Keeping your donors engaged and inspired


As of this writing, we have only experienced 2018 for just a few short weeks, and yet, much has transpired in the world. We’ve seen more controversy in US politics, feel deeply saddened about all that our Olympic women’s gymnastics team members have endured, and, watched, cried and prayed for all those that have been affected by the catastrophic mud slides in California. Yet, while there is much in the news and our world to be concerned about, there are also good things happening.

The stories of the survivors of the natural disasters in California and the heroic tales of those that work to make sure that people and their pets that are rescued and returned to their families. The images of the marches and movements all across our country that show that Americans – men and women – have the freedom to share their voices and stand their ground on whatever issues they feel are important. The Olympic athletes that will continue to pursue their dreams in spite of what they have endured…to bravely carry on.

I think about all of these things in our news and in our world and I know that many of the not for profit agencies in which we work help people to be their best. Perhaps we work for a community mental health agency that can provide the counseling needed to help those that have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Maybe it’s an organization that works as a think tank to produce ideas about different ways of doing things – things like health care delivery, immigration policies, education and other important ideals that are critical to all of us. Or, an agency that provides relief when disaster strikes.

WE are critical in this picture because we help raise the money to support these important missions that impact the lives of many. It’s our job to work hard every day to connect new donors and to maintain and enhance the relationships with current friends so that our missions remain strong to do the important work the organization intends to carry out. It’s up to us and our teams to ensure our current donors are kept in the loop so that they feel a part of our vision. It’s also our job to engage new folks by sharing our story in a way that resonates with them so that they too, want to become more involved.

As we move into 2018, develop a simple plan to keep your key donors engaged and new donors energized about your mission. Every month, determine which donors need to hear from you in person…who can you send an email or a stewardship report to that highlights some wins or key objectives that you plan to tackle in 2018.

For new donors, what is your plan to keep them engaged and involved? What news can you share? Do you have photos to share that can showcase first-hand how your programs help people in need? By developing a systematic stewardship plan, you will stay on track to ensure that your pool of donors are there, right by your side. Give them the reasons that they want to roll up their sleeves to help people that you serve or the policies that you are trying to change to reflect our very best for the world.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


What are your thoughts…?


Happy New Year!

Here’s to you and to all that you do to make the world a better place. We hope that your year-end efforts proved successful and that you found some time to relax and recharge over the Holidays.

As we move forward into January and start thinking about and executing on our plans for the year, now is the perfect time to connect with some of our key donors. Yes, while there will be details to figure out with the new tax bill and how they might impact the way some of our donors give, this is not the time to abandon good development out of concern for the unknown.

Regardless of whether your organization is on a fiscal or calendar year, we know that most of our donors have a January to December mindset when it comes to philanthropy. With that in mind, this is the right time to get in front of your donors to seek their feedback and ideas about your plans for the year ahead. This is a great opportunity to offer them an “insider’s vantage point” and to treat them as true partners in your mission.

Schedule meetings with several of your most significant and/or longstanding donors to share you plans for an upcoming program expansion, a new initiative that is in the works or maybe a staffing change you are considering.  Ask them what they think about the plans and inquire if they think other supporters will favor the direction. Quite likely, their insights will help you to more effectively realize your strategic goals for the coming year and, in the end, you will be able to thank them for making it happen.

In light of this, it is also worth remembering one of our favorite maxims, “People support what they help to create.”

You don’t have to be launching a campaign or even a major gifts initiative for this to be an important and authentic way to build relationships. This is a chance to invite our donors into the process and for them to play an active role in moving the organization they care about forward.

So before you get used to writing “2018” in the date line, resolve to connect with your donors and engage them in your plans for the New Year. I promise, it will be time well spent.

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

The Symphony of Working with our Donors


Just the other day, I was listening to my son practice his cello.  He’s 9 years old and this is his first go-round with playing an instrument.  Learning to play an instrument and practicing the basics at the start can be challenging (both for the new musician and also to the ears of those around him!).

As I sat and listened to my son practice, I thought about how playing an instrument is also like our work with donors.  Sounds like a stretch, right?  But, if you think about it…it takes patience, persistence, diligence and a good ear for listening.

When we work with our donors, we, just as musicians, need to be patient.  Musicians work hard to learn a new piece or how to work with other members of the orchestra to make the final result ready for show time.  We, as fundraisers, need patience as well.  It takes time to build and cultivate relationships.  It often takes more members of our orchestra…our board members, volunteers and others to be involved in maintaining and enhancing relationships with our donors.  We are the leader, or the conductor of this process, to ensure that these relationships continue to grow and flourish.

Musicians must also be persistent and diligent with their art…always working to perfect and fine-tune their skills to enhance their performance.  In our work, we must continue to keep our donors well informed and in-tune with the happenings of our not for profits.  We need to ensure that we do everything we can to keep then engaged in our missions.

Finally, just as musicians need to listen to the tone and the rhythm of the music they are creating, we need to keep our ears open when we engage with our donors.  In talking to our donors, we need to do less of the talking and more of the listening so that we truly hear why they support our cause and what it is that moves them to make a gift to our not for profit.

I encourage you this week to think of yourself as the conductor of your orchestra.  Who is sitting in your audience today?  Who is not? And finally, with a little diligence, patience and persistence, who would you like to move from the back rows to the box seats… and what is your plan to move them forward?

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

A Message of Thanks!


As we near the close of the fiscal year, we development folks are often busy wrapping up loose ends, finalizing budgets for the new fiscal year as well as sending out just one more appeal or special mailing or e-blast to donors and friends.  While all of this is important and keeps us busy and on our toes, I’d like to propose adding just one more thing to your early summer to-do list…and that is, send a note of thanks to each board member and other special volunteers.

For many, summer tends to be a little slower paced, with folks taking time for a vacation or a weekend getaway…or maybe even a day off for a ball game, a concert or a day at the beach.  Wouldn’t it be nice for your board members and volunteers – key investors and leaders of your organizations – to come home to find not another to-do, or something they need to respond to or a request for help in their mailbox…but a simple note of gratitude waiting for them?

I was recently at a meeting and someone remarked on how nice it was to receive a handwritten note.  I heard the person say…”it felt so genuine…it wasn’t an email!…it made me feel great that they took the time to write to me!”

I promise you…it’s simple, this doesn’t take a huge amount of time, and your effort will not go unnoticed.

Some ideas…

  • Handwrite the note…keep it short and sweet…just tell them how much you appreciate their time work and energy to help your organization fulfill its mission.
  • Send a photo of a grateful client with a simple message…we appreciate you…you helped make this happen.
  • Share a win…a grant proposal awarded, a record number of clients served…whatever it may be. Tell your board member or volunteer that this would not be possible without their leadership and support.

The idea is simple…the message is simple.  But, this effort can go along way with our volunteer leaders.  It tells them that you are appreciative of their work…that you noticed…that you care.  So, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, turn on some tunes and start writing your notes!    Have a wonderful summer!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are you remaining curious?


Recently, the founder of one of the world’s largest Public Relations firms in the world passed away. Al Golin, (the name of the firm that still bears his name) died at the age of 87 years after 60 years in the business and never having retired.

Al is best known for being the guy who made a cold call to the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, asking Mr. Kroc if he needed help telling the story about this new restaurant business he was hoping to expand across the country.  Al was hired on the spot and became a pioneer as he helped the young company adopt a culture of getting involved in the community, partnering with local organizations and establishing charitable tie-ins….now a prerequisite in the world of corporate America.

Though Al is best known for that encounter with Ray Kroc and advising this corporate behemoth to implement what is now known as Corporate Social Responsibility into their business plan, what he’s truly known for was his integrity, thoughtfulness and curiosity.

As my colleague David Gee shared in a past blog post, Be Interested, focusing on understanding and striving to be interested not interesting will certainly help with building connections vs one-time encounters. Al Golin was notorious for building connections. He was always interested in others, and asked tons of questions learning their backgrounds, their story and about their families.  He was never too busy or too important to answer a question or talk with his employees about a project or client. He was always learning and pushing others to strive to learn more. Because of this, GOLIN still works for McDonald’s today….the longest PR agency and client partnership in history.

As you head in the summer months, I challenge you to remain mindful of being present with your key stakeholders, your most loyal donors (large and small), maintain the connections and touchpoints through the summer and at the same time strive to learn more about them as well as your own development efforts. Strive to learn more on how to enhance your donor recognition efforts, strive to learn more by brainstorming innovative stewardship practices, strive to learn more on how and when your donors want to be communicated with. Are you remaining curious on how they react to your appeals? Your annual reports? Your fundraising events?

Whether it’s with proposal submissions, appeal letters, general stewardship or board member interaction; maintaining the connections, being curious and always striving to learn more on how to be a better development professional are things we constantly need to be mindful of.

We all can learn from an old PR legend like Al Golin who knew how to maintain and keep long standing relationships.

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

Quid Pro Quo

Qid pro Quo

Does your nonprofit provide gifts to your donors?

You know, things like coffee mugs to commemorate pledges, t-shirts for runs, keepsake glassware from a gala.

Quid pro quo is simply an exchange of goods or services, where obtaining the gift is contingent upon a financial contribution.

So should we be providing these items? Does it endear our donors to our organization? Do they care?

There may not be a simple yes/no answer. But I’ll give you a challenge.  Think about OTHER ways to make that same lasting impression.

At my client’s recent gala, each sponsor received a custom hand-made thank you card from a participant in the program. The cards were made by individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and each one was as unique as the artist themselves. They were handed to the sponsors upon check in.

My client received kudos for making such a great connection to the mission. I don’t think a wine glass would have received that sort of response.

We also have a few older donors who don’t come out for events and aren’t even comfortable with a personal visit for coffee.  Our exchanges are limited to the phone, email and letters. While this frustrates me as a development officer, I understand.

I need to remember to meet these folks where they are at. Not try to mold them to how I like to communicate, right? So this month I sent them a canister hand-painted by our art group with a note and cookies inside.  They absolutely loved it and the cost is in line with what I would spend on them if I took them to lunch.

So I challenge you to be creative. Think about what your nonprofit has to offer. Maybe a photo in a frame of children reading books purchased with recent contributions is more meaningful than a traditional give-away. Brainstorm with your program service staff to find memorable ways to make a lasting impression on your donors. And hint… it’s probably not a lapel pin.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Continuity in Your Development Office



Recently someone posted a thoughtful message on Facebook, meant to provide a framework for social media messages:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?

I gave this message a “thumbs up” response, I guess because so much of what people write seems to be not true, not kind, and/or not necessary!

All of this took on renewed importance this week, when I heard a couple of people describe their recent disappointment with a non-profit organization to which they had been exceedingly generous over many years.  The situation they described was essentially this: the leadership has changed; the people in the development office have changed; communication has been spotty at best; and no one seems to “get it” or care.

This is a devastating situation for a fundraising operation, and in my experience it is far too common.  New people come in to leadership positions and seek to boost their own credibility by discrediting the activities of prior leaders.  The new regime wants to start over with new prospects, new strategies, and new techniques. There is nothing wrong with taking a fresh look at all of that, but it is devastating if the most loyal and generous donors are neglected and lost.

The questions I saw on Facebook can be helpful as you think about your communication strategies with prospects and donors:

Your communications must be TRUE:  don’t buy into the narrative that nothing good every happened before the new leadership team arrived!  Seek out those who gave in the past and listen carefully to what motivates them to give.    Get a list of the top 10, top 25, top 50, and top 100 prior donors and reach out to every single one of them over time.  Make a phone call, write a letter, and ask for a face to face meeting.  Never ever fail to follow up!

Your communication must be KIND: don’t build yourself up by disparaging past leaders of the organization.  People give to people, and the donor thought enough of the prior administration to make a gift while those people were in charge.  Make sure you communicate to your past donors that, although the leadership has changed, the mission of your organization remains the same!

