Calling an Audible


One of my capital campaign clients recently met with a newer Board member to discuss their financial commitment to the campaign. We had a solid prep meeting in advance and all signs pointed towards a productive conversation. The Board member understood the purpose of the meeting when the date was scheduled and the team was optimistic that they would make an investment to support the initiative.

What’s the line again, “Man plans and God laughs”?

In advance of talking about any specific commitment, the plan was to ask the Board member if, due to their short tenure with the organization, they were comfortable discussing a multi-year campaign pledge. Turns out, the Board member was in no way ready to make a commitment and, in fact, came into the meeting with a much different agenda.

The Board member made it clear from the start of the meeting that they didn’t feel engaged and that they were only interested in serving if they could contribute in a meaningful way. No questions, this was not meant to be a solicitation meeting.

Because we had thoroughly prepared for the discussion – including covering a range of potential objections – the team admirably shifted gears on the spot. They listened to and acknowledged the Board member’s concerns, discussed how to leverage the individual’s experience and interests, and committed to partnering together to make the relationship work for everyone moving forward. At the end of the meeting, the Board member said they absolutely planned to make an investment in the campaign–they just preferred to take that step when it was coming from a place of enthusiasm and not obligation.

Almost two years ago, I shared a post about how important it is to invest time in the relationships we have with our Board members — Attention Must Be Paid. There’s no question that those ideas are relevant to and validated by this situation as well.

However, the other key take-away in this situation is how important it is to come into donor meetings with an open mind and a nimble attitude. While there are times when we can help to move our donors in a desired direction, we HAVE to commit to listening to their needs and focusing on their agenda. After all, our main objective as fundraisers should always be on helping our donors achieve their goals and, if we aren’t ready to listen and act accordingly, no one wins.

If you’ve had an experience with a donor throwing a big curve at you in a meeting, we’d love to hear about it. We’ll share some of the stories and positive outcomes in a later post.

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


Engaging Your Older Donors


Your list of top prospects almost certainly includes a number of donors who are of retirement age.  And it’s a foregone conclusion that you should have a detailed plan for each person to ask them for their annual gift, a major multi-year gift, and a legacy gift.  But we also know that retired people can lose the feeling of being engaged, vital, and active.  Most likely their phone has stopped ringing, the invitations have declined, and interest in their professional accomplishments has waned.

Here are a few ideas about strategies to meaningfully engage your older prospects:

  • Ask for their time, and give them your time. Seniors have more time than working people.  Plan on spending time with them.  Invite them to lunch or to dinner.  Invite their spouse too, as appropriate.
  • Give them your attention. Listen to their ideas about your organization.  Invite them to tell their story about their professional life and their involvement with your charity.  Find out as much as you can about their commitment, their passion, and their priorities for your organization.
  • Consider them for an active role. Feel them out for an advisory board, a committee, or a short-term project task force.  Remember that they are retired, not dead!  Let them know that you need their support and engage them in a conversation about what that might look like.  This kind of engagement is especially meaningful if you can draw on the expertise they earned in their professional life, such as asking a retired lawyer to serve on your planned giving advisory council.
  • Ask them to connect you with others. Their contacts can be of value to your charity.  Think about whether it might be right to ask them to host an event at their home or their club, and use the occasion to broaden your network of support.  Donors with a home in Florida or Arizona might open their home to your organization in the winter months!  Bring your CEO and get on a plane to tell your story to a new population, and enjoy time with your senior prospects in their happy place.
  • Pay special attention to how your thank them. Thank your retired donors in multiple ways.  Send a handwritten note; send flowers or appropriate gift.  Call them and talk about what a nice time you had when you got together.  Share some photos if you have them.

Give your senior prospects special attention.  You’ll enjoy it as much as they will, and your charity will benefit in ways you cannot imagine.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

It’s not business… it’s personal


During the Q & A at an AFP Chicago workshop I attended last week, one of the presenters touched upon the notion that fundraising is not sales. I found myself leaning over to my tablemate and whispering, “I’m not so sure that I agree.”

While there are elements and nuances of the philanthropic relationship that extend beyond what we tend to think of with the transactional nature of sales, I have found that there is more than enough common ground. The goal in both cases is to help meet a need or to solve a problem that our donors/customers care about. At the end of the day, our success is linked directly to our ability to address those personal goals.

The truth is that I’ve discovered great ideas and lessons from practitioners that are directing their voices more towards the sales and marketing sectors. In particular, I have found a ton of inspiration from Seth Godin’s daily blog and wanted to share one of his recent posts. Seth does a fantastic job of framing the customer’s perspective in a very donor-centric fashion,

“Are you trying to sell me something?”  

“For a culture that spends so much time and money buying things, you’d think we’d be more excited when someone tries to sell us something.

But we’re not.

The semantics are important here. What we really mean is, “are you trying to selfishly persuade me to buy something that will benefit you more than it benefits me?”

We’re goal-directed, risk-averse and self-focused. We don’t care about the salesperson’s commission, of course. We care about our own resources.

The magic happens when the goals are aligned, when the service component of sales kicks in, when long-term satisfaction exceeds short-term urgency.

When someone acts in a way that says, “can I help you buy something?” or, “can I help you achieve your goals?” then we’re on our way. And of course, it’s the doing, not the saying that matters the most.”

The other presenter at last week’s workshop was a donor and volunteer. Her advice to the room not only reinforces Seth’s case, it is a great reminder of what is going on in the minds of our donors. She said that we should, “appreciate where your donor is coming from.” That, “This is very personal… I’m choosing to make an investment in your organization with money that I could otherwise be giving to my family.” We all have great reasons why we think people should support our mission, but at the end of the day, we’re making a big mistake if we lose sight of the opportunity to support their personal philanthropic mission.

Regardless of where you stand in terms of the relationship between the arts of fundraising and sales, I would suggest we can all agree that focusing our efforts on helping our donors achieve their personal goals is the path to success for everyone involved.

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

What are your thoughts…?


Happy New Year!

Here’s to you and to all that you do to make the world a better place. We hope that your year-end efforts proved successful and that you found some time to relax and recharge over the Holidays.

As we move forward into January and start thinking about and executing on our plans for the year, now is the perfect time to connect with some of our key donors. Yes, while there will be details to figure out with the new tax bill and how they might impact the way some of our donors give, this is not the time to abandon good development out of concern for the unknown.

Regardless of whether your organization is on a fiscal or calendar year, we know that most of our donors have a January to December mindset when it comes to philanthropy. With that in mind, this is the right time to get in front of your donors to seek their feedback and ideas about your plans for the year ahead. This is a great opportunity to offer them an “insider’s vantage point” and to treat them as true partners in your mission.

Schedule meetings with several of your most significant and/or longstanding donors to share you plans for an upcoming program expansion, a new initiative that is in the works or maybe a staffing change you are considering.  Ask them what they think about the plans and inquire if they think other supporters will favor the direction. Quite likely, their insights will help you to more effectively realize your strategic goals for the coming year and, in the end, you will be able to thank them for making it happen.

In light of this, it is also worth remembering one of our favorite maxims, “People support what they help to create.”

You don’t have to be launching a campaign or even a major gifts initiative for this to be an important and authentic way to build relationships. This is a chance to invite our donors into the process and for them to play an active role in moving the organization they care about forward.

So before you get used to writing “2018” in the date line, resolve to connect with your donors and engage them in your plans for the New Year. I promise, it will be time well spent.

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

Is your nonprofit catering to the gluten free donor?


It seems there isn’t a restaurant around that doesn’t offer or provide a gluten free menu or gluten free options for a meal. The restaurants (outside of the fast food ones) are very accommodating to the changing diets of their customers.

A question every nonprofit staff member should be asking and reflecting on is…is your organization catering to the gluten free donor? No, I’m not talking about the dietary choices of your donor, I’m talking about the ever-changing landscape of the how donors choose to engage and donate to nonprofits.  The real question I’m trying to ask is are you accommodating to your investors and future investors?

Our donors are customers and we show flexibility as well as innovation when dealing with the changing landscape of fundraising especially in a competitive market.  If a donor is inquiring about donating via a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) are you informed and educated to discuss this vehicle of giving with them? If a donor wishes to donate through a Charitable Gift Annuity does your Gift Acceptance Policy accept these? If not, do you have an answer of why not?

Just like restaurants want that customer to come back, promote the great food and experience with their friends and post the online message that they loved the gluten free pizza (I recommend extra crispy with extra sauce) nonprofits sometimes need to respond and act the same way. We do need to cater to the varying donors and their changing giving habits.

Make sure you have GF options on your donor menu.

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

Engaging the New Philanthropists


Thank you to Just Write Solutions Senior Consultant Lisa M. Sihvonen-Binder, MS NMP, for today’s blog.

Millennials. It’s a term we hear a lot on the news, see on social media, and read about in professional publications. Studies show that older generations (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers) get frustrated when trying to interact with them. Who are they? What do they want? How do you communicate with them? How do you get them to communicate with you?

The answers are simple, really. They’re people. They’re people born between 1980-2000. They’re sometimes called “lazy” and the “Me Generation.” While I personally feel there’s some truth to that, we need to understand this generation was raised differently – with fast changing technology, helicopter parents, and a world where acceptance of others and personal freedoms really began to blossom.

For this Gen Xer, born in the late 1960s, I’ve experienced frustrations in communicating with Millennials. I know it takes extra effort on my part and as an individual, I can learn to adapt to the current climate. But how can nonprofit organizations engage this generation that moves fast, likes communications short, and gives to causes they care about if their needs are being met?

Here are some tips I found in “9 Insights on Millennials When it Comes to Philanthropy” (by Brady Josephson at re: that might make it easier or more successful.

Of 75,000 Millennials surveyed by The Millennial Impact:

  • More updates – 43% of Millennials want to hear from organizations they donate to monthly. 79% prefer to get updates on the agency’s programs and services while 56% are okay with getting information about fundraising events
  • Send them email – 93% prefer to receive information via email
  • Give them opportunities for monthly giving – 52% are interested in giving monthly
  • Matching donations spur interest in giving – 71% said they’re more motivated to give if their gift is matched by another source
  • Ask them to help fundraise – 70% are willing to help raise funds for an organization they like
  • Give them reasons to trust you – 84% said they are most likely to donate if they trust the organization. Is your agency maintaining transparency? Are you communicating impacts, successes, challenges?

Want more information on generational differences that might impact donor behavior or communication? Check out this “Generational Differences Chart” by the West Midland Family Center in Shepherd, Michigan. What do you think? Does it accurately capture the traits of generations from Traditionalists to Millennials?

We’d love to hear your take. What challenges have you experienced in engaging Millennials? How did you overcome them? What are your success stories?

Quid Pro Quo

Qid pro Quo

Does your nonprofit provide gifts to your donors?

You know, things like coffee mugs to commemorate pledges, t-shirts for runs, keepsake glassware from a gala.

Quid pro quo is simply an exchange of goods or services, where obtaining the gift is contingent upon a financial contribution.

So should we be providing these items? Does it endear our donors to our organization? Do they care?

There may not be a simple yes/no answer. But I’ll give you a challenge.  Think about OTHER ways to make that same lasting impression.

At my client’s recent gala, each sponsor received a custom hand-made thank you card from a participant in the program. The cards were made by individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and each one was as unique as the artist themselves. They were handed to the sponsors upon check in.

My client received kudos for making such a great connection to the mission. I don’t think a wine glass would have received that sort of response.

We also have a few older donors who don’t come out for events and aren’t even comfortable with a personal visit for coffee.  Our exchanges are limited to the phone, email and letters. While this frustrates me as a development officer, I understand.

I need to remember to meet these folks where they are at. Not try to mold them to how I like to communicate, right? So this month I sent them a canister hand-painted by our art group with a note and cookies inside.  They absolutely loved it and the cost is in line with what I would spend on them if I took them to lunch.

So I challenge you to be creative. Think about what your nonprofit has to offer. Maybe a photo in a frame of children reading books purchased with recent contributions is more meaningful than a traditional give-away. Brainstorm with your program service staff to find memorable ways to make a lasting impression on your donors. And hint… it’s probably not a lapel pin.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Continuity in Your Development Office



Recently someone posted a thoughtful message on Facebook, meant to provide a framework for social media messages:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?

I gave this message a “thumbs up” response, I guess because so much of what people write seems to be not true, not kind, and/or not necessary!

All of this took on renewed importance this week, when I heard a couple of people describe their recent disappointment with a non-profit organization to which they had been exceedingly generous over many years.  The situation they described was essentially this: the leadership has changed; the people in the development office have changed; communication has been spotty at best; and no one seems to “get it” or care.

This is a devastating situation for a fundraising operation, and in my experience it is far too common.  New people come in to leadership positions and seek to boost their own credibility by discrediting the activities of prior leaders.  The new regime wants to start over with new prospects, new strategies, and new techniques. There is nothing wrong with taking a fresh look at all of that, but it is devastating if the most loyal and generous donors are neglected and lost.

The questions I saw on Facebook can be helpful as you think about your communication strategies with prospects and donors:

Your communications must be TRUE:  don’t buy into the narrative that nothing good every happened before the new leadership team arrived!  Seek out those who gave in the past and listen carefully to what motivates them to give.    Get a list of the top 10, top 25, top 50, and top 100 prior donors and reach out to every single one of them over time.  Make a phone call, write a letter, and ask for a face to face meeting.  Never ever fail to follow up!

Your communication must be KIND: don’t build yourself up by disparaging past leaders of the organization.  People give to people, and the donor thought enough of the prior administration to make a gift while those people were in charge.  Make sure you communicate to your past donors that, although the leadership has changed, the mission of your organization remains the same!

Your communication with prior donors is NECESSARY:  do not pick and choose!  Don’t listen to people who say “Oh you don’t to waste your time talking to that donor.”  In rare instances, a past donor may have specified in your records that s/he no longer wishes to be contacted, and if so that request must be honored.  But otherwise, attempt to reach all prior major donors.  You will be rewarded with great stories, new insights, and continued major gifts!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Awards Award and More Awards


Did you watch the Grammys?  Are you geared up for the Emmys?  How about the Kid’s Choice Awards?  SAG awards?  People’s Choice Awards?  Lately, I feel that at every turn, there is another awards show or banquet that is being publicized.  Or, there is one that I will attend for one of my children, or a friend or a brother-in law or a cousin.  You get the point…but, it’s not just Hollywood or in our own lives that awards are being given out in rapid fashion.  Presenting an award or honoring someone special in the not for profit world is also quite prevalent…and it’s our job to make sure it’s the right person and the right way to celebrate this amazing person.

As we are surrounded by awards being given at every turn, I think it is important for not for profits to really think through whom they would like to honor, why they selected them and how they would like to show their gratitude.   One not for profit that I am engaged with recently had a discussion at a committee meeting about who they would like to honor at their gala this year.  When I asked what the criteria were for selecting an honoree, no one had a clear idea.  It gave us all the opportunity to determine the criteria of how to best select an honoree.  Is it giving level?  Is it the number of years on the board that makes someone an honorary board member?  And, how do we honor them?  Is it simply a listing on an invitation?  Or, is it a public presentation at a gala or an annual meeting?  Developing our criteria was important as it provided a solid framework to guide our selection process.

Another organization that I worked with did have criteria in selecting and honoring a special person to the agency, however, it hadn’t been revised or changed in many years and had grown stale.  They also held a donor reception every year where a notable person received an award, yet, the attendance was declining.  A brief survey revealed that the event was a bit stale and while people were interested in continuing an annual event, a venue change was needed and a fresher format of the evening was also key.

In times like these when so many are awarded all around us, both on TV and in our communities, we want to be sure that our efforts are meaningful to the honoree, well represent the agency and inspire others.  Having clear ideas and specific criteria help to properly honor the wonderful champion of any organization.  Our job, with criteria in hand, is to make sure that our honoree feels special…that the guests feel inspired and that the way in which we honor those dear to our organizations doesn’t feel like it’s just another event or awards banquet to attend.  It feels right…it feels special.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Are you loyal to your loyal donors?


I’ve been a loyal donor to a several organizations in my lifetime.  By “loyal donor” I mean this:  I’ve contributed to these organizations regularly over a number of years, to the point where my contributions are what I consider substantial.

What I’ve noticed is that I’ve been treated differently by these organizations.  One of them sends me an annual appeal form letter, and asks me to make a gift to their annual fund.  After I make my gift I receive at thank you letter from the development office.  I’m not impressed.  Do they know that I’ve given before?  Do they know that I’ve given regularly for over twenty years?  Do they know that I consider the cumulative value of my contributions to this organization to be significant?  Do they even know that I value their mission and consider them one of my top three charitable interests?  Their behavior toward me would suggest that they know none of these things!

Another organization to which I have been a loyal donor has treated me very differently.  I receive an annual appeal of course.  And I get a thank you letter from the development office.  But in addition, I receive the following:

  • An annual invitation to breakfast with the CEO and leadership team, to receive the latest news on the mission of the organization
  • Membership in a loyalty society, recognizing donors who have given consistently for ten years or more
  • A monthly digital calendar showing pictures of the organization at work (I never use the calendar, but I know I’m being thought of!)
  • A Christmas card
  • A handwritten thank you note from a member of the Board of Directors following my annual contribution
  • A letter acknowledging when I cross a threshold (“your lifetime giving to our organization places you among our most consistent and valued donors…”
  • Written appeals to make a bequest and/or to join a planned giving society for the organization
  • A phone call from a member of the development staff, asking to meet face to face

Question:  which organization do you think I am now considering for a legacy gift, and to which one do you think I will just continue to write an annual fund gift?

Be loyal to your loyal donors!  They may not be your largest donors, but be sure to honor those who are consistent over time, recognize the value of their cumulative gifts, keep them informed about your mission and activities, ask them—face to face—to take the next step in the form of a campaign gift and/or an estate gift.  Your loyal donors will notice how you treat them compared to other organizations!

 by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions