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


What Legacy are You Leaving?


One of the things we strive to do at HUB Philanthropic Solutions is to leave our clients stronger than they were when we arrived. Most fundraising consultants balance two or three clients at a time. So this is continually on my mind. I think about what am I contributing to the organization’s long-term success.  You know, things will be in place long after I move on to a different client with a different mission.

So let me offer these suggestions:

  1. Train the junior development officer – We all know nonprofit staffs are slim. But if there is anyone at your nonprofit who reports to you, train them thoughtfully and train them well. Inform them of what needs to be done — and why. Explain your strategies thoroughly. Bring them in on decisions you make and invite them to meetings. Let them stretch their wings and manage their own projects. When you have donor visit bring them along. Help them craft remarks for your next events. You are grooming them to take on more responsibility and it will make them a stronger in their support role and arm the organization with a stronger employee when it comes time for you to move on.
  1. Make Strategic Plan—Would any of us jump into the car for spring break without a plan and a plan of where we are headed? Probably not. A Strategic Plan is a road map to where your organization is going. Most strategic plans look three to five years into the future. If your nonprofit doesn’t have one, work with your Executive Director, senior leadership staff, and Board of Directors to create one. This document should outline the purpose of an organization. It should also include key strategic goals and how the organization plans to meet them. Key areas should include Programs and Development. The plan is very important. Investors and stakeholders will look at the plan to determine how likely it is to achieve success.  Plus it helps everyone to be on the same page. The structures will vary quite a bit and a quick internet search will provide several good templates to get started.
  1. Make a Development Plan – Once the strategic plan is in place, a Development Plan should then be created. The goals for the Development Plan should tie together with the Development Goals that are outlined in the Strategic Plan, but contain detailed strategies and tactics. These should be one step more detailed. At one client site, they were struggling with turnover in the Development Department, so I created the Development Plan as a sort of “how to” manual.  That way, whoever holds the position in the future will be able to carry on the activities with consistency.

Doing these simple things will bring clarity about how to spend your time to be the most effective in your role.  It will also leave your organization stronger for the future. That’s a legacy we can be proud of.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What are your SWOTs???


Early on in my career I received some good advice. My supervisor asked me to put together a Development Plan for the new fiscal year. Being new to the organization, I asked where the plan from the previous year was located.

Why? She asked.

Well, so I know where to start, I replied.

She told me she wanted to start with a SWOT analysis. At the next Development Committee meeting we took time to get feedback from our trusted volunteers. They shared what they thought were the organization’s Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We shared our own insights as staff.

From that conversation, the Development Plan was born. It wasn’t a “save as” document where fiscal years were updated but strategies remained the same.

Instead a variety of new topics emerged and rose to the top. Even  better, we involved our volunteers in the process. They shared openly and had buy in with the ideas.

This was a valuable lesson and one I hope you will implement.

Our team steered the activities of the organization over the next year in a creative way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We realized the need for new committee members, the need for a second appeal letter, and implemented a strategy to increase online giving.

So next time are planning for your organization take time to do a SWOT analysis first. It’s time well spent.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Does Your Organization Have a Development Plan?


For many of our clients, summer brings a bit slower pace…and with it, time to plan for the year ahead.  I am currently working with several clients on either updating or creating an annual Development Plan.  Do you have one for your organization?  If not, now would be as good a time as any to create one!  Here are a few things to consider.

Determine your fundraising goal for the year

This is often easier said than done!  Ideally, the Executive Director and Director of Development, in conjunction with Finance and the Board, should identify a realistic – yet stretch – fundraising goal for the year.  This goal should NOT be based on a “gap” in the budget.  Too often, when asked how the fundraising goal was identified, the answer I receive is, “Well, we determined the annual operating budget for the year, and there was a shortfall, so Development is responsible for “funding the gap”.  This almost always backfires and positions the Development office for failure.   This goal should be based on objectives and outcomes from the prior 1-3 years, along with an understanding of any specific needs in the year ahead.  A realistic stretch goal will challenge everyone to work a little harder – and smarter – to accomplish this objective.

Identify specific objectives and outcomes to ensure success

Events are an easy place to start.  Look at your revenue and expenses for each event from the prior 1-3 years.  Set a realistic target  – perhaps a 10% increase – to determine your fundraising goal for each event.  Next, identify ways in which you plan to attain those goals.  Are you doing enough to increase the number of sponsors for each event?  Is it time to raise the ticket price?  Are you giving away too many tickets?  Are there creative ways in which you can cut expenses?

The Annual Fund is another key component.  How many appeal letters are you sending annually?  Is it enough?  Are you sending too many?  What is the ROI on each appeal?  Once you have the facts, you can set your goal to increase your raise for the year.  Make sure you are considering all aspects of your appeals, which includes possibly segmenting and personalizing your letter.   Also, be sure you are telling a story about the work of your organization to make the letter more emotionally appealing.  Consider whether to incorporate Giving Tuesday into your annual fundraising process.  (Note, while there are a lot of great outcomes from Giving Tuesday, I do not feel it is the best use of time for every organization, so I recommend you do your homework and approach this thoughtfully and strategically.)

Consider other sources of revenue for your organization.  Do you have a Planned Giving Society?  Is your organization eligible for grants and/or corporate partnerships?  Set financial goals and specific objectives for each revenue stream.

And…I save the most important for last.  Your individual donors.  Have you defined your giving levels, including major donors (For example, those who give $1,000 or more annually)?  How are you cultivating donors at each level?  Once you have determined the baseline for each level, set a goal to increase the number of donors at each level and identify the objectives to ensure you meet these goals.  And here is the key:  Meeting this goal will require you to set aside time each week for donor cultivation.      

Be strategic

Look at all aspects of your Development operation to ensure that everything you do is supporting your fundraising goals.  Does your monthly newsletter highlight a donor?  Do you list your donors in the Annual Report?  Are you, your staff and/or your Board members calling donors to say Thank You?  Are you strategically publicizing your activities through press releases and other external communications?  How does the website highlight donors?

Creating a strong and realistic Development Plan takes time.  But by investing the time, creating the roadmap and ultimately working the plan, I am confident you can achieve your fundraising goals for the year.  Good luck!

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

What Gets Measured Gets Done


In an earlier post back in January titled, Time to Get Moving, I offered that failing to actively pursue our personal goals means they are destined to simply linger in our pile of good intentions. Goals, like strategic plans, are great… but they only matter if you act on them.

One of my recurring personal goals this year is to be consistently active each and every week and I rely heavily on my Fitbit to help me with that. In fact, I check in on my progress at least two times a day and review my stats (steps, active minutes, miles…) on a month over month basis. I get that this is pretty basic, but being ever mindful of the benchmarks I have established to achieve my goal helps me stay focused and to make adjustments when I get off track. In short, the Fitbit dashboard holds me accountable and the data provided even motivates me to push myself in a competitive manner from one week/month to the next.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

I depend on my Fitbit dashboard so much in fact that, as I was helping a client revise their development plan last year and we were discussing accountability, the inspiration for the Development Activity Tracking Assistant (DATA) was born.

Using the key actions that this particular development director was going to take to accomplish her individual fundraising goals, I put together a very simple and straightforward dashboard for her to follow. As you can see when you click on the DATA link above, there is nothing overly complex or complicated about it. It is a one page tool that tracks the key daily/weekly/monthly activities she is holding herself accountable for to reach her funding goals. And, while it should come as no surprise, it is worth noting that the majority of the actions involve donor interactions and engagement.

Once you’ve taken a look, I invite you to build your own tracking assistant dashboard.

You may want to use some of the same activities and, more than likely, you’ll come up with a few alternatives that more effectively align with your development plan. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to keep it simple and only list the key activities on your DATA that are most essential to your work.

I would be thrilled if you would share with me how it turns out. Does it help keep you on track and focused on doing the things that you know you need to succeed? If my client’s experience is any indication, I’m confident that it will help you do just that.

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

Are You Using Your Roadmap?



Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe 2017 is upon us…have you made any resolutions?  For me, resolutions tend to work in the opposite direction.  For example, if I decide I am going to cut back on eating sweets, it seems that sweets (chocolate in particular) is always on my mind.  If my resolution is to read the news for 15 minutes every morning, I find I am lucky to get to it by 10p.  So, I decided a few years back that my resolution is to not make any resolutions!  It has worked well for me thus far; however, there are a few things I do try and be diligent about, especially as a new year begins.  One of these things is to always have my phone handy, as it has one of my most favorite apps: Google maps.

For those of you who know me, you are probably well aware that I am directionally challenged.  The other day, my husband and I went to the mall.  The good news is that I know how to get to all of my favorite stores in the mall.  But as we began searching for a parking spot that very crowded day-after-Christmas, I suggested a parking location.  My husband very gently said, “I think I am going to park over in that section”, which was nowhere near my recommended spot.  As we were walking towards our destination store, I said, “Oh, this is so much closer!”  And he jokingly said, “Yes, when you made a suggestion, I thought…I am going to go in the complete OPPOSITE direction from what Susan suggested and we should be fine.”  And we were.  So, now you have a sense of the extent of my lack of direction.

Having the ability to google an address and get step-by-step directions is an amazing gift for people like me!  It is so much easier to get places on time, avoid traffic jams and have the ability to relax and truly enjoy the ride instead of wondering if you are actually headed in the right direction (I must admit, I have been on many trips during which I actually drove many, many miles in the wrong direction).  Given my job, I use Google maps on a daily basis and know I would be lost without it.

For the past few weeks, we have been working with one of our HPS clients on their 2017 development plan, which is their “roadmap” for the year.  We have had many conversations about what goals to include, how much to push the team in terms of fundraising and other development activities and our “destination” – what we hope to accomplish this year.  The best part about having this plan in place is that our client “knows where they are going”.  If ever they get to a point where they feel overwhelmed or lost, they can look at their development plan for guidance – and assurance that they are actually making progress each day.

When working in development, it is easy to get distracted, lose sight of what we are trying to do, and feel like the work will never get done.  And while it takes work to prepare for the journey by taking time out of an already overly full schedule, having a development plan in place will ultimately make this journey a little easier.  So, if you haven’t yet drafted your 2017 roadmap, it’s not too late…and I promise it will make the journey a lot more fun.


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

How to Become a Pre-Selected Organization in 3 Steps



by Heather Stombaugh, CFRE, GPC – HUB Philantropic Solutions, Grants Consultant

Spring is in the air, and as a gardener, I could not be more delighted. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty this weekend. But just as you wouldn’t just throw a tomato plant in the garden and expect it to grow with no supports, you can’t just throw a proposal at a foundation and expect a reward.

That advice goes double for organizations that contribute only to pre-selected funders, because “Seventy-two percent of the nation’s 96,000 foundations now do not accept unsolicited proposals from nonprofits.” (Pablo Eisenberg – Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 20, 2015)

  • Does that mean you can never get funding from these foundations? Absolutely not.
  • Does it mean it takes more time to secure funding as a pre-selected organization? Indeed.
  • Is it worth the extra time? Unequivocally, yes!

Here’s how. First and always: assess for strategic alignment. If it’s not a great fit, it will never be worth your (or their) time to proceed. If you are aligned strategically in terms of mission and priorities, then follow these three steps.

Step 1. Find someone on your leadership team or board who knows someone on the foundation’s board. Work those spheres of influence!

Step 2. Have your contact talk to the person he or she knows at the foundation. This can be by phone or in person, and the foundation should do most of the talking.


Step 3. Follow up on that conversation with an RFI, or request for information. The RFI can be as simple as a one-page letter (never more than two) highlighting your mission, why your organization is a fit for their philanthropy, why support is needed, and why your organization has the right solution(s). This letter should NOT include an ask; that will come in a future proposal, at the funder’s discretion and request.

And it works. We use this method all the time with success. Here’s a quick case study. We worked with a large FQHC who had depended on state and federal funding for years. They were losing money in that arena and wanted to look for private funding. As part of our strategy, we identified a local funder who was strategically aligned but didn’t contribute to (or even review) unsolicited proposals. So, we found a connection, started a conversation, and sent an RFI. About 14 months later–after completing a full proposal at their request–the organization secured an entry-level grant of $20,000 from the funder. They also secured a new relationship and got on that ephemeral pre-selected list. The system works!

What tips do you have for becoming a pre-selected organization?




Summertime and year end planning

Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I always enjoy the summer – going to the beach, BBQ’s with friends, bike rides – but summertime, for those of us in the non-profit world also means putting our plans together for our new fiscal year that kicked-off on July 1.  So, if you haven’t already taken a look at your development plan from last year and made some tweaks and adjustments, now is the time to do it!

A good development plan is a like a roadmap…you need one to guide your activities along the way so that you can achieve your results.  So, here are some things to consider when making or adjusting your new plan….

Clearly Define Goals and Responsibilities

One of the most important things you can do to ensure fundraising success is to make sure that your plan includes specific goals and responsibilities.  For example, you may want to increase the revenue of your annual Gala by 15 percent this year.  Or, this year, you would like to increase your major gifts by 10 percent.  So, where do you start?  The best approach is to have a strategy outlined as well as who is responsible for making this happen.  Clearly defined goals and responsibilities increase accountability, they make expectations clear to staff, volunteers and board members, and they allow you to correct course if milestones aren’t met.

Try Something New!

As fundraisers, it is our job to continue to think outside the box and try new things to benefit the organizations in which we work. Take a good hard look at what has worked well and what has not.  Is it time to change-up or stop hosting that “signature” event that you’ve held for the last 10 years?  Try something new and test your donor’s response.  Did you generate new donors or connect with more friends as a result?  If so, keep it.  If not, try something else next year.

Keep your Plan Out – Track your Progress

Sometimes the easy part is to tweak and adjust your plan each year.  But, once we’ve done this…keep the plan out front and center.  Do you know how many visits you need to make each week?  How many touch points you need to make to cultivate your donors each month?  Do you have a thermometer to visually track your corporate gifts to your Gala?  Track and show your progress!  Use your plan with your staff, your Board and your Executive Director so that you can see the progress you and your team are making.  As you move further into the year, your plan can also indicate where more of your attention needs to be directed.  Enjoy the dog days of summer and get your plan ready to go for a great fundraising year ahead!