Rethinking the Gift Giving Season


Rethinking the Gift Giving Season

Thanksgiving is over, and the season of gift giving is here.  Most non-profit organizations transition through these holidays aware of two realities: 1) the people your organization serves continue to need what you provide for them and 2) most of your donors do not personally need someone to go out shopping to buy a gift for them.  By rethinking the gift giving season, you can help both groups—your donors and the people you serve.

You can do so by offering opportunities to donate to your charity in lieu of shopping for a gift.  One strategy is to reach out to your donors with the opportunity to make a gift to your organization “In honor of…” someone.  Donors will sometimes choose to recognize a leader on the board or on the staff with a gift in their honor.  You in turn publish the names of the honorees on your website and in your written materials.

Another strategy is to ask your donors to make a gift to meet the direct need of an individual or a family.  You can do this (while still protecting the anonymity of the people in need) by offering your donors the opportunity to fulfill a number of needs of varying dollar amounts.

You can also offer your donors the opportunity to make a gift of their donated time.  Reach out with an appeal for a volunteer opportunity—ideally one that puts them in direct contact with the people you serve.  Then let your constituents know that “the following people made a gift of their time to our organization.”

Connecting your donors with the people you serve demonstrates that you are attentive to the causes that your donors care about and that you know and respect their values. Make the most of the holidays by re-thinking the gift giving season.  You will help those you serve while strengthening the bond with your valued donors.  Happy holidays!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HPS Chicago

What is your role?


What is your role?

I had an interesting conversation with two of my colleagues this morning.  We were discussing one of our clients and the scope of the contract for the engagement.  During the conversation, we realized we were inadvertently assuming more work than what was indicated in the agreement.  Why did this happen?  Because, in an effort to meet our very high standard of service, we saw there was work to be done and simply did it.

Has this ever happened to you?  Have you seen something that needed to be done – even if it’s not in your job description – and just did it?  Chances are, the answer is Yes.  Why?  Perhaps it was a task no one owned, or perhaps you needed get something done in order to move forward with your own task, or perhaps it was easier to just do it yourself.

Next time you find yourself in this position, stop and consider the following.

Stay in your lane

Typically, tasks are assigned to align with roles.  For example, if your organization has a Special Events Manager, that person should be responsible for overseeing all of the details for each event, from venue selection to soliciting for silent auction items to ensuring all guests are properly recognized and thanked for their support.  If the Director of Development is choosing to step in and also be a part of each step of the process, it not only undermines the Special Event Manager’s role, it means a loss of time and productivity for the Director.  Having clearly defined roles and “staying in your respective lane” ensures processes are streamlined and each person is working effectively and efficiently.

Do the right thing

It also means each person on the team is spending time on the “right” things.  If we go back to the example above, perhaps the Director of Development is connecting with key donors to ask for support for the event instead of helping solicit silent auction items.   Reviewing roles and responsibilities is a critical to the success of a highly functioning team.  At the outset of each project or event, those involved should meet to confirm the timeline and confirm roles and responsibilities.  Taking the time to communicate and ensure each person has a clear understanding of their part will help make sure that the project is a success.  Separately, overall roles and responsibilities should be discussed on an annual basis, during the performance review process.

 More talk and less action

If you come across a task that is not assigned to anyone on the team, try and work together to determine which team member should assume that responsibility.  This may require some conversation (and perhaps even a little negotiation); however, having the discussion will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks – and that multiple people aren’t inadvertently doing the same thing.

It’s important to note that all of this may be easier said than done.  When life gets busy, it is often easier just to keep moving ahead, crossing items of the to-do list and working towards a deadline.  It’s also difficult to walk away from something we know we can do quickly and easily.  But by keeping a picture of an “efficient and effective team” in mind and working together towards a common goal, you will help guarantee successful outcomes – and a happy team.

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

You So Totally Rock!


You So Totally Rock! (H/T to Crush from Finding Nemo)

I was having lunch with my sister and son today and the topic of people acting in their self-interest came up. While it is true there seems to be more than enough folks these days who appear to be focused – first and foremost – on doing what will benefit them, the team at HPS Chicago happens to have a front row seat in witness to legions of people who are totally other-focused. In truth, we have the privilege and honor every day to work with and watch people who are totally committed to the service of others and we are grateful for the opportunity.

