Relationships are where it’s at!


Relationships are where it’s at!

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to hear a guest lecturer who came to speak at my university’s journalism department. She described the intricate webbing of her career, starting first as a writer for a small Boston-based magazine and eventually working her way into a competitive and exciting foreign correspondence position. She had reported on civil uprisings in Egypt, gender inequities in India and natural disasters in Australia. Her career was astonishing, she was like a modern-day Jack Kerouac in a room full of naive college students, half of whom were probably checking Twitter on their laptops while she spoke.

But I was enthralled. I couldn’t believe the plethora of experiences she had accumulated over the years. When she opened the floor for questions, my hand shot up and I asked the question which she had undoubtedly heard a million times; what’s your secret to success?

I was half expecting her to say that she had graduated top of her class at Princeton or Yale, or maybe Anderson Cooper was her long-lost uncle and he hooked her up with the job. Regardless, I was sure that there must be a complex and sophisticated explanation for her myriad of accomplishments.

“I just kind of met people and made friends,” she explained nonchalantly.

At the time, I remember being frustrated with that answer. While I was glad that she didn’t pull out the overused and generic term “networking” in her response, I was still unsure of how she could so heavily attribute her prosperous career to something like relationship cultivation.

Having worked with HPS Chicago as their summer intern for the past month, I can now confidently say that I am beginning to understand just how important professional relationships are. In development, fostering positive and meaningful relationships with constituents is what drives success. Clients aren’t treated as an item on a to-do list; they’re treated as friends. Whether it’s starting off a Zoom call with a discussion of the latest season of Ozark or just catching up on how everyone is doing during such uncertain times, there is a consistent feeling of mutual care and respect.

As someone who is still in college, it can be easy to perceive the professional world as solely cut-throat and competitive, filled with Mark Cubans and Robert Herjavecs. What I’ve grown to learn, however, is that professionalism doesn’t have to be all about business 24/7. It’s okay to talk about life, the weather, the news. It’s okay to let your guard down and have a laugh with your coworkers and clients. In fact, it’s critical that you do.

Building meaningful relationships is at the core of development. Forging relationships that span years, industries and experiences is an integral part of helping companies and organizations to reach their full potential. In many ways, it seems like collaboration is the language of development.

It’s not always about prestigious pedigrees or jam-packed resumes, these will only get you so far. I’m learning that connectivity, open-mindedness and friendship are the real keys to success.

Cheesy, but true.

by: Ben Matejka, Summer Intern HPS Chicago


The Power of ONE


The Power of ONE

The race crisis recently came to my neighborhood. At the tender age of 13, my daughter, deluged with images and videos of the injustice to George Floyd, asked to attend the Black Lives Matter march in our small suburban community.

As the markers squawked across the lime green poster board I purchased, my older son discouraged us from going. “Don’t you worry about Covid? Stay home. Why do you want to go? One person won’t make a difference you know.” He went on and on.

But as we know, ONE person has made a difference in history. Plenty of times. Consider Gandhi, Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Lincoln, Mandela.

Many development offices are sparsely staffed and some of us are on teams of ONE working from kitchen tables. No, your name will never find its way into a history book. Your insightful thoughts will not be printed on a poster. But still – YOU make a difference.

Every day, YOU are nurturing relationships with donors and securing gifts that will save lives and change lives. The missions YOU help reduce stress, enrich lives, bring nourishment, understanding and hope to the many people who rely on your nonprofit. This is the power of ONE person doing the right thing – day after day.

The news this week will no doubt include ugly realities reflecting these difficult times. But remember the words of Edmund Burke who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Then, go out and do SOMETHING. Do what you know. Do what you can to contribute to a better, more just and loving world. Be a good Development Officer.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

What’s NEW?


What’s NEW?

2019 is speeding towards the finish line–with the New Year just around the corner. Hopefully, despite any responsibilities for wrapping up year-end, you have had a chance for some downtime during the holiday season and that you’re getting a chance to refresh and recharge.

Looking ahead… if your 2020 “wish list” is anything like mine there are, no doubt, more than a few items that you want/need to focus your attention on. In the New Year’s spirit however, my recommendation today is to focus some love and attention on your Newest donors.

When it comes to sustainable funding for our mission, we all know that donor retention is the name of the game. As the saying goes, until you retain a new donor and inspire them to make a second gift, they are merely one-time visitors, not yet members of your organization’s family.

So, in the New Year, what can be done to motivate our new donors from 2019 to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with us? What steps can we take to secure that second gift and better connect them to the mission?

While every one of your donors has undoubtedly received a Thank You letter acknowledging their support (and possibly a personal thank you call from someone on the Development team, the Executive Director/CEO or from one of your Board members), here are some suggestions for further outreach and engagement:

  • Call your new donors to find out a bit more about them and their connection/interests/appetite
    • Ask your donors, “What motivated you to support our mission?”
    • If you don’t already have the information, find out how they prefer to be contacted (email, phone, snail mail, text) and how they like to be addressed (e.g., Kathy, Kate, Kathleen…)?
    • If the opportunity presents on this initial call, ask what other types of organizations/missions align with their philanthropic priorities?
    • Ask if they are open to receiving updates about how their support is helping to make a difference in the lives of the people/communities you serve? (And be sure to honor their request!)
  • Based on their willingness and availability (some will/some won’t), make a plan to meet face-to-face with as many new donors as possible in the first quarter
  • If it makes sense with your organization’s mission/programming, invite your new donors for a site visit so that they can see, first hand, the impact you can have together
  • Find out if they would be interested in learning about possible volunteer opportunities – now or in the future

While there are certainly other opportunities, these are just a few effective ways that you can plan to engage your newest supporters and invite them into a meaningful relationship with your mission.

If you have additional ideas for how to motivate new donors to become “family members,” we’d love to hear them. Given how crucial it is to retain and inspire the donors we acquire through our appeals throughout the year, we’ll happily share your thoughts and success stories in a future post.

In the meantime, thank you for working so hard to make the world a better place!

Happy New Year to you and your team from all of us at HPS Chicago!

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

Relationship-building is Vital, and Takes Time


Relationship-building is Vital, and Takes Time

We’ve all had board members or even bosses who demand immediate and significant fundraising results. Many a director of development has been asked “what have you been up to? Where are our major gifts? What is taking so long?”  And, to be sure, we as fundraisers must hold ourselves accountable to our dollar goals. It’s also incumbent on us to educate our boards, our bosses, and our colleagues that building and sustaining relationships takes time, patience, and their involvement in the process—and is critical to sustaining our organization’s mission.

Indeed, at its core, fundraising is about relationships: the long-term vitality of a nonprofit organization is, fundamentally, based on the deep and lasting relationships it has with its donors. It would be easy to ask for a gift, receive it, send a thank you letter and consider the job done. However, donors who feel valued solely for a financial contribution will not stay donors for long. We must take the time to learn about and nurture our donors if we want to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships.

The “Transformational Infinity Loop” developed by Kay Sprinkle Grace and Alan Wendroff, demonstrates the ways we keep and grow donors.


This simple diagram captures the ongoing transformational process between an organization and its donor community. By learning about our donors, and regularly communicating the impact of their support, relationships deepen. Through continued information sharing, personalized attention and respect, our donors feel valued beyond their financial contribution and thus become engaged more deeply. In turn, their investment in your organizations will grow.

This process takes time — after all, infinity has no end — and is well worth the investment.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Stop Convincing, Start Inspiring


Stop Convincing, Start Inspiring

Over the past several weeks, I have heard the following comments made by some of my non-profit colleagues:

If more people knew about the quality of our programs (our best-in-class approach), we’d certainly have more donors.” “How can we convince them to make us a priority?” “We’re getting good meetings, but we just can’t seem to get them to give.”

Chances are we have all wrestled with similar thoughts and questions in our ongoing quest to secure funding for our organization’s mission. Building up your donor base is challenging. There’s no one-size-fits all formula for it, nor is there when you’re working to move your current donors into a deeper relationship with your organization. It’s personal, time consuming and there’s usually some degree of trial and error involved.

When we do get a chance to speak with donors or prospective supporters however, sometimes our pitch seems entirely focused on US and all of the ways we are fantastic/impactful/awesome. All too often we fail to put the time and sincere energy into getting to know what interests and inspires them–personally and philanthropically.

Just having the “best” program and solid quantifiable data to show your effectiveness isn’t going to cut it, especially when you are talking to prospective donors or newer friends to your organization. Before you can know what impact stories, mission interactions or even which data might be best suited for your donors, you first need to find out where THEY are coming from. What is their story? How does your work intersect with their lives, their passions?

Once we are clued into their personal interests and understand how our mission is solving for problems they care about, we are in a position to discover their interest in helping to advance our mission. We can earnestly make the case to show them specifically how our impact in the community intersects with their personal philanthropic goals. And we can sincerely and authentically work to inspire them to partner with us to achieve those shared goals.

Relationships are hard work. That’s true with your spouse/partner, your kids, your family & friends and, yes, with your donors. Relationships take time and energy, but they are almost always worth it!

In closing, I want to share one of my favorite quotes related to donor relations,

We don’t have to be smart enough to manipulate people to act.
We have to be sincere enough to move them to act

                                                               – Bernadette Jiwa (The Story of Telling)

Thank you, as always, for the life changing work you do every day.

David Gee, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

When the Stars Align!


When the Stars Align!

Every once in a while, something magical happens in our work. Some months ago, the Executive Director of a domestic violence agency and I met with a potential grant funder. We sat down with three members of their review team at their request to “just get to know each other.” As we began talking about the mission of the agency and they shared more about theirs, we realized that on almost every level, we were completely in concert with one another. It was truly one of the most amazing visits of my nearly 30 year fundraising career.

The energy of the room was high, heads were nodding, and the shared vision of the work to accomplish with palpable. It was exciting! At the close of the meeting, we were asked to meet with them in a few months to sit down again and share three ideas for possible funding. Prior to our second meeting, emails and phone calls were exchanged to share appreciation for the first time together as well as continued enthusiasm for a possible partnership. A real relationship began when we first met, but, throughout this process, continued to grow.

Our meeting for our presentation finally arrived and the Executive Director and I drove out to the potential funder’s offices at their request. You see, they loved seeing where we carry out our work, but, they in turn, wanted us to have a chance to see where they work together and collaborate with one another. The meeting began with a meditative moment, where we all were asked to take a moment to reflect on our work and begin a discussion that would lead to greater partnership to create a bigger impact on the people that we collectively serve.

We shared our three ideas for possible funding and again, felt a strong connection across the room as questions were asked and ideas were put forth and discussed. No final decisions were made about funding as a formal request will be put forth (Stay tuned!). But, we knew when we walked out the door, that a real partnership had been formed. That this was just the start of a new relationship that will have a significant impact on our work this year and beyond. It’s because of moments like this, meetings like these, that when the stars align, propel us forward and energize us to do this important work.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Sales people. Ugh!


Sales people. Ugh!

I was a subject in a focus group this week on the topic of retail shopping. My group got off on a tangent about how sales staff can be either too pushy or completely absent and impossible to find.

The pushy ones made us feel that we couldn’t trust them.  They were all about the sale. We’d ask, “Hmmmm. Does this dress look good on me?” They would reply, “Yessssssssss,” sounding like Kaa, the evil, mesmerizing snake from Disney’s Jungle Book.

On the flip side, one person shared the story of the time they were left half dressed in a fitting room when their sales associate left her shift and totally forgot about her.

We realized these experiences mirror a donor’s experience with us, as development professionals.

How do we make the supporters of our organization feel?

Listening, asking questions and creating relationships should be what development is all about. Basically treating our donors like we would like to be treated.

This week in my office, I visited with a couple whose family member receives services from the nonprofit I was representing. They came in to make a sizable gift. During the visit, the client’s mother remarked on several occasions, “Oh we know you are so busy we won’t take any more of your time.” Although this was conscientious, I assured her that these types of visits are the most enjoyable and important part of my job. I told her that I really enjoy hearing what people think of the organization and learning all I can from our families.

One of the best development people I’ve ever worked with was named Linda. She was a gregarious, magnetic person and made everyone feel that they were worth a million bucks. One of the things I remember from working with her is she was one of the best listeners I’ve ever observed. Always asking open ended questions, “How are your kids?” “How’s that new job?” “What are you doing this summer?” She genuinely cared. Linda would be the type of salesperson who would escort you to a tidy fitting room and then check back a few times to make sure sizes were right and even bring a few new item that you’d missed, based on your feedback.

Let’s all be sure to treat each and every one of our donors as Linda would, and be sure not to leave anyone in the fitting room when we go home for the day.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Year-end and Donor Appreciation…what’s your plan?  


Year-end and Donor Appreciation…what’s your plan?  

The holidays are in full swing and I’m sure by now your year-end appeal is off to a great start! In development offices across the country, we are busy with follow up e-blasts, letters and a variety of other ways to ask our current donors to renew their support as well as try to reengage our lapsed donors with the mission.

While all of this work is important, I’d encourage you to set aside some time every day in December to simply thank your donors.

Perhaps it is a phone call to that first time donor, or a visit to share an update with a major donor who helped in a significant way. Maybe it is a special handwritten note to your Board members for all they do to keep the ship steady and help the organization flourish. I know that extending our grateful thanks to our donors at year-end is noticed and appreciated. It tells our donors that they are a priority and shows our donors that we made the time during our busiest time of year to think of them and share with them what they mean to our organization.

So, today, write a special note…tomorrow pick up the phone and call a new donor… and the next day meet in person and share a success story with a special contributor. Map out your days from now until the end of the year and include these simple touch points that truly will help foster and build the relationships that your organization will benefit now and in years to come.

Today, I wish you stellar year-end results and may your relationships with your donors be strengthened and enhanced.  Happy Holidays to you and yours!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Karma – What Comes Around Goes Around


Karma – What Comes Around Goes Around

I’ve heard that we should celebrate staff members with as much gratitude and fanfare when they resign as we do the day they’re hired. But why? What do you think? After all, they’ve decided to leave your organization, (or as my high school friend used to say about her sour ex-boyfriends, “they quit me!”)

We all know that news travels fast throughout industries and we can anticipate that people will talk, and opinions will be formed about your organization. If the reports of working there are unsavory, people will talk, but could the opposite also be true?

Let me tell you how this recently applied to development…

At my current client, an ex-employee called. He used to work there as a social worker years ago, and had gone on to get his law degree and open up a successful family law practice. One day as he was preparing a will for a wealthy client, she asked, “Do you know of a good charity I could leave my money to?” She wanted it to go locally. Without hesitation he recommended my client — the same nonprofit he had been employed by, and left years before.

Fast forward to 2018. This fall, the woman unfortunately passed away and he was taking care of her affairs. He called me with this heart-warming story, and to advise us that the nonprofit will receive a six figure gift sometime in the next few months.

I was thrilled of course. And then it occurred to me. Who were the staff members 20 some odd years ago who treated him so well, both on his way into this organization and on his way out? This group helped him feel confident we were worthy. I don’t know but I sure wish I could thank them now!

With so many ugly things around us in today’s media, I thought it might be time for a positive karma kickback story. What a good example of what comes around goes around huh?

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant 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