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


Learned Anything New Lately?


As the midpoint in the calendar year approaches, it’s a good time to think about what you’ve learned in 2018.  The fundraising field is always changing, and you will want to be sure that you and your team of development professionals are keeping up with those changes through new learning experiences.

The opportunities for continuing professional education are many.  The ambitious will enroll in a graduate program or get started on a degree with an academic course.  But there are many other ways to learn.  If you have not already done so, join a professional organization, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), which has both a national organization and a local Chicago chapter.  Attend a professional development seminar offered by many different providers.  Participate in a webinar offered by your software provider or an allied organization.  Or simply catch up on your reading, choosing from among the many journals and publications that reflect best current practices in fundraising.

The benefits of continuing learning are many.  Of course you will get some new ideas that you still have time to implement in 2018.  It is likely that you will form some new relationships, which will broaden your network of people you can call on to encourage your continuing development in the profession.  You will identify new resources to help you get the job done.  Perhaps most importantly, you will find renewed energy and spirit to accomplish your goals this year and beyond.

As fundraisers, most of us are good at caring for the well being of our non-profit organization.  We work tirelessly toward their growth, development, and effectiveness.  But many of us neglect to attend to our own professional growth, development and effectiveness.  When doing so, it is not good for us, nor is it in the end good for our organization.  Use this midpoint of the calendar year to renew your commitment to the continuing learning of you and your development staff.

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

If you want people to invest in you…


The plan was to write about donor communication and the importance of engaging with people in the form and fashion they most like to be communicated with (email vs. snail mail, stories vs. data, etc.…). I’ve had a number of conversations with clients lately that centered on their communications strategies and how critical it is for us to go the extra mile with our donor outreach if we want our messages to resonate with them.

Then, while catching up on my own reading, I came across the following post from Seth Godin. I quickly surmised that the fates might be encouraging me to share his wise words instead. So, that’ what I’m doing.

At the end of the day, good development takes time and energy (that’s why they call it development, right?) and the truth of matter is, if we want people to invest in us, we have to invest in them.

So enjoy Seth’s ever-so-subtle message and let’s all commit to putting in the effort that successful donor engagement requires.

Mass personalization is a trap – by Seth Godin

Dear seth ,

Of course I could have sent you a personal letter. A direct 1:1 connection between you and me, thanking you for what you did, or letting you know about my new project, or asking for your attention.

Instead, I’m going to hire someone to hand write the envelope in marker, but of course, I’m too busy to do that myself.

And I’ll use the latest in digital handwriting fonts to make you think I actually wrote the note. But I’m not careful or caring enough to actually put good data into the mail merge, so it’ll only take you a second to realize that I faked it.

I know that I’m asking you to spend hours on the favor I’m asking, but no, I couldn’t be bothered to spend three minutes to ask you.

There’s an uncanny valley here, that uncomfortable feeling we get when we know we’re being played, when someone mass customizes and tries to steal the value of actual person-to-person connection.

It’s a trap because the more you do it, the more you need to do it. Once you start burning trust, the only way to keep up is to burn more trust… it’s a bit like throwing the walls of your house in the fireplace to stay warm.

Don’t waste your time and money on this. You’re wasting the most valuable thing you own–trust.

Humanity is too valuable to try to steal with a laser printer.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, 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

Are You Engaging?


I was presenting to the Board of Directors for one of my clients last week and the takeaway for the Board members was “engagement”.  Later in the week, I was with a different client, one which is preparing for a campaign.  The highlight of that conversation?  Engagement.  So…how are you engaging with your constituents?

Whether they are Board members, donors, volunteers, staff members, even clients or program participants, identifying ways in which to truly and authentically engage with your constituents is critical to the success of your organization.  While I am confident you know how to do this, here are some questions for you to consider asking next time you are engaged with someone close to your organization.

  • How did you get introduced to (agency name)?
  • Why do you choose to spend your time working with/volunteering for (agency name)?
  • What does (agency name) mean to you?
  • Tell me your (agency name) story.
  • What is your favorite (agency name) story?
  • How has (agency name) impacted you or someone you know?

These questions are great conversation starters.  Even if you have heard a story before, you may learn something new about that person.  And, by being a good listener, you will remind that person of the importance of your organization’s mission, thus increasing their level of engagement and commitment.  Make it a point to ask at least one person a question about their relationship with your organization this week.  Have fun!

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, 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

Goodbye 2017…hello 2018


In my colleague, Steve Murphy’s October 23, 2017 blog Lifelong Learning and the Art of Fundraising, he skillfully shares some advice which I’m constantly reminded of when communicating the important work of nonprofits. It is such a countless reminder to make sure the story we are telling carefully exudes the important work the organization is doing and allows for the donor to connect and relate to the organization through that lens.

He shared…

“Let the beauty of the work your organization does shine through in your communications.”

As we countdown the final days of 2017 and say hello to a New Year in 2018, I wanted to share a countdown of my favorite blogs from the HPS team that were shared over the past several months….

Ten: Clarity Matters – If everyone isn’t operating from the same playbook, and those responsible don’t have a clear understanding of their specific roles, you are ultimately leaving your success to chance.

Nine: …’tis the season – Simple reminders to ensure your event is a relationship success: Be guest- focused, provide the mission moment and follow through after the event.

Eight: Don’t Forget the Spouse! – Major gifts are major decisions…decisions are seldom made by individuals. Cultivate your prospects and their spouse.

Seven: Head out the Door! – 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.

Six: What’s Your Why? – IMPACT ⇒ INSPIRES ⇒ INVESTMENT…make it abundantly clear to them how their philanthropic support is going to help alleviate a problem they care about solving.

Five: Are you “tough as nails” or “soft as cotton?” – Be the type of leader you would follow.

Four: Seasoned and Green – It is often just a matter of observing, asking good questions – and truly listening to the needs and interests of your constituents.

Three: Show, Don’t Tell: Why Your Nonprofit Needs Data Visualization – It’s time you add them to your fundraising toolbox.

Two: Our Champions – “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…what are you doing for others?”

One: The Symphony of Working with our Donors – We are the leader, or the conductor of this process, to ensure that these relationships continue to grow and flourish

Thank you for staying connected to HPS this year. We appreciate having the chance to share these thoughts and ideas with you and always welcome your comments and feedback. Enjoy this special time with family and friends.

All the best to you and yours for a healthy and Happy New Year!

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, 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

The Symphony of Working with our Donors


Just the other day, I was listening to my son practice his cello.  He’s 9 years old and this is his first go-round with playing an instrument.  Learning to play an instrument and practicing the basics at the start can be challenging (both for the new musician and also to the ears of those around him!).

As I sat and listened to my son practice, I thought about how playing an instrument is also like our work with donors.  Sounds like a stretch, right?  But, if you think about it…it takes patience, persistence, diligence and a good ear for listening.

When we work with our donors, we, just as musicians, need to be patient.  Musicians work hard to learn a new piece or how to work with other members of the orchestra to make the final result ready for show time.  We, as fundraisers, need patience as well.  It takes time to build and cultivate relationships.  It often takes more members of our orchestra…our board members, volunteers and others to be involved in maintaining and enhancing relationships with our donors.  We are the leader, or the conductor of this process, to ensure that these relationships continue to grow and flourish.

Musicians must also be persistent and diligent with their art…always working to perfect and fine-tune their skills to enhance their performance.  In our work, we must continue to keep our donors well informed and in-tune with the happenings of our not for profits.  We need to ensure that we do everything we can to keep then engaged in our missions.

Finally, just as musicians need to listen to the tone and the rhythm of the music they are creating, we need to keep our ears open when we engage with our donors.  In talking to our donors, we need to do less of the talking and more of the listening so that we truly hear why they support our cause and what it is that moves them to make a gift to our not for profit.

I encourage you this week to think of yourself as the conductor of your orchestra.  Who is sitting in your audience today?  Who is not? And finally, with a little diligence, patience and persistence, who would you like to move from the back rows to the box seats… and what is your plan to move them forward?

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Jazz Music & Fundraising – An unlikely Pair

jazz image

Have you ever wondered how certain things get invented and what thought went into the discovery and execution of the product or idea? I frequently ask myself how things were created and the “back story” of what went into such development such as the brilliance of putting wheels on suitcases, or the creation of the drive-thru and something I still use today…sticky notes!

One of the discoveries I recently became aware of was how Jazz music was created and the assembly of how this music was established, shaped and the impact it has had on society.

I recently sat in on a talk by a well-known Chicago pastor, Dr. Otis Moss III, whose father worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Moss’s talk was on Truthtellers and creating a just world, and he tied in the early days of how Jazz music was created and it being a compilation of many cultures (African and European) that came together in New Orleans. That is fairly well known…what isn’t well known was the insightful foundation behind Jazz music and the impact it has had and made on society.

Jazz music as Dr. Moss shared, is music that shouldn’t be played together. The instruments look different, play different and sound different with musicians playing at the same time – music that seemingly shouldn’t work well together or mesh but it does creating a lively, soothing sound to form a unique harmony.

Sometimes it’s similar with fundraising. Our jobs as fundraisers include listening to understand the many different voices and opportunities  and we need to work to bring these things that maybe seem like they don’t go together…well, together.  If the Development Department is working in one silo and the Program Department is off working in another…sometimes to a different set of goals and core values, the organization will struggle in the voyage of fulfilling the mission of the organization. In my colleague, Susan Matejka’s recent post, Leadership Roles , she highlights the importance of mutual trust and a collaborative partnership between the board and staff and the “rhythm” that is required to run a solid organization. This rhythm is central throughout the staff and the day-to-day operations and it’s fundamental to keeping staff aligned with the goals and enthusiastic about working for the organization.

As you head into the Season of Giving and the busy weeks leading up to your year-end appeals and follow-up outreach, remember to involve the program staff in your messages and getting them to weigh in on your methodology as they are part of your band in making sure the that tune is played together and not as a solo. Start acting and performing like a Jazz organization and watch your fundraising efforts flourish.

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