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Book review: Give and Take by Adam Grant

(Everything Else) Permanent link

While having dinner with a friend, we shared a few book ideas. Don was reading Give and Take by Adam Grant – the opening keynote speaker at ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Expo in Nashville last month. Don said he felt a little depressed reading the book because only 10% of successful people are givers. As a fellow giver, we talked about the rewards and consequences of being in the 10%. Luckily, as he read, the book he became more hopeful that givers have a chance.

Give and Take book cover

I went home and ordered the book – in hardback – so I can share it with friends and co-workers. This book is very research based – it does not have a lot of graphics or pictures. When it does, they are powerful!

Grant studies takers, matchers, and givers, as well as how different personality types function in the business world. This is a very interesting book that makes you think about your true motives for giving, taking, and exchanging. It also changed my perspective of success. It’s a great book to add to your library to expand your knowledge about human behavior and how you share information with your community.


Frequently, givers are perceived as soft. Others think they are doormats. They give and give while takers take and take, gleefully. While this is true is some cases, it is not the norm for success. Givers give because they genuinely want others to be successful. They earn tremendous trust and form deep friendships that pay dividends over time.


Conversely, takers are people who search for relationships or situations that directly benefit them – even at the expense of the others. Takers may cast the illusion of a giver by providing generous gifts or supporting a popular case. The difference is motive. Takers exhibit giving behavior for the sheer purpose of advancing their agenda.


Matchers are in the middle – they frequently give in exchange for something that will benefit them. Kind of a tit-for-tat arrangement.

Real-life examples

Grant profiles several prominent businesspeople to demonstrate different characteristics. I will share 2 that resonated with me.

First, Ken Lay, the former CEO of Enron. We all know a lot about his personality and ethics now, but we should not be surprised that there was a lot of writing on the wall long before Enron imploded. Lay surrounded himself with a wide network and appeared to be very generous. He donated to many charities and attended fundraising events. However, his motives were 100% self-serving. 

One of the most salient examples in the book is the Enron annual report. Several years before the collapse of the company, the CEO report evolved from a small picture of Ken Lay with his bio to a full-size head shot. His ego got in his way and the tone of his correspondence evolved to a heavy focus on ‘I’ instead of ‘the company’ or ‘we.’ In contrast, his peers maintained a simple image within the annual report.

Ken Lay

Grant profiles another person who is the polar opposite of Lay, who has a network that would make many executive envious. It’s the story of a giver who is one of the most-connected people. He is recognized as having the most connections with LinkedIn’s 640 most influential people. Can you guess who it is?

This is a man who is an entrepreneur who loves to help other startups and developers. He shares advice freely. He has started and sold many of the big technology companies in the last 10 years. His profile page states, “I want to improve the world, and I want to smell good while doing it.”

The story of Adam Rifkin is too long to summarize in this post but is worth the time to read. Rifkin is a brilliant developer who loves to help people. He founded a professional network called 106 Miles. His network is so vast it is hard to comprehend, but he still finds time to reply to everyone who contacts him. He enjoys helping people make connections.

The book has many examples of how givers and takers interact. It is not a black-and-white formula, but it did make me reflect on how I share information and help others. I have always strived to be compassionate and give without strings. Reading this book reinforced my resolve to cultivate the opportunity to give and learn from others as often as possible.

Reserve a VIP spot at your project launch party for IT

(Project Management) Permanent link

pac-man cupcakes

When a baby is born, a baby shower welcomes the little one to the world. Likewise, when a new initiative is born in your organization, you need to mark the occasion with a party.

The invite list should, at a minimum, include the executive team, sponsoring department, and the IT department. While it may seem unusual to invite the IT department to the party so early in the process, they do have a unique role to play.

While the rest of the partygoers brainstorm how the initiative will be communicated and disseminated to the membership, the IT department is there to help guide the expectations. They’ll help with

  1. determining whether to use existing technologies to keep cost down
  2. preparing IT resources to support the endeavor
  3. formulating appropriate expectations

More often than not, the IT department does not hear of a new initiative until it has been set in stone, the technology has been chosen in a vacuum, and the stakeholders have high or unrealistic expectations. When this happens, the IT department has to play with the hand they’re dealt, with little or no opportunity to swap a card. They have to reallocate resources, place other initiatives on the back burner, and live up to expectations defined without their input. There’s no joy in that – no reason to party.

So, instead of making your party too exclusive for IT, keeping them behind the velvet rope, make them a VIP. With IT at the party, things will run much smoother and initiatives will be better prepared for success.

In the midst of vendor selection? Read my post on hosting a tea party for your vendors!


Flickr photo by Cat

Appreciating organizations that make a difference

(Community, Events) Permanent link

Today on our blog, we feature a post from our 30th anniversary website. Visit to learn more and follow our 30 Acts of Appreciation, continuing throughout 2014.

we love community heart drawn on asphalt

DelCor Recognizes Organizations Bettering Our World & Diverse Causes We Support

All year long, we’re celebrating our anniversary with 30 Acts of Appreciation, some of which are documented here on this website to provide recognition for organizations working to better society, as well as to provide inspiration to other companies wondering what they can do to support that progress.

But our commitment to community requires no special occasion; it’s long-standing, because we care deeply about the DC region (our physical home) and the nonprofit sector (our professional home).

We are committed in our daily work at DelCor to help associations, nonprofits, foundations, and unions connect with progress, strengthening the backbone of the nonprofit sector. We are lucky to work with such great organizations, helping them to advance their technology – and their missions. Our philanthropic endeavors are inspired by this diverse community and the camaraderie we share.

There are many causes that are important to us and to our employees. As we continue our 30th anniversary year, we want to recognize some of these organizations.

To the associations, nonprofits, charities, foundations, community groups, and people on the front lines in communities and causes around the world, we thank you for making a difference in our community and beyond!

  • 24 Hours of Booty
  • A Wider Circle
  • Adoptions Together
  • ALS Association
  • ALS Foundation for Life
  • Alzheimer's Foundation of America
  • American Pancreatic Association
  • American Red Cross
  • American Rivers
  • amFAR
  • Anacostia Watershed Society
  • ASAE Foundation
  • Autism Speaks
  • Bikes for the World
  • Blazeman Foundation for ALS
  • BMW CCA Foundation
  • BoatUS
  • Boys & Girls Clubs
  • Capital Area Food Bank
  • Catholic Charities USA
  • Children's Tumor Foundation
  • Christ Child Society of Washington, DC
  • Computer C.O.R.E.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Elon Homes & Schools for Children
  • Fisher House
  • Food & Friends
  • Girl Scouts of the USA
  • Girls Inc.
  • Goodwill
  • HacDC
  • Hopeline
  • Jewish National Fund
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Livestrong Foundation
  • Lupus Foundation of America
  • Lymphoma Research Foundation
  • Make-A-Wish
  • Maryland Chiefs of Police Association
  • Mercy Health Clinic
  • Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation
  • Montgomery County Humane Society
  • Montgomery County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • National Brain Tumor Society
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Odyssey of the Mind
  • Pantene Beautiful Lengths
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • RunningBrooke Fund
  • Shepherd's Table
  • Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance
  • So Others Might Eat
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • The Arc Montgomery County
  • The Choralis Foundation
  • The Duffy House
  • The Sustainability Institute
  • USO
  • WAMU
  • WAMU's Bluegrass Country
  • Washington Animal Rescue League
  • Washington Area Bicyclist Association
  • Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force
  • Wounded Warrior Project

Find a cause where you can donate your time!


