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  Is information up-to-date or outdated?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

Face-to-Face Time

Tree and Face

I came across a couple of articles earlier this week that got me thinking about the power of personal connection. The first was a NYT’s article,  “Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good”  and the second was written by Julia Hotz, “The New Art of Making Friends,” which is about combating loneliness and deals with the value of in-person interaction.

While both offer interesting reads, what they triggered for me was a reminder that face-to-face contact and authentic engagement is something the majority of our donors and potential supporters actually welcome. If we are truly going to help advance our organization’s philanthropic goals then – whether you are a development professional, an executive director, or a Board member – we NEED to be out from behind our screens and phones having real and personal conversations with the people who have the power to help make our mission soar.  We know that people want to talk about themselves, to feel connected, to be known.

If you want people to invest in you, you have to invest in them.

And, the most effective investment we can make is to engage our donors in a way that communicates how much we value them as people and as partners in our mission. We know that the “secret” to a successful development program is building lasting relationships with as many donors as possible. Yet, between grants, special events and other deadline-driven activities, we all too often take a pass on getting meetings scheduled and getting out there to get to know our donors better.

Of course, some of our key supporters have no desire to be engaged. One of my current clients recently reached out to a top tier donor who said–point blank, “I love your work, I read your materials and I am happy to support you. Even so, I have zero desire to meet with you.”  While they will strengthen the relationship with that donor by respecting his preference, they are also savvy enough to know that this individual’s feelings are not representative of most of their supporters.

So what are we waiting for? Spring is finally here and we should take advantage of it by getting out more, right?.

No matter what your role is with your organization, commit to having more in-person conversations with your donors. Get to know more about what interests them, what their hobbies are and, yes, why your mission matters to them personally. If you’re a Board member and not yet comfortable flying solo, ask your executive director or the chief development officer if you can accompany them on one of their donor upcoming visits.

I promise you that, if your organization can double your number of monthly face-to-face visits with donors, you will be well on your way to reaching and surpassing your philanthropic goals.

Thanks, as always, for all that you do to make a difference in our communities!

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Small is Beautiful


Small is Beautiful

There are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S., and about one-third of those have total annual revenue of less than $1 million. Almost all of these rely on a relatively small number of donors to achieve their annual fundraising goals.

If your total number of annual donors is less than 500, chances are a fair number of these people know each other. They have in common a commitment to your mission. It is important that your fundraising activities recognize these relationships. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tribute Gifts—give your donors the chance to make a gift to honor others in the organization or in their circle of family and friends. People give to people, and your donors will welcome the opportunity to pay tribute to someone they know.
  • Memorial Gifts—encourage families to designate memorial gifts to your charity when a loved one dies. If donors know the person, they will welcome the opportunity to give in their memory.
  • Special events—give your donors the chance to come together socially in support of your organization. Smaller organizations can organize a variety of events where donors will look forward to seeing one another while doing good for your charity.
  • Volunteer opportunities—in a similar way, providing opportunities for your donors to volunteer gives them a platform for socializing with one another while helping the cause that they all care about.
  • Offer experiences as prizes—rather than auctioning off cash prizes or jewelry, raise funds by providing opportunities for your donors to socially engage. Offer a group dinner with the CEO or outings to sporting events or gatherings in someone’s home.
  • Donor recognition—honor a major donor annually with an award and ceremony. Your donors will know the honoree and they will be glad to join in the celebration.

In fundraising, small is beautiful! Making your efforts personal and socially engaging will also make them more successful.

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

The Professional Volunteer, an Oxymoron?


The Professional Volunteer, an Oxymoron?

We are finally seeing the sun and hearing the birds in Chicago. Thank goodness. It must mean that spring gala season is right around the corner.

Years ago, I worked with a young woman who considered herself a “professional volunteer.” The irony in this title amused me and I’ve never forgotten her. She was a smart cookie with a love for our mission and was able to stay at home due to her husband’s job. She thoroughly enjoyed working alongside our staff at my nonprofit.

Unfortunately the days of working with a “professional volunteer” are becoming few and far between. I may have more luck sighting a unicorn or finding a 4-leaf clover in my yard. So I’m offering up a few tips to make the most out of today’s volunteers.

Most volunteers are full time working adults like us, with multiple demands on their time. Their hearts are in the right place, and they appreciate solid structure and expectations to make the most of their time.

With gala season right around the corner, here’s what I’ve found to make the most of volunteers’ time which in turn helps me make the most of mine:

Create Job Descriptions – A one page overview of their roles and expectations goes a long way to keeping them engaged and on the right path. I provide this to all new volunteers and meet with them one-on-one before they begin to ensure they have a good understanding of their role. Annually as a committee, we review the job description too.

Ask Their Opinions –  It is that said that people support what they help to create. So we hold brain storming sessions about all the elements that go into creating a successful event including name, logo, and prospective sponsors, emcees, and auction donors. Volunteers appreciate having a say in how the event will come together and they offer great ideas. This year they helped recreate the name and logo for an event I’m responsible for and also secured an emcee.

Finite Expectations – I asked the committee this year to each make 10 follow up calls to help secure auction items. I provided them with a sample scrip and materials they can mail or email to prospective donors to follow up if needed. Once I assigned the calls, I asked that they each hit “reply” to my email so I was sure they got the information. I called those I didn’t hear back from right away to be sure I could count on their support. This type of accountability ensures that they understand their importance to our team.

At the Event – I have the emcee introduce the committee, along with our Board and other dignitaries. I also share photos of the committee members working behind the scenes in the evening’s power point. This pays them homage for their work and also has inspired event attendees to join the committee.

Self-Evaluations– At the end of the event, we have a modest celebratory meeting with snacks and wine. We review photos of the event and revenue numbers. We also complete a one page self-evaluation form which reiterates the expectations from their job descriptions. For instance,

  • I made follow up calls to procure items for the auction / sponsorship / or attendance. yes/no
  • I purchased a ticket and attended the event  yes/no.
  • I attended most meetings and contributed ideas yes/no
  • I assisted with either event set up, tear down, registration or raffle yes / no

A strong nonprofit cultivates strong volunteer support. So I hope these ideas will help make the most of your volunteer efforts this year!

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Board Members……sometimes they just ask for the darndest things!


Board members……sometimes they just ask for the darndest things!

We’ve all been there, a Board meeting that has a full agenda, a few topics that as Executive Directors or Development officers, you’re dreading to discuss and the meeting already seems like it’s going on forever.  You know, at some point, a Board member is going to ask an interesting question about said topic, one that may or may not even be related to the agenda item being discussed.

And then it happens.

The predictable culprit or possibly one of their Board member peers, asks, “can we see a breakdown of the data or, can we look at the data in this particular format?”  “That would be very helpful to the rest of the Board.”

In your role, you think you understand the question, you don’t quite know how that is going to help the discussion or the vision moving forward, not to mention, the bubble over your head would contain the following thought, “That requests makes no sense AND most of the Board members around the table do UNDERSTAND this!”  Thankfully, nobody can read that bubble but you think it anyway. In reality, more times than not, you or your professional colleague says, “sure, we can get that for you,” even though you’re skeptical, at best, that it will provide any help.

What do you do next?

Well, in your role as CEO or Development officer, have you ever considered responding, “How is that going to help?” or a shorter version of the same question, “Why?”

While I’m not a huge fan of the question, “Why?” as we never want to come across as defensive or judgmental, it does help to get to the heart of why a Board member is asking for something.  Frankly, it is paramount to not only moving the meeting forward but the vision as well.  Additionally, and even more importantly, it offers the Board member the chance to truly explain the foundation for what they are asking for.  Often times, what they really want to know is embedded in their question and this gives him/her a chance to be more direct, more clear, and you, as a leader of the organization may have just saved precious time and resources of your already stretched team.

Bottom line, it is okay to ask (in a respectful and professional manner of course) “why” a particular question is being asked.  Leaders don’t often do this, so to avoid confrontation, but if presented in a way that says to the Board member that you truly want to understand their rationale or need for this info, it will further encourage engagement.  Don’t be afraid to ask “Why?”

Lastly, when the “frequent asker” says, “this will be helpful for the rest of the Board,” don’t be shy to ask the rest of the Board for confirmation.  It is okay to ask, “would others benefit from getting this data?”  It’s an interesting dynamic, correct, because you don’t want to embarrass a Board member or give them the impression that they must “unite”.  However, this particular Board member just spoke for everyone and it’s appropriate to give a voice to everyone else.  By doing so, you confirm the legitimacy of the request as well as engage others in the dialogue.

by: Michael Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Power of Connection


The Power of Connection

I recently attended a client-hosted luncheon for a group of people who been placed for adoption by my client, The Cradle.  It was a reunion luncheon and the second time they had hosted this event.  It was my first time attending.  My role was to help with set-up, greeting guests, ensuring the A/V was working, etc.  While we have all participated in more of these events than we care to recall, there was something very special about this luncheon.

Each of these individuals had a common bond – adoption.  And while each of their stories is unique, this common bond provided an opportunity for intimacy among relative strangers.  People shared their stories with one another, cried together, laughed together and felt such an overwhelming positivity we all left with a sense of joy.

Connecting people who are touched by your mission can be powerful.  Is there an opportunity for you to host a gathering for a group of “friends” of your organization?  Consider this:

Who are the different constituent groups who are connected to your mission?

Is there a reason to get one of these groups together (a speaker session, a lunch and learn, a cocktail party) to provide an opportunity to connect?

Is there someone who may be interested in spearheading this effort?

These are great opportunities to provide “mission moments” outside of the typical schedule of meetings and fundraisers.  It doesn’t have to cost much and really doesn’t take that much effort.  I guarantee it’s worth the effort!

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

“I’m sorry…I can’t help you. I’m not a fundraiser.”


“I’m sorry…I can’t help you. I’m not a fundraiser.”

Maybe you’ve heard this phrase or something similar when you’ve approached your Board members for help in engaging donors with your organization. So many times, when I appeal to a Board to help with sponsorship for an event, or help to engage a donor…the answer is often…I’m not a fundraiser. I don’t do that well. I don’t know how to do that. Or, I can help but first, can you help me with my elevator pitch?

I once had a Board member, who was brand new to the organization, decide to serve on our spring benefit committee. She was an awesome Board member…she had great ideas, supported the agency financially, showed up to meetings…she was as reliable as they come. When she came to her first benefit committee meeting, she said, “I’m not sure what I can do. I don’t know how to fundraise, and, I don’t think I’m going to like it.”

So, we broke it down in some easy ways. We asked her to just think about being a connector. We asked her if she could take our materials and present them to 3-4 contacts that she knew and share about why she joined the Board, why the mission was important to her, and, asked her to explain why we needed their support. She came back to the next meeting and produced four sponsors for our event. She said, “I didn’t know it would be that easy. You provided me with the materials, I shared my passion, and I asked them to simply consider the options.”

You know what happened next? She became the ambassador to the entire Board for engaging with our donors. She shared her story, provided tips, and asked others to join her. It was our best year for sponsorship and it was because she inspired others on the Board to follow her lead. Her enthusiasm was contagious!

The biggest take away? They didn’t need a scripted elevator speech. It was better and more effective for those she approached with her genuine zeal for the organization. Her own words meant more than a listing of stats and facts (that were already in the packet for her to share). It was more of a conversation than a pitch. She was inspiring and the gifts followed.

I’ve used this example with other not for profits leaders that I work with because it works…over and over. At your next Board meeting, I encourage you to tell a story like this one. Share that the elevator pitch is personal and specific to them…there is no need to memorize or script all the ins and outs of the organization. It’s best to simply offer their personal stories about what the organization means to them and why it is important. Our job as development officers is to ensure that they have the right materials to bring with them and, perhaps, the best partner to include on a visit. I encourage you to have fun with this exercise with your Board. Spend some time sharing with each other why they are sitting around the table. I know it will produce some wonderful conversations and future partnerships to come!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Is your Board focused on both of your nonprofit’s missions?


Is your Board focused on both of your nonprofit’s missions?

This post starts with the assumption that we all agree on the following…

By definition, all nonprofits have two missions: (1) the services or impact they deliver to the community and (2) the mission of raising the funds necessary to support that work. Nonprofits exist to advance their service offerings which, in the world of for-profit enterprises, are not self-sustaining or money-losing activities.

A hunger relief organization provides food to people who don’t have enough to eat while, at the same time, they must generate the revenue needed to adequately fund their hunger relief programs. It is the same for any social impact organization that relies solely on philanthropic contributions to advance their mission. When it comes to an independent school or any nonprofit that is also able to generate income from tuition, patient care or some other social venture or fee-for-service model, it is the gap between earned income and total program and service delivery costs that must be acquired philanthropically. Regardless of which camp your organization falls into, you have two mutually dependent missions.

When thinking about the connection between our Board members and our mission, a trend that has taken hold at Board meetings is employing a “mission moment.” In fact, the HPS team has worked with a number of clients on maximizing this opportunity as a regular part of the Board agenda. Sometimes it is as simple as having the Executive Director or a program person share an impact story of a family served or a youth helped at the start of the meeting. Other times, a video clip of a client telling their story is played or a client is invited to share their personal encounter face to face. Each of these moments help remind our Board members that the work we’re doing matters and help to ground everyone in mission-focused conversations throughout the meeting.

Mission moments like these work. The stories resonate and motivate.

Another key focal point of every nonprofit Board meeting is centered on fundraising. Not just a report of where we may be in relationship to our quarterly or annual goals, but more importantly, how Board members’ individual and personal engagement in the organization’s fundraising program is essential. Philanthropy is personal and, to successfully advance our fundraising goals, we need as many folks involved in building and strengthening donor relationships as possible (i.e., everyone on the Board).

While talking with a client the other day about how we might more effectively communicate with the Board how crucial their involvement in the fundraising program is, it dawned on me. Shouldn’t we also be offering up the occasional “mission moment” focused on our second mission?

What if, a couple of times a year, we shared a donor story with our Board?

We know that stories focused on client impact create a deeper connection to our service-related mission, right? So it is a logical step to think that donor stories would have the same effect in relationship to our fundraising-related mission.

And speaking of relationships, what a great donor stewardship opportunity! For the right donors or even foundation program officers, this could be a fantastic way to engage them deeper in your mission and for them to help advance a cause they care about beyond their financial support. You could ask a longtime donor to share why they have stayed committed over the years, or a new donor to share what it is about your organization that inspired them to make their first or second gift.

At the end of the day, the specifics around why you ask someone to share their philanthropic story will be unique to you and their relationship to your organization. What’s universal is the impact it will have on your Board members and the donors who give voice to your “second” mission.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes. Or, if you have other great “mission moment” stories to share, we’d love to hear them.

Thanks, as always, for all that you do to make a difference in our communities!

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

“Easy” Money: Are you Maximizing Matching Gifts?


“Easy” Money: Are you Maximizing Matching Gifts?

I received an email from a donor the other day, with a matching gift question. He and his wife had made a gift of $750. He had already submitted a matching gift request to his employer, which matches gifts 3:1. He wanted to know if his wife, whose company matches gifts 1:1, could submit a request as well. I admit I had to think for a minute, and honestly do a little research. I quickly learned that yes, they both can, indeed should, request matching gifts. In this case, the donors’ $750 gift easily leveraged $3,000 in additional income for my client.

This donor’s inquiry served as a timely reminder to review my client’s matching gift program – and to invest some time in ensuring we’re using strategies to maximize this “easy” income. I suggest you set aside some time this week to review and assess your organization’s matching gift program, by asking:

Do you have a designated matching gift coordinator on your team?

If you’re part of a small shop, you probably don’t, although you should. It’s vital you ensure one team member’s responsibilities include matching gifts.

Are you actively promoting matching gifts?

Once you’ve designated a staff member with matching gift responsibility, you can build your program through awareness. Donors need to know about matching gifts before they can request them! Use all of the tools you have to promote awareness: add a line to your donation form, include information on your website, add a P.S. to your acknowledgment letter, share a donor-matching gift impact story in your newsletter. The possibilities are endless.

Do you collect employer information for your constituents?

Strive to learn who employs your donors and include that information in individual records in your database. If you know where someone works, you can easily determine if their gift is eligible for a match. If so, you can reach out to the donor to thank them for their gift – and to ask them to double, or even triple, their impact. Don’t forget to encourage their spouses to request a matching gift, too!

Do you make it easy for your donors to secure matching gifts?

Give your donors some clear, concise instructions for secure matching gifts. Most companies’ program work the same way, so you can list the typical steps involved for donors. You can also promote a list of companies in your area that match gifts to your organization.

Do you have a system for tracking matching gifts?

An internal system that tracks requests through to fulfillment is essential to your success. Standardization and systematization will help maximize results.

Are you thanking your donors and the matching gifts companies?

We all know the number one rule of fundraising: thank, thank, and thank again. Be sure you thank your donors for their gift, and for requesting their employers’ match as well. Be sure you thank the proper person at the company, too. Matching gifts can be an entrée into a deeper, more significant philanthropic relationship with a company.

With relatively little effort, you’ll begin to see improved results with your matching gifts program. Do you have a strategy that works well for you, or a success story to share? Please post it in the comments below!

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions