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

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

Keep Calm and Stay Connected


Keep Calm and Stay Connected

As I am sure is true for everyone, I never imagined experiencing circumstances like these in my life. And in the 8+ years we’ve been hosting this blog, I never anticipated having to write during a crisis such as this.

I don’t presume to have any game-changing answers to share and I am clear that I don’t even know all of the questions at this point*. What I do know is that, while so much of our lives and our work are in flux, there are two things all of us can focus on right now — keep calm and stay connected.

Keep Calm

We have an opportunity – and more than likely a responsibility – to offer our staff, Board members, donors and volunteers a sense of calm. That is what everyone needs exposure to right now and, as leaders in our organizations, we are called to set the tone.

Are we supposed to have all of the answers right now? No (see above*).

Does anyone expect that we have a fool-proof plan already in place for how we are going to get through the next 4 weeks, 4 months, 4 quarters? No, of course not.

However, while doing everything possible to stay focused on advancing your mission (adjusting and pivoting as needed), you need to provide some assurance that there is a path forward. The uncertainty is real, the need for panic is not. Now is the time to share that, together, you will all figure out how to keep delivering the life-changing service that is your core mission.

What we ARE all doing is:

  • Working to answer the questions we can at this point
  • Putting together contingency plans for staffing, program delivery, fundraising, etc., based on the information and resources available to us
  • Sharing updates and information with our organization’s “family”

Stay Connected

The last bullet above hits on the second call to action. Clear and consistent communication is always important, but right now it is paramount. Everyone wants to know what is happening and what they can do.

  • Our staff and team members need clear expectations about what they can and should be doing right now and a channel to offer feedback and to share concerns
  • Our Board members, donors and volunteers need to know that we are working hard to anticipate, navigate and activate our plans for mission continuity, what that looks like today (and again what it looks like next week/month/etc.) and, yes, they need to know what they can do to help.
  • While email communications are great for larger audiences, don’t forgo opportunities to make more personal connections. Calls and, whenever possible, Zoom/Skype/Facetime meetings are a meaningful and important way for us to engage our Board members and key donors/volunteers. These are the people who will be instrumental in getting us through and beyond today’s circumstances and we owe it to them to make every effort to connect as authentically and personally as possible.

There is no question that our supporters are dealing with all of this on a personal and professional level too and, of course, we need to be sensitive to that. Nevertheless, we are talking about the people who are the backbone of your organization and they care about what is happening and they want to know what they can do to help.

Thank you, now more than ever, for the life-changing work you do every day. Please take care, stay safe and keep calm. Together we will get through this. Witnessing the amazing work you do — day in and day out — of that I am certain.

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

Unprecedented Times


Unprecedented Times

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has created unprecedented times for all organizations including, and some would say especially, Non-Profits.

The stock market is chaotic and unpredictable, all of our missions, business’ and personal realities are being impacted and there is a palpable sense of fear and concern, primarily for the unknown.

What we do know, is that philanthropy and the impact of your specific organization MUST go on.

Continue to communicate with your constituents. Often.

Be painfully transparent with your donors, not only how this crisis is impacting your organization but what you and your leadership team are doing to continue services for your clients and their families.

Continue to show the IMPACT of your organization and tie it to the IMPACT your donors have on your organization.

While there is fear, there is an opportunity, through philanthropy, to highlight the need for community. Highlight how your donors play an integral role in building community and how their partnership with you directly impacts the lives of the people you serve.

Lastly, if you had a solicitation planned or scheduled, move forward. Continue to tie such requests to a specific need and show specific impact. Yes, the market is down and we’re all feeling the anxiety that comes with unprecedented times, but know the human spirit that wants to help others remains alive and well.

by: Michael Bruni, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

Connecting Donors to Your Mission


Connecting Donors to Your Mission

A client I’ve been working with recently has an impactful mission. They educate impoverished students and consequently lift them, and their families, out of poverty.  While this work is truly life changing it also has a unique challenge because their mission happens overseas in India.  This is an obstacle for the organization to communicate the impact of its mission to its donors.

Some of their major donors have traveled to India to see this nonprofit first hand. But of course, most have not. So, our team needs to bring the mission to the donors on a regular basis and demonstrate impact.

This year also marks the 15th anniversary of this mission. To celebrate and share their gratitude, the students have each created one of a kind cards for each of the organization’s top donors. Also, one of the graduates from the program has offered a letter of gratitude that describes his personal story and details of his journey through education and subsequent employment in the I.T. field. This alumnus will personally sign each donor letter before it’s mailed with the card from a current student. We hope this will be a memorable keepsake that will leave a lasting impression on our most valued donors.

I offer this simply to share a good idea with you. There are many voices for our organization — our CEO’s and presidents, us as development officers, Board members, etc. But at the end of the day, the ones that have the most lasting impression are the individuals who are benefiting from our mission directly.

As your nonprofit strives to make itself stand out this year, consider giving the individuals you serve, an opportunity to share their gratitude directly with your donors.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

One Size Fits All?


One Size Fits All?

Remember in 8th grade and your parents made you write all those thank you notes after your Graduation party?  That fell in the category of what’s a “best practice” following somebody doing something nice for you.  But what about that special uncle or aunt that meant a great deal to you.  Did he get the same note that you wrote to all the friends, neighbors and family members that attended the party?

Why do we do the same for donors to our annual fund?  As a Development Officer, you probably write a draft of a letter, give it to your Data Base manager, they enter it and let the thank you letters fly.

Have you ever considered having a different acknowledgment letter based on dollar amount?  Have you ever thought that different tiered letters should be sent to different donors?

There is so much creativity that can be put into the acknowledgment process that challenges the concept that “one size fits all.”  It doesn’t and for those donors that mean more to you (and the organization) their gift should be acknowledged differently.

Today’s donor wants to know about their IMPACT on the organization.  Be clear about that impact.  Be creative about communicating that IMPACT and most importantly, be PERSONAL about that IMPACT.

When done creatively, the donor will make a greater IMPACT over time.

by: Michael Bruni, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

Speaking Up


Speaking Up

Last week’s post focused on how important it is to Be Unapologetic when asking for support for your mission. A few days ago, I was at a Board meeting for one of the organizations we partner with and I witnessed a Board member unapologetically making the case for everyone on the Board to take an active role in fundraising. She was thoughtful in her call-to-action, but there was also no question she was challenging everyone in the room to stop avoiding this important role and to start embracing their personal responsibility to the mission.

In addition to wanting to applaud her for delivering this crucial message to her Board colleagues, I also wanted to thank her for simply speaking up. While it may seem an easy thing to do, given the collegial nature and dynamics of many non-profit Boards, all too often things are left unsaid. I know I have found myself wanting to make a particular comment during a Board meeting and weighing in my mind whether or not my fellow Board members might be put off, or worse yet, downright offended by my challenge to them.

There is no question that it is hard to call your peers out or to speak about the proverbial elephant in the room. It is hard… but if we are truly committed to serving the organization and believe that a comment/observation/challenge is worthy, then we have an individual responsibility to speak up.

As was true in the case of the Board member, the key is to ensure that your comments are based in fact and not emotional bias. The case she made for increased fundraising activity and greater accountability among all members was factual and accurate. This wasn’t “personal,” she was simply speaking the truth.

The same can be said for when you have a legitimate issue or problem with a fellow staff member. The best, and I might suggest only way to change course and fix whatever needs fixing, is to start by saying something to the person or people involved.  Again, as long as you have a fact-based case to make or concern to share, then you should proceed knowing that speaking up is precisely what is required.

If you have had similar experiences or other Board encounters that you think our community could benefit from hearing about, please share.

And, as always, thank you for all you do each day to help make the world a better place.

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Listen = Silent


Listen = Silent

While I love this anagram and it is certainly a good reminder for us all when we’re meeting with donors–to use the one mouth and two ears we have in proportion, a recent experience offered me some added perspective.

I frequently ride my bike, both for exercise and for the occasional dose of clarity I gain while out on the forest preserve trail here in Chicago. The other morning, on my way back and a number of miles out, it started to rain… A LOT! So much so, that after about 10 minutes the trail was almost deserted. After I let go of the fact that I was drenched beyond imagining, something interesting happened.

My disappointment quickly faded when I realized just how beautiful and rejuvenating the forest trail was as I traveled along–just me and the trees in the soaking rain. As I continued on my way, I became acutely aware of the water bouncing off of the leaves, the sound of the spray from the pavement under my tires and the almost tangible peacefulness of the forest. My senses were heightened and, as I continued on towards home, I felt completely connected to my surroundings.

Later that day (after drying out for the most part) I was working on the agenda for an upcoming donor solicitation and started thinking about my morning encounter with the rain. While the storm didn’t literally stop me in my tracks, it did offer me an opportunity to not just “listen” but, more importantly, to really “hear.”

My mind wasn’t spinning with thoughts of other things and I wasn’t focusing on what comes next. I was simply and absolutely present in the moment.

And that’s when I made a connection to something I am well aware of but, in complete transparency, not always a good practitioner of. If you really want to connect with another person… when you’re in a conversation together you have to do more than just listen to what they’re saying, you have to commit your focus to truly hearing them. You have to turn off your inner monologue so that you have the space to digest and embrace the words, ideas and/or feelings that they are sharing with you.

When you are able to do that (with a donor, your partner/child/friend/colleague) that is where real connection and understanding comes from. When we give ourselves permission to stop thinking or worrying about our response, or what it is we should say next, that’s when we gain clarity and it is absolutely key to building an authentic relationship.

By paying the kind of attention required to really hear the person we are engaging with, we not only offer them the level of respect they are due, it is also the only way we will come to know them in a way that offers us the chance to understand how we might most effectively help them realize their philanthropic goals.

So yes, you should absolutely plan for your donor meetings and map out an agenda for what you hope to cover together, but when you are engaged in conversation together, do yourself a favor and go beyond listening to the point where you are really hearing what they are saying. In the end, I promise you that – not only will you come to know your donors more completely – you will also be better positioned to create the kind of partnership that we all want with our donors and that they want with our organizations.

Thank you, as always, for your commitment to to making a difference in our communities and our world.

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Do you have a well-defined digital marketing strategy?


Do you have a well-defined digital marketing strategy?

Is your nonprofit leveraging the internet and social media outlets to build its brand and engage its constituents? Like many nonprofits, my client was doing an okay job with its website and social media. The website had grown over the years and had a wealth of vital information, but was disorganized and difficult to navigate. Likewise, my client used social media channels — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, albeit sporadically and without an integrated strategy to engage its audiences.

My client’s marketing and communications coordinator was overburdened with day-to-day responsibilities: producing a 15-20 page publication each week, creating a weekly newsletter, responding to requests from staff across programs. So, we turned to a digital marketing firm for help. We learned that by engaging them to perform an audit of our website and social media channels, we could build an easily executable strategy.

We started with the website. After all, that’s often an organization’s first impression and thus must best represent the brand, be easy to navigate, be responsive on any device, and function well on a daily basis. We began by answering some very simple questions: what do we like about our current website? What don’t we like? What overall message are we trying to communicate? What look appeals to us? What’s our preferred color scheme?  Will we keep our current content? With those questions answered, the web designers were off and running.

Concurrently, the marketing firm performed a social media audit and offered a clearly defined strategy designed to push our messages, events, accomplishments, and key differentiators to increase engagement of our current audiences and build a bigger following. Through the audit, we learned who the key audience for each of our three channels is as well as the types of posts they engage with most frequently. We also received advice for additional content.

Now, we understand what our constituents want both in terms of content and frequency, and have built a quarterly calendar, with the goal of posting 3-5 times per week on each channel. We’re in the midst of building our new website and are looking forward to its October launch. Most importantly, we’re confident that our integrated strategy across all digital channels — website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — will advance our brand and engage our constituents in meaningful and consistent ways.

Whether you have the staff capacity to evaluate, develop and implement your digital strategy yourselves or need to engage and outside firm, don’t delay. Seize the opportunity to share your organization’s vibrancy and vitality with the audiences you’re trying to reach!

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions