Relationships are where it’s at!


Relationships are where it’s at!

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to hear a guest lecturer who came to speak at my university’s journalism department. She described the intricate webbing of her career, starting first as a writer for a small Boston-based magazine and eventually working her way into a competitive and exciting foreign correspondence position. She had reported on civil uprisings in Egypt, gender inequities in India and natural disasters in Australia. Her career was astonishing, she was like a modern-day Jack Kerouac in a room full of naive college students, half of whom were probably checking Twitter on their laptops while she spoke.

But I was enthralled. I couldn’t believe the plethora of experiences she had accumulated over the years. When she opened the floor for questions, my hand shot up and I asked the question which she had undoubtedly heard a million times; what’s your secret to success?

I was half expecting her to say that she had graduated top of her class at Princeton or Yale, or maybe Anderson Cooper was her long-lost uncle and he hooked her up with the job. Regardless, I was sure that there must be a complex and sophisticated explanation for her myriad of accomplishments.

“I just kind of met people and made friends,” she explained nonchalantly.

At the time, I remember being frustrated with that answer. While I was glad that she didn’t pull out the overused and generic term “networking” in her response, I was still unsure of how she could so heavily attribute her prosperous career to something like relationship cultivation.

Having worked with HPS Chicago as their summer intern for the past month, I can now confidently say that I am beginning to understand just how important professional relationships are. In development, fostering positive and meaningful relationships with constituents is what drives success. Clients aren’t treated as an item on a to-do list; they’re treated as friends. Whether it’s starting off a Zoom call with a discussion of the latest season of Ozark or just catching up on how everyone is doing during such uncertain times, there is a consistent feeling of mutual care and respect.

As someone who is still in college, it can be easy to perceive the professional world as solely cut-throat and competitive, filled with Mark Cubans and Robert Herjavecs. What I’ve grown to learn, however, is that professionalism doesn’t have to be all about business 24/7. It’s okay to talk about life, the weather, the news. It’s okay to let your guard down and have a laugh with your coworkers and clients. In fact, it’s critical that you do.

Building meaningful relationships is at the core of development. Forging relationships that span years, industries and experiences is an integral part of helping companies and organizations to reach their full potential. In many ways, it seems like collaboration is the language of development.

It’s not always about prestigious pedigrees or jam-packed resumes, these will only get you so far. I’m learning that connectivity, open-mindedness and friendship are the real keys to success.

Cheesy, but true.

by: Ben Matejka, Summer Intern HPS Chicago


Summer Camp Learning


It’s mid-July and I’m pretty much camped out. Since school let out in early June, I’ve dropped my kids off at dance camp, tennis camp, soccer camp, swim camp and drama camp and we still have six weeks to go!

As a child, I “went away” for seven-weeks to ONE camp each summer in the heavily wooded, hilly terrain of Northern Ontario several hours north of Toronto. My time as a camper in a cabin with no electricity from kids all over the world obviously was a positive one as I repeated this summer trek “Up North” for the next nine summers transitioning from camper to Counselor in Training and eventually to a Counselor the last several summers.

My experience of camp was much different than the experience my kids are having at camp here in the City of Chicago, however the one constant is the focus each of the camps strives to convey. With each of the camps I’ve associated with this summer, there is a clear understanding of what the end goal is by the end of camp.  Each strives to show the campers a good time, but each has an obvious objective for the campers to learn specific skills and improve on based on the programs that each of the camps is offering.

In my colleague David Gee’s blog post, To Be Interested, which he shared back in April, he challenges us to remain focused on the understanding of donors. Not necessarily on persuading them right from the start early in the cultivation and relationship building process, but by putting your energies into being interested in them first.

The summer months are an opportune time to re-focus on understanding how we can learn from our everyday donor experiences. Are we learning from our donors on their giving habits? Are we gaining wisdom from our donors on how they are communicating with us both in the frequency as well as with the specific vehicle? Are we constantly evaluating the changing donor landscape and how they may be changing their expectations of us as fundraisers? We get our news differently in 2017 as we did in 2007 so how will we stay ahead of the changing dynamic in how people donate and what their expectations are of us in how we report, share results and show impact?

What have you learned from a recent donor interaction? What have you done to learn more about or from a lapsed donor?

The summer camp season is almost over, but learning from our donors will never end.

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

It’s Springtime… what are you hoping to grow?

Macro image of spring lilac violet flowers, abstract soft floral background

The tulips, trees, lilacs and just about everything else is in bloom here in the Chicago area. It is quite a welcome and energizing sight. And, while the natural blossoming of springtime is a spectacle worthy of enjoyment, depending on your circumstances–this is also the perfect time to seed and fertilize your lawn or to get after working the soil and planting your garden. In other words, now is a great time to get busy in preparation for summer and the eventual fall harvest.

In the world of non-profits… spring is also the time for gala season and, for many with a June 30th target, the final push to make our fiscal year-end a success. These are necessary and critical pursuits, for certain.

However, this is also the perfect time to look at our community of donors, volunteers and colleagues to determine who it might make sense for us to pay some extra attention to. Where can and should we be focusing some of our energies to help ensure our fundraising efforts will blossom in the months ahead?

  • Is there a current or former board member that you have been meaning to connect with, but the actual outreach seems perpetually stuck on your pile of good intentions?
  • Are there folks on your program staff that, despite your best laid plans, you never get around to talking to about what is new and exciting?
  • Are there a couple of donors that you feel – if you just had the time to get to know them better and discover a bit more about how their philanthropic priorities align with your mission – that they might be poised to make a significant investment?

If we fail to tend to our garden of opportunities we — and more importantly our organizations and the people we serve — will undoubtedly miss out on the potential bounty that comes with nurturing deeper connections and fostering increased engagement. So, by all means, keep on track with your near term goals. That is an absolute necessity. However, it is just as crucial that you don’t miss your chance to identify and cultivate relationships that could ensure a more impactful fundraising harvest between now and the end of 2017.

So, let’s all roll up our sleeves and get busy. And be sure to let us know how things work out for you at harvest time.

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

Are Cultivation Calls Becoming Extinct in an Age of Online Grant Making?


Today’s Guest Blog is by Just Write Solutions Associate, Jennifer Rathburn.

Recently, I have noticed a distinct change in response when making cultivation phone calls for clients. When calling various Foundations, I have found conversations going something like this:

Me: “Hello! My name is Jennifer Rathburn and I am calling on behalf of Organization ABC. We provide X service to the Y community and are reaching out to see if your Foundation is funding. We believe we are a good match for your past giving and want to be sure that our focus areas still align.”

 Foundation Rep: “You can find all of the information about our grants online at our website. Do you have our website address?”

Definitely not an open door for conversation…

On a positive note, the rise in technology has allowed Foundations to put the majority of the grant information on their website including: Foundation history, Foundation Board of Directors, areas of interest, application process, deadlines, reporting requirements, etc. This allows grant seekers the ability to research funding opportunities with ease and provides the grant makers a streamlined approach to getting information out to the public and accept proposals online.

However, has the rise in online grant making made us lose the need for cultivation calls for relationship-building? As I am making phone calls and receiving the above response from many, I question the need to continue reaching out to funders who seem disinterested in engaging by phone. It is in these times that I go back to the words of a very wise women (Heather Stombaugh, JWS Principal Consultant and Grants Guru) who said “We know people give to people. Building and managing relationships through cultivation and stewardship are every bit as critical to the grants process as they are to major giving.”

We need to continue to reach out and foster partnerships with funders. Not for the good of our bottom line but for the good of the people we serve. So, let’s work to embrace technology in the grant making process while keeping alive the “dinosaur” of a relationship-builder that is the first phone call.

How are you cultivating relationships with grant funders?