Your communication with prior donors is NECESSARY:  do not pick and choose!  Don’t listen to people who say “Oh you don’t to waste your time talking to that donor.”  In rare instances, a past donor may have specified in your records that s/he no longer wishes to be contacted, and if so that request must be honored.  But otherwise, attempt to reach all prior major donors.  You will be rewarded with great stories, new insights, and continued major gifts!

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


Are you loyal to your loyal donors?


I’ve been a loyal donor to a several organizations in my lifetime.  By “loyal donor” I mean this:  I’ve contributed to these organizations regularly over a number of years, to the point where my contributions are what I consider substantial.

What I’ve noticed is that I’ve been treated differently by these organizations.  One of them sends me an annual appeal form letter, and asks me to make a gift to their annual fund.  After I make my gift I receive at thank you letter from the development office.  I’m not impressed.  Do they know that I’ve given before?  Do they know that I’ve given regularly for over twenty years?  Do they know that I consider the cumulative value of my contributions to this organization to be significant?  Do they even know that I value their mission and consider them one of my top three charitable interests?  Their behavior toward me would suggest that they know none of these things!

Another organization to which I have been a loyal donor has treated me very differently.  I receive an annual appeal of course.  And I get a thank you letter from the development office.  But in addition, I receive the following:

  • An annual invitation to breakfast with the CEO and leadership team, to receive the latest news on the mission of the organization
  • Membership in a loyalty society, recognizing donors who have given consistently for ten years or more
  • A monthly digital calendar showing pictures of the organization at work (I never use the calendar, but I know I’m being thought of!)
  • A Christmas card
  • A handwritten thank you note from a member of the Board of Directors following my annual contribution
  • A letter acknowledging when I cross a threshold (“your lifetime giving to our organization places you among our most consistent and valued donors…”
  • Written appeals to make a bequest and/or to join a planned giving society for the organization
  • A phone call from a member of the development staff, asking to meet face to face

Question:  which organization do you think I am now considering for a legacy gift, and to which one do you think I will just continue to write an annual fund gift?

Be loyal to your loyal donors!  They may not be your largest donors, but be sure to honor those who are consistent over time, recognize the value of their cumulative gifts, keep them informed about your mission and activities, ask them—face to face—to take the next step in the form of a campaign gift and/or an estate gift.  Your loyal donors will notice how you treat them compared to other organizations!

 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


The Human Touch


Recently, I had to purchase a new phone. The battery was shot, I had limited storage capacity and the service was spotty most of the time. While I was upgrading to a new version and getting a more “robust” phone, I realized every bell and whistle that was being sold to me had nothing to do with what the phone was intended to do, make a phone call.  I’m not a neo-luddite by any means, I just had a sudden a-ha moment that we don’t use the phone or the action of what the phone is intended to do anymore.

Last week, I was reminded how important and honestly how easy it is to pick up the phone and communicate the old fashion way. I was with a colleague who had shifted careers from fundraising to sales – (not much of a difference as we all know) and he was explaining his new role in generating new business, creating leads, cultivating customers, presenting the product and then the ever important follow up. All along the “cultivation” journey he highlighted that his “go-to” was the utilization of his phone to communicate. Not to text, not to email but to actually call someone is what he used as his personal outreach and human touch advantage.

As we head into 2017 and make our list of New Year’s resolutions, I know one of mine will be to take the time to put a human touch on the interaction I have…whether it be with donors, colleagues, friends or family. That human touch will be to make the phone call when it’s more appropriate than the email.  The human touch makes such an impression and just like sending a hand written letter, card or personal note it’s what we need to remember to do more often than not.

During the holiday season, we tend to take time to reflect on the joys of life, a time to be grateful for what we have,  a time to be mindful of what more we can do and what motivates us to keep us going. It’s important to always remember that putting a human touch on our communication is the thoughtful way to say hello, express your thanks and enjoy the human touch way. It’s way more real.

Happy Holidays!

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