So, as a regular, occasional or a first-time reader of this blog… we want to say, Thank You!

Whether you are an Executive Director/CEO, development professional or other employee of a non-profit, or if you are a dedicated volunteer/Board member or a donor to an organization in the social impact sector, this seems the perfect week to call you out for being awesome. What you do matters, a lot.

Thank you for the work that you do, the difference that you make and the generous commitment you have to serving others. Thank you for your selfless dedication to do what you can to make the world a better place and for changing the lives of people you will likely never meet. You do so totally rock!

From the team at HPS Chicago, we wish you and yours a most wonderful Thanksgiving.

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

Before it’s too late


Before it’s too late

Last week’s wintry weather not only arrived way too early for my taste, it also derailed my plans for some outdoor projects around the house. Basically, I failed to get around to them when the temperatures were much more favorable. I kept prioritizing other things and they remained in my pile of good intentions for “another day.”

With Thanksgiving right around the bend and the Holiday season and year-end fast approaching, now is the perfect time to account for what needs to get taken care of before we welcome in 2020.

In the non-profit world there is rarely a shortage of initiatives that need our attention and this would be a painfully long post if I tried to make a comprehensive list of suggestions. We are all dealing with Giving Tuesday, year-end appeals, budgeting and forecasting… just to name a few. So, in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I will instead simply focus on gratitude.

The next several weeks offer an opportunity to express some very important “Thanks” before it’s too late. While expressing appreciation is always important, now is the perfect time of year to make time to connect with some of your most important contacts.

No question, we want to start with our donors.

  • Identify those individuals and funders that you haven’t had a chance to reach out to lately to thank them for your support.
  • If you are a development professional, in addition to your personal call list, it is always a good idea to coordinate with your Executive Director/CEO to ensure that they are also making targeted calls to your VIP’s.
  • And, if you haven’t already planned to enlist your Board in the organization’s gratitude strategy, asking your Board members to personally make a few thank you calls (or to write short personal notes) is another excellent way to share the love while also actively engaging your Board in fundraising. Just provide them with simple talking points (or two sentences for their notes) along with phone numbers/mailing addresses and be sure to have them report back to you. You don’t want anyone to miss being thanked. (By the way, in my experience Board members actually enjoy doing this!) Quick note, unless it is a donor’s preferred mode of contact, I recommend against using email for these messages. Receiving a call or a hand-written note is much more personal.

Speaking of our Board members, don’t neglect them. Make time to personally reach out to each and every one in the next few weeks. Call out anything they did that may have been particularly notable during the past year (maybe they hosted an event in their home or connected you to a new funding partner). Just be sure to tell them how much their shared commitment to the organization’s mission is appreciated.

While it makes sense to prioritize these two groups, it’s also important to acknowledge the efforts and support from other key people. Make a point to personally thank fellow staff members, volunteers, program partners, professional mentors and even vendors who went above and beyond for you.

This may seem like a daunting undertaking with everything else on your plate right now, but if you commit to making time for six to ten thank you calls a day, 200 expressions of gratitude are well within your reach in the remaining work days of 2019. When I was in-house, I used to block out a couple of 15-20 minute periods each day to focus on my thank you messages.

Everyone likes to be appreciated and, at the end of the day, it is a great way to spend some of your precious time. Just be sure to do it before the proverbial snow flies.

Thank you for all that you do each and every day to make a difference in the lives of others!

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

Take the Long View


Take the Long View

It can be challenging for fundraising professionals to take the long view while still getting the short term tasks completed well and on time.  Consider establishing the discipline of looking at fundraising from three different time perspectives on a regular basis.

Here’s a practical suggestion.  The next time you make up your To Do List, instead of having one heading, make three.  Label them:  This Week, This Season, and This Year.

Obviously, on the list for This Week you will include everything that must be done in the short term.  Be sure to balance preparation and research items with action items such as phone calls and personal visits with donors.  All of these items should be on every short term list!

On the list for This Season, take a slightly longer term view of what projects are coming up.  What must be accomplished over the next three months?  Although there is no urgency to these tasks, putting them on your list will encourage you to ruminate about them as you go about the more immediate priorities.

The list that will require the most work on your part is the third list.  Take the long view, and ask yourself what are the things that you can do This Year to move your organization’s fundraising to another level?  This list will include accomplishing your annual fund goals, but it should also include some or all of the following.  Be specific about what steps you can take toward:

  • Clarifying the Strategic Vision of your organization
  • Strengthening your organizational mission
  • Moving your Board to the next level of commitment
  • Pursuing five year goals, which may include a capital campaign
  • Solidifying relationships with a number of major prospects
  • Broadening your reach to include more participants
  • Engaging new volunteers
  • Incorporating new technologies and social media into your work
  • Scanning professional literature for emerging trends that merit your attention
  • Attending to long term goals, such as planned and deferred giving

Fundraisers are busy people and there is always plenty to do.  The most successful practitioners establish a discipline that includes regular steps to ensure that they take the long view for fundraising success.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HPS Chicago

Introducing HPS Chicago


Introducing HPS Chicago

To our loyal readers, we are happy to share the news that HUB Philanthropic Solutions is now (drumroll please) HPS Chicago.  HPS will maintain a strategic partnership with HUB International but began operating independently starting on November 1.  HPS Chicago brings you over 85 collective years of consulting experience, and we are proud of the nearly $850 million dollars we have raised for primarily Chicago based non-profits.

Our team is excited to leverage this transition as an opportunity to be even more focused on providing great service to our clients.  This transition also provides an opportunity to reflect and be reminded that we wouldn’t have this wonderful opportunity without your support; we are humbled and thankful to each of you.  Here’s to an exciting year ahead in 2020!

With gratitude,

Team HPS: Mike Bruni, Susanna Decker, Molly Galo, David Gee, Michelle Jimenez,

Susan Matejka, Steve Murphy, Jenn Rathburn

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

Speaking Up


Speaking Up

Last week’s post focused on how important it is to Be Unapologetic when asking for support for your mission. A few days ago, I was at a Board meeting for one of the organizations we partner with and I witnessed a Board member unapologetically making the case for everyone on the Board to take an active role in fundraising. She was thoughtful in her call-to-action, but there was also no question she was challenging everyone in the room to stop avoiding this important role and to start embracing their personal responsibility to the mission.

In addition to wanting to applaud her for delivering this crucial message to her Board colleagues, I also wanted to thank her for simply speaking up. While it may seem an easy thing to do, given the collegial nature and dynamics of many non-profit Boards, all too often things are left unsaid. I know I have found myself wanting to make a particular comment during a Board meeting and weighing in my mind whether or not my fellow Board members might be put off, or worse yet, downright offended by my challenge to them.

There is no question that it is hard to call your peers out or to speak about the proverbial elephant in the room. It is hard… but if we are truly committed to serving the organization and believe that a comment/observation/challenge is worthy, then we have an individual responsibility to speak up.

As was true in the case of the Board member, the key is to ensure that your comments are based in fact and not emotional bias. The case she made for increased fundraising activity and greater accountability among all members was factual and accurate. This wasn’t “personal,” she was simply speaking the truth.

The same can be said for when you have a legitimate issue or problem with a fellow staff member. The best, and I might suggest only way to change course and fix whatever needs fixing, is to start by saying something to the person or people involved.  Again, as long as you have a fact-based case to make or concern to share, then you should proceed knowing that speaking up is precisely what is required.

If you have had similar experiences or other Board encounters that you think our community could benefit from hearing about, please share.

And, as always, thank you for all you do each day to help make the world a better place.

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Be Unapologetic

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Be Unapologetic

While this is certainly not an admirable trait in every situation, when it comes to asking for support for your mission, it is definitely one worth embracing.

There is no question that your organization’s mission is worthy of support, right? There’s also no question that, sometimes, we are timid or hesitant when we are seeking to inspire others to join us in bringing that mission to life.

Part of the issue here is that we tend to think of fundraising as asking someone to give up something for “our benefit,” when that is really not what’s happening at all. What if we looked at fundraising through a much different lens?  What if, instead, we thought about fundraising as inviting others to help change and save lives? After all, that is the impact we are offering people the chance to make.

As my friend and mentor Andy Robinson says, fundraising is an equal exchange, not a take-a-way, but something for something. With that mindset, whether you are an Executive Director/CEO, a Development professional or a Board member; it is much easier to be unapologetic when asking for support. In one way, it is as simple as re-framing our ask from, “I want you to give to this organization that I care about” to, “I hope that you will join me in feeding hungry families in our community / helping homeless youth find a place to live / protecting our forests…”

Challenge yourself to let go of the notion that you have your hand out for their money. Instead, focus on the opportunity you have to invite someone, unapologetically, to make a real difference and to enjoy the same feeling you have when you think about the impact you are helping to make in people’s lives.

Thank you for the work you do everyday to make a difference!

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

KISS — Keep it Simple Silly

keep it simple stupid illustration design over a chalkboard

KISS — Keep it Simple Silly

I recently helped a client celebrate its 15 anniversary. This is a small, but mighty nonprofit that runs 100% on individual and corporate gifts with no program revenue or government support.

The client’s preferred way of celebrating this milestone was to hold a gala. We were hired to execute this celebration. They hold this event every five years to mark the notable passage of time, and put a spotlight on their associated achievements.

During a conversation, about one of the million details required to run the gala, my client and I chuckled as we agreed to ascribe to the KISS  philosophy.  You may know that KISS is an acronym for “Keep it simplestupid.” It was a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960 that states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated. Therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design, and that unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

Despite the KISS sentiment, the planning of the elaborate event continued — with details about guest responses, seating diagrams, program, emcee, band, etc. etc. We’ve all been there, right?

The night came and went and we believe the guests had an enjoyable time. Money was raised and the mission was communicated and glorified.

But later, (as the eye twitch I developed due to many late nights at the office is finally subsiding) I began reflecting on the previous conversation about KISS.  Did we really keep it simple?  Was the gala the best way — the only way — to celebrate this milestone and do the mission justice?

I don’t think so.

Earlier in the year, I worked with this client on a small intimate dinner for about 50 people.  The out of pocket was covered by a beloved donor and the organization raised about 80% in this intimate setting, as was raised at the gala. I wonder what would have happened if instead, we had replicated this style of a modest dinner gathering multiple times, and filled the room with different donors each time.

Hindsight is 20/20, but in the nonprofit world, as in any business, it is important to evaluate return on investment. Especially when the ROI is utilized to change lives and save lives. We must always be seeking the best way to make the same impact while preserving our financial investments, and staff resources.

When we meet as a Board later this month to discuss and evaluate the success of this event, I hope they will consider a different approach.  One that will keep the focus on the mission, but will also keep it simple.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Importance of Embracing Change


The Importance of Embracing Change

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

–Albert Einstein

Intellectually, we know this statement by Albert Einstein to be true. Yet how many of us stick with the same fundraising strategies year after year – even despite red flags – and hope for different results? Recently, I worked with a client stuck in a cycle of special events that were in decline both attendance and dollar-wise.  One event in particular was hardest to consider changing. In its heyday, it was wildly successful and had taken on iconic status with many within the organization. But, attendance and net revenue had been steadily declining over the prior five years. One year, the event even posted a net loss. Still, the organization kept hosting the event, hoping the next year would be different.

Staff and some volunteer leadership wanted to eliminate the event, but top leadership admittedly were frightened to take that risk. To help staff build the case for significant change, we analyzed all aspects of the event. What were its primary goals?  Who were the audiences we were trying to attract? What were the positives we’d want to retain? What was the return on investment, in terms of both human and monetary resources?

We also did some benchmarking with other nonprofits, and performed market research on similar types of events. Were similar organizations having success with this type of event? If not, what types of events were successful for them? Were there external factors beyond our control contributing to the event’s decline?

From our research, it became clear that our client was not doing anything “wrong” with its event – the appetite for the type of event had simply significantly declined. The audiences we’d been trying to attract just weren’t as interested in the type of event as it had been years before. And, we learned that the time and money we invested in the event were not reaping the return we needed.

Our research verified what we suspected: we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect to achieve a different result. Indeed, the organization must make a significant change. Currently, we’re sharing our findings with the event stalwarts to help them understand change will be a bold, brave move that will keep us relevant with the audiences we want to engage. And, change will help ensure we achieve our fundraising goals.

I encourage you to examine your organization’s fundraising strategies – all aspects, not just special events. Are you stuck in any ruts? If so, make a change. While change is hard, it is absolutely essential to an organization’s long-term vibrancy.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions