Are you “tough as nails” or “soft as cotton?”


As a CEO, or Executive Director, how would others describe you? Charismatic…pushy…a visionary?

What would your donors and staff say about you?

I’ve worked with many nonprofit leaders. A few have fallen into one of two distinct camps: Tough as nails or soft as cotton.

So which is best?

The soft as cotton leader was magnetic, warm, and a great listener.  He ruled with his heart and hired individuals he knew and trusted to run the organization he founded. Some of the staff members were friends who lacked a nonprofit background.  But he was confident they would find a way to reach the organization’s goals.   He was a consensus builder and attracted donors that inherently trusted him to make the right decisions for the organization.

On the other hand, the tough as nails leader didn’t always entertain the opinions of everyone around the table.  She would not be described as a consensus builder, but was intelligent and made swift decisions.  People might call her firm, but fair. She too, put the mission of the organization first.

These two people are opposites in my mind, but it takes all kinds of leaders to make the world go round right? So which ED would you trust to use your hard eared, donations wisely? Who would seek to guide your organization into the future?

You see, the warm, magnetic leader didn’t put the right people into the right positions to lead the organization. He ruled too much with his heart and not enough with his head.  This jeopardized the mission.

The tough as nails leader earned my dollar, my respect, my time.

I trusted this leader to sidestep emotions that might develop during tough decision and keep the mission of the organization first. As an individual, her magnetism was easily rivaled, but as a leader, she was solid, believable, and trustworthy.

Each of us has an impact on the level of trust that donors have in our organizations. Find the style that works best for you.  Most importantly be the type of leader you would follow.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions



My wife and I aren’t the biggest TV watchers beyond the nightly news, a White Sox game and the occasional political news station, however, we have recently been engrossed with the Netflix biographical drama The Crown. We’re just a few episodes into the first season where the show highlights Queen Elizabeth’s sudden ascension of power soon after her father King George VI passes away.

One of the key themes is the many transitions that take place because of the new leadership. We see promotions and demotions with the new assistants, deputies and private aides which lead to a lot of uncertainty. It’s no different when changes happen at a non-profit. When a new President, department head or manager joins the team, there is without a doubt change that will transpire. The changes mostly likely aren’t going to be made overnight but change is inevitable.

One of the roles we can play and assist with during these times of transition is making sure the new team members are properly informed on the institutional background of the organization. Yes, they will have to do their own homework, learn the systems and especially familiarize themselves with the many stakeholders but taking the time to provide them with your knowledge is the right thing to do personally and for the organization.

Transition without solid communication is a recipe for confusion and frustration. It is essential to keep the lines of communication open as there will most likely be anxiety amongst the team and employees will require some time to engage the newness. Transitions are hard on everyone and making sure that everyone is informed can be an easy win to avoid pessimists and unnecessary conversation. If you aren’t in a position of authority you should speak up and ask questions so you are informed.

For transitions that are self-induced, they should be handled skillfully as your reputation is on the line. Think back on the time you joined the organization and how well or how poorly the transition went. It’s important to make sure you are leaving your replacement and team in good hands so any required reports or notes that are provided are completed with accuracy and are on point.

Assisting in the transition no matter what role you play or what level you are in the organization is everyone’s job. As I’ve witnessed in The Crown and in work evolutions I’ve been a part of, support and most of all trust are required ingredients to have in a successful and smooth transition.

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

Seasoned and Green


Is your current Board comprised of established members – constituents who have been a part of your organization for a decade or longer?  Over the past few weeks, I have found myself in conversation with several non-profit leaders where this topic has been raised.  The consistent concerns are twofold:

  1. How do we continue to engage this important (and aging) group; and
  2. How do we attract and engage the “next generation” of leaders?

Let’s take the first group first.  Obviously, it is important to continue to recognize and thank your faithful leaders.  But it is also important to read their cues.  In other words, do you have a Board member who is getting tired?  Is he/she hinting that it may be time to take a less active role with the organization?  The best approach is simply to have a conversation with this person.  Invite him/her for coffee or lunch and listen.  Ask open-ended questions.  Find out how they would like to stay engaged and informed.

If your organization does not have one, perhaps you should consider creating an Advisory Council or a President’s Council.  Designed to meet the needs of your organization and a select group of constituents, this type of “board” typically meets only once a year for lunch and a “state of the organization”-type presentation.  In addition, the members of this Council may be consulted occasionally for advice or assistance.  This arrangement is typically a “win-win” for members and the organization alike.

It is equally important to “listen” to the senior Board members who want to continue to be active and engaged.  Unfortunately, I have seen active Board members forced to “resign” to a role as a Life Trustee – or something less meaningful – as a way to open a Board spot for someone else.  This can be a big mistake, as some may take offense and become less engaged, both with their time and their resources.

In terms of attracting the “next generation” – it is also important to listen and understand what type of volunteer work they are interested in and what role they may want to play with the organization.  It’s typically a good idea to find more entry level roles for younger constituents – perhaps they can help with a benefit or serve on a Junior Board.  This helps both the volunteer and the organization get acquainted before making a potentially bigger commitment, such as a Board role.  It is also fun to identify and cultivate family members – children or other relatives of Board members or volunteers –  as they typically have a good understanding of the mission and may be interested in developing a relationship with the organization as well.

In any of these scenarios, it is often just a matter of observing, asking good questions – and truly listening to the needs and interests of your constituents.  Which simply translates into good development.

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

Multi-Directional Managing


After a career of 45 years, I’ve earned the title “Senior” Advisor.  But the truth is, like most employed people, I’ve spent my entire career somewhere in the middle of the management structure.  Think about it.  No matter where you are in management, you have responsibilities to manage down, up, and across your position.  Understanding the differences is important for people with positions of responsibility in non-profit organizations.

Most management theory has to do with giving direction to those beneath you in the organization: how to boost productivity, manage the work-load, and get the most out of people who report to you.  Chances are you spend the majority of your time managing down.  Your “to do list” probably has a list of deadlines and tasks to be accomplished, and getting those things done is a large part of what you were hired to do.

People who work in non-profit organizations also spend a good portion of their time managing up.  If you report to an Executive Director, look at your organization’s goals from his or her perspective, and think together about how you can help the ED to achieve the goals.  If you are an Executive Director, you know you have direct responsibility to members of your Board.  Good managers know that they need to spend significant amounts of time each week recruiting and retaining productive board members, and strategizing with them on the future goals and accomplishments of the organization.

The most neglected part of management is what I call managing across the organization and profession.  It took me many years to realize that I myself and the people who report to me cannot accomplish the goals for the organization in isolation.  Observing effective managers, I realized that they are adept at gaining support from peers within and outside the organization.  In a large non-profit, you as a development professional will be more effective if you work together with peers from marketing, intake, human resources, technology, accounting, etc. to accomplish the goals you all share.  In a small non-profit, you may have to look outside the organization to find peers who can complement your skill set and help you to think about how to accomplish your goals from a different perspective.  Some of the ways to do this include joining professional organizations, seeking consultant services, and/or attending professional workshops and national conferences.

The next time you visit your list of goals and objectives, take a few minutes to analyze it.  Make sure that you include goals to manage down, up, and across.  You will be more productive and happier if you do!

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



Our Champions


January 15 is a special day in America…the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year as a day that we remember a champion.  It’s not only a day where banks and schools are closed, but a day to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. Dr. King’s values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service defined his character and empowered his leadership.

MLK Day is also a national day of service.  All across America over this weekend, people are volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youth…the list goes on and the projects are many.  Many of these volunteer efforts impact the organizations that we also work to support.

I encourage you to take pause on this Holiday and think about your leaders.  Who are the champions of your organizations? Many of us are so fortunate to have caring compassionate leaders who dedicate their time and resources to support our organizations.  Our board members, donors, committee members, volunteers and community partners are key to our organization’s success in carrying out our missions.

So on this day, one of hope and promise and celebration of service, take a few minutes to think about your leaders…your champions…and, this week, make the time to write them each a handwritten note of thanks for all that they do.  Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…what are you doing for others?”  This week, remind your champions that their voice, their commitment and dedication to your mission that impacts others has great meaning and value.  That it makes a real difference and that we are grateful.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Thank you to a Philanthropic Leader


During this season of giving, Hub Philanthropic Solutions wants to shine a light on a philanthropic leader in the western suburbs of Chicago — Community Memorial Foundation (CMF).  Established in 1995, CMF is a private independent foundation working to measurably improve the health of people who live and work in the western suburbs of Chicago. Health is broadly defined by CMF, and includes physical, mental, environmental, social, and spiritual aspects. CMF views its grantees as partners and is committed to being both responsible and responsive to community needs in its grant-making.

In addition to investing in programs of its grantee partners, CMF invests in their leadership in innovative and creative ways. One such initiative — Together for Health: The Impact of 3 —indeed had a tremendous impact on organizations. Designed to highlight the important role board members play in building a culture of philanthropy, this challenge helped organizations sustain their mission-driven work.

In November 2015, CMF invited board members and executive leadership to invest in the missions of the organizations they serve and to invite others to do the same. Within one year, CMF sponsored four leadership workshops for executive staff and board members, on topics ranging from creating a culture of philanthropy to developing and stewarding major and planned giving donors.

As part of the Challenge, CMF also offered a matching grant opportunity. CMF provided up to a $9,500 match on new or increased donations from board members — including former members, advisory members and standing committee members — provided that the board members also sponsor a similar $9,500 match on new or increased donations from individuals to their organizations.

In November 2016, CMF gathered all participants for its final leadership workshop and celebration. In one year’s time, the challenge had a tremendous impact on the western suburbs: more than 50 organizations leveraged over $4.1 million in new and increased contributions. These new gifts mean different things to different organizations: for one, it means providing mental health services to 65 individuals for one year. For another, it means providing safe haven to victims of domestic violence. Still another is enhancing its work with adults living with disabilities. Another is supporting its organizational infrastructure to continue creating a culture of philanthropy.

Thank you, Community Memorial Foundation.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What’s on your summer reading list?

By Tim Kennedy, Senior Consultant, HUB Philantropic Solutions

If you are like me, your Facebook feed is full of friends asking for the best summer read. And while we all will and should indulge in the summer reading books it’s also a great time to keep up to date on our industry and the latest trends.

With so many types of resources available whether it’s research studies, reports and the latest Giving USA data and through so many channels such as social media, blogs (especially this one), conferences, webinars, websites and newsletters it can be overwhelming to read and dissect them all.

A colleague recently shared an article with me in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on Women in Philanthropy. It was an impactful piece on the ever changing demographic changes in philanthropy and how “women are primed to wield philanthropic power as never before.” I shared the article with a few of the boards that I work with and many responded how much they enjoyed the read.

It reminded me that it’s always good to share these types of articles and reports to fellow staff, leadership and the board members we work with to make sure everyone involved with the organization continues to stay informed.

It also reminded me of the pile that is accumulating on my home desk. I have articles from the Chronicle, Inside Philanthropy and Nonprofit Times piled up that I need to get to this summer. It’s our job as fundraisers to remain on top of the latest giving trends, donor habits and foundation funding strategies to name a few.

While the pile on my night stand can be daunting, I’m committed to making sure I leverage all of this information to stay informed and up to date. A colleague recently recommended a book entitled Asking by Jerold Panas so I’ve added it to my summer reading list. I’ll be sure to let you know what I learn.

Happy Summer. Happy Reading


Taking Inventory of Your Development Department

development department

by Susan Bottum, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Over the past several months, I have been in a number of conversations with clients regarding the structure of their Development department.  These conversations have been interesting and have pushed my clients to think objectively the needs of their organization today.  Often times, Development departments “evolve”, based on the skill set of the team and the immediate needs of the organization.  I find it beneficial to take a step back every now and then to take inventory.

First, make sure you have a good understanding of the organization’s goals:

  • What are the organization’s objectives over the next 12-24 months?
  • What is the Development department’s role in helping to meet these objectives?
  • Do we have the right roles in place within the Development department?
    • If not, what roles are missing?
    • What roles are no longer needed?

Next, take inventory:

  • Do we have the right skillsets within our current team?
  • If so, are those skills aligned to the correct positions?
  • If not, what is missing?
    • Can we identify training to address this?
    • Do we need to add resources to the team?

This exercise can prove beneficial in ensuring the right support for the organization and it can often prove uplifting for members of the Development team.  Sometimes a little change to a current position can be exciting and energizing with new opportunities and challenges.

Lastly, if you determine the need to hire a new person, here are a few good resources for non-profits:

Job posting – You can post your position at for as little as $70.  Most of my clients have used this website and have had good luck in finding qualified candidates.

Salary information – If you are unsure about a salary range for a position, go to  It will provide salary ranges and other details free of charge.


Learn to Love the Ask


By:Steven Murphy, Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Every fundraiser has heard it a thousand times:  “I don’t know how you can ask people for money all the time; I could never do that!”  I used to feel that way too, before I learned to Love the Ask.

Here are three things I learned along the way:

  • Asking is not about convincing people to do something they do not want to do. Our powers of persuasion have little to do with whether or not a gift will be given.  It is not on us to charm, manipulate or try to control the behavior of our prospects.    Whether or not a gift is given is not up to you!
  • Asking is about listening to people’s experience and helping them name their passion for your mission. Successful fundraisers listen far more than they talk.  Our job is to get our donors talking.  “When did you first get involved with our organization?”  “Who were the people that inspired you to become a donor?”  “What has your experience with us been like?”  Practice following a question with another question and then another.  This will help you keep the focus on the donor and what they have to say, and keep you from talking at the prospect and dominating the conversation.
  • Asking is easier when you let the donor know you are listening! Actively respond to the prospect’s stories.  Open your eyes wide, raise your eyebrows, nod, smile when appropriate and don’t be afraid to laugh openly with the donor when he or she tells a story meant to evoke a laugh, or to express sympathy when the story suggests it.  Don’t rush to The Ask.  Let the donor get there in due time by telling you why he or she loves your organization.

I learned to Love the Ask when I realized what a great experience it is to be with people who are generous of heart.  Generous giving follows from generosity of the heart.  Chances are, you would not be sitting down with a major prospect unless they have already—time and again—demonstrated their commitment to your mission and their personal generosity.  You are there to listen to their stories, to enjoy your mutual passion for your organization’s mission, and to think together about its future.  You’ll enjoy being a fundraiser more when you learn to Love the Ask!



What’s Next?


David Gee – Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I had the privilege of participating in a client’s development committee meeting last week when the Chair asked me a question about best practices for committee meetings. My immediate response was, “Know what comes next– and who is responsible.” A few days later, I was working with another client on their major gifts prospect pipeline and we were discussing key elements. In the midst of that exchange I again found myself saying, “Know what comes next– and who is responsible.”

While having a Definitive Next Step (DNS) is crucial to the success of all kinds of projects in every sector and yes, even in our personal matters, it is absolutely mission critical for resource development.

  • If you are cultivating a new relationship or stewarding one with an existing donor, there should always be a plan for the next step/engagement/touch and clarity about who owns it.
  • When great ideas are generated at a committee or team meeting, someone has to have responsibility for what the next steps are and everyone involved needs to be clear about what that means.
  • During a solicitation with a donor, it is critical to define what comes next and, ideally, you – not the donor – are the one that owns it.
    • If the donor says they need time to consider your request and you have gained an understanding as to how much time they think they might need (i.e., two weeks), simply ask if it is okay for you check in with them at that time. This avoids the awkward and sometimes ongoing problem of never knowing if it’s the right time to call, and thus, not being in control of securing the gift.
  • With special events and strategic planning (projects that involve a lot of moving parts) successful execution depends on knowing exactly what comes next and who is tasked with making it happen, throughout the process.
    • It is particularly helpful with these multi-layered projects when the owner of one step understands that completing their task directly impacts another team member’s ability to execute their assigned step. The accountability factor can be an additional motivator.

The key word here is “definitive.” Next steps are only going to be useful if they are clearly actionable and if someone takes full responsibility for them.

Obviously this isn’t rocket science. Nevertheless, being intentional about identifying the appropriate DNS and diligent in ensuring ownership for every step is vital to advancing our fundraising and resource development goals successfully. When everyone has clarity about “What’s Next” we can operate more efficiently and, ultimately, be more effective in achieving our mission.


David Gee is a seasoned development professional with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the HUB Philanthropic Solutions team after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.