What’s on your $ 1 Million Wish List?


During the campaign preparation process with one of our clients, a staff member recently offered up, completely unsolicited, a “$1 million idea” that she had developed. This particular individual knew that we were in the process of clarifying the campaign priorities and took the initiative to present a new program she wanted to see developed at the organization. It was an impressive move on her part, and one that also reminded me how important it is for organizations to have a list of potential funding options at the ready.

In my previous role as a development director for a public foundation, we talked with the executive directors and development staff at our grantee organizations about having just such a wish list on hand. The challenge was to have compelling and viable options at the ready and be able to answer the question, “Do you know what you would do with $1 million (or $5m or $10m) if someone came to you with that kind of offer?

There are a couple of things I specifically love about this exercise.

  • First, it is always a good idea to have a menu of funding opportunities on hand to offer your donors in the event they either have interests outside of your current funding priorities, or they are inclined to make an impact investment  beyond the scope of your current ask.
  • Additionally, going through the process of discovery and creating your “what if” menu is a great way to engage the people who care about and have a stake in your organization’s future and to get everyone thinking about impact.

Do you have such a list? Is it something you update regularly or share with your board members and key donors to get their feedback on?

In my experience, as long as the conversations are framed appropriately (so that everyone’s expectations are clear), discussing what ifs with your program staff, donors, current/past board members and other key folks in your organization is not only a smart planning strategy, it’s also a great way to engage people in thinking creatively about your future and focusing together on how you might have an even greater impact.  I mean, who doesn’t like to dream big, right?

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

Countdown to the End of the Fiscal Year


With spring weather approaching (we can only hope!), I find myself gearing up to clean out closets, wash windows and get things in order at home.  I want to be ready to spend more time outside…running (because it’s finally light outside in the morning), working in the garden, riding bikes and watching my son play baseball.

At the office, I also find myself readying for a new season…and also counting down to the end of the fiscal year.  As most non-profits close the year on June 30, we are in the final stretch to meet our fundraising goals.  It’s a good time to review our budgets…and see where we may be up a little (cheers!) or still have a ways to go.  Now is a good time to take a hard look at each revenue bucket and make final adjustments to our plans to reach…or maybe even exceed our goals.

Is your Gala just around the corner?  Maybe it would be beneficial to add a few more visits with potential sponsors or underwriters.  Enlist your committee or board members and ask each one to bring an additional prospect to the table.   If you have a major gift program, make a mini pyramid of prospects and list the potential gifts that you could work to secure from now to the close of the fiscal year.

How about a spring mailing?  Gone are the days when not for profits only send out one mail appeal at the close of the calendar year.  I’ve found that a spring mailing that asks for support of a special project or has a matching component can go a long way.  Some years ago, one of my clients mailed packets of Forget Me Not seeds to lapsed donors.  Another organization asked their alumnae to make gifts in variations of 3’s… a number special to the organization.  All of these direct mail pieces were complimented by email blasts that were sent before and after the mailing and included options for giving online.  These ideas were creative and not overly complicated, they didn’t break the bank, and, they made it simple for the donor to make a gift.

As we tweak our year-end activities, it’s also perfect timing to begin thinking about our plans for the next fiscal year.  What worked well this year?  What didn’t?  What projects were on the list that we weren’t able tackle?  I always find that a short-term plan with clear goals and specific metrics helps guide me to the finish line.  It’s my short burst to complete the marathon of the fiscal year.  As you gear up for spring, both at home and at the office, enjoy the sunlit mornings, warmer weather and, cheers to your well-mapped out trek to close another successful year!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are You Using Your Roadmap?



Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe 2017 is upon us…have you made any resolutions?  For me, resolutions tend to work in the opposite direction.  For example, if I decide I am going to cut back on eating sweets, it seems that sweets (chocolate in particular) is always on my mind.  If my resolution is to read the news for 15 minutes every morning, I find I am lucky to get to it by 10p.  So, I decided a few years back that my resolution is to not make any resolutions!  It has worked well for me thus far; however, there are a few things I do try and be diligent about, especially as a new year begins.  One of these things is to always have my phone handy, as it has one of my most favorite apps: Google maps.

For those of you who know me, you are probably well aware that I am directionally challenged.  The other day, my husband and I went to the mall.  The good news is that I know how to get to all of my favorite stores in the mall.  But as we began searching for a parking spot that very crowded day-after-Christmas, I suggested a parking location.  My husband very gently said, “I think I am going to park over in that section”, which was nowhere near my recommended spot.  As we were walking towards our destination store, I said, “Oh, this is so much closer!”  And he jokingly said, “Yes, when you made a suggestion, I thought…I am going to go in the complete OPPOSITE direction from what Susan suggested and we should be fine.”  And we were.  So, now you have a sense of the extent of my lack of direction.

Having the ability to google an address and get step-by-step directions is an amazing gift for people like me!  It is so much easier to get places on time, avoid traffic jams and have the ability to relax and truly enjoy the ride instead of wondering if you are actually headed in the right direction (I must admit, I have been on many trips during which I actually drove many, many miles in the wrong direction).  Given my job, I use Google maps on a daily basis and know I would be lost without it.

For the past few weeks, we have been working with one of our HPS clients on their 2017 development plan, which is their “roadmap” for the year.  We have had many conversations about what goals to include, how much to push the team in terms of fundraising and other development activities and our “destination” – what we hope to accomplish this year.  The best part about having this plan in place is that our client “knows where they are going”.  If ever they get to a point where they feel overwhelmed or lost, they can look at their development plan for guidance – and assurance that they are actually making progress each day.

When working in development, it is easy to get distracted, lose sight of what we are trying to do, and feel like the work will never get done.  And while it takes work to prepare for the journey by taking time out of an already overly full schedule, having a development plan in place will ultimately make this journey a little easier.  So, if you haven’t yet drafted your 2017 roadmap, it’s not too late…and I promise it will make the journey a lot more fun.


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

Making the Most of Your Holiday Down Time


Your holiday appeals have been sent.  Giving Tuesday has come and gone.  The hectic pace of preparing for the season is starting to slow.  You finally have a few moments to catch your breath.  I am hopeful this season has been positive for you and your organization and I commend you on making it through this busy time.  As the year comes to a close, here are a few ideas to help your 2017 start on a positive note.

First and foremost, take some time away. 

Whether you have plans to travel or simply plan to stay home during the holidays, I encourage you to take at least some time away from the office – which includes your email and voicemail.  By completely “unplugging” you will find renewed energy and will be ready to begin the year anew.

Take advantage of a quiet office. 

On those days when you are in the office, enjoy the peace.  Clear off your desk and clean out your files.  Arriving into the office after the New Year and finding your space “clutter-free” (or at least “clutter-reduced”) will feel awesome.

Take advantage of a quiet office, part 2.

If you are in the office, take time to connect with a colleague – perhaps someone you don’t often spend time with during the work day.  Invite a coworker out to lunch.  Learn something interesting about your organization from another perspective.

Take advantage of a quiet office, part 3.

Use this time to write a few personal notes or place “thank you” calls to donors or other friends of the organization.  Consider reaching out to someone you normally don’t correspond with or see very often, just to let them know you are thinking of them this holiday season.

Give thanks.

In this wonderful, yet hectic, time of year, it is easy to forget to say thanks…thanks to donors, volunteers, coworkers, friends.  Each day, take a few minutes to think about those who make your life joyful; then, be sure to let those people know how they are special to you.

Wishing you a wonderful, peaceful and joyous holiday season.

by: Susan Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Requirements and Best Practices – Organizational Gift Substantiation

by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

As consultants, we speak often about “best practices.”  Those are the habits and behaviors that individuals and organizations should undertake to provide the highest quality and levels of service.  However, best practices are not requirements (typically).  Though many best practices are driven to ensure we do the best for our organizations as well as the donors who support them, they are simply conventions that allow organizations to be the most effective.  Over the next month or so, I will take a look at the requirements that reside behind best practices.  Today, I look at organizational requirements for gift substantiation.

IRS Publication 1771 provides an explanation of the requirements of Charitable Contribution substantiation.  The IRS imposes record keeping and substantiation rules of charitable contributions and disclosure rules on charities that receive certain quid pro quo contributions:

  • Donors must have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contribution before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
  • Donors are responsible for obtaining a written acknowledgment from a charity for any single contribution of $250 or more before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
  • Charitable organizations are required to provide a written disclosure to a donor who receives goods or services in exchange for a single payment in excess of $75

Though there are many best practices that would direct an organization to provide a gift acknowledgement in timely manner, the IRS does not impose a penalty on organizations that do not.  They instead say it is the donor’s responsibility to seek out the required documentation for gifts over $250.  However, if an organizations fails to provide written substantiation of a quid pro quo payment, the IRS can impose a penalty of $10/contribution, not to exceed $5,000 per fundraising event or mailing.

Example of a quid pro quo contribution: A donor gives a charitable organization $100 in exchange for a concert ticket with a fair market value of $40. In this example, the donor’s tax deduction may not exceed $60. Because the donor’s payment (quid pro quo contribution) exceeds $75, the charitable organization must furnish a disclosure statement to the donor, even though the deductible amount doesn’t exceed $75.

As organizations look to build or revise policies and procedures it is essential to know what you are required to do.  However, rarely will requirements alone suffice to build and grow donor support.  Once you have a firm understanding of your requirements,  build procedures that support your donors and build loyalty.  What follows are a few best practices regarding organizational contribution gift acknowledgements:

  1. Provide donors with written gift acknowledgements that specify if any goods or services were received and if so, providing detail and value of said goods and services.
  2. Provide gift acknowledgements in a timely manner, typically within 48 hours (business) of when the gift was received.
  3. For donors who provide multiple gifts to your organization per year, provide a year-end summary outlining all gifts made within that year and provide that prior to April 15th of the following year.  The closer to year end, the better.


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.

In 2016, Resolve to Follow Three Simple Rules


By George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

A new year has started and most of us are faced with an opportunity-an opportunity to change.   I know much is written at this time of year about New Year’s resolutions and I hate to write another post about this topic, but this year’s turn of the calendar provided me with some insight that may be helpful to you. So for all you Development professionals out there, welcome to 2016.  Here are three rules to follow for a healthy, successful new year.

  1.  You are not your job. It seems to be a simple enough statement but many of us get caught in this trap.  Our jobs are very important and we are committed to doing our very best for our organizations.  This is commendable.  However, where trouble begins to happen is when our job becomes all-consuming, preventing the separation of our work self from out-of-work self.  This has been a hard lesson for me to learn as I am blessed ( or cursed) with a very strong work ethic.  While this is often a great trait to have, it can also limit you.  I have had the tendency in the past to sacrifice my out-of-work self to do more work.  What that does is it begins to take the “you” out of your work.  You have heard the expression, “All work and no play makes ( fill in the blank) a dull boy”.  It is indeed true.  Your organization benefits from having a happy, healthy and interesting employee much more than a stressed, one-focused drone.  Make a commitment to work hard this year but to especially invest in growing your out-of-work self.
  2. Keep the important work at the top of the to-do list.  Life is full of distractions.  Those things Steven Covey called urgent but not important.  You know these tasks, they are the ” what ifs” and the projects that take you off point.  We all face these tasks on a daily basis, so how do we keep focused on the important things? Create a short bullet list of the most important goals to accomplish and put them in a place where you can constantly refer back (some use Outlook for this, others use post it notes or signs).  Whatever form works for you, use it.  Let this be your guide post and road map to keep you on track to achieving your goals.
  3. You are not the ” only game in town” so treat your supporters well.  No matter how special or unique your organization may be, there are plenty more doing other excellent work.  If you want to retain and grow your supporters, you need to be better at identifying, cultivating, engaging and stewarding them than any other organization.  Take the time this year to create a plan that puts your best supporters needs first and make sure to deliver what helps both your supporters and your organization grow together.

Following these three simple rules will not only make for a better year for your organization, but it will also improve your quality of life which inevitably will improve your quality of work.

Happy 2016!

The tyranny of other things


By: George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Have you ever sat at your desk at the end of a Friday and asked yourself, “How come I didn’t accomplish all the things I planned to do this week?”  So many development professionals that I have known or worked with have asked this very question.  While there are many reasons why people don’t accomplish what they set out to do, one of the reasons many working in the social impact sector face is the tyranny of other things.  Non-profit organizations most often focus all their efforts on mission delivery.  At the same time they also struggle with balancing the number of staff and their individual responsibilities with the never-ending lists of new tasks and ideas that come to bear.  Preparing yourself for this onslaught not only takes preparation, but constant vigilance.  Stephen Covey, described this struggle of the important and the urgent in his famous quadrant diagram.  We are constantly faced with urgent things.  Some are important and others are not.  However, our jobs call us to focus on the important things even if they do not have the most urgency attached to them.  For example, development officers assigned to a portfolio of donors need to commit regular and focused time to their cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  How do we keep these important matters on the top of our to-do lists and keep the non-important matters at bay or at the very least, until after we have completed our essential tasks? Here are a few planning steps ensured to keep you focused:

  • Plan your week – Spend time at the end of the last week charting out the essential work for the following week.
  • Schedule time to do what needs to be done. Important things get scheduled.  Use your schedule to ensure that you have time to do the most important parts of your job.
  • Prepare for your calls. Schedule time the day before to build the notes you need to  execute an excellent cultivation, solicitation, or stewardship call.
  • Track your work through call reports. Too many things happen in our professional lives to count on recall to carry us through in the long-term.  Write appropriate action and call notes after every call and record them in your CRS/donor database.

By thoughtfully planning, you can keep your focus on the most important actions and defeat that great work tyrant, other less-important things.

Daniel Burnham was right…..MAKE NO SMALL PLANS!


Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. ~ Daniel Burnham

by Mike Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Sometimes, our history is exactly the thing that stifles plans, thoughts and even inspiration.  I was reminded of this lesson through one of our clients.  A basic tenet of fundraising is “the best indicator of future giving is past giving”  While that has proven to play out time and time again, I suggest sometimes that “the best indicator of future giving is past asking!”  Ask yourself the important question…”have we asked for enough in the past?”  Truly challenge yourself and others in the institution.   It takes a courageous institution to ask for large investments.  It takes a passionate organization to think boldly.  It takes a visionary organization to ask aggressively.  Have you been courageous enough?  Have you been passionate enough?  Have you been visionary enough?

Just as we always want to “push” our donors to be as generous as they can, ask ourselves first, are we being as courageous as we can….even SHOULD be?

Bottom line, some investors are simply not going to be motivated to make a stretch gift if the ‘case” isn’t bold enough.  I fully realize it’s a delicate balance but don’t underestimate the generosity of your constituents IF the case is truly bold, audacious and inspiring.

Make no small plans…….small plans don’t inspire.  DREAM BIG…it will surprisingly inspire others to GIVE BIG!

The Dog Days of Summer

dog days

by Susan Bottum, Vice President – HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I have always considered the July 4th holiday to mark summer’s midpoint – school has been out for a few weeks, the pace starts to slow, families vacation.  The pace in the workplace often follows this same trend.  People relax a bit more and it feels like we all have a chance to catch our collective breath.  Even if your organization is hosting a golf outing in the near future, it (hopefully) feels a bit more manageable this time of year.

Given this opportunity, you may take time to clean your office, organize your files or schedule a long overdue lunch.  It is also a great time to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

Objectively reflect on the past 12 months.  This exercise is for your eyes only, so be brutally honest!

  • Did you have specific goals in mind?
    • If so, did you meet those goals?
    • What got in your way?
  • Did you meet the objectives outlined in your development plan?
    • If so, how will these milestones help you create your upcoming development plan?
    • If not, what can you change to ensure you are meeting the objectives going forward?
  • How much time did you plan for donor cultivation?
    • Individual meetings
    • Small gatherings or other get-togethers
    • Mail correspondence (thank you notes, annual appeal, newsletter, etc.)
    • Email correspondence
  • Did you meet or exceed these plans?
    • Why or why not?
    • How will you modify these plans going forward?

Plan for the next 12 months.

  • What would you like to improve upon over the next 12 months?
  • What are your top priorities?
  • How do those support the objectives of the organization?
  • How will you ensure you meet these priorities?
    • Are there others (co-worker, supervisor, Board members) you can ask for support?
  • Draft your development plan.
    • When looking back 12 months from now, what will you consider a success?
    • What will stay the same in your next development plan?
    • How will your development plan change?
    • How will you communicate your plans?

I am hopeful this exercise will provide you with some “wins” as you reflect on the past year and some energy and enthusiasm as you plan for the year ahead.  Enjoy the sun and slower pace.