When “No” is a Good Thing!


Lately, I have been spending a lot of my time working with a client that is the midst of a capital and endowment campaign. It’s been an amazing journey for this client as they have raised more money than ever before AND they secured the largest gift they have ever realized in their long history of service and good work.  Truly, a lot to celebrate!

The team has followed a carefully crafted plan to get us to our finish line…and we are getting so close!  But, not without some bumps along the way.  As this business in working with our donors is all about relationships, I am reminded that some things – good and bad – are simply out of our control.  Even the best laid plans experience a curve ball here and there.

One particular bump in the road came when a donor had shared with us that he would make a significant gift to the campaign, but, when push came to shove, he decided his interest in increasing his current annual support was more important to him than backing the campaign.  While this was a bit of a blow to us at first…we realized that this wasn’t really a bad thing.  That this “NO” was actually a good thing!  The campaign afforded us the opportunity to get to know this donor even better.  Truly, we further cultivated his relationship with the organization, and while our hope was that he would give to the campaign, he became more engaged in the current mission.  At this time in his life, he wanted to see some of the impact that his gift would make on those the organization served.  But, he also shared another important tidbit…while he wanted to see the difference his gifts made today, he also wanted to ensure the future of the organization.  In fact, he told us that he had named this organization as a beneficiary in his estate plans.

This situation reminded all of us on the team that, in the end, we need to ensure that our donor’s intention is our top priority.  That sometimes, while WE see our biggest needs as one thing, our donors may not see it the same way that we do.  We can have the best case for support, the best laid plans, but, at the end of the day, it’s up to us to connect our donors with the opportunities and programs that inspire them.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Keeping your donors engaged and inspired


As of this writing, we have only experienced 2018 for just a few short weeks, and yet, much has transpired in the world. We’ve seen more controversy in US politics, feel deeply saddened about all that our Olympic women’s gymnastics team members have endured, and, watched, cried and prayed for all those that have been affected by the catastrophic mud slides in California. Yet, while there is much in the news and our world to be concerned about, there are also good things happening.

The stories of the survivors of the natural disasters in California and the heroic tales of those that work to make sure that people and their pets that are rescued and returned to their families. The images of the marches and movements all across our country that show that Americans – men and women – have the freedom to share their voices and stand their ground on whatever issues they feel are important. The Olympic athletes that will continue to pursue their dreams in spite of what they have endured…to bravely carry on.

I think about all of these things in our news and in our world and I know that many of the not for profit agencies in which we work help people to be their best. Perhaps we work for a community mental health agency that can provide the counseling needed to help those that have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Maybe it’s an organization that works as a think tank to produce ideas about different ways of doing things – things like health care delivery, immigration policies, education and other important ideals that are critical to all of us. Or, an agency that provides relief when disaster strikes.

WE are critical in this picture because we help raise the money to support these important missions that impact the lives of many. It’s our job to work hard every day to connect new donors and to maintain and enhance the relationships with current friends so that our missions remain strong to do the important work the organization intends to carry out. It’s up to us and our teams to ensure our current donors are kept in the loop so that they feel a part of our vision. It’s also our job to engage new folks by sharing our story in a way that resonates with them so that they too, want to become more involved.

As we move into 2018, develop a simple plan to keep your key donors engaged and new donors energized about your mission. Every month, determine which donors need to hear from you in person…who can you send an email or a stewardship report to that highlights some wins or key objectives that you plan to tackle in 2018.

For new donors, what is your plan to keep them engaged and involved? What news can you share? Do you have photos to share that can showcase first-hand how your programs help people in need? By developing a systematic stewardship plan, you will stay on track to ensure that your pool of donors are there, right by your side. Give them the reasons that they want to roll up their sleeves to help people that you serve or the policies that you are trying to change to reflect our very best for the world.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Making Connections


Have you heard that the secret to success lies in the very thing you’re avoiding? I’ve found this to be true and it applies to our personal lives as well as the development process.

Often our clients hesitate to pick up the phone and connect with their donors. “Oh, I’ll see them next month, or maybe I’ll just send an email instead. After all, they’re busy.” But that’s not creating true intimacy – and I don’t mean the type of intimacy that happens under the mistletoe. I mean intimacy of really talking with someone and making a connection.

So here are some thoughts that may help when you find yourself feeling so far out of your comfort zone that you reach for the safety of a computer mouse instead of reaching out in a personal way to really connect with your donors:

  1. You have 2 ears and one mouth use them accordingly –So many times, we listen with the purpose of determining what our response will be rather than truly hearing the person. This puts a lot of pressure on us. What will we talk about? What will I say? But the fact is that good conversationalists are actually good listeners, not good talkers. In fact, the 80/20 rule dictates that good communication is about spending a majority of your time listening and minority of your time talking.
  2. Ask “power” questions. These are open ended questions that are relevant for your organization. Some examples include, “How did you first get involved with…..” “What are your thoughts about how we are doing….” “Is there anything else we should know about ……” Good conversationalists ask relevant, thoughtful questions and then really listen to the responses.
  3. When you ask for money, you are not asking for yourself. Everyone can feel awkward asking for someone’s time or financial support. We don’t want to appear that we always have our hands out. But we need to remember that we are not asking for us. We are asking for others. We all raise money for important missions that help others who may be less fortunate. Keep their faces in mind when you ask.  You are their advocate.

So I challenge you to start today. Make three connections this week that you otherwise might just avoid.  All you really need to start with is “Happy Holidays, I was thinking of you.”

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

…’tis the season


Last night, I attended the fourth benefit in as many weeks.  It is indeed the “event” season.

As I think back on each of the events, I am grateful that we have such wonderful nonprofits doing amazing work in the Chicago area.  And while each event had some great “wins”, as well as a “miss” or two, they all had one thing in common:  a connection to the guests.  Events are certainly designed to raise funds.  But more importantly, they provide a crucial touch point with donors – and prospective donors.  If guests leave at the end of the event filled with a sense of pride in supporting the mission and a sense of connectedness to the clients, staff or volunteers, then consider it a job well done.

Here are some simple reminders to ensure your event is a relationship success:

Be “guest-focused”

  • Make sure you know who will be in attendance and what their connection is to the organization.
  • Be thoughtful about seating.  While table placement is unimportant to some, it is very important to others.  It is also beneficial to put newer constituents near someone they know, so they recognize a familiar face.
  • Share the guest list and seating chart with key staff and Board members.  Ask staff and Board members to be ambassadors, which includes welcoming guests and keeping a lookout for those who may be new or “alone”, especially during the cocktail hour.
  • Provide nametags.  Personally, I hate wearing nametags, but I truly love to see them, especially when I see someone whose name I should know and cannot remember.
  • Circulate!

Provide the “mission moment”

  • Whether you have a video or a speaker, be sure your mission moment is compassionate, compelling and concise.  If possible, keep this mission moment to 5 minutes or less.
  • If you are going to make an “ask”, do so immediately following the mission moment.

Follow through after the event

  • We all breathe a sigh of relief once the event is over but remember – the work is not yet done!
  • Be sure to follow up with guests as soon as possible after the event.
  • Identify the VIPs’ – sponsors, those who made a significant donation and those who played a key role – and call each of them within 72 hours to say thank you.  Send a handwritten note within a week.
  • Identify others who should get a handwritten note – and then “divide and conquer” – key staff and Board members can help with this process.
  • Be sure to send out tax letters to all donors, and if possible, include a brief, handwritten thank-you note at the bottom.
  • If possible, send an email to all who attended with photos from the evening.

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

Are Your Letting Donors Kick the Tires?


Think back to the last time you bought a car. Was it from a dealership, or the used car lot down the street? You probably took it for a test drive – and had an opportunity to “kick the tires” as my dad used to say.

These steps are important. We want to inspect our new investment and make sure it meets expectations before making a big commitment.

But, are we providing this same opportunity to donors of our organizations?

One of my client’s was struggling with this.  We found it difficult to share the mission of this organization with donors unless it was through videos or photos.  These 3rd party vehicles are “OK” but not ideal. So we created a different approach and put the donor in the driver’s seat.

We invited donors to a special art class just for them that was sprinkled with a few of the agency’s clients for a meet and greet. This was the same type of programming our clients were involved with each week.

We filled the room with new donors and donor prospects. We didn’t charge them and provided light snacks. They were led by our instructor and learned how professional and well run the class was. They observed how each person’s experience was unique and tailored to them. This fun, low pressure introduction laid the groundwork for developing these relationships further and opened the door to conversations about future giving.

Could this experience be replicated at your organization?

For educators, could your donors get reserved seats to a graduation ceremony? For nonprofits focused on literacy, could donor attend a book presentation ceremony for students? For health organizations, could your donors visit one of your doctors for their annual check-up?

Think for a minute about what your donor might respond to and give them that opportunity.  After all, we are asking for them to invest in us. We should give them an opportunity to kick the tires, shouldn’t we?

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Head out the Door!


How many donors did you visit this week?  Did you get out of your office, away from your phone and computer, and get in front of your donors?  I recently had a conversation with a development officer who felt her major gift program had stalled.  She shared with whom she wanted to meet, what the strategy was for each prospect, and quickly outlined a wonderful plan to help launch a new program.

The problem was simple…she had a great plan, but, she wasn’t getting out of the office to talk with her donors!  Why?  We all know too well how busy we get with daily tasks that need to get done…maybe a grant to write, an event that needs to be tended to, or various meetings to attend?

It’s an age-old problem and one that I believe needs to be revisited at the start of every fiscal year.  How many calls will you make each day?  What is your goal for visits?  How can some of the other tasks be tabled or delegated to another staff member so that you can get out the door?

Many years ago, one of my mentors, Jim Stack, told me that development work is simple…it’s not rocket science.  We have to build relationships with our supporters and keep them engaged with the mission.  Every week, he was out the door asking for gifts, thanking donors for their investments and at every single meeting, he furthered the relationship the donor had with the organization.

It’s not rocket science…Jim was right!  And, it’s a good reminder to all of us that we need to make a concerted effort to get out the door and spend our time in a way that is most cost effective for the agencies we represent.

So, today, I challenge you…set your weekly goal for calls and visits and stick to it!  GET OUT THE DOOR and watch your major gift goals SOAR!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Don’t Forget the Spouse!


Let’s face it:  major gifts are major decisions.  Your prospects likely are very much like mine.  They reach a decision to make a major gift after a long process of cultivation, thought, and reflection.  This process involves the head and the heart.  Decisions are made based on what the donor thinks about your organization, its leadership, and its mission.  And decisions are made about how the donor feels about the impact of the gift and the good it will do.

In most households, the donor and spouse (or significant other) make major decisions.  So it is important that fundraisers, when appropriate, include the partner in the cultivation and solicitation process.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Address all correspondence to the prospect and partner
  • Include both in cultivation events
  • Remember the partner’s birthday as you do the prospect’s
  • Solicit the major gift from both of them, remembering to attend to both people with your eyes and ears!
  • Consciously plan your solicitation to engage both the mind and the heart of both people

Does this seem obvious?  You’d be surprised how many times I’ve coached those involved in a solicitation to pay attention to the spouse, only to watch them faun over the prospect while failing to really engage the partner!

On the other hand, I’ve also seen spouses step in and really turn the tide in favor of a major gift.  In one instance, I was told by the donor that “my wife really was the one to convince me” to make a $1 million gift.  On another occasion, we received a $1 million donation that surprised us because it seemed on paper that the donor was more connected to other institutions than to our own.  In this instance, the son of the major prospect (and ultimate donor) told me “my mom was really the one who decided to do this.”

Remember:  major gifts are major decisions.  And major decisions are seldom made by individuals in isolation.  Cultivate your prospects and their spouse or significant other.  You’ll be glad you did.

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

Be Interested


When my wife and I first found out we were going to become parents, I started collecting quotes and bits of advice that I wanted to share with our children as they grew up. Some are obvious, some silly and still others likely won’t have meaning for them until much later in life.

The other day, I found myself repeating to our youngest one of the nuggets I have shared on multiple occasions with both of our boys:

Instead of trying too hard to be interesting, put your energy into being interested.

 I won’t say it is my favorite quote of all time, but the number of occasions on which it was apropos of sharing over the years clearly indicates that it is a worthy reminder.  And, while I am unable to pinpoint who deserves attribution for the original idea – as evidenced in part by the variations here from Dale Carnegie and John Gardner – I am definitely an advocate of its practice.

“It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?”                                                                                                                                                              -Advice from John Gardner to Jim Collins

While there has yet to be an occasion when I’ve offered up this advice to my boys regarding fundraising, it is absolutely a habit that can and should be embraced by every development professional–and fundraising volunteer for that matter.

We all know that we should be focused on our donors’ needs and on their agenda, but how often do we find ourselves in conversations where we are more focused on persuasion than on understanding? Whether it’s meeting someone at an event for the first time, a one-on-one cultivation meeting or a gift solicitation, there is little doubt that the most effective and engaging approach is to focus our energies on their interests/stories/needs.

If your focus is on being interested, you will have a much greater opportunity to Build Meaningful Connections. As part of our capital campaign preparation efforts, I once again have the honor of participating in engagement interviews for one of my current clients. It is an hour long conversation where I simply ask for their thoughts, ideas and perspectives. The conversations are designed to learn about what drives our donors and volunteers and how the organization’s work aligns (or doesn’t) with their personal priorities. And I can say with absolute certainty, that each of these encounters creates a deeper sense of connection to the organization because our donors feel valued and heard.

When you spend more of your time listening and trying to discover what matters most to your donor(s), the odds of experiencing a Successful Solicitation increase dramatically. If we come at our donors with an avalanche of information about our needs without ever finding out theirs, we all but guarantee that we will fail to inspire them to give a gift that matches the level of their personal philanthropic passions.

For consultants and other business professionals, the practice of being interested is also critical when you are working to Engage a New Client. Our team was recently awarded a new client contract after a fairly intense process. The CEO told us that one of the keys to our success was the fact that, to a person, everyone we talked with – from executives, to Board members to junior level staff members – they all said that we didn’t just come in an make a case for why we were the best, we listened and we were honestly interested in what they had to say.

So, the next time you’re preparing for an important conversation, make sure that you are focused on what the other person is most interested in. Making the conversation about their needs and their interests will undoubtedly result in you having more success in achieving your goals.

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

The Human Touch


Recently, I had to purchase a new phone. The battery was shot, I had limited storage capacity and the service was spotty most of the time. While I was upgrading to a new version and getting a more “robust” phone, I realized every bell and whistle that was being sold to me had nothing to do with what the phone was intended to do, make a phone call.  I’m not a neo-luddite by any means, I just had a sudden a-ha moment that we don’t use the phone or the action of what the phone is intended to do anymore.

Last week, I was reminded how important and honestly how easy it is to pick up the phone and communicate the old fashion way. I was with a colleague who had shifted careers from fundraising to sales – (not much of a difference as we all know) and he was explaining his new role in generating new business, creating leads, cultivating customers, presenting the product and then the ever important follow up. All along the “cultivation” journey he highlighted that his “go-to” was the utilization of his phone to communicate. Not to text, not to email but to actually call someone is what he used as his personal outreach and human touch advantage.

As we head into 2017 and make our list of New Year’s resolutions, I know one of mine will be to take the time to put a human touch on the interaction I have…whether it be with donors, colleagues, friends or family. That human touch will be to make the phone call when it’s more appropriate than the email.  The human touch makes such an impression and just like sending a hand written letter, card or personal note it’s what we need to remember to do more often than not.

During the holiday season, we tend to take time to reflect on the joys of life, a time to be grateful for what we have,  a time to be mindful of what more we can do and what motivates us to keep us going. It’s important to always remember that putting a human touch on our communication is the thoughtful way to say hello, express your thanks and enjoy the human touch way. It’s way more real.

Happy Holidays!

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

Make it Personal



When new members join nonprofit Boards, one of the first things we ask of them is to identify friends, family and work colleagues with the hope of expanding our donor base, right?

But do their contacts really develop into the active supporters we hope they will?

With my current client, I noticed they weren’t….so we developed a strategy to improve our communication to them.

Here’s what we did.

Recognizing that it is our job to educate these folks about the mission of our organization before they are asked for a gift, we mailed an introductory letter to the new prospects. The letter introduced the mission, and described their friend’s new role as Board member.  It requested the recipient’s blessing to continue to share information with them about their friend’s new nonprofit venture.  The board member signed the letters and mailed them in a plain envelope that had the board member’s home address as the sender.  It looked very personal.

Then, once each month for the next two months, we provided this board member with brief mission-specific success stories about a participant in our program.  They mailed these to the same individuals with a brief personal one line message.

Finally, our holiday appeal dropped. These too, went with a personal note from the Board member. Now, this group of individuals had a personal tie with the mission, had been educated about the great work we do, and were invited to contribute. The client is already seeing the results from this early education and cultivation, and received a $500 gift.

If your nonprofit plans to add Board members in 2017, consider integrating this strategy. Remember, we must educate, and cultivate before we ask for support.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions