How are you spending your summer?

Blog photo 7.16.18

Summertime brings a period of more relaxed schedules and an opportunity to take a breath in our hectic fundraising worlds right? Thank goodness!

For many of us, tight deadlines are finally loosened like neckties and “to do” lists become more manageable.

So how are you spending your summer?

I spent time with a few key donors this month since their schedules are also more relaxed now. I want to share what I learned.

1) First, I met with a Board member whose son receives services from the nonprofit I represent. We had a great, fun visit. We discovered we both enjoy iced coffee. Yum! I thanked him for his past giving while providing him a personal update on the organization. What I found out:  He had an important question about services for his son and hadn’t asked until now. He also admitted he didn’t understand many of the acronyms that staff often reference in Board meetings. He and his wife are excited about closing on a beautiful summer home property in early Fall. How I followed up: I connected him with the right person to answer the question about additional services for his son. Then created a cheat sheet of those acronyms he mentioned. I gave him a copy and will including it in future on-boarding materials for Board members. I also will follow up on that beautiful summer home, when the time is right. I will encourage him to donate it as a future auction item. It could easily garner $5,000 which will help provide services for more deserving individuals like his son.

2) Next, I met with a past Board member and enjoyed salads overlooking the Chicago River. Ahhhhh. Yes, there is nothing like Chicago in the summertime! I thanked her for her past giving, provided an update on our services. Then asked for another gift for a specific project we are working on.   What I found out: She has a beautiful condo overlooking Millennium Park, and works from home. But she finds that it can be isolating. She is looking for ways to connect with others. She enjoyed her time on our Board and is still willing to help. She offered to host events at her home or at her club in the city. How I will follow up: Well, she made the gift I asked online. So of course I called to thank her. Yeah!! I also am brainstorming with other staff about how to leverage her offer to host a gathering. Maybe we will plan a small fundraiser this Fall for a select group of donors.

So, make a call, go have lunch or iced coffee with some of your favorite donors! They will likely take the time to meet with you — and it will create a deeper connection to your organization, and likely spark new ideas too.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Wait for it…


My colleague David and I received an email from a former client last week.  The email contained the kind of news we all dream about…our former client reached out to let us know they received a very significant gift from a family.  Needless to say, they were thrilled – as were we!  I have thought about this client – and this wonderful gift – often over the past several days.  It provided me with the opportunity to reflect on  “good development”.  Like the title of this blog posting, we often (if not always) have to wait for the right time to make a significant ask.  Here are a steps you can take to ensure that, when the time comes, both you and the donor will be ready to have this significant conversation.

Invest in your donors

As we often say, if you want your donors to invest in your organization, you need to invest in them!  For your more significant donors, be sure that more than one person is in contact.  This may be the Executive Director, another staff member or a Board member.

Cultivate your donors

Be sure that you have opportunities to connect with your donors which do not include making an ask.  If a donor made a contribution just before your annual appeal is mailed, consider pulling out the return envelope and simply writing a note of thanks on the letter instead.  This will keep your donor appraised of what is happening at your organization, but acknowledges that you are paying attention to the details.  Consider making thank you calls to donors of all levels – perhaps enlist a volunteer to call first-time donors or monthly donors.  It’s never too soon to begin cultivating donors – and it’s always nice to be thanked!

Listen to your donors

When you do have an opportunity to visit with a donor, ask questions.  Listen and understand why they support your organization and what programs are important to them.  Remember to document what you learn!  It is also a nice touch if you recognize donor milestones – birthdays, etc., if you have that information documented.

Be patient with your donors

It may take months or years – if not decades – to realize a transformative gift.  Be patient and continue to treat your donors the way you would want to be treated.  You never know when you might be surprised with a gift or a bequest.

“Good development” is like the game of Bridge…it is easy to understand the basic principles, but it often takes a lifetime to master the skills.  By making “good development” a priority, both your organization and your donors will reap the benefits.

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

Capital Campaigns…Their Impact on the Annual Fund


As a not for profit organization embarks on a capital campaign, one question often arises….how will this campaign impact the annual fund?  Oftentimes, the Board and Staff leaders have grave concern that a capital campaign will negatively impact the annual fund – which is often the bread and butter of an organization’s fundraising revenue.  I have some reassuring news…and research conducted by various organizations support this fact.  The good news is that, more than not, the annual fund actually increases during the time of a capital campaign!

Why is this?  Well, for one, a savvy development team is well prepared when they ask donors to support a capital campaign.  Often, donors have the option to spread their gifts out across a period of time because gift requests for special campaigns tend to be larger than an annual fund gift.  When the development team asks for a gift to the campaign, it is vitally important to ask for a gift above and beyond the annual support.  A conversation may go like this…

Sally and Tom, your annual fund gift is so critical to our day to day operations.  Today, we are asking for a special gift to support a capital campaign that will have significant impact on our clients.  But, we ask that you consider a gift of $10,000, above and beyond your annual support.  This is a one-time, special gift that will help our organization serve more clients and expand the scope of our services.  As you know, we rely on your continued annual support.  But an additional gift to help us with this capital effort is so critical.  Would you consider a gift of $10,000 for the capital campaign – beyond your generous annual support of $1,500? 

In addition to asking a donor for a gift above and beyond current annual fund giving, a capital campaign often ignites passion for the organization’s mission.  It also helps increase an organization’s visibility, allows you to cultivate and steward existing donors in a way you haven’t before, and attracts new donors to your cause. All of these factors combined contribute to greater success with your annual fund – both during and after your capital campaign.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

A hack to humanize your comms

biometric screening eye

This week we are featuring another “guest post” brought to you from the good people at See3 Media.

Who is See3? According to their site, They are “a digital agency 100% committed to empowering courageous do-gooders to achieve their mission as effectively and efficiently as possible in our rapidly evolving communications landscape.”

In my experience, they are, quite simply, the real deal. They get the social impact sector, understand human nature and are beyond adept at helping organizations tell their story in ways that inspire and motivate donors. So I hope you enjoy Miriam’s post, and that (regardless of if you have 10K or 500 folks on your email list) her advice resonates with you as it did me.

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

A hack to humanize your comms

by: Miriam Brosseau

Look, I totally get it. You’ve got, what, 10,000 emails on your mailing list? A few thousand Facebook fans or Twitter followers? And it’s such a mix – volunteers, donors, folks who signed up at an event, board members, staff… You have to talk to all of them, right? It’s a “broad audience.” So broader language is the way to go.

As someone who’s worked in the nonprofit world (as almost everyone at See3 has), I understand the impetus and empathize with the reasoning.

And it’s totally counter-intuitive, but that reasoning is…flawed.

Think of it this way. Have you ever had any public speaking training? When you’re presenting in front of a large auditorium, what advice would a public speaking coach give you?

Pick 3 people in the crowd. Talk to them. Move from one, to the other, to the other, and back again.

That’s how everyone feels engaged. Not by constantly scanning the entire crowd. Because by trying to reach everyone, you reach no one.

So next time you have an email to write, make “digital eye contact.” Pick one real person from your list and put their name and a little bit about them at the top of your content calendar. Picture them. Use your imagination and make eye contact. Read – out loud – the thing you’re writing.

Then ask yourself: are they listening?

Because if they are, you’ve captured the whole auditorium.

Yours in do-goodery,

Miriam and the See3 team


Learned Anything New Lately?


As the midpoint in the calendar year approaches, it’s a good time to think about what you’ve learned in 2018.  The fundraising field is always changing, and you will want to be sure that you and your team of development professionals are keeping up with those changes through new learning experiences.

The opportunities for continuing professional education are many.  The ambitious will enroll in a graduate program or get started on a degree with an academic course.  But there are many other ways to learn.  If you have not already done so, join a professional organization, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), which has both a national organization and a local Chicago chapter.  Attend a professional development seminar offered by many different providers.  Participate in a webinar offered by your software provider or an allied organization.  Or simply catch up on your reading, choosing from among the many journals and publications that reflect best current practices in fundraising.

The benefits of continuing learning are many.  Of course you will get some new ideas that you still have time to implement in 2018.  It is likely that you will form some new relationships, which will broaden your network of people you can call on to encourage your continuing development in the profession.  You will identify new resources to help you get the job done.  Perhaps most importantly, you will find renewed energy and spirit to accomplish your goals this year and beyond.

As fundraisers, most of us are good at caring for the well being of our non-profit organization.  We work tirelessly toward their growth, development, and effectiveness.  But many of us neglect to attend to our own professional growth, development and effectiveness.  When doing so, it is not good for us, nor is it in the end good for our organization.  Use this midpoint of the calendar year to renew your commitment to the continuing learning of you and your development staff.

By Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Who’s driving the bus?


When I was in the second grade my family moved to a new home on the outskirts of town. This change resulted in me being the farthest from my school. Consequently, I was the first to be picked up and the last to be dropped off from the school bus.

Naturally, given this new reality, I learned, like the back of my hand, our bus route, every stop.  Whenever there was a substitute bus driver, I had to sit behind him or her and guide them through the route, sharing every shortcut and advising who would be late to their stop and how to avoid pitfalls that came with going on the “main” roads.

What relevance does this have to non-profits or better yet, board governance?

The reality was that as a “director”, I was serving the main driver and everyone on that particular bus.  I wasn’t driving the bus, but rather guiding the person who was ultimately responsible.

The driver.

While I may have “directed” the driver, they were the ones who were ultimately responsible to get the bus to the correct destination, on time and safely!  I was there to advise and direct, not tell the bus driver “how” to drive but help in the execution.

Board members have a responsibility to do just that!

They are NOT to take over the wheel but direct. They are NOT to sit in the back of the bus and yell where to go but to engage and assist, sharing the pitfalls of the journey ahead.

Too often, Board members don’t know this role and want to take the steering wheel. Like the story suggests, however, it is not their wheel to assume responsibility for, that is the job of the driver in your organization–for example, the CEO or Executive Director.

Board members often want to get involved in the day to day and operational matters of the organization.

That is NOT the role of the Board member.

Board members are there to ensure vision and strategy and provide support, philanthropically and otherwise to the CEO/ED.

So, as a Board member, embrace the role of Director, which literally means to direct.

As a CEO/ED, make sure the right people are sitting behind or next to you, firmly place your hands on the wheel and drive with confidence and knowledge that it is up to you to advance the mission of your organization and all that are involved.

by: Michael Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Securing Event Sponsors….. for the Future


With the spring gala season behind us (WHEW!) I am offering a suggestion as to how to follow up with sponsors so they come back for years to come.

As long as I can remember, I have provided a Sponsorship Report as a follow up document for each sponsor. Do you do this? If not, I think you should.

Many sponsors these days are utilizing marketing and advertising dollars for their sponsorship contributions. So a good return on their investments helps ensure they come back in the future.

Typically the payment for the sponsorship has already been received, so this mailing takes place after the event and gives me an opportunity to thank the donor (again!) It lets them know how much was raised for the mission, and how their name and logo were used in conjunction with the event. I am careful to personalize the message for those who attended vs.  those who could not. I let them know how many people attended, and include event highlights which may include key messages from the evening’s program.

But the most important thing I include are examples of how their brand was used in conjunction with the event. Some things I included in this year’s sponsor packets were:

  • Event invitation with their logo highlighted
  • Eblasts promoting the event with their logo highlighted
  • Screen shots of their logo on our nonprofit’s website
  • The evening’s program booklet with their logo highlighted
  • Power point slides from the evening’s program with their logo highlighted

You get the picture right?

I got a call from a sponsor this year telling me she’d NEVER received a package like this and it was wonderful. So, make next year’s fundraising efforts easier — and send this report.  Taking time to nurture and cultivate our existing donors may be your most important step.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

If you want people to invest in you…


The plan was to write about donor communication and the importance of engaging with people in the form and fashion they most like to be communicated with (email vs. snail mail, stories vs. data, etc.…). I’ve had a number of conversations with clients lately that centered on their communications strategies and how critical it is for us to go the extra mile with our donor outreach if we want our messages to resonate with them.

Then, while catching up on my own reading, I came across the following post from Seth Godin. I quickly surmised that the fates might be encouraging me to share his wise words instead. So, that’ what I’m doing.

At the end of the day, good development takes time and energy (that’s why they call it development, right?) and the truth of matter is, if we want people to invest in us, we have to invest in them.

So enjoy Seth’s ever-so-subtle message and let’s all commit to putting in the effort that successful donor engagement requires.

Mass personalization is a trap – by Seth Godin

Dear seth ,

Of course I could have sent you a personal letter. A direct 1:1 connection between you and me, thanking you for what you did, or letting you know about my new project, or asking for your attention.

Instead, I’m going to hire someone to hand write the envelope in marker, but of course, I’m too busy to do that myself.

And I’ll use the latest in digital handwriting fonts to make you think I actually wrote the note. But I’m not careful or caring enough to actually put good data into the mail merge, so it’ll only take you a second to realize that I faked it.

I know that I’m asking you to spend hours on the favor I’m asking, but no, I couldn’t be bothered to spend three minutes to ask you.

There’s an uncanny valley here, that uncomfortable feeling we get when we know we’re being played, when someone mass customizes and tries to steal the value of actual person-to-person connection.

It’s a trap because the more you do it, the more you need to do it. Once you start burning trust, the only way to keep up is to burn more trust… it’s a bit like throwing the walls of your house in the fireplace to stay warm.

Don’t waste your time and money on this. You’re wasting the most valuable thing you own–trust.

Humanity is too valuable to try to steal with a laser printer.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Created by Culture

Culture sign isolated on white

My blog post last month dealt with Loyola’s successful basketball season and the character and drive that accompanied the team’s magical run to an NCAA Final Four appearance. The team’s ‘no finish line’ mantra of approaching their objectives day by day, believing in team vs individual accomplishments, and striving to learn and improve daily are all qualities we need to keep top of mind as we navigate our busy days.

A key attribute of the Loyola team and their successful historic season resulted from culture.  The tagline ‘Created by Culture’ adorned t-shirts, posters, and a social media campaign.  The culture— protect the team, no entitlement, be early— was established from the beginning, discussed often, and addressed if there was a lapse or gap throughout the season. This contributed to an overall “we are all on the same page” belief.

An organization with a strong culture based on rich values is Southwest Airlines. Annually on Fortune’s Most Admired Company list, Southwest exudes a positive culture from the flight attendants to the gate agents to the corporate employees in the Dallas HDQ. With voluntary turnover at just 2%, a positive inclusive environment reaches every piece of their business. Southwest even has a Culture Department that serves as an oversight for this critical aspect of the company.

‘Service with heart’ is what sets Southwest apart from similar companies and this philosophy is crucial in the customer service business. The Southwest culture comprises of leadership that is inclusive of employees opinions on company matters.  This sustains the organization because employees feel engaged and valued. A positive inclusive culture matters, because when employees feel like stakeholders, they continue to reinforce the values of the organization.

As leaders, we realize the importance of sustaining the culture we seek, staying aware that a one-time stellar meeting, or inspirational memo, or memorable retreat is not enough.  We need to continually communicate the importance of our values, let our team members know they are appreciated and their opinions count, and always thank them for their contribution to our successes.

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

It’s a Wrap!


Most not-for-profits operate on a fiscal year that ends June 30. It’s around this time when the weather begins to turn (we Chicagoan’s never thought it was going to happen!), the morning light appears sooner and we have the urge to finally be outside and enjoy the sunny, warm days!

While we aren’t outside enjoying a walk, working in our gardens or catching a baseball game, we are inside our offices busy preparing and planning for our year ahead.

What things must be accomplished before we close our year? Perhaps a spring appeal to lapsed donors, a final spring event to orchestrate or a few more visits to get in with donors to secure or maybe surpass our financial goal.

As we creep closer to our year end, we start to fine-tune our “to do” list for the coming year.  We begin to really look at what is on the docket for next year.  I’d like to offer a suggestion…and that is…to take some time to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t.  Did you meet with as many donors as you had planned? What happened on some of those visits to guide you in preparing for visits for next year? How did your materials work? As you tweak your stewardship materials, what needs to be changed? What resonated with those you met with that you’d like to enhance and what didn’t hit the mark?

There may be big things that you didn’t get to because your plate is so full.  I know that one area that many feel we could spend more time on is our work with major gifts. We know that this is the most cost effective approach to fundraising as we engage and inspire donors to commit to our missions. And yet, we often get swept away into other areas of our work and time is taken away from this crucial work with individual donors.

So, I challenge you!  Take a hard look at the events you manage or oversee and really study the bottom line. Are they worth the time and energy of you and perhaps your staff? If the bottom line of the event isn’t fruitful, does the event have some other key objective that is fulfilled?

Do you have a robust grant program that takes a lot of your time?  Try and put pen to paper to determine the costs associated with your time and perhaps that of other staff leaders.  Is it more cost effective to outsource grants?  Hire a part time grant-writer?

These are just some areas to consider, and I encourage you to think boldly about what you can remove or adjust from your plan to become more strategic and focused on bringing in major gifts to support the mission of your organization.

I wish you a terrific, renewed and energized plan for your new fiscal year – and, finally, Happy Spring!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions