Wait for it…


My colleague David and I received an email from a former client last week.  The email contained the kind of news we all dream about…our former client reached out to let us know they received a very significant gift from a family.  Needless to say, they were thrilled – as were we!  I have thought about this client – and this wonderful gift – often over the past several days.  It provided me with the opportunity to reflect on  “good development”.  Like the title of this blog posting, we often (if not always) have to wait for the right time to make a significant ask.  Here are a steps you can take to ensure that, when the time comes, both you and the donor will be ready to have this significant conversation.

Invest in your donors

As we often say, if you want your donors to invest in your organization, you need to invest in them!  For your more significant donors, be sure that more than one person is in contact.  This may be the Executive Director, another staff member or a Board member.

Cultivate your donors

Be sure that you have opportunities to connect with your donors which do not include making an ask.  If a donor made a contribution just before your annual appeal is mailed, consider pulling out the return envelope and simply writing a note of thanks on the letter instead.  This will keep your donor appraised of what is happening at your organization, but acknowledges that you are paying attention to the details.  Consider making thank you calls to donors of all levels – perhaps enlist a volunteer to call first-time donors or monthly donors.  It’s never too soon to begin cultivating donors – and it’s always nice to be thanked!

Listen to your donors

When you do have an opportunity to visit with a donor, ask questions.  Listen and understand why they support your organization and what programs are important to them.  Remember to document what you learn!  It is also a nice touch if you recognize donor milestones – birthdays, etc., if you have that information documented.

Be patient with your donors

It may take months or years – if not decades – to realize a transformative gift.  Be patient and continue to treat your donors the way you would want to be treated.  You never know when you might be surprised with a gift or a bequest.

“Good development” is like the game of Bridge…it is easy to understand the basic principles, but it often takes a lifetime to master the skills.  By making “good development” a priority, both your organization and your donors will reap the benefits.

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




You work so hard to get people to come to an event.  You recruit them through phone calls, personal visits, direct mail and email.  You plan for the speakers, the program, the food and drink.  You are so pleased with the turnout!

But here’s a big question:  do you have a well thought out plan for timely follow-up with your attendees?  In my experience, this is where fundraisers most often fall short and sometimes fail completely.  We are all so good at planning events.  But we often neglect the critical step of a structured plan for what happens after an event.  Timeliness is critical!

 Here are a few suggestions for detailing your plans for follow up with event attendees:

  • Use the occasion of the event to update contact information for all those in attendance. You can do this through a reception table, where you welcome people and show them the information you have and ask them “would you please confirm that this is still your preferred contact information?”  You can also do this by distributing cards at the event—inviting guests to indicate their interest in further engagement with your organization, providing you with their contact information, and of course collecting the cards before the event concludes!
  • The next day, review the guest list and assign a prospect rating to each of the attendees. Use your own established rating system or use a simple one such as this:  Top Prospects (highest priority), Supporters (medium priority), and Guests.
  • For the Guests, a sincere “thank you for attending” is all that is necessary. You can do this by letter, by phone, or by email.  Calendar this thank you for the first few days after the event.  The important thing is that you thank them.  In doing so, you let them know that their presence was noticed and it was valued.
  • For Supporters, write a personal letter or hand-written note expressing gratitude for the importance of their continued generosity to your organization. If the timing is right, let them know that your annual appeal is coming up and that you know you can count on them for their continued generosity.  The intent here is to let your most reliable donors know that their ongoing support is critical to the work that you do.  Calendar these letters to be complete within a week after the event.
  • For Top Prospects, make individual Moves Management plans! 80% or more of your timely follow up plan should target these people!  Consider having your CEO call them directly to thank them for coming and invite them to a one on one visit.  Consider whether that call might best come from you.  But calendar that call within two weeks after the event for each of your top prospects.  The message you want to communicate is that your are grateful that they took the time to attend the event, but there is much more to discuss about your organization and that you value their ideas as you take the next steps in furthering your mission.  If for some reason you cannot get through on the phone, write individual letters to your top prospects thanking them, acknowledging that they were busy when you called, and stating that you will “call their office next week to schedule a visit where we can continue the conversation” about your organization.  Then do it!

Think about why you put all that work into planning the event in the first place.  Your goal is to advance the mission of your organization.  You will if you have a well-organized plan for timely follow-up with every single one of your guests!

By Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


no finishline

For Loyola University Chicago, March was a month to remember. As an alum and an avid season basketball ticketholder, I was aware back in December that Loyola had a solid basketball team. However, I never envisioned that this team would make it all the way to the Final Four. Heck it had been 33 years since the school even made it into the NCAA tournament! What I noticed early on in the season that the rest of the country soon discovered was the unselfish nature of these student athletes.  Teamwork was critical as they were a pass first, shoot second type of team. The leading scorer was not all important, and minutes played per game were a non-factor. But one of the most memorable stories of the team and of the entire tournament was the rallying around a 98 year old nun.  They adored this woman and received inspiration from her throughout their season.

What I clung on to most was the team’s motto of ‘no finish line’ and how this mantra closely related to fundraising. Seasons finish, capital campaigns cease, the fundraising appeals are completed, but the next season – or campaign — is always around the corner.

Strong development leaders understand there is no finish line in our work.  We are always searching for the next innovative idea, identifying the next new prospect and pursuing new major donors to keep the mission prospering. We are motivated to stay innovative and to keep our donors enthused, invested, and interested in the organization.

In fundraising, as in tournament play, we can always prepare more diligently, learn from our mistakes, and improve on the management and motivation of our teams. As scouts watch film of opponents’ play, we must constantly examine pioneering avenues to invite and cultivate prospects into our organization.

The Loyola basketball team was one game short of having a chance to win it all, but the character and drive of the team will always be remembered. To this team’s eyes, there was ‘no finish line’, and as fundraisers, we would be wise to remember this mantra.


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

Major Gift Work Ahead!

Work Ahead

I have been working with a not for profit client that wanted to have a more robust major gift program. This organization has been busy doing the basics…hosting a few fundraising events, orchestrating several mail appeals, writing some grants and also managing some marketing and social media efforts. It’s a rather modest-sized shop and the development folks wear a lot of hats…which is not unusual for many smaller social service agencies.

While managing the basics, donor stewardship and major gift work had been put on the back burner. The agency decided it was time to outsource grant writing, which freed up a bit of time of the staff so they can spend some more time with their donors. The organization had some donors that make annual major gifts (for this organization a major gift is $2,500 and above) but the development staff had not spent much time cultivating or stewarding these donors.

To begin our major gift effort, one of our first steps was to set up some visits with some long standing key donors. There had been a change in leadership for the organization as well and this provided a perfect entree to get some appointments.

Our first visit was with a woman who was a former board member who continued to make annual gifts, yet no one on the team really knew her very well.  We met with this donor and she was thrilled to share with us all that she experienced as a volunteer leader. We learned a lot about the history of the agency during her time as a volunteer and we were able to share with her some exciting new initiatives that were being planned. We learned a lot about this donor and what she likes to support because we did one important thing during our visit…we talked less and listened more.

When our visit was coming to a close, this donor told us how much she appreciated our time and that while she always had a special place in her heart for this organization, she felt more engaged. She also shared that as a donor, she does not like to be ignored. She wants to hear more from the agency and wants to know her investments are making a difference.

This visit with this donor was the first of many stewardship touch points across the past two years. She received face to face visits, but, she also received notes from the staff or the board about key wins.  She was mailed a newspaper article that featured a success story of a client that was served at the agency.  She was invited to serve on a president’s council, a select group of special friends that had the ear of the leader of the agency.

Recently, this donor made a gift to support a new program and has doubled her annual giving. She is one example of those individuals that have further engaged with the mission because of our time and energy in working with individual donors. My message today is simple…take the time to get to know your donors. Make time each week to set appointments for face time with your donors. It will pay off…that’s a promise!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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