Engaging Your Older Donors


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

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

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

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

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


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

Communicate the Unexpected


Unexpected street sign

As we communicate with our donors, many of us work within guidelines that are predetermined and probably include using certain typefaces, using color schemes and achieving an overall look and feel of the organization, right?

I’m a fan of having graphic standards that identifies any brand. But once in a while you might want to try the unexpected.

I did this recently on a communications piece for a client. It was a postcard that was intended to say thank you for your support and provide an update on a few programs for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

But frankly, a typical “Thank you for your support” message bored me. Yawn.

I thought if I’m bored with it, then our donors may be too right?

So we tried something different.

Instead, the headline read, “Our participants would like to say thank you, but they can’t.”

Hmmmm? Why???? Why can’t they talk? (I hoped the reader would ask him or herself.)

The messages then revealed the various activities and learning opportunities that the participants have had so far this year. These included trips to the Brookfield Zoo, art classes at a professional art studio, and excursions to Navy Pier. The list went on.

The message was “Your generous contributions have expanded so many programs for our participants that they are simply TOO BUSY to stop even for one second.”

This was well received by our donors and even spurred a few emails to me about how clever they thought it was. Most importantly, the piece inspired them to read the information and know the gifts had been turned into positive experiences for the individuals they wanted to help. Ahhh, success.

So next time you need to create something that demonstrates the impact of your services, ask yourself how you could communicate the Unexpected.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

It’s not business… it’s personal


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

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

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

“Are you trying to sell me something?”  

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

But we’re not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I do NOW?


I was six months into my new VP of Advancement job and had one responsibility, bring home the first ever campaign for a South-side Catholic High School.  Having finally secured an appointment with the local bank, I went into the appointment confident that our preparation would pay off and we would ask for, and secure, a much needed lead gift.  As I’m sure you can imagine, my angst and discomfort rose exponentially when the President confidently looked at me and said, “I know why you’re here and we are anxious to help; we are proud to pledge $5,000 to the campaign.”

I thought……”WHAT DO I DO NOW?

A bit surprised, stunned and disappointed, I remember thinking… I owe it to the school to be HONEST with the prospect and be crystal clear what my intention was. So (with a lump in my throat) I quickly responded,

“Why thank you, the bank’s commitment is very much appreciated but I have to say, we were actually going to provide a full summary of the project, so you know what you are saying yes to and ask for a multi-year pledge that was at a higher level. If it’s okay, I’d still like the opportunity to present our proposal.”

It was the next response that surprised me the most when the bank President admitted, “Michael, that’s why we told you what we were going to give, we KNEW you were going to ask for more. But I admire your tenacity, share what you had hoped to share.”

I wish I could say that the bank ended up giving the amount we asked for but they didn’t.  The final gift was five times what they offered but ½ of what we asked for.  Both sides felt good about the exchange and I walked away with the following clarity which further prepared me for this kind of conversation in the years that followed:

  1. Whenever you meet with a prospect during a campaign, they KNOW why you’re there. Be confident and unapologetic for wanting to advance the mission philanthropically.  The prospect will respect your authenticity and passion for the mission, even if your number is higher than theirs.
  1. A little trick of mine is to envision representatives (fellow leaders, board members and constituents) watching the conversation from the sidelines. KNOWING I have their support and commitment to the mission we represent gives me confidence to ask, even when the conversation might get uncomfortable (like when the donor gets the ask out).
  1. Always, I mean ALWAYS, show genuine appreciation and empathy for what the prospect is sharing. When you do, it provides a more honest platform to share the needs of the organization.  It also gives you the opportunity to genuinely reflect and consider forging ahead with your original agenda or tabling the intended ask for a time when it may fit better with the donor’s situation.
  1. Any investment and or gift to the organization given by someone is NOT ABOUT US. As development officers, it is our job to be the bridge, or conduit, between the donor and the organization.  IF we are in a situation that causes us discomfort or uneasiness, we must accept that reality and avoid taking the easy way out.  When it feels right to push, push (respectively), the donor will respect you in the long run.

by: Michael Bruni, Partner, 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

The New Tax Law & Charitable Giving – Are you prepared?


Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack is a daily ritual on the car ride to school for my children…they have nearly all of the songs memorized (I skip the ones with bad language) and they truly enjoy learning the history of our fore fathers and how they each played a key role in forming our government.

Many of the songs touch on taxes and with that come many questions from the kids on why, what and how they work. Similar questions on taxes remain a daily topic especially in the nonprofit industry, as there are many inquiries on how the new tax bill will affect our organizations’ bottom line.

The new tax law increases the standard deduction – the amount taxpayers can claim without itemizing which will result in fewer Americans having a reason to itemize their giving and in essence eliminating an incentive for giving. Some experts predict more than 25 million Americans will choose not to itemize their returns which has many nonprofits legitimately concerned about a decrease in giving, especially from donors from the middle-class.

It is our responsibility to stay informed of the new law and communicate with our donors what impact it may have on the organization. The following should be considered…

  1. Inquire with the donor and be open to ask them how the new tax law will affect their charitable giving
  2. Avoid putting your “tax expert” hat on and always refer them to consult with their tax specialist
  3. Keep tabs on any uncharacteristic gaps in giving – this may serve as a lever to encourage increased giving from your most committed donors
  4. Do your research and stay on top of the latest updates on how the new tax law may affect the sector…one such resource is the Council of Nonprofits at, https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/

For your most committed donors, it’s probably safe to assume they are giving because of their strong belief in the mission. As fundraisers, we need to continue to communicate and stress the value of the services provided by our organizations and clearly and consistently show the impact…we are all well aware that showing impact will win them over every time.

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, 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

Keys for Achieving Big Goals



It’s the time of year for Big Goals!  When we turn the calendar on a new year, it is natural to focus on the Big Picture.  Restless to achieve, and unwilling to settle into a routine, we turn our thoughts to the Annual Plan, the Deferred Dreams, and the Lofty Ambitions.  These items are capitalized because they are formal objects of our hopes, our imagination, and our energetic attention.  They loom large in our minds and in our hearts, and they shape the plans we make for the coming year.

It is good for fundraisers to have Big Goals.  There is always the next appeal that has to get in the mail, or the next fundraising event that needs to be planned, and then there are those three visits a week with donors and prospects that all fundraisers should be committed to.  But the Big Goals are the reason that you do all these other things.  So it is good to refresh your focus on the why of fundraising.  Here are a few suggestions for clarifying the Big Goals for your non-profit organization:

First, Big Goals are mission driven and mission focused.  Reread your organizational mission statement and be inspired by it again.  Think about some instances last year where you saw your mission transform the lives of some individuals, and put names and faces on those transformational moments.  Visualize that happening again in the new year to new people, and allow yourself to be thrilled by that potential.  Your mission changes lives; just imagine the lives that will be changed this year.

Second, establish a sense of urgency about your Big Goals.  Big Goals are big because they are important.  Take a look at the current needs of the population you serve, and clarify what has changed in recent months that has sharpened the crisis or made your case more urgent.  Imagine if your organization did not exist, and try to articulate the crisis that would result.

Third, lead a coalition to meet the urgent need and achieve the Big Goals.
Let others on your team know that you are serious about accelerating the impact of your mission on people’s lives. Remind them that they have the power to achieve that accelerated change and impact. Clarify roles and involve your team in making plans and carrying them out.

Fourth, communicate your Big Goals.
Let your donors and prospects in on your sense of urgency. Engage their imagination and their energy in the vision of transforming people’s lives. Let the impact of your work be known. Tell the stories showing the impact of their donations on individuals, families, and on the community. Sure, it is yet another restatement of your mission. But this time you are doing so at a time of year when we are all focused on the Big Goals, and after you have focused you and your team on the why of fundraising.

Have a great 2018! And may all of us achieve our Big Goals!

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

It’s a new year…time to get rid of the clutter!


Happy 2018!  The start of a new year comes an opportunity to begin again.  Whether you are one who makes resolutions or chooses to ignore the time-honored tradition, January offers us a chance to take stock.  Is there something you want to do differently in 2018?  Do you have a change you would like to make?  Here are a few simple steps to help you make some progress.

Name it.

Identify what it is you would like to change or do differently.   Do you want to be more organized?  Do you want to dedicate more time during the day to strategic work instead of “busy” work?  Or maybe, as my colleague David noted in last week’s blog, you strive to be better about meeting with donors this year?

Take stock.

Start by taking stock.  Allocate some time to determine what is standing the way of achieving your goal.  My guess is that you are experiencing some sort of “clutter”.

Perhaps you have…

  • a messy desk or briefcase
  • too many “to-do’s” in your head instead of in writing
  • been preoccupied with a business problem or personal issue
  • a tendency to respond to every email as it lands in your inbox

Move forward.

Whether the clutter is physical, mental or emotional, tackle the clutter.  Perhaps this means allocating a few hours to clean and organize your work space, taking time each day to identify your top 2-3 priorities for the day, addressing that problem or issue that is draining your resources or simply giving yourself permission to only respond to emails at designated times throughout the day, devise and execute a plan to deal with the clutter.  From my personal experience, acknowledging the issue and  a path forward eases the burden.  So get out there and tackle 2018 head-on!

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