Don Wood’s four strategies for the business of charity

Here are some of the strategies Donald C. Wood, chief executive of Federal Realty Investment Trust, applies to the way he conducts both his business and fundraising for the Washington chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation:

1.Use direct speech and conversation. If you believe your cause is a matter of life or death, act like it. “Stop being namby-pamby about asking for money. You’re not asking for it for yourself. You have an objective, you have a business plan and you are trying to achieve that directive,” Wood said.

2.Focus on only a few things. For Wood, they are business, family and charity, and he is thinking about all three all the time. “It’s a way of life. Wherever I go for business, I am looking for a cystic fibrosis angle,” he said. If he added anything else, he would do all three of them worse. “A lot of people who are trying to do things like this are trying to do too much, in that they have too many things going on at the same time. I would simplify.”

3.Hold the team to a standard that sometimes makes them uncomfortable. Wood has made members of his staff cry and he’s angered staff at the foundation working on the gala. “They would say they love me and they hate me,” he said. “My demands are sometimes unreasonable.”

4.Everything is relationship-driven. Executives at some of Federal Realty’s biggest competitors are now friends and gala supporters because Wood tells them his story and openly begs them for money. All of them are closer for it. “They know the hardships of my family. And I happen to know the hardships of their family,” Wood said.

— Jonathan O’Connell

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