Flickr photo (modified) by daniel zimmel

Measuring your association’s personal intelligence

(Everything Else) Permanent link

accountant cat

An article I read in Scientific American Mind dealt with how well people are able to succeed based upon their ability to make consistent plans and visualize their future selves. This trait, called personal intelligence — a term coined by John D. Mayer, psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire and author of a new book by the same name — is the capacity to draw out, and reason about, information about personality.

We frequently use it, consciously or unconsciously, to understand our needs and map out future plans. Those with high levels of personal intelligence have a keener sense of self — both in the present as well as the potential future — and are good at choosing aims that are consistent with one another, thereby avoiding contradictory pursuits. 

It’s not so great a stretch to apply the theory of personal intelligence to organizations, especially in terms of their ability (or inability) to pursue complementary projects in a consistent manner.

Those associations who have internally consistent technology plans are much better at envisioning a positive future state. In turn, they have a greater chance of reaching such goals. They often engage in projects that are non-contradictory.

Conversely, organizations that exhibit lower personal intelligence are prone to taking on several key projects at once — sometimes with competing or even conflicting goals — and then failing at some or all of them.

By engaging in active planning, choosing complementary initiatives, and ensuring better coordination of efforts, associations have a much greater chance of leading successful technology projects, thereby exhibiting what might be termed a higher level of personal intelligence.

So, what is your organization’s level of personal intelligence?


Flickr photo by Found Animals Foundation

Blogger’s Digest: August 2014

(Everything Else) Permanent link

row of bikes on a sidewalk

It may be the unofficial end of summer, but we welcome you back to work with the following blog posts from last month. Here’s your chance to catch up and comment!

Recent & Upcoming Events

Want to receive this monthly roundup by email? Contact us.

Flickr photo [edited] by hradcanska

4 ways to de-stress at work

(Everything Else) Permanent link

on meditation: don't just do something, sit there!

As I journeyed home to DC during rush hour, my car came to a standstill before the turn onto Rock Creek Parkway. Waze reported, “There’s been an accident,” in its cybernated voice before rerouting me through the city. Zipping my way down 24th Street, my car screeched to another standstill as an ambulance attempted to zig zag through lines of heavy traffic before eventually stopping on the corner of my exit, next to a stunned cyclist who had been grazed by a car.  I passed a total of 3 accidents in my attempt to make it home. No doubt, this is a normal commute for many professionals in the DC area and a daily exercise in patience, fear, and forgiveness. “Just breathe,” I thought to myself as I dialed my husband to tell him I’d be late getting home.

Professionals have been looking for ways to de-stress, center themselves, and breathe long before the office zen gardens and 1960s Mad Men daylong happy hours gained popularity. So how exactly are professionals squeezing in opportunities to de-stress and unwind these days when mobile technologies allow us to be connected at all times? How the heck do we disconnect?

As a self-help junkie and previous meditator (okay, I did it for a month once, and it worked, but then I had a kid…), here are 4 methods I’ve collected from friends, books, colleagues, and other working professionals that are time-tested and work no matter how busy your lifestyle:

Pink Noise – I’ve had several conversations recently where the power of pink noise has been discussed. Most of us are well aware of the use of white noise, but apparently there are many different “colors” of noise that carry different properties that allow an individual to feel focused, sleepy, relaxed, energized, or calm. Pink noise is used to help with productivity and concentration, so give it a whirl if your Spotify playlists are too distracting. There are a number of pink noise apps you can download, or listen to this recording of pink noise on YouTube.

The 5 Minute Dance Break – I first heard about the 5 Minute Dance Break from a friend who was attending Mama Gena’s School of the Womanly Arts workshop. The 5-minute dance break is an opportunity to get up from your desk at one time every day and dance uncontrollably to the energetic song of your choosing.  The goal is to let go of all your inhibitions and move. Even if you’re in a cubicle, maybe your daily dance break will inspire your neighbors!

The Noon Mantra – Do you have a powerful mantra that you’ve created? If so, memorize it and set a daily calendar appointment to sit and reflect on that mantra, concentrating on your breath. You can also write several mantras you wish to remind yourself of and write them on index cards. Leave them in areas that you frequently visit – your desk, a drawer, your car’s dashboard. If you don’t have time to create your own, you can download the Spirit Junkie mobile app and receive a new daily mantra sent to your cellphone. 

Gratitude Journal – Keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful way to reinforce a positive mindset – and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Maybe you’ve heard about gratitude journals from Oprah or spiritual leaders. Your journal can be something as simple as writing down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for at the end of the day (or throughout the day) to remind yourself of what has been given to you. There’s an app to keep this Gratitude Journal too, of course. 

Next time you’re feeling panicked or stuck in traffic, try one of these techniques to unwind or refocus.

What are your techniques for de-stressing?   

Flickr photo by Catherine Nomura

Dear Del: Is it time for an upgrade?

(Project Management, Tech Tips, Innovative Ideas, Dear Del) Permanent link

Dear Del, 

My software vendors said it's time for an upgrade. What should I do to prepare?

_Dear Del_ college school girl daydreaming while writingUpgrades are a great opportunity to review your software, customizations, and business processes, as well as to plan for any adjustments. If you're going to make changes to the software, make sure the upgrade supports (or improves) existing processes. Coordinate changes with your vendor.

You may find that it's easier to make changes as part of an upgrade. You might choose to upgrade then fine tune the application.

Here's a short checklist that may help as you embark on the upgrade adventure!


  • Create an upgrade plan (this is a project!)
  • Identify staff members who will be part of the upgrade team
  • Draft an upgrade schedule
  • Reserve a conference room or space where staff can test the upgrade
  • Develop a process to share questions or failures
  • Discuss the upgrade process with your vendor
    • Do any of the features impact high-volume or high-risk processes at your association?
    • Has any custom functionality been replaced by baseline features?
  • Review new features and changes to the product
  • Review test plans from past upgrades or the implementation
  • Don't have a test plan? Make one
  • Review your organizational and departmental goals
    • What goals are supported by this product?
    • Are any changes needed?


– Gretchen Steenstra, PMP, senior consultant, technology management


How to judge responses to a request for proposals (RFP)

(Project Management) Permanent link

weight station scale open

What do you do when all the responses to your RFP look good, or it seems like you’re comparing apples and oranges? How do you decide which one to choose? How do the judges on Chopped do it? We don’t have the inside scoop on cooking competition shows, but we’ve helped hundreds of clients select the best solution and vendor for them.

Develop selection criteria and weighting.

Let’s back up a bit. Before sending out an RFP, develop the criteria you will use to make a selection. You can certainly adjust this if you discover new criteria while reviewing responses, but the more you can eliminate bias from your decision and agree upon what’s most important, the more likely you’ll choose a solution that truly meets your needs. This also comes in handy when leadership later asks on what basis your choice was made.

Examples of selection criteria could include:

  • System objectives/desired functionality
  • Experience (especially with similar associations)
  • Financial viability
  • Staffing, including the breakdown of staff (e.g., developers, PMs, etc.)
  • Understanding of the project
  • Integration experience/capabilities
  • Corporate philosophy and methodology
  • Support after launch
  • Training
  • References
  • Vendor reputation
  • Price

Establish a weight for each criterion; for example, price might have a 10% or a 50% weighting. Think about how you’ll evaluate subjective criteria such as responsiveness, likability, and personal interaction. How much weight do they get compared to other criteria? The total of all criteria should equal 100 (no matter what your high school coach said, you cannot give 110 percent!) and should provide a useful basis for group discussion regarding vendor selection.

Review and score the proposals.

As proposals come in, let each vendor know that you received theirs. This is a good time to remind them of the next steps you will take. 

Before scoring, review the proposals to see if any have incomplete or ambiguous information. Follow up with vendors on missing information and any points needing clarification. Ask additional questions if it will help. 

Take note of the vendors who didn’t completely provide the requested information. Their error may be an unfortunate once-in-a-blue-moon oversight or it may be a sign of things to come. Don’t judge yet, but keep this in mind as you move forward. 

You’ll find that a solid proposal is actually a good learning opportunity and will help you better evaluate other proposals. Ask vendors to address any inconsistencies within their submitted proposals.

Determine the breadth of your review process. Typically each member of the core project team evaluates and scores the proposals on their own. Then the team meets to discuss, compare, and agree on a consensus score. If your organization requires a broader exposure to proposals, the review team may expand (which could further complicate matters); that said, a well-balanced core project team has representation from all key areas of the association.

While scoring proposals, keep these questions in mind:

  • How well does the proposal speak to your needs, challenges, and goals?
  • How much attention did the vendor give the proposal? Is it boilerplate or sloppy? For example, is another association’s name on it? Seriously, it happens.
  • Do they “get” associations? Do they have experience working with associations like yours? Will they understand the culture and politics involved?
  • Do they talk about how their strengths will help them address your needs or do they mention competitors’ weaknesses (“talking smack”)?

Price is important; but your system, technical, and support objectives are most important. If there’s a large range in price, talk to the low and high bids to find out why they came in at that number. Remember to treat each proposal with confidentiality and respect.

If the timeline presented is very different from yours, find out why. Maybe yours isn’t realistic. Speaking of timelines, let the vendors know if you’re running behind schedule; this is just another example of the importance of properly setting and managing expectations through good communication, which is essential to any technology project.

Spend time with the finalists.

At this point, you should only be considering proposals from 3-5 vendors because you narrowed down the field of prospects before sending out your RFP. Take time to speak to each of the finalists still in the running. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s a critical step. No matter how complete the proposal, it can’t tell the whole story. There are limitations to the written word. Your team and your prospective vendor partner need the opportunity to evaluate the critical components of a relationship – personal interaction, chemistry, and communication – before any decision is made.

Ask each vendor the same questions so the process and outcome remain fair for all. You’re interviewing these vendors for a very important job – to help your organization advance its mission. Treat them, and the experience, with the necessary respect and rigor.

If you haven’t had demonstrations yet, arrange for scripted demonstrations that focus on your needs, not any new and shiny objects the vendors may wish to show.

After you make a selection, let each vendor know the outcome. You don’t want to leave them hanging and wondering if they should make a call to follow up. Keep in mind that the deal is not sealed until the contract is signed, so use tact when notifying unsuccessful competitors; you never know when you might need to go to “Plan B.” It also helps to provide constructive feedback when possible, so that vendors can bring their best game to the next selection in which they are involved.

The selection process is just one phase in the project cycle, yet it’s a very critical phase. If you don’t select a solution and vendor that meet your requirements, your new technology won’t meet expectations and needs. 

Flickr photo by Mitch Groff

DelCor’s July 2014 Blogger’s Digest & #ASAE14 Preview

(Community, Events, Everything Else) Permanent link

ASAE14 Image Header

ASAE 2014 Annual Meeting & Expo

This weekend, we join thousands of association executives – and you, too, we hope – in Nashville for the annual gathering of the association brain trust. If you’re a conference newbie, be sure to visit The Hive – a lounge designed especially for you to connect with other newbies, ASAE ambassadors, DelCor staff, and mentors/veterans (yes, we “old-timers” are welcome in the lounge, too!) – or to simply find a respite amidst the conference hullabaloo.

Of course, we’re exhibiting, too. You can find us in booth 622 (next to Geico). As part of our ongoing 30 Acts of Appreciation, we’ve created a fun activity to give thanks to Nashville for being great hosts. When you “complete the DelCor meme,” we’ll donate $10 to The Cooks Academy, which helps nourish 1,300 local kids in child care. While you’re there, pick up a copy of our brand-new whitepaper on requirements analysis, or talk to us about any of our 7 areas of service – every one designed to connect you with progress!

Finally, we’ve joined Instagram! We’ll be posting photos of our favorite memes and ASAE activities. Follow us at

For more information on The Hive, newbie tips, DelCor memes, and everything else we’re up to at #ASAE14, visit

Blogger’s Digest: July 2014

Throughout the month, we wrote about requirements, RFPs, RFIs, and how to get the most out of your vendor proposals – all with the aim of designing successful technology projects that propel your organization forward. If you’re heading to #ASAE14 with an RFP in hand, or you’re lining up budget approval for your next big IT project, or you’ll be evaluating exhibitors for a new AMS or other mission-critical system, you just might want to prepare yourself by reading a few of these posts!

And although we’re highlighting last month’s blog posts here, we’d also like to share with you a fun, bonus installment to kick off this month and our countdown to #ASAE14!

Upcoming Events


Want more?

To receive our Blogger’s Digest by email, drop us a note at

Ask the Oracle at DelCor: a request for information (RFI) or a request for proposals (RFP)?

(Project Management) Permanent link

oracle priestess

Selecting a new technology system, application, or software is a daunting task. First, you must first collect, analyze, and document requirements. But, then what? Should you send out an RFP? Or would you find a better vendor or consultant match by sending out an RFI first?

Thankfully, we can rely on the wisdom of the Oracle at DelCor, a distant cousin of the priestess Pythia, the Oracle at Delphi. We eavesdropped on some of the conversations the Oracle had recently with a visitor.

oracle at delphi

“Good afternoon, Oracle. We just got back from a board meeting where the budget for a new AMS was approved. The CEO popped in my office today and told me to send out an RFP immediately. Is that really my next step? Do you have a template?”

No, no, no – no templates!! Do not rush into confusion! Before you send out an RFP, you must be sure that the requirements for the new AMS have been identified and documented. Gather a team of colleague stakeholders, discuss requirements, and review your existing business processes and technology.

The requirements journey can be fraught with peril. Best to bring along a trusted guide. Or read some of our recent posts if you decide to DIY, as they say in your world. Prepare yourself!

After documenting requirements, research the market. Talk to your peers, reach out to other professionals on Collaborate, and check the ASAE Buyers’ Guide. Come back to me when you’ve done your requirements analysis and market research – not before!

[Time passes. The visitor returns.]

“Thank you, Oracle. The requirements analysis process was more beneficial than we expected. We now know what we need – versus what we thought we wanted – and we discovered many business processes that are in need of improvement. Plus, our team is more cohesive because we understand each other’s work and challenges better. We found that as long as we keep our focus on the strategic needs of the association, we are able to make the best decisions.”

Yes, as your mother has said many times, I told you so. The discussions and decisions made during requirements analysis are often as valuable as the solution selected. So, you’ve done your market research, I assume. How many vendors are you considering?

“I have a list of 14. Should I send them an RFP?”

No no no! You will send them an RFI, not an RFP.

“But why an RFI?! My boss specifically said to send an RFP.”

Is your boss as omniscient as I?

[Lightning and thunder strike.]

If you send an RFP out to a dozen vendors, half won’t respond because of your “spray and pray” approach. You must first narrow the field to those who have the appropriate expertise and experience. An RFI will help you do that. Woe be to those who ignore my advice!

[More lightning and thunder.]

oracle storm

[Time passes. The visitor returns.]

“I followed your advice, Oracle. We sent out an RFI and received very helpful responses. Four of the vendors have the experience and expertise we need. Plus, we think their approach to project management, customer service, and support is a good fit for our association. What’s our next step?”

Now, you send an RFP to those 4 vendors.

“Couldn’t you just tell me which one to pick?!”

oracle black cat

[The sky darkens. More thunder and lightning. The visitor takes the hint and runs back to work.]

The end.


Flickr photos by violscraper, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, Cocabiscuit, Dennis Jarvis