We can do better


My plan this week was to write a follow-up to Ben’s post from a few weeks back, “Relationships are where it’s at!” Then I watched President Obama’s eulogy for John Lewis.

If you don’t do everything you can do to change things… then they will remain the same.” -John Lewis

After watching, I reflected on the conversations I have been having with my two young-adult sons over the past couple of months.  I also thought about this work we are all so fortunate to do here in the social impact sector. Life-changing, life-saving work that matters.

The first time I heard President Obama speak was when he was running in the primary for Illinois Senate. It was at a time when I was contemplating a career change. One that eventually led to my first non-profit job. The words he spoke that evening that hit me square and have resonated with me since… “We can do better.”

And then, this week, as I was watching him offer his eulogy for John Lewis, he said this:

Ordinary people can come together… to decide it is in our power to remake this country that we love, until it more closely aligns with our highest ideals. What a radical idea. That any of us ordinary people can stand up to the powers and principalities and say no – this isn’t right, this isn’t true, this isn’t just.We can do better.”

I am well aware, because I see it on a first-hand basis day in and day out, that the people who work at and volunteer with the tremendous non-profit organizations in each one of our communities are committed to making a difference. And some of those organizations, thankfully, carry on aspects of Congressman Lewis’ life’s work. But as I was reflecting, both on a personal level and for my community, I couldn’t help shake those words… “We can do better.”

 Later on, President Obama shared the following call to action:

We have to continue his cause. If we want our children to grow up in a democracy – not just with elections – but a true democracy… we’re going to have to be more like John. We don’t have to do all of the things he had to do, because he did them for us. But we’ve got to do something.”

I know that I am personally not doing everything I can to change things for the better. I have more work to do.

If you are like me and you feel as though there is more you can do to help make our communities more equitable, more just… let’s do it together. John Lewis dedicated the entirety of his life showing us the way. What a great opportunity we have, individually and collectively, to honor his legacy.

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

And Now For Some Good News


And Now For Some Good News

Listening to a broadcast of the evening news these days can be a daunting experience.  Is the nation really more divided than ever, or does it just seem that way?  Is the world in hopeless peril, or will human ingenuity rise to the challenges that face us as a planet?  Are news stories more shocking than in prior eras, or are we desensitized because everything comes at us so fast and in such gruesome detail?  Listening to a news broadcast is tough!

Local and national news broadcasts almost always carry one “good news” story—usually toward the end of the broadcast—that stands in stark contrast to all the grim news that precedes it.  The focus of this one story is about something really good happening in the world.  It is likely a story about people helping people, overcoming differences, circumventing the bureaucratic solutions to offer direct service, and about a collective group from a community coming together to help an individual or small subset of the community.  Almost always, these human interest stories are about a non-profit organization doing its wondrous work.

Non-profit organizations are more important today than ever before, because they shine the light of goodness in what otherwise can seem like a really bleak world. I would like to see a news broadcast that turns the formula on its head and presents the NPO as the lead story.  Instead of putting the story at the end of the broadcast as an antidote to all the evil that came before it,  let this story serve as a reminder that the overwhelming efforts of the majority of people are focused on family, and neighborhood, and community and on acts that unite us rather than divide us.

All this matters because those of us who lead these non-profit organizations are at the vanguard of righteous action in the world.  To paraphrase a movie title we are the “Guardians of Good in the Galaxy.”  If your work seems hard today (which it is), the hours long (which they are), the mission challenging (which it must be), the opportunities unending (also true!), then celebrate with me, because you are part of something wondrous, and powerful and great, and that is the community of non-profit organizations that are absolutely essential to our future and well-being as a society.  And that is not fake news!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HPS Chicago

The Holy Grail of Grant Writing (excerpts from In the Trenches: Grantsmanship)

Enjoy this excerpt on sustainability from Heather Stombaugh’s book: In the Trenches: Grantsmanship.  Heather is HUB Philanthropic Solutions’ Grants Consultant


Chapter 11: Why is sustainability so important?

For the most part, grant makers do not want the success of an ongoing project to depend entirely on whether or not they provide ongoing funding support. Grant makers want to invest in the impact of your project, not adopt your organization. Grant makers generally favor projects that receive support from a mix of sources and do not depend on their future support to continue providing services.

With rare exceptions, there are two situations that grant makers generally avoid committing themselves to:

1) Being the only source of support for an ongoing project or program.

2) Providing indefinite support to a project.

What should you include in your sustainability statement? You should describe present and historic sources of income for the project. This should include all the different types of revenue (not just grants) your organization uses to raise funds.

  • Do not exaggerate your income projects.
  • If your project includes sharing resources, be sure to describe any projected future cost savings.
  • Do include in-kind resources if they are pertinent to your program.
  • Describe your organization’s success rate in securing grants or other types of support to sustain projects.
  • Identify potential sources of funding support.

If a grant maker’s guidelines do not restrict you from providing future financial data, you might consider formatting your budget to include that information. Moreover, take into consideration what evidence might provide you with assurance if you were to make a significant financial investment and work from that perspective as you develop this section. Remember, impressing a grant maker does not happen by offering exaggerations, but by presenting them with a thoughtful, realistic plan.

What steps will you take to ensure that your grant funder invests in your project?


Gold vs. Platinum

PT and AU

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

 Donor stewardship has been a more frequent topic of conversation with our clients lately. We all know that inspiring new donors is much more difficult and costly than building stronger relationships with the people who are already supporting our efforts. And, while there are many layers to forming an effective donor relationship strategy, for today I’m just focusing on one key ingredient.

Growing up, many of us were taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s a good rule and one that certainly can help children understand how their actions might make other people feel. Full disclosure, my wife and I referenced the Golden Rule on countless occasions while raising our sons.

Nevertheless, if we adhere to the Golden Rule when building donor relationships, we are simply not honoring our role in the most effective or authentic way. Thankfully there is a more considerate rule for us to apply, the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” More simply, where the Golden Rule says we should treat others how we like to be treated, the Platinum Rule accommodates for the fact that not everyone likes to be treated the same way and mandates that we instead treat people the way they want to be treated.

As Dr. Tony Alessandra writes, “The focus of relationships shifts from ‘this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing’ to ‘let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.” He goes on to say, “The goal of The Platinum Rule is personal chemistry and productive relationships. You simply have to understand what drives people and recognize your options for dealing with them. ”

Think about some of your major donors and what motivates them to support your mission. Do you know what aspect of your work or which programs are of a specific interest to them? What life experience or personal philanthropic goal is connecting them to your organization?

Using the Platinum Rule as a guide, what if you invested time in learning the answers to these questions with your key supporters? Some folks may like an annual face-to-face meeting, while other people may prefer a phone call once a quarter. You may also have donors who are so busy that their preferred mode of conversation is via email, because it affords them the opportunity to respond when their time allows.

At the end of the day, if we commit to the Platinum Rule and to prioritizing our donors’ needs/desires/motivations over our own, we will absolutely have greater success in building lasting and rewarding donor relationships.


David Gee is an experienced 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 Forefront’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.

It’s Time to Get on Board



by David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Yes, it’s spring break season and – for some lucky folks – you’ll undoubtedly be hearing a boarding call for your vacation travels.  However, I am referencing the species of board that we all engage with throughout the year–the non-profit board.

In addition to the involvement with your own board as part of your day job, are you currently serving on another non-profit board? If so, that’s terrific and hopefully this post will reinforce why your involvement is so important.  And, if you are not currently serving in such a capacity, my hope is that you will consider changing that reality.

I completely understand that some might be inclined to say, “Really? I spend my days in the non-profit arena and already have enough work to do when it comes to my own board.” This is probably true in one regard, but I would offer that, in taking such a stance, you’re likely missing the bigger picture.

So, why exactly should you make it a priority to serve on a non-profit board?

Here are a few key benefits to signing up to serve on a board:

  • Organizations in our community’s social impact sector are always looking for skilled and committed board members. By offering your experience/perspective in a volunteer capacity, you offer a truly valuable resource that will help to advance their mission.
  • Not only are we all called to “give back” to the best of our ability, but let’s face it, if we’re going to “talk the talk” with our own board members, we need to be prepared to “walk the walk.”
  • Serving on a board will provide you with key insights that are unique to being on the other side of the table. I can attest to the fact that my personal board service has, on many occasions, helped me to better understand and motivate my board.
  • You will gain exposure to new and creative ideas while also building new peer-to-peer connections with like-minded leaders.
  • And last, but not least, giving our time (our most precious resource) to make a difference in the lives of others will simply make you feel good. It will feed you in ways that few other endeavors can.

So, in this season of new beginnings, maybe it’s the perfect time for you to get on board with this special type of service. It may not feel like a tropical get-a-way, but I guarantee you will be thrilled to have taken the ride.


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 Forefront’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.

It’s All About the Mission, Right?

mission-social impact

by: David Gee ৷ Senior Consultant, HUB International Midwest Ltd.

 “Why do we label ourselves by our tax-status?”

      Or more importantly…

“Why is the non-profit sector the only sector that describes itself

by what it is not?? 

 Eric Weinheimer posed these questions during his remarks at a November Donors Forum event, “The Next 40 Years – Moving Forward from a Position of Strength.” Eric is the Donors Forum’s new President & CEO and he was challenging an audience of service providers, grant makers, donors and philanthropic advisors to consider how our sector’s “Non-Profit” label impacts our ability to have people truly focus on the impact of our missions.

If we think of ourselves as mission driven, as advocates and a collective of people working to bring about social change, then why do most of us lead off by stating that we do “non-profit work” or call ourselves “non-profit professionals.” (I do it too–just look at my bio on LinkedIn.) Now, one could argue that it’s easier that way because… well, because that’s just what everyone is comfortable calling our sector.

but my sense is that Eric is really onto something here:

 What it is — the non-profit sector — is the back bone of our economy and our civil society.  And it’s a new era, a new age, a time of great challenges and greater opportunities and we need to move beyond “nonprofit” towards social purpose.  Move from charity to causes.  Move from donations to investment.”

 “We in our sector, we are not non-anything.  We are educators and artists and philanthropists and grantmakers and investors and workforce developers and health care professionals and social investors and our value and our influence is significant.”

 As our sector continues to take on an ever-increasing relevance in the growth of our communities and in the realization of our collective values, how we talk about this work will too. When we consider Dan Pollotta’s call to arms around the way we think about charity or, as we continue inviting donors to see the value and impact of full-cost funding (as opposed to a narrow focus on overhead vs. programs), wouldn’t these efforts be all the more effective and convincing if our sector was embraced for what we achieve instead of what we are not? The problem with the non-profit label is that it limits and diminishes the value of our work.

What if, in the alternative, we were known as the “Social Impact Sector” or something along those lines? What if we stopped referring to ourselves as non-profits and non-profit professionals in our conversations with donors, volunteers, colleagues, friends and family members and instead referenced our missions, our actions and our impact? It will surely take time to change the entrenched perspectives about our sector, but each of us has an opportunity to join the growing chorus of voices already leading the charge. And my hunch is that when we do, we’ll be able to engage others on a more meaningful level and ultimately, we’ll have a greater ability to advance our missions and increase our impact.

David Gee has been working as a development professional for nine years with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined HUB International’s Non-Profit and Public Affairs Consulting (NPPAC) team as a Senior Consultant after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development for over seven years. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David currently serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee the Development Committee for All Chicago and the Cara Program’s Major Gift Committee.