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

Lifelong Learning and the Art of Fundraising


I’ve got more than a few years behind me in my career, but I continue to learn how to emulate best practices in fundraising.  You should too.

Start by acknowledging that fundraising is always evolving.  Think about how fundraising has changed since you first started practicing.  Not all of us will remember what it was like before computers, multi media presentations, and PowerPoint slides.  But even in recent years, there have been dramatic changes in technology that make it possible to immediately fulfill gifts at events, in online cohorts and affinity groups that build community, and in Board portals that save trees and make vast amounts of information accessible anytime and anywhere to our most important supporters.

These are just a few examples.  Make sure you have people on your team who constantly scan for new, cutting edge, best practices.  You may not be the tech wiz yourself, but make sure your most accomplished technology practitioners are empowered to look outside the organization to find new solutions that will maximize your fundraising potential and make it easier for your donors to support your organization.

Remember, too, that fundraising is more art than science.  Be creative.  Resist putting everything on automatic pilot, or just doing what was done last year.  Look for the opportunity to give your donors a delightful surprise.  Make them smile when they encounter the next communication from you.  Touch their hearts with stories from the people who are helped by the generosity of your donors.  Let the beauty of the work your organization does shine through in your communications.  And don’t forget to step back occasionally and admire the results you are getting!

Finally, savor the fact that fundraising broadens our understanding of the world and its people.  Learn to see the world through the eyes of those whom you serve.  Understanding perspectives different from our own makes us better fundraisers.  The work we do is multicultural, multi-generational, and populated by a range of abilities, intellects, and aspirations.  It is humbling to know that the more effective we are as fundraisers, the more good can be done by our organization.

No matter where you are in your fundraising career, make it a habit to assess what you learned this week that can make you a more effective fundraiser next week!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, 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

Are you remaining curious?


Recently, the founder of one of the world’s largest Public Relations firms in the world passed away. Al Golin, (the name of the firm that still bears his name) died at the age of 87 years after 60 years in the business and never having retired.

Al is best known for being the guy who made a cold call to the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, asking Mr. Kroc if he needed help telling the story about this new restaurant business he was hoping to expand across the country.  Al was hired on the spot and became a pioneer as he helped the young company adopt a culture of getting involved in the community, partnering with local organizations and establishing charitable tie-ins….now a prerequisite in the world of corporate America.

Though Al is best known for that encounter with Ray Kroc and advising this corporate behemoth to implement what is now known as Corporate Social Responsibility into their business plan, what he’s truly known for was his integrity, thoughtfulness and curiosity.

As my colleague David Gee shared in a past blog post, Be Interested, focusing on understanding and striving to be interested not interesting will certainly help with building connections vs one-time encounters. Al Golin was notorious for building connections. He was always interested in others, and asked tons of questions learning their backgrounds, their story and about their families.  He was never too busy or too important to answer a question or talk with his employees about a project or client. He was always learning and pushing others to strive to learn more. Because of this, GOLIN still works for McDonald’s today….the longest PR agency and client partnership in history.

As you head in the summer months, I challenge you to remain mindful of being present with your key stakeholders, your most loyal donors (large and small), maintain the connections and touchpoints through the summer and at the same time strive to learn more about them as well as your own development efforts. Strive to learn more on how to enhance your donor recognition efforts, strive to learn more by brainstorming innovative stewardship practices, strive to learn more on how and when your donors want to be communicated with. Are you remaining curious on how they react to your appeals? Your annual reports? Your fundraising events?

Whether it’s with proposal submissions, appeal letters, general stewardship or board member interaction; maintaining the connections, being curious and always striving to learn more on how to be a better development professional are things we constantly need to be mindful of.

We all can learn from an old PR legend like Al Golin who knew how to maintain and keep long standing relationships.

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

Attention to Detail


In his blog post two weeks ago, “Are you loyal to your loyal donors?” my colleague Steve Murphy provided a very tangible and fundamental post on being loyal to your most loyal donors. If you missed it, I would strongly encourage you to go back and read it and share it with your colleagues, your boss and even your board. The organizations that take the time to recognize gifts properly, steward strategically and pay attention to detail will stand out and will further the giving cycle.

Speaking of paying attention to detail and standing out, I recently received a thank you letter in the mail acknowledging my wife and my annual support to an organization over the past calendar year. It was nicely written highlighting the accomplishments of the year, the impact the organization is making in the community and the bold program goals for 2017, but in the valediction the signature of the author was missing. Yes, you got that right the letter was not signed…. THEY OMITTED A SIGNATURE!

I couldn’t help but take a deep breath, then have a nervous laugh, took a deep breath again and then I found myself really annoyed. This is my profession and a detail such as this cannot be neglected.  I absolutely understand we make mistakes (wrong addresses, ink that doesn’t dry on the letter, etc…) but this is one you just don’t forget to do. I was more worried for the organization than the letter to me. I don’t want this to hurt their stewardship efforts and I will respectfully share my concern with them and offer the appropriate suggested follow up to the donors.

Steve posed the question in his post – “Do they even know that I value their mission and consider them one of my top three charitable interests?”  Getting an unsigned letter further signified the importance of Steve’s question. As development professionals we need to find this answer out. We need to dig a little harder to know who the donor is and where the organization falls in their priorities.  We need to pay attention to detail, ask our colleagues to double check our work, slow down and spend as much time on the thank you letter as we do on the appeal letter or on the special event invitation we are producing.

Details matter and sloppy development work results in unhappy investors. Unhappy investors equate to lost money…and lost money is a hit to the mission.

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