First Impressions


First Impressions

Over the past few weeks, several of my client conversations have focused on the on-boarding process.  Whether on-boarding a new employee, a summer intern or even a volunteer, first impressions matter.  Often times, organizations spend lots of time and energy on the recruiting process (which is vital), and once the person is hired, they are relieved and return to business as usual.  It is important to remember that the hiring process is just beginning!  What you do next may make all the difference.

The candidate said yes…now what?

Once you have identified the ideal person for your open position/internship/volunteer role, take a few minutes to send that person a note or email.  Tell the person how excited you are that they will be joining your team and what it was about that person that stood out to you in the selection process.  Perhaps they shared a funny story, have a unique skillset or attended your alma mater.  Let that person know you were listening and you are looking forward to working with them in this role.  This may also be an opportunity to identify a few upcoming milestones; for example, tell the person may get an email from the benefits team about benefits eligibility and enrollment.  Sending this type of message positively reinforces the person’s decision to join your organization.

Details, details

There is an old saying, “The devil is in the details.”  Before the new person begins, consider all of their needs:  Where will they sit?  Does the person need a laptop?  Will they have access to a printer?  Do they need a landline?  Mailbox?  What will they need to bring with them on their first day?  License/ID? Bank account information for direct deposit?  Will you be communicating this information or will Human Resources?  Be sure you have all of these details arranged prior to the person’s first day.  You may want to consider sending one additional communication the day before, indicating what time they should arrive, providing details about transportation/parking, dress code, what to bring, etc.  You may also include a high-level itinerary for the first day (see below) so they know what to expect.


The new person’s first day is just around the corner!  Put together a brief itinerary for the day.  Consider assigning a “buddy” for the new person – someone they can ask anything (What is the bathroom code again?  How do I use the copier?).  Also, don’t be afraid to build in some “down time”, as you don’t want the new person to feel overwhelmed.  Here is a sample itinerary:

9:00 – Welcome and breakfast in the conference room (informal gathering for team)

10:00 – 1:1 Meeting with supervisor (review job responsibilities, provide reading materials, discuss assignments)

10:30 – 12:00 – Individual meetings with each team member

12:00 – Team lunch

1:00 – Meeting with HR

1:30 – Solo time

3:00 – Meeting with buddy

3:30 – Check-in with supervisor (discuss schedule for rest of week)

4:00 – Departure

If you have hired more than one person (for example, you have a group of interns), you may want to modify the schedule to ensure the group has time to get to know one another, etc.  Be sure you have the rest of the week planned out as well, which includes providing the person with meaningful assignments as soon as possible.


Towards the end of the first week, schedule a meeting with the new person to answer questions and establish some short and longer-term goals.  This will help ensure that responsibilities are clear and expectations are established.  Over the course of the first few months, make sure you have regular meetings/touch points with the new person, which will help keep things on track and provide an opportunity to course-correct if needed.

Bringing a new person into your organization requires thought, planning and extra time.  Show the person they are important by being enthusiastic, thoughtful and prepared.  If you make the effort to invest in this person, the investment will pay dividends in the long run.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


When the Stars Align!


When the Stars Align!

Every once in a while, something magical happens in our work. Some months ago, the Executive Director of a domestic violence agency and I met with a potential grant funder. We sat down with three members of their review team at their request to “just get to know each other.” As we began talking about the mission of the agency and they shared more about theirs, we realized that on almost every level, we were completely in concert with one another. It was truly one of the most amazing visits of my nearly 30 year fundraising career.

The energy of the room was high, heads were nodding, and the shared vision of the work to accomplish with palpable. It was exciting! At the close of the meeting, we were asked to meet with them in a few months to sit down again and share three ideas for possible funding. Prior to our second meeting, emails and phone calls were exchanged to share appreciation for the first time together as well as continued enthusiasm for a possible partnership. A real relationship began when we first met, but, throughout this process, continued to grow.

Our meeting for our presentation finally arrived and the Executive Director and I drove out to the potential funder’s offices at their request. You see, they loved seeing where we carry out our work, but, they in turn, wanted us to have a chance to see where they work together and collaborate with one another. The meeting began with a meditative moment, where we all were asked to take a moment to reflect on our work and begin a discussion that would lead to greater partnership to create a bigger impact on the people that we collectively serve.

We shared our three ideas for possible funding and again, felt a strong connection across the room as questions were asked and ideas were put forth and discussed. No final decisions were made about funding as a formal request will be put forth (Stay tuned!). But, we knew when we walked out the door, that a real partnership had been formed. That this was just the start of a new relationship that will have a significant impact on our work this year and beyond. It’s because of moments like this, meetings like these, that when the stars align, propel us forward and energize us to do this important work.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Honoring those who serve


Honoring those who serve

Today is Memorial Day. Informally, it’s celebrated as the unofficial start of Summer…a day away from the office, a day of cookouts and fun-in-the-sun.

Officially, Memorial Day has a much more significant meaning: it is a day to honor the women and men who have died in service of the United States – U.S. Military service members who died in armed conflict. As we reflect on the day’s meaning, we are immensely grateful to all who serve to safeguard the freedoms we as Americans enjoy, and especially to those who sacrificed their lives in service.

Today, let’s also honor those who serve our Service Members – those of you working for nonprofits throughout the country to help our service members heal when they return from conflict. We honor those who help ensure our veterans receive the lifelong medical care they may need, the mental health services, the physical, occupational, and other therapies, and the job training they need. We honor the fundraisers, too – those of us who dedicate their professional lives to ensuring these vital services are available.

In appreciation, I want to highlight one Chicago nonprofit program making a difference in the lives of service members: the Road Home Program at Rush Medical Center. This exceptional program is dedicated to supporting veterans and their loved ones with non-judgmental support and care. The Road Home Team includes trauma psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, traumatic brain injury specialists, art therapists, acupuncturists, and other wellness providers. Together, they compassionately serve veterans and their families, providing individualized care and navigation of services to help heal the invisible wounds of war. To learn more visit The Road Home Program.

So, today, when you honor Military members who died in conflict, perhaps take a brief moment as well to thank members who have returned from military service … and the civilians who serve them.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

How Resilient Are You?


How Resilient Are You?

MY YOUNGEST SON and I recently watched Rory McIlroy walk down the 18th fairway after hitting a wonderful approach to secure his first Players Championship. With admiration, Paul Azinger commented on how McIlroy was the picture of “resiliency.” We often think of individuals who have, time over time, shown to be resilient. These individuals have overcome adversity, addressed their “demons” and have continued to progress despite the challenges they face. We look upon them with admiration and often in awe, given all they have accomplished. But do we ever think of our organizations as being “resilient?”

“Resiliency is the capacity to respond effectively to change, to adapt successfully to new and unforeseen conditions and circumstances and to seize opportunity. It’s an essential characteristic of organizations (and individuals) that are built for ongoing success.” —S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.

The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation takes resiliency seriously and has recently published a guide to help organizations evaluate and address important characteristics that help ensure resiliency. To help measure whether your organization passes the “resiliency” test, the Foundation asks organizations to evaluate the following seven factors:

1. Culture of Learning ■■ Does your board have a shared sense of values, mission and vision? ■■ Is your board optimistic in spite of challenges, and also realistic about what’s achievable?

2. Talent & Leadership ■■ Is your board and staff leadership well-aligned? Truly aligned? ■■ Is your board fully engaged, for the advancement of your organizations mission (and not individual agendas)?

3. Context (Outside-In Thinking) ■■ Is your organization knowledgeable about key players and stakeholders in your field? ■■ Does your organization have a clear understanding of its position among other organizations?

4. Planning & Execution ■■ Does your organization and board have a clear strategy for the next two to three years? ■■ Does your organization and board plan for contingencies and adapt strategy as circumstances require

5. Reputation & Communications ■■ Does your organization have a clear and compelling story that is used to communicate mission and impact? ■■ Does your organization maintain a strong reputation with key audiences and members? ■■ Does your organization regularly re-examine core messages, audiences and tactics for communications?

6. Partnerships & Alliances ■■ Does your organization routinely and successfully collaborate, coordinate and communicate with others organizations? ■■ Does your organization participate in network and/or coalition activities selectively and strategically?

7. Financial Footing ■■ Does your organization have reliable and recurring revenue that covers the cost of programs and operations? ■■ Does your organization have adequate unrestricted funds and cash reserves in place? ■■ Does your organization have a clear financial strategy that ensures long-term sustainability?

The simple take-away from this guide is: Are you willing to ask tough questions of your organization, yourself and your board? As McIlroy was celebrated at the conclusion of Championship Sunday, much of the conversation was about how he started his rounds on Saturday and Sunday quite poorly. His reaction and responses were stunningly consistent with the factors represented above. He talked about how he and his team were aligned with what his goals were, how he continued to challenge himself to get better so that he could adapt to adversity. He faced his challenges and remained calm and confident when things didn’t go his way.

As the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation so eloquently states, “Resiliency starts with dialogue.” I encourage you and your board to embrace the dialogue, especially around your organization’s challenges and shortcomings, so to ensure that you will, in fact, be resilient!

by: Michael Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

If you really want advice…


If you really want advice…

I was recently engaged in a strategic conversation with members of a nonprofit committee I volunteer with. We were discussing a significant change to how the membership organization solicits funding from supporting foundations and corporations. The sub-committee and staff offered up a well-reasoned plan based on internal insights and what, collectively, we knew was needed to advance the organization’s goals.

Appropriately, the conversation transitioned to how we could gain feedback and buy-in from the people who would be needed to embrace the shift in the organization’s strategy. Several people spoke to the value of engaging key supporters in the conversation before the plan was “fully baked,” so they could add a valued perspective and gain a sense of ownership of the proposed changes. The call to action was, “Let’s go ask them what they think.”

The HPS team is certainly a huge proponent of this overarching philosophy. As you have read here before if you follow our blog (or that we’ve discussed with you in person if we have been fortunate enough to partner together), we firmly believe that:

People support what they help to create.”

Now, while enlisting feedback and advice from the people you ultimately want to support your vision is certainly the best approach, one of the committee members raised an essential point of clarification. “Our discussions will be more effective, engaging and productive if we present them with a specific plan to respond to.”

While open ended questions are a great tool for when you are getting to know your donors, and they are equally – if not more important – when you are in the midst of a solicitation, there is no question that starting with a request for TARGETED advice about a specific vision is always the best approach if you really want to know what your supporters think you should do.

There may be times when a brainstorming conversation is warranted, but in situations like this, it is best if you have a plan in place– give it to them and ask them to tell you what they think about it, SPECIFICALLY. This is true whether you’re talking about a strategic plan, organizational restructuring, or – without question – when you have a campaign vision or major funding initiative on the horizon and you’re building your case for support.

Just as donors require specificity about what you are asking them to fund, our key constituents need as many details and as much clarity from us as possible in order to respond to a “What do you think?” inquiry.  With that clarity, they can offer up more specific advice and, in turn, we offer them a more concrete path on which to gain their sense of ownership and eventual support.

If you have a story about enlisting feedback that you’d like to share, please send it our way. We’d love to hear about your experiences and can offer them up in a future post.

In the meantime… thank you, as always, for the world-changing, life-giving work you do each and every day!

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Boomer Boom



The Boomer Boom

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.  In 2019, they range in age from 55 to 73.  They comprise about 24% of the U.S. population.  They have been getting attention their whole lives.  Every sector of the economy has marketed to them, through radio, television and now technology.  For fundraisers, it’s important to realize that the Baby Boomers are in the prime of their giving years.  It’s not an overstatement to say that right now we are in the midst of the Baby Boomer Boom.

Your nonprofit organization should be paying attention to the Boomer Boom.  They expect nothing less!  Here are a few fun facts and actions for you to consider:

  • 72% of Baby Boomers give to charity, averaging $1212 per year across 4.5 organizations. Boomers are very generous, but selective in the number of organizations that have their attention.  Boomers must be thanked for their gifts, recognized for their gifts, and when appropriate honored for their gifts.  Establish a communication plan with your Boomer donors, and give them multiple contacts throughout the year, not all of which are requests for donations.  Make your organization stand out among the others to which the Boomers have donated.
  • 71% of Baby Boomers volunteer locally. It is hard to overstate the importance of this collective effort.  The Boomer Boom makes up the backbone of volunteerism in the United States.  Your nonprofit organization should be providing multiple and substantial opportunities for Boomers to volunteer.  Again, realize that if they are making generous gifts to just four or five organizations, it really should not be too hard for you to make your organization stand out with meaningful volunteer opportunities that solidify your place in their hearts.
  • Half of all Baby Boomers make recurring donations, leading all groups of donors. Make sure you are providing opportunities for recurring donations at multiple levels.  And make sure you specifically ask Boomers for recurring donations.  And this is also an indication that Boomers are technologically savvy, so make sure your giving opportunities are many and seamless.
  • Your biggest planned gifts will come from the Boomer Boom. Have a consistent and well thought out plan to ask Boomers to consider an estate gift to your organization.  The oldest Boomers are just now beginning to seriously contemplate their legacy.  They will dominate planned giving for the next quarter century!  Be prepared, be organized, and be very direct in your outreach to your Boomer donors, who will be the source of your largest gifts in the years to come.

The Boomer Boom is real and it will be with us a while.  Fundraisers who pay attention to this huge market segment will see the results of thoughtful and purposeful attention.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Sales people. Ugh!


Sales people. Ugh!

I was a subject in a focus group this week on the topic of retail shopping. My group got off on a tangent about how sales staff can be either too pushy or completely absent and impossible to find.

The pushy ones made us feel that we couldn’t trust them.  They were all about the sale. We’d ask, “Hmmmm. Does this dress look good on me?” They would reply, “Yessssssssss,” sounding like Kaa, the evil, mesmerizing snake from Disney’s Jungle Book.

On the flip side, one person shared the story of the time they were left half dressed in a fitting room when their sales associate left her shift and totally forgot about her.

We realized these experiences mirror a donor’s experience with us, as development professionals.

How do we make the supporters of our organization feel?

Listening, asking questions and creating relationships should be what development is all about. Basically treating our donors like we would like to be treated.

This week in my office, I visited with a couple whose family member receives services from the nonprofit I was representing. They came in to make a sizable gift. During the visit, the client’s mother remarked on several occasions, “Oh we know you are so busy we won’t take any more of your time.” Although this was conscientious, I assured her that these types of visits are the most enjoyable and important part of my job. I told her that I really enjoy hearing what people think of the organization and learning all I can from our families.

One of the best development people I’ve ever worked with was named Linda. She was a gregarious, magnetic person and made everyone feel that they were worth a million bucks. One of the things I remember from working with her is she was one of the best listeners I’ve ever observed. Always asking open ended questions, “How are your kids?” “How’s that new job?” “What are you doing this summer?” She genuinely cared. Linda would be the type of salesperson who would escort you to a tidy fitting room and then check back a few times to make sure sizes were right and even bring a few new item that you’d missed, based on your feedback.

Let’s all be sure to treat each and every one of our donors as Linda would, and be sure not to leave anyone in the fitting room when we go home for the day.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Hit the Pause Button for Future Success!

570bdf7ec863e0_Know When to Hit the Pause Button

Hit the Pause Button for Future Success!

For the past six months, I’ve been working with a small not for profit whose mission is focused on arts education. While it has a small annual operating budget of $500,000, the organization is a powerhouse in fulfilling its mission. A few months before I began my work to provide development counsel, the Staff and Board leadership embarked on a strategic planning process. This process led to some interesting findings!

The organization rocked their mission and brought arts education to a record setting number of under-served youth and seniors. However, the staff was stretched because the internal operations had not grown and matured as quickly as their exceptional programs. The team, small but mighty, operated with outdated computers, systems and staffing that inhibited future or further program growth.

The strategic planning process brought to light some key areas that needed to be addressed operationally to match the high-caliber programs of the organization. The Staff and the Board embraced this news and took this opportunity to hold up the magnifying glass to see how they operated and managed the day-to-day of the organization.

They did a deep dive and reviewed and revised staffing, enhanced Board roles and responsibilities, updated technology and data systems and tweaked their branding and messaging, to name a few! Yes, this took additional financial and human resources, but it was critical to the organization’s future (By the way, we also realized that some funders were interested in investing in this process as well and we were able to secure some pro-bono work to help with branding and messaging).

While programs continued on…the leadership team hit the pause button and were thoughtful about how they could be more efficient and nail down what they needed to do to further succeed operationally so programs could continue to flourish. The team really spent the time to set the operational stage for the future.

So, I ask you… when was the last time you reviewed Board roles? Messaging? Staffing? Operational systems? When was the last time you may have asked…why do we do it this way? Is there a better way?

As we move forward into the next fiscal year, I encourage you to hit pause. Hold up the magnifying glass. I promise this exercise (whether a full strategic planning process or a simpler version) will be eye-opening and rewarding, and ultimately, it will benefit those you serve in the years ahead.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What (image) are you communicating to your constituents?

Nonprofit organization - word cloud concept

What (image) are you communicating to your constituents?

While all nonprofits seem to operate on a shoestring budget, it is important to consider how you are presenting your organization to your constituents.  And while you don’t want anyone to get the idea that you have an unlimited budget, there are ways to make a positive impression without breaking the bank.  In addition, it is important to keep all of your constituents in mind by identifying a number of different strategies to reach each audience.


I have been working with one of my clients on developing their spring appeal.  The organization is preparing to launch a new marketing campaign, aimed at potential clients, and the team decided to take advantage of this opportunity to align the donor-facing materials with the newly created client materials.  This approach represents a complete “new look” for the agency – one that is fresh, clean and – dare I say – modern.

Here are a few of the many reasons I am excited about this approach:

  1. It is eye-catching.  The colors and font are contemporary and consistent.  The photographs are beautiful.  The graphics are dynamic.
  2. It is easy to read.   It represents a departure from the traditional 2-3 page letter but still provides the reader with an emotional connection.
  3. It makes donating easy.  In addition to the perforated response card, the appeal provides clear and easy direction on how to donate online.

My client plans to send a follow-up email reminder with the same “look and feel”.  Going forward, all of the marketing materials will be consistent, creating brand awareness and recognition.


What does your website say about your organization?  First and foremost, be sure your website is easy to find.  If your organization is not showing up at the top of a search, you may want to do some research to ensure you have the right key words to elevate your position within a search.

What is the look of your website?  Be objective…does it look sophisticated or sophomoric?  Is it easy to navigate and comprehensive, or is it cumbersome and inadequate?  What does it look like on your smart phone?

Technology has quickly become a necessary tool to obtain information and often times the web is a person’s first “introduction” to your organization.  Is it interactive or static?  Is information up-to-date or outdated?  Are pictures and events clearly labeled and posted soon after an event?  It may be worth investing in a web developer to ensure your look represents the organization in the best possible way.   In addition, be sure you have someone on staff who is trained to post pictures and make minor modifications so you don’t have to pay each time you want to make updates.

Social Media

Does your organization use social media to reach donors and other constituents?  If so, how often are you posting updates on Facebook?  How often are you Tweeting?  Are you leveraging social media to “spread the word” about upcoming events and to share photos and other important details following an event?  Do you offer incentives to those who “Like” your organization or share information?

Social media will continue to take a more prominent role in connecting with constituents going forward.  In addition to being cost-effective (sending evites in lieu of mailed invitations), younger generations are much more tech savvy in their approach to supporting organizations.  It is imperative to keep this audience in mind for event planning, appeals, etc.

In the long run, the “face” of the organization is worth the investment of both time and money.  Be thoughtful and invest wisely, and you will ultimately see a strong return on your investment.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Educating the Next Generation about Philanthropy



Educating the Next Generation about Philanthropy

It’s a common belief amongst nonprofits that most philanthropic dollars come from older generations. After all, older folks have had a lifetime to learn about societal challenges, and a  lifetime to earn funds they can share. Nonprofits know they must ensure the younger generations understand the importance of philanthropy.  But how?

Hinsdale-based Community Memorial Foundation (CMF) offers one innovative solution, its Young Community Changemakers (YC2) leadership development program.

Part of CMF’s efforts to build a “Culture of Philanthropy” throughout its region, the program is based on the vision that young people need opportunities to develop the skills to be future leaders and stewards of their communities. Its inaugural program began with a kickoff event in December 2018; through the semester-long program, thirty high school students participated in eight program sessions. The students explored their local community and learned about its social challenges; learned the basics of philanthropic theory; and engaged in organizational evaluation and grantmaking. The program culminates this month, with the students awarding up to $15,000 to local nonprofit organizations they’ve evaluated, and that further the mission and vision of the Foundation.

CMF’s mission is to measurably improve the health of its neighbors. Its vision is to be the healthiest region in the country. To learn more about its YC2 program, visit Young Community Changemakers .

Similarly, the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation’s Future Philanthropists Program teaches high school students the art and science of philanthropy. A two-year program, students from area high schools learn first about philanthropy during year one. They review grant proposals, perform site visits, and award up to $25,000 in grants to worthy local nonprofits. During year two of the program, the students learn about the pillars of fundraising and raise funds to give back to the program. Adult mentors work with teams of students throughout the two years. Each May, at its Capstone event, the program awards grant to program alumni, to continue their philanthropic work during their college years.

The Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation supports vibrant and sustainable community through generous gifts, and connects people with the causes they care about. To learn more, visit the OPRFCF Future Philanthropists Program.

Of course, these are just two examples of wonderful work being done to educate the next generation of philanthropists. Hopefully other communities are engaging youth similarly. Are you aware of such an an initiative? Please share in the comments section below. Who knows, perhaps the younger generations will become the most generous!

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions