We Belong to One Another


We Belong to One Another

 “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”                –Mother Theresa

 Today, as we witness the chaos and violence throughout our country in response to the tragic recent violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, at the hands of white officers, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mother Theresa’s statement. At its heart, this is basic social contract theory — that as humans we have a responsibility to care for one another.

As nonprofit organizations, I believe we inherently subscribe to the social contract. We’ve committed ourselves professionally to working every day to fulfill missions that serve others.

Yet, like many, I keep asking myself, is that enough? What more can I – must I – do to make our world a just place for all humans – black, brown, white, lesbian, gay, transgender, immigrant, refugee (the list goes on)? In that spirit, I am sharing this list of things we can all commit to doing to fight racism in our country, courtesy of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Please click on the link for detailed how-tos: https://nnedv.org/latest_update/8-everyday-ways-to-fight-racism/.

  • Learn to recognize and understand your own privilege.
  • Examine your own biases and consider where they have originated.
  • Validate the experiences and feelings of people of color.
  • Challenge the “colorblind” ideology.
  • Call out racist “jokes” or statements.
  • Find out how your company or school works to expand opportunities for people of color.
  • Be thoughtful with your finances.
  • Adopt and intersectional approach in all aspects of your life.

Thank you for all you do every day to make our world more just. Please share any additional resources or ideas you have in the comments section.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Happy Memorial Day!


Happy Memorial Day!

On Memorial Day weekend, we remember and honor the women and men who lost their lives while serving in the US military. Memorial Day, for many, also marks the start of summer. While we typically attend parades and host backyard BBQ’s with friends and family, the holiday this year looks quite different.  Pools are closed, baseball games are cancelled, and families are working through the “new normal” of shelter is place until restrictions are lightened.

Over the past few months, we have all been busy adapting and pivoting our fundraising plans to do our very best to stay connected with our donors and provide them with up to date information about how we are serving our clients. For many of us, the close of our fiscal year is just around the corner on June 30. We have about one month left before we close the books on this year. So, what does the year ahead look like for you at your organization? Do you have a fall gala or a summer kick-off that needs to be tweaked and redesigned? Do you have a major gift program that you planned to launch? A junior board that you had hoped to develop?

While we would all love to have a crystal ball that shows us the future, we need to be brave and creative to not only learn new ways of doing things but also flexible and nimble as information unfolds so that we can make the best decisions for our organizations. Your development plan for FY 21 might look different than any other plans you have created. Maybe you have Plan A and Plan B for that fall event. Or, a few new ways that you want to connect with your major donors that you never imagined until now. With this uncertainty about the future, it isn’t just business as usual. For many, the unknown isn’t easy and feels stressful because the plan isn’t written in stone. It’s hard to imagine closing that major gift over a Zoom meeting. It feels odd to plan for a fall event that looks nothing like one you’ve ever orchestrated before.

My thoughts for you for this Memorial Day are to first, take a deep breath. Enjoy something you love to do. Maybe it’s going for a walk, a bike ride, reading a book or cooking up a feast. As you start to look at your FY21 plan and begin to adjust it for next year, do the same. Take a deep breath. Think outside the box. Talk to your colleagues. Check out what others are doing. Learn some new things. And know that your revised plan for next year, which most likely will continue to be tweaked and refined as you go along, will be a great roadmap in helping you achieve your goals.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Triage, Transition, Transformation

moving forward

Triage, Transition, Transformation

During a call with two of my clients last week, one of the participants described the COVID-19 pandemic in stages, using three words:  Triage, Transition, Transformation.

She said it was helpful for her to have it organized with three words, all starting with the same letter.  We went on to share thoughts about what this description really meant and discussed a few other models that we’ve heard in the press or other conversations.  I wrote down those three words, as I wanted to think about how they apply to the world of fundraising as a result of the pandemic.

Since the shelter in place order began, the world of fundraising has gone sideways.  Our team of consultants has seen a wide range of reactions from our clients.  Some have experienced positive surprises, as unexpected donations have arrived.  Others have expressed fear – “we can’t ask people for money right now!”  (Yes, actually, you can.)  And all of our clients are exhausted, as everyone is trying to reimagine events, figure out how to participate in another Giving Tuesday and recast their fundraising goals, all while trying to navigate working from home and ensure those they serve are safe and protected.

So how do these three words apply to Development?  Let’s think about it.

Triage – One key component of triage is to “allocate limited resources to maximize results”.  It seems like the Development department at most organizations is woefully understaffed to begin with – and then a crisis comes around.  The first order of business was to ensure those we serve are safe and put processes and procedures in place to make sure they continue to be safe.  Next, we had to assess what this means for our fundraising efforts.  “Will we be able to host our event?”  “If we can’t host our event, what will we do instead?”  “How will we make up for lost revenue?” “How will we engage donors?” And so on.  I am sure those are just a few of the many questions you asked while this crisis was unfolding.

Transition – The simple definition here is “changing from one state to another”.  Whether it is moving from an event to a virtual event, rethinking the strategy behind your spring appeal, or simply moving from in-person meetings to virtual ones, we have all had to change and adapt over the past few weeks.  And while we are all anxious to move to the “new normal”, we must remain flexible and adaptable for the foreseeable future.

Transformation – Transformation is a “dramatic change”.  While we may realize it on the surface, the reality here is harder to conceive for the long-term: much of our work as Development officers is transforming, and will continue to do so.  (Face it: Events will never be the same again.)  And perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing.  Our team has a standing Zoom call every Monday morning.  Most of our time is spent discussing the latest binge watch recommendations or sharing what we cooked over the weekend, but we do also talk business.  And there is one great silver lining we as Development professionals all agree on, and that is the chance to “reset” our priorities.  Specifically, this crisis has given everyone in Development the opportunity – and the time – to cultivate donors.  We have been encouraging all of our clients to take this time to call donors and check in on their well-being.  Since donors are also stuck at home, many are in need of social interaction, and therefore interested in engaging in conversation.  Writing personal notes or even sending a well-prepared email can elicit a positive response.

I am hopeful this change of direction will result in a permanent transformation for many organizations in how they do development work going forward.  Cultivation and stewardship takes time and it typically doesn’t have a deadline, so it can often fall to the bottom of the “to-do” list.  My challenge to each of you is to maintain this practice of connecting with donors, even when we are no longer sheltering in place.

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

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Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

This past Mother’s Day was the first time I hadn’t seen my mother in years. This was disappointing because our annual “girl’s weekends” with my daughter and me to visit her had become a tradition I looked forward to. We reinvented our celebration and visited using Facetime.  I guess it was better than nothing, right?

Then, I saw an interview with Eric Schmidt, the past president of Google. He discussed how positions are changing and said, “One way to think about this is that this one to two-month period has brought forth 10 years of forward change. So all of a sudden, the Internet is no longer optional. It’s fundamental …… Another example will be tele-health. 80 percent of the visits to doctors are right now in tele-health.” (Eric Schmidt transcript)

It made me wonder how we, as nonprofit professionals, will need to adapt in the future. For example, last week in a meeting with clients (on a Zoom call, no less!) we agreed we needed a video that we could create inhouse. I found myself saying than I am not an expert on making videos. I feel like I’ve grown and adapted a lot in my career, but not in that area – at least not yet.  One of the members said his high school kids could probably do it.


High School kids?

Nooooo! I refuse to go the way of the dinosaurs stuck in a proverbial tar pit! So I quickly watched a YouTube tutorial about Apple iMovie software and was kind of impressed at how easy this could be. Yes, even me, a lumbering Sauropod, could probably master this software!

I share this with you only to help us all stay encouraged to embrace new things and new technology. Let’s look forward and anticipate what will be needed in the future months and years, in order to stay relevant with our donors and keep our nonprofits strong.

As Bob Dylan wrote way back in 1963, before many of us were born, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and he was right.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Your Best is Good Enough


Your Best is Good Enough

For some of us, maintaining solid self-care habits – much less mastering the art of work-life balance – was a challenge before March 2020, right? There was always more work than time in the day and our phones and laptops made it all too easy to dive back in after returning home.

When shelter-at-home started several weeks ago, I assumed that I’d be able to increase my productivity – both professionally and personally – by leveraging (at the very least) my lack of commute time. All too soon however, the endless Zoom meetings and conference calls seemed to swallow up my days, leaving me with more follow-up emails and writing to do “after work” than before.

So now, not only was I not taking advantage of being at home the way I had envisioned, I was feeling less productive and more stressed. Then, one night, I read something that flipped the switch for me.

This was the start of a friend’s post…

“I’ve been seeing so many people seriously beating themselves up because they aren’t “maximizing” their time in quarantine by organizing their cupboards, repainting, developing a side hustle, becoming a piano virtuoso, exercising themselves into a lucrative career as a swimsuit model, etc. Everybody! Seriously. Stop. And breathe.” (HT, P. Duke)

So, I did. And it made a huge difference. It gave me the chance to pause, reframe my expectations and recalibrate.

I looked for some tips on how to take better control of my work habits and how to take better care of myself. (Two of the articles I found helpful are linked below.)

  • I cut myself some slack for maybe not knocking it out of the park every day.
  • I recommitted myself to eating healthy, getting enough rest, exercising and to scheduling in breaks to recharge between meetings or projects. (While I usually go for a short walk, one person I read about benefits from taking Nintendo Just Dance breaks!)
  • I also found that scheduling a start and end to my workday has offered me a greater sense of control.

I’m not pretending to be an expert here and realize that this is pretty much current conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, amidst so much change and uncertainty for all of us, I just wanted to share my own personal “discovery.”

If you’re feeling like you should be “doing more” or that your days seem to be spent on a never ceasing hamster wheel, I invite you to breathe, acknowledge that you’re doing your best and to know that your best is good enough. If there are steps you can take to make your surroundings or work habits more productive for you, great. If you’re not making time to take the best care of yourself (especially if you are also doing triple duty every day trying to juggle roles as a professional, parent and teacher), please do. IMHO, that’s the most important step of all.

If you’ve discovered a better way to WFH or if you have other strategies that you’ve found helpful, please let me know and we’ll share your ideas in a future post.

Take good care and take it easy on yourself. You’ve got this!

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

P.S. Here are the articles I mentioned:


How Can I Help?


How Can I Help?

Raise your hand if you’ve heard any of the following (or some variation thereof) from someone on your Board, your Finance or Development Committees or even on your staff:

“How can we ask people for money right now?”

“People are losing their jobs or getting furloughed… the last thing they are thinking about is donating to us.”

“The stock market has to calm down before we can talk to any of our major donors about their support / our campaign.”

These perceptions are all understandable and – at the same time, I would offer – all 100% misguided.

No doubt you’ve heard the very good advice that we should be connecting with our donors and volunteers right now to check in on them, to share the impact they are having and to make sure they know how much we value their partnership in our mission. This is absolutely the time to engage with our donors. It is also the right time to ask those in a position to provide financial support to do just that.

Why? Because we are all wired to want to help. Even in the midst of our own anxieties and challenges, we instinctively want to do whatever we can to help others.

I was on a call with a colleague a few weeks back and he started out asking after my wife’s hunger relief organization. “How are they holding up? Is there anything I can do?” As the conversation progressed, he expressed his concerns about being able to fundraise right now.

Again, I totally get where he was coming from, why he was feeling that way. Nevertheless, in response I said, “We’re going to keep asking people to support our missions because (a) we know they care about this work and (b) just like you expressed at the start of our call, they want to know what they can do to help.”

Remember, we know that focusing on the donor’s needs is always the path to success in fundraising. When we understand what it is that matters most to them and how, in partnership with our organization, they can solve the problems they care about solving, that’s when donors are most likely to inspire us with their generosity. And right now, what is true for almost everyone who is able to donate… they want to help.

A few more examples to illustrate why I believe we should be asking, unapologetically, for support:

The chief development officer at an organization we work with sent a simple thank you/thinking of you note to one of their donors. A week later the donor, who had already given their usual annual amount, sent them a four-figure donation that was two times the amount of any previous contribution.  Their note said, “Thank you for thinking of me and I just want to do what I can to help you in your work.”

A longtime and very dedicated volunteer reached out to my wife’s hunger relief organization to let them know, because of her age, she couldn’t come in to pack bags. Three days later a five-figure check arrived with a note saying, “I’m so sorry I can’t be there with you right now, but I want to help and this I can do.”

Finally, we had a solicitation with a donor for a capital campaign this past week. The meeting had been set up over two months ago and, to our surprise, the donor wanted to meet as planned (virtually of course). They made a generous commitment (actually beyond our ask amount) and, when they asked about timing and we told them if they needed/wanted additional time before making their initial pledge payment, the donor said, “Why would I wait? I have a donor advised fund and, as far as I’m concerned, this is why I do. If it would help, I’m happy to make this a one-time gift.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. We certainly must be sensitive in our outreach and avoid being tone deaf in our appeals. But, if our work and the impact of our mission mattered before, it still does, and we simply must ask for the support we need.

Too many of our partners and friends are wondering what they can do to help. In many cases, it’s just up to us to ask them to.

Thank you, as always, for the life-changing work you are doing day in and day out.

Breathe, hold strong and stay safe.

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

Participate in #GivingTuesdayNow!


Participate in #GivingTuesdayNow!

“Safety net” nonprofit organizations – and the people they serve – are undoubtedly suffering tremendously right now. Millions of people have found themselves without employment, and/or without access to food and shelter. And many of the organizations that serve them have been forced to cancel major fundraising events comprising significant portions of their budgets. Or, they’re nervous about asking donors to continue to give during these uncertain times.

We at HPS Chicago encourage our clients to stay connected with their donors during these unprecedented times, and even to continuing with gift solicitations.  We’ve been heartened by the number of people who want to help! On May 5, 2020, we all have an opportunity to come together in emergency response to the need caused by COVID-19: #GivingTuesdayNow.

Giving Tuesday, the groundbreaking global generosity movement founded in 2012 in New York City, is spearheading #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5 as a global day of giving and unity to mobilize human and monetary resources. Businesses, leaders, organizations and individuals from dozens of countries are participating – and your organization can, too. Here are a just a couple of suggested ways you can become involved:

  1. Raise funds for a COVID-19 Relief Fund. Has your organization already established a relief fund to help the people you serve? When we moved to shelter-in-place, my client established a relief fund to meet emergency nourishment needs of the people we serve. Members facing lost or decreased income, or families with kids home from school with no access to reduced-fee or free breakfasts and lunches, for example, can request help purchasing groceries.
  2. Mobilize volunteers to spend the day using skills to help others. Have members who can sew? Ask them to make face masks to donate. Enlist individuals who can safely deliver essential goods (groceries, hand sanitizer, prescription drugs) to people and organizations needing help. Encourage volunteers to write notes of encouragement to others, especially people living alone. Do you have people with other skills to offer, e.g. helping prepare tax returns, helping unemployed build resumes, search for jobs, develop interviewing skills? Connect them with the organizations who can use their help. In Chicagoland, org can help connect you.
  3. Share good news stories. Share stories of the good things happening in your community because of people coming together to help one another. Proudly showcase others’ generous acts on your social media channels and website. Generosity breeds generosity!

Visit GivingTuesdayNow Toolkit to access the many ways your organization can stand in unity with the world on Tuesday, May 5.

Remember, people want to use their individual power of generosity, as donors and as volunteers, to remain connected and help others heal. We’d love to hear your stories – share them in the comments section below!

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Come on Team – Let’s Build it!


Come on Team – Let’s Build it!

Last weekend, my family decided to take on an outdoor project.  After many days of rainy weather, I think we were all looking for a way to get outside and create something together. We built a firepit in our backyard and an area around it to sit and gather.  To create this area, in my opinion, was not for the weary.  My husband led the charge with the plans and the rest of us soldiered on as extra hands.  We hauled a LOT of rocks, 40 bags of slate, that in total, weighed more than a 1200 pounds.  It was a lot of heavy-lifting…sweat and muscle really went into the project.

Did we have some challenges? Yes. We needed rocks…WAY more rocks that we realized.  We needed to make-do with a tamper that was well-loved and not quite up to the task. We had a few spills of cement and a wheel-barrow full of rocks fall over before it reached its final destination. Yet, despite some of the roadblocks, when we were all done, we all felt so satisfied.  We built something beautiful, we stuck to the plan as best as we could, and we preserved until it was finished.  We raised a glass and patted each other on the back for a job well done and a team that worked well together.

So, you might wonder, what does this have to do with our work as development officers? Well, it’s about team work and how we set about to accomplish our current tasks and goals.  What is the role of the team at work – now in these new shelter in place times? Our Executive Director? Our Program Staff? The Board Chair? Our various committee members? How is each member of the team’s work now different than before?

During these shelter in place times, we have all had to be nimble and wear a variety of hats…even some new ones.  We aren’t collaborating and meeting face to face, but now rather operating through Zoom meetings, phone calls and emails.  Some of our priorities are shifting and changing as a result of a virus that is forcing us to do things differently, change gears quickly, be nimble and make adjustments, sometimes daily.

I suspect you are seeing more collaboration, more creativity, and overall, more help extended to get the job done to fulfill the mission of the work of the organization. I know this time isn’t easy, and there are days when the worry and stress level is high.  Big worries, like loss of revenue, or for some, will we be able to stay open to serve those that need us? Yet, even at those times, I notice more humor, more compassion and more understanding.  More creative planning and more conversations that we never anticipated.

What new things will we take with us when the world shifts back to the way we once knew it? So, for today, take time to reflect on your team working together in a different way – accomplishing things in a new way.  This is yet another silver living during these challenging times. For now, for today, I say…Applaud it. Celebrate it.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Creative ways to stay connected


Creative ways to stay connected

Like all of you, I am settling in to this “new normal” of working from home, eating at home, visiting with friends at home, and meeting with clients from home.   The good news for development officers in all of this is that we finally have time to do what we are meant to do – connect with our donors.  My conversations this week have centered around what that means for each of my clients.  For those whose work involves first responders or direct service providers, the current situation is compelling, urgent and relevant.  The COVID-19 pandemic certainly makes the “ask” for these organizations easier.  But what if your work doesn’t fall into one of these categories?  How can you stay connected with your donors, especially at a time when we are all being inundated with emails and requests from every possible source.

One of my clients, Canine Therapy Corps, has had to “paws” (pun intended) all of their programming for the time being.  Canine Therapy Corps provides animal-assisted therapy to individuals overcome physical and emotional trauma.  Much of their work is done in hospitals and other public settings; and while their work is a critical component for recovery, the COVID-19 situation has sidelined their work for now.  However, they have come up with some creative ways to stay connected to their constituents.  And I must admit, receiving their daily emails, which come from social media posts, is the highlight of my inbox.  Below you will find an example of how they are staying engaged (and making me smile):

Honoring Medical Professionals on Throwback Thursday

It’s throwback Thursday! Today we’re sharing a fond memory of Rocko at one of our Pet Pause Staff De-Stress Events at RUSH University Medical Center. Our hats go off to all of the medical professionals out there who are on the front lines of this crisis. We work with many doctors, nurses, therapists and clinicians in our programs and are so grateful for their lifesaving efforts during this time.

We wish we could be there to provide stress relief to these important staff members, but for now, we just want to express how grateful we are remotely to everyone fighting this illness, but particularly our program partners at Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Northwestern Medicine, RUSH University Medical Center, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, and Swedish Covenant Hospital. We look forward to reconnecting with you when this is all over!

We look forward to sharing more of our quarantined cuties over the coming weeks. Please reach out to us if we can help you in any way!

In a separate message to their community this week, they shared some fun – and potential revenue-generating – ideas with constituents.  I found it to be a clever way to stay engaged, provide constituents with some creative ideas for engaging with others and raising a some funds:

Canine Therapy Corps will continue to bring light-hearted content to your inbox and social media feeds, and we’d also like to do more and find a way to offer services during this difficult time.  Below are a few of our ideas, which may offer support, brighten a loved one’s day, or provide an enriching experience for your children, while also helping us raise some much-needed funds. We welcome your feedback and any other ideas you may have!​​​​​​​

  • Personalized photos or short video message from therapy dogs at home for you to send to someone you’re unable to be with or in celebration of a special occasion  (e.g., including a sign with a donor or loved one’s name on it)
  • Sending packets of therapy dog trading card sets for kids
  • A virtual therapy dog visit: one-on-one video chat sessions with a therapy dog and handler  
  • Lessons on working animals and therapy dogs for kids during home-schooling

So during this time of social distancing, look for your own ways to stay connected with donors.  And remember, it is always appropriate to send a handwritten note or place a phone call just to say “Hello” and “I have been thinking of you…”.  Stay safe and be well.

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

Staying Connected


Staying Connected

The last few weeks have been unlike any that any of us have ever experienced before in our lifetimes.  We find ourselves sheltered in place, some of us with families at home, others by themselves. Some of us with school-age children at home are trying to navigate how to home- school and how to manage the technology for e-learning.  I for one, have decided I would not make a good teacher.  My patience is short and my math skills are rusty.  And some days, all we want to do is just eat cookies and watch bad reality TV.  And, to be honest, some days, we do just that!

Our worry barometer is high as we hear the latest daily news reports on COVID19 and the economy, and for many of us, how we will continue to fulfill the missions of the not for profits that we work with in these unsteady times.

One of the primary things I have focused on across the past few weeks is connecting with our donors, volunteers and special friends that care about the not for profits for which I work.  It has been wonderful to check in on our supporters by phone and email.  It feels good to exchange conversations with them to see how they are doing, share my gratitude for all they do, and, offer a little bit about how the organizations are nimbly managing through this time and how they continue to best serve their clients.

Recently another Development Officer shared with me that, although these times are worrisome and tough, it feels good to be able to build and foster relationships with donors.  It feels right.  It feels like one of the best things to do right now. Outreach and connecting with our donors are always key, yet, as we all know too well, the other day-to-day development activities often distract us and take precious time away from stewarding our donors.

Today, I leave you with this important reminder and perhaps, if you will allow me, a silver-lining that reminds us to stay in touch with our donors during this time. Pick up the phone. Send some very personalized emails. Hand-write some notes.  On a final note, I leave you with my favorite poem written by poet laureate Mary Oliver.

Peace to you and yours!

I WORRIED           -by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago