Board Giving – And the two P’s – Policy and Plan for Action


Board Giving – And the two P’s – Policy and Plan for Action

Board giving is often a topic of conversation that we have with many of our not for profit clients. Many Boards spend considerable time defining their role in securing resources for the organization. Personal contribution is an essential part of that discussion. Each Board should determine its own personal giving policy and the target should be to reach 100 percent Board member participation.

Why should board members give? According to Board Source, here are some rationales:

  • Board members of most charitable organizations are expected to participate in fundraising. An appeal is particularly convincing if a Board member can use him or herself as an exemplary donor.
  • The Board is responsible for providing a sound financial basis for the organization. By personally contributing, a Board member recognizes this responsibility and demonstrates a commitment.
  • Nearly 90 percent of American households contribute to charities. A Board member should designate their own organization as one of the main recipients of their generosity.
  • Many foundations only contribute to organizations where every Board member is a contributor. And, savvy donors also may ask this question of the Board before they determine what they might give to an organization.

To make things especially clear and concise, a Board must have a personal giving or fundraising policy and ensure that it can be fulfilled. A policy helps avoid any misunderstandings and it should be shared with every new Board candidate as well so that they are familiar with what will be expected of them.

So now that we have established that a plan needs to be in place and that expectations should be clear, just how much should each Board member give? We often say that the amount a Board member should give should not be an equal amount but rather an equal sacrifice. Not everyone on a Board sits at the same financial place. Therefore, most policies determine a range and suggest a minimum amount and encourage each member to give generously given their own financial stature.

So, now that we have a plan, how do we ensure Board giving? One of the best ways to do this is to have a personal roadmap for each Board member. With our clients, we often develop a Board member score card or individualized plan which highlights their activity and commitments from the prior fiscal year and helps map out their plans for giving and engagement in the upcoming year. About mid-way through the year, a touch point with each Board member is important to share progress that has been made or areas in which they have continued work. When the fiscal year is nearing its close, it’s also important again for the Board Chair to reach out if a Board member has not fulfilled their promise. With a clear policy on Board giving and individual plans for each Board member, you will set your organization up for success to reach that 100 percent participation goal!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

Coming up for air

sunrise in the sea

Summer is here.  The days are long, the weather is finally hot.  Businesses are beginning to cautiously reopen.  It feels as though we are emerging from a long period of hibernation.  Given that we have been relegated to one location and limited in our personal interactions, it may seem as though we have been on an extended break.  My guess, however, is that this period of time has felt nothing like a “break”.  It has been filled with uncertainty, anxiety, worry, stress.  We have been required to reinvent the way in which we meet, communicate, connect.  We have had to reimagine events.  Carefully consider our words.

Summer is a time when things slow down a bit, we catch our breath.  Families take vacation.  What plans do you have in the coming months?  It may seem fruitless to plan a vacation this year, but I encourage you to reconsider and reimagine this idea.  Vacation comes from the Latin word vacātiō, which means “exemption from service, respite from work”.  Consider that definition.

Exemption from service.  Respite from work.

Although a European vacation would be wonderful, there are other ways in which we can take a holiday.  One of my clients rented an RV and is driving with her husband and two small children to Florida.  Another is planning to visit several local state parks.  Perhaps it means staying home and reading novels or spending time planting a vegetable garden.   Or volunteering (which I realize sounds like work, but for many, it feeds the soul).

So, while you may be thinking, “ why bother to take time off?”, do what you have had to do every day these past few months: recreate.  Walk away from your computer, your phone, your daily responsibilities.  Think about simple ways to find joy.  Reconnect with your family.  Recharge your spirit.

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

The Power of ONE


The Power of ONE

The race crisis recently came to my neighborhood. At the tender age of 13, my daughter, deluged with images and videos of the injustice to George Floyd, asked to attend the Black Lives Matter march in our small suburban community.

As the markers squawked across the lime green poster board I purchased, my older son discouraged us from going. “Don’t you worry about Covid? Stay home. Why do you want to go? One person won’t make a difference you know.” He went on and on.

But as we know, ONE person has made a difference in history. Plenty of times. Consider Gandhi, Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Lincoln, Mandela.

Many development offices are sparsely staffed and some of us are on teams of ONE working from kitchen tables. No, your name will never find its way into a history book. Your insightful thoughts will not be printed on a poster. But still – YOU make a difference.

Every day, YOU are nurturing relationships with donors and securing gifts that will save lives and change lives. The missions YOU help reduce stress, enrich lives, bring nourishment, understanding and hope to the many people who rely on your nonprofit. This is the power of ONE person doing the right thing – day after day.

The news this week will no doubt include ugly realities reflecting these difficult times. But remember the words of Edmund Burke who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Then, go out and do SOMETHING. Do what you know. Do what you can to contribute to a better, more just and loving world. Be a good Development Officer.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

The Benefit of Uncertainty


The Benefit of Uncertainty

Undoubtedly, these are uncertain and scary times.

While everyone is dealing with and adapting to new realities, those of us involved with non-profits are wired to see the positives.  We do that on a daily basis.  Whether bringing food to the hungry, sheltering the homeless, mentoring those that are hungry for direction, offering art and music to the underserved, jobs to the disenfranchised or education to the those thirsting for a brighter future, YOU all bring HOPE to those experiencing despair and CLARITY to those that strive to better themselves.

That’s what YOU do.

Pre-Covid, many of us were reliant on events to raise money.  Hours upon hours were spent on gala’s, golf outings and creative ways to build community, foster cultivation of constituents and ultimately, raise money to advance your mission.

Now, in the absence of in-person events, we are forced to focus on the last point, advancing the mission of your non-profit, simply for advancement sake.

Ask yourselves……

Do golf sponsors really need to golf to feel good about bringing hope and clarity to your clients?

Do award dinner sponsors really sign up only to see their names on a big screen while guests eat their dinner and enjoy time visiting with each other?

Of course not,

But we have become so reliant on events, that we have forgotten what donors want most, to make a difference in someone’s life.  This might actually be a silver lining of sorts. This might be an opportunity to recalibrate and get to the heart of why we conduct events – simply to advance the mission of the organization through philanthropy.

As you scramble to reschedule your outing, event, or award dinner, take a breath and use this opportunity to creatively cultivate philanthropic investments that bring impact to those you serve.  After all, that’s why individuals are drawn to you.  They believe in you and your organization’s ability to transform lives and make this a better world.

Be less reliant on the event planning that brings people to you and more strategic on WHAT IMPACT is experienced when they invest in your organization.

by: Michael Bruni, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

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:

  • 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