to a development person.  Development is the department that raises money for institutions. 

I was standing with Fred and the development person was gushing over him.  How he was so incredible and how they were so lucky to have him part of the institution, etc.  I just stood there.  When we left the event, Fred turned to me and said that conversation was really bad.  I hope that doesn't happen with other donors.  When I told this story to my friend she said that happens to her all the time and it is unbelievably annoying.  Do I not add any value to the conversation? 

What is interesting is she remarked that she thought that women are the worst culprits.  In the year 2011, you would believe that if you are talking to development officer that they would at least be politically correct.  Just because a woman might have got off the gravy train for a period of time to raise the kids doesn't mean that she isn't as accomplished as her husband.  After all, is there a particular rating curve that defines success?  More than likely that woman had raised the kids, filled the refrigerator, prepared dinner every night, kept their schedules (kids and husband), kept the whole family company going, volunteered some of her time, paid the bills…need I go on?  More than likely that woman is one of the reasons that her husband/partner is where he/she is. 

I have no interest in being gushed at but I do expect that when people speak to both Fred and I, that they speak to us at as a unit.  We are and have been for over 30 years and Fred is as much as the reason for many of my personal successes as much as I am the reason for many of his.  There is a reason for the 50/50 rule.  There isn't a rating system for each individuals financial success because in the eye of the legal system, after so many years everything is split 50/50 because it takes two. 

 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    What a loser. Don’t sweat it. You rock. FWIW it was great chatting with you at DonorsChoose and then Fred had to go and jump in our conversation. ūüėČ

  2. Anne Libby

    I’ve been told that there’s a conventional wisdom in the development world that men make all of family decisions about philanthropic gifts.¬†¬†Forget about families where this is not the case.¬† Forget the logical thought that women make most decisions about discretionary household spend — so of course we’d influence philanthropic decisions.We have women who contribute to family income (and decision process) by manning the home fires — in my view, this is a two-income family, even though the cash is all flowing through the husband, and it’s not obvious to the unenlightened observer.Let’s not forget the increasing number of childless women in “obvious” two-income families.¬†¬† More women who are the primary breadwinners, with husbands who keep it together at home.¬† And single women.¬†When development fails to “see” women, it’s more than a breach of good manners. ¬†It’s a failure of institutional intelligence.

    1. ShanaC

      Why is that – some of our greatest institutions (Komen, Guggenheim, I can name more if I have to) were established by women. ¬†It used to be that because the way was barred for work, women ran nonprofits in this country. ¬†That may have changed, but that also doesn’t mean women exited the nonprofit discussion.Although the power couple exists – with my friends, I usually see one spouse character pick up slack for other stuff (not necessarily the women, fyi, and I see/have heard about it in gay and lesbian relationships as well) if one partner has a high powered job with 70 hour weeks. ¬†Usually that also means charitable works.So very odd.

      1. Anne Libby

        Shana, I’ve been absolutely floored when I’ve seen this.¬† Particularly since my first exposure to a development officer was many years ago, when a college classmate worked in development at our alma mater. ¬† She spent a good amount of time courting elderly female donors.¬†¬† Many weren’t graduates — the husbands the women had outlived were the alums.¬†¬† Chalk one up for a development officer who “got it.”

  3. Rohan

    I’ve found JLM’s quote very helpful in this regard..There are 3 types of people in this world – some light fires, others tend to them and then there are those who spend their life pissing on the fire. Avoid them at all costs.Chauvinism, like racism and other such despicable behavior, does exist. And I guess the best we can do is treat our encounters with them as learning experience – i.e. learning never to have anything to do with ‘pissers’ who indulge in the same.¬†You are an inspiration Joanne.¬†And, atleast in my case, it was thanks to your wonderful blog that I began commenting regularly, learning and then learning from Fred’s blog. So, you’ve been a ‘source’ there as well. ūüôā¬†I enjoy being here at your coffee shop and I know I speak of all the others who read this blog, and have met you.¬†Thank you for everything.¬†I hope you have a great day.¬†

  4. leeschneider

    Clearly Mr./Mrs.¬†Development¬†doesn’t read your blog…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Ha. That gave me a good chuckle

  5. ellen

    Wait until you get to be middle-aged.  In some circumstances you become invisible.Reality of today, but it very, very  slowly changing. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      Way to slow

  6. Deirdre

    Oh yes.  Right on.  

  7. Geekette

    A philanthropic employee seeking major donations but cannot do basic research on prospects (whereupon both yours & Fred’s contributions would have been discovered) or have common sense to approach any gift potential as a joint decision from a couple/family does not deserve his/her job.I really wish you had called him/her on it, Joanne.¬† I seriously would have pointedly asked the person why no questions for me given that this is a joint decision, etc., then canceled/reduced any forthcoming donation (at least for that year), and notified the institution in question so that they know to remedy it asap.I also have to agree with your friend that women can be the worst culprits.¬† Latest example: I read that Connie Chan, VC partner at Andreessen Horowitz apparently told women at the Hopper tech conference to do startups on things they’re good at like shopping…?!

    1. Gotham Gal

      I do keep thinking about calling them on it.Shame on Connie chan

  8. Angela Moulton

    I remember reading years ago in the Reader’s Digest that the mayor of New York and his wife were dressed up and walking to some gala event when they passed a construction site. ¬†The mayor pointed to one of the construction crew and, snickering, asked his wife, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t marry him?” ¬†His wife quickly responded, “If I had married him, HE’D be mayor.”

    1. Gotham Gal

      I had read that before. So great….love that story. Thanks for reminding me.

    2. Paola

      I do not quite understand and/or like this story. Most likely that construction man had a wife that paid bills, prepared dinners, looked after the kids etc etc and probably had to work too not having the possibilily to afford to give up working.Women do heavy and double work no matter what but there are ones more lucky than others

      1. Angela Moulton

        The message I took away from this story was the mayor’s wife would have had similar results with a variety of different partners since her ambitions leaned that direction. ¬†I can see how this story can be unlikable though! ¬†Especially since it may suggest success in life comes from power and prestige. ¬†Point well taken. ¬†I wonder if the mayor, in even pointing out the construction worker, wasn’t a bit jealous. ¬†¬†

        1. Gotham Gal

          The mayor probably knows the truth. Without his wife he would in no way be where he is

        2. Steven

          The story is cute but retro – as if being an honest hard working construction worker is “less than”, Many a construction worker or janitor or gardener has worked hard to get where they are and works harder still to provide for family. the mayor and his wife in the story are obnoxious snobs.

          1. Gotham Gal

            fair enough

  9. Christine Tsai

    Now that I’m a mom, I know firsthand that it’s the most difficult, challenging, and most important job I will ever have. Motherhood is the definitive test of one’s patience, strength, organizational/multi-tasking skills, the list goes on.¬†It may not bring home the bacon (in the traditional sense) or earn you public recognition/accolades, but it is short-sighted to discount women who have children or choose to leave their 9-5 jobs to stay at home full-time w/ their children. And even more short-sighted to make assumptions about these women and their husbands, what the dynamic is and how decisions get made. Oftentimes, if it’s the man who works and woman who stays at home,¬†the assumption is the man makes all the decisions and the woman stands behind him as a “good supportive wife”. But in reality, decisions happen together (like any good partnership) or the wife makes the majority of the important household/family decisions.It’s funny – people view co-founders and partners as 50/50. I couldn’t imagine talking to a co-founder of a company and completely ignoring the other co-founder, as if he/she had nothing to do w/ the business. Yet when it comes to married couples, things happen like what you experienced at the donor event.On a related note, people seem to make quick (and often wrong) assumptions about women’s roles. Ex. women who choose to leave their jobs and stay at home are viewed as less ambitious. Even from women themselves who think staying at home is beneath them.¬†Women who have babies and keep working are viewed as more distracted and not as serious about their careers. Even when I am explicitly referred to as Dave’s partner, some folks think partner = wife before they think partner = business partner. It’s happened several times that people ask me to schedule meetings, thinking I’m an admin.¬†In general, I don’t believe you should use these as a crutch or let it hold you back, and for the most part I don’t. But every now and then, it’s frustrating to deal with.¬†

    1. Gotham Gal

      it becomes frustrating the more it happens.thanks for sharing.

  10. Mwilkotz

    I’m so glad that you keep mentioning this!¬† It’s just another place where it’s important to realize that the distribution of labor and wealth in a family is not as clearcut as people think and that women’s contributions need to be recognized in so many ways.¬† I do hope that you let them know in one way or another that they need to get their act together.

  11. Mark Gavagan

    It’s amazing how common this is.Certainly one person in a couple can be more outgoing or interested in what’s being discussed, but I doubt that’s the case here. It sounds like you were dismissed from the conversation before it started.Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. RichardF

    This isn’t just a husband and wife thing, nor a male/female thing. ¬† I’ve seen it so often in a business environment when a sales person concentrates on the senior person in the room, perceiving them as the decision maker. ¬†Big mistake – quite often it’s the junior person that is the end user and more often than not has the most input in the decision making process.More than anything it’s just plain bad manners and speaks volumes about the person.

  13. Steven

    Unlike your husband, perhaps most donors have outsize egos and their wives play a different role in those relationships in which case the development officer’s approach would have been considered flattery not insult. She was probably playing to the norm not aware that you and Fred do not fit that profile. I can imagine the dynamics – sort of a Venus in Fur power play scenario where the female development officer (like the actress wanting the part) needs/ wants something from the man with the power so she disarms him with flattery and a little razzle-dazzle to turn the tables and get what she wants. But that is supposed to be a two person play (might have worked if you were not there?) and you were not impressed.

  14. Janet Hanson

    Our motto always was: “great idea, great execution!” ¬†Sometimes I had a great idea and Jeff executed it flawlessly. ¬†Sometimes it was the other way around. ¬†Some of our ideas turned out to be duds and sometimes we executed visionary ideas really poorly. The key was that we both contributed to the outcome – for better or for worse. ¬†I am proud to say that the vast majority of our decisions ended with our high-fiving each other for succeeding at doing something well – it might be having a great dinner party, a travel adventure with family, or buying a vacation home. I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than being in a truly collaborative partnership with your spouse. ¬†That’s what really matters and that’s what you and Fred have. ¬† ūüôā

    1. Gotham Gal

      i love that “great idea, great execution”. after all, it is mostly about the execution.happy thanksgiving to you!

  15. C-curley

    I think this situation is a great example of a development officer who has not learned how to truly engage the donor base. It is so easy through all the social media tools now available to do some basic homework on current and prospective donors. The fact this person had not taken the time to find out some of your interests so that you could be included in the conversation is quite unimpressive to say the least.I agree with some of the other comments that you should call them on this. The institution is doing itself a great disservice by having development people out there who could turn off major donors through their insensitivity.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Huge disservice which is exactly I wrote this post

  16. Tereza

    Half of me thinks that these people need basic training in all the different types of couples that exist and how decisionmaking works in the 21st century.But then again in the 20th c. it would’ve been rude. And come to think of it, going back to renaissance Florence I don’t imagine one would be wise to ignore the matriarch.It’s moronic in general and in your specific case means they did zero research.Life’s too short. Next!

    1. Gotham Gal

      i think it comes down to generations. someone who is 30 wouldn’t behave like this, someone over 50 would. alas.

      1. Anne Libby

        Sadly, I’ve seen some gaffes by younger development officers.¬†¬† I don’t imagine they’re going with their natural inclination, but with the flow of the prevailing culture.

  17. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    The wonderful world of development people….I spent 20 years as a Vice President and while a partner everyone would always focus on the CEO as it was his name on the company.Well, his idea of a “big” donation was $100.¬†But it sure was educational to watch as all the development people would gush over him, flatter him and basically I was left holding the coats.Then when it came to “seal” the deal they found out that their request should be given to me and that I would make the final decision….It is pretty hard trying to accept a proposal or a “gift” when you are sitting in the lobby holding everyone’s coats!It took awhile for the local community to realize that if you wanted something more than $100 you needed to talk to the right person…..

  18. Rebecca Stees

    perhaps a webpage about your family foundation will help……..

    1. Gotham Gal

      It has to do with how to behave in 2011 regardless of who they are speaking to

      1. lindsaycampbell

        Happens the other way to, that people will treat my husband like he has nothing to do with my success, or as though contributing to my more public success is something he’d have no interest in. We’re a team. Plain and simple. I’m tired of having to explain it.¬†

        1. Gotham Gal

          yes, you are a team. i glad to hear ( although glad might not be the right word here ) that people revere you over your husband. that is rare.

  19. Rebecca Stees

    maybe add the topic “philanthropy” for your archive ?

  20. Brazil6

    I totally agree, not many people¬†realize¬†that the most successful people, companies etc are those with the strong backbones also known as wives, home exec’s etc that support and assist. ¬†This is so important as without a strong support system no-one could be remotely successful or move forward…woman tend to be this glue in most households and businesses (admin systems +/- 80% woman!).

  21. Paola

    But at the end why should women doubt to add value to a conversation? The best way to treat people who think this way is to partecipate weather you are invited or not…the stand by mode is a common women attitude which should be changed…if we add value lets simply add it without waiting for the permission or invitation

    1. Gotham Gal

      You are so right. Next time I am just going to say stop it, what you are doing right now is so not ok