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


It’s a Wrap!


Most not-for-profits operate on a fiscal year that ends June 30. It’s around this time when the weather begins to turn (we Chicagoan’s never thought it was going to happen!), the morning light appears sooner and we have the urge to finally be outside and enjoy the sunny, warm days!

While we aren’t outside enjoying a walk, working in our gardens or catching a baseball game, we are inside our offices busy preparing and planning for our year ahead.

What things must be accomplished before we close our year? Perhaps a spring appeal to lapsed donors, a final spring event to orchestrate or a few more visits to get in with donors to secure or maybe surpass our financial goal.

As we creep closer to our year end, we start to fine-tune our “to do” list for the coming year.  We begin to really look at what is on the docket for next year.  I’d like to offer a suggestion…and that is…to take some time to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t.  Did you meet with as many donors as you had planned? What happened on some of those visits to guide you in preparing for visits for next year? How did your materials work? As you tweak your stewardship materials, what needs to be changed? What resonated with those you met with that you’d like to enhance and what didn’t hit the mark?

There may be big things that you didn’t get to because your plate is so full.  I know that one area that many feel we could spend more time on is our work with major gifts. We know that this is the most cost effective approach to fundraising as we engage and inspire donors to commit to our missions. And yet, we often get swept away into other areas of our work and time is taken away from this crucial work with individual donors.

So, I challenge you!  Take a hard look at the events you manage or oversee and really study the bottom line. Are they worth the time and energy of you and perhaps your staff? If the bottom line of the event isn’t fruitful, does the event have some other key objective that is fulfilled?

Do you have a robust grant program that takes a lot of your time?  Try and put pen to paper to determine the costs associated with your time and perhaps that of other staff leaders.  Is it more cost effective to outsource grants?  Hire a part time grant-writer?

These are just some areas to consider, and I encourage you to think boldly about what you can remove or adjust from your plan to become more strategic and focused on bringing in major gifts to support the mission of your organization.

I wish you a terrific, renewed and energized plan for your new fiscal year – and, finally, Happy Spring!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Major Gift Work Ahead!

Work Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Head out the Door!


How many donors did you visit this week?  Did you get out of your office, away from your phone and computer, and get in front of your donors?  I recently had a conversation with a development officer who felt her major gift program had stalled.  She shared with whom she wanted to meet, what the strategy was for each prospect, and quickly outlined a wonderful plan to help launch a new program.

The problem was simple…she had a great plan, but, she wasn’t getting out of the office to talk with her donors!  Why?  We all know too well how busy we get with daily tasks that need to get done…maybe a grant to write, an event that needs to be tended to, or various meetings to attend?

It’s an age-old problem and one that I believe needs to be revisited at the start of every fiscal year.  How many calls will you make each day?  What is your goal for visits?  How can some of the other tasks be tabled or delegated to another staff member so that you can get out the door?

Many years ago, one of my mentors, Jim Stack, told me that development work is simple…it’s not rocket science.  We have to build relationships with our supporters and keep them engaged with the mission.  Every week, he was out the door asking for gifts, thanking donors for their investments and at every single meeting, he furthered the relationship the donor had with the organization.

It’s not rocket science…Jim was right!  And, it’s a good reminder to all of us that we need to make a concerted effort to get out the door and spend our time in a way that is most cost effective for the agencies we represent.

So, today, I challenge you…set your weekly goal for calls and visits and stick to it!  GET OUT THE DOOR and watch your major gift goals SOAR!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions