Finding Joy

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Finding Joy

While I am sure every single one of us will be happy to say farewell to 2020, it’s still hard to believe that fall is here already.  And with that comes thoughts about a holiday/year-end appeal and Giving Tuesday.  One of my clients – a seasoned Development officer who is retiring soon – said, “I don’t have it in me to come up with another appeal letter!”  Perhaps you, too, are feeling this way, even if you’ve only been working in Development for a few years. 

This year has been “unprecedented”.  We have had to “pivot”.  We have had to “be nimble”.  We have had to master Zoom.  We have had to exercise “an abundance of caution” when canceling events.  We have also had to get really, really creative about approaching donors, corporate sponsors, partners.   It makes me tired just thinking about the past 6 months. 

My client’s organization serves adults with Developmental disabilities.  This pandemic has been exceptionally difficult for clients and staff alike.  The staff had to ensure the safety of their residents, which included overtime, helping clients manage their stress and fully understand the importance of “sheltering in place”.  For one staff member, sheltering in place took on a whole new meaning; a client was diagnosed with COVID-19, and she agreed to stay with the client for the full 14-day quarantine.  In fact, WTTW aired this story, which you can watch by clicking the link below:

So, when my client said she can’t come up with another idea for an appeal, I simply said: Find the joy.  She knew what I meant. 

Despite the challenges of 2020, there are moments of joy and inspiration, just like the one shared by WTTW.  Take some time to reflect back on the past 6 months and think about those moments of joy for you.  Big or small, they are there.  And think about them for your organization as well.  Sharing a moment or moments of joy through your appeal will remind donors of the good work of your organization.  And it will hopefully make them smile and inspire them to continue their support for the important work you do.  So go ahead, share the joy.  

by: Susan Matejka, Managing Director, HPS Chicago

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

The Season for Giving


Giving is a good thing to do any time of year.  But in America we have a very special Season for Giving.  These last five weeks of the year offer a great opportunity for fundraisers to remind their donors about the tax advantages of giving to organizations they love.  Here are a couple of suggestions.

First, make a direct appeal to senior citizens.  Scan your database for donors over 70 ½ years of age.  Communicate with them by direct mail and by email, pointing out the special situation that they are in.  Individuals over 70 ½ can make a gift directly from an individual retirement account.  People this age are required to make some withdrawals from their IRA’s, and those withdrawals are considered income and are taxable.  However, the money withdrawn for charitable purposes is not considered income and is therefore not taxed.  Don’t forget that most donors make the largest gifts of their lives during what they perceive to be their older years.

Also, make an appeal to all donors.  Let them know that a gift of stock or mutual funds can be given without the donor having to pay tax on the capital gains.  If the donor has held this investment over a period of rapid returns, such as the one we have seen in recent years, the savings to the donor can be significant.

Finally, remind all your donors that gifts to your organization are tax deductible, and show them how your mission deserves their support in the season of giving.  And of course, be sure to acknowledge their gift in a timely way.  This will provide the donor valuable documentation at tax time, while giving you the opportunity to say a very sincere “thank you!”

How fortunate we are to have a Season for Giving!  Don’t hesitate to point out the tax advantages of giving, but—much more importantly—don’t forget to celebrate the Season for Giving with your donors!

by: Steven Murphy, Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Enough about me, what do you think about me?


That may be Bette Midler’s most memorable line from the movie Beaches.  I hope the sentiment makes you smile, but I would encourage you to think about how her egocentric character can make your holiday appeal stronger this year.

This may sound a little crazy, but read on.

We know today’s donor is deluged with appeals asking for gifts for a variety of worthy causes.  But many fundraisers won’t take the time to demonstrate that they know the donor.   Instead letters are sprinkled with generic facts and figures that do not speak directly to the recipient.

This can be a turnoff because let’s face it we all have a little “Bette” in us right? Donors may not actually think “What do you think about me?” But they are definitely feeling, prove to me that you know me.” Today’s donors need to feel that we know them – that our request is personal.  This is necessary to earn their trust, their consideration, and ultimately their support.

So I want to share three tactics we are employing with my current client as we reach out to the (grateful) families we served this year.

First, we started with things we know.  There are four key service areas families can utilize. So this year are writing to them with specific information about the service area they benefit from.  This required a few conversations with the program service staff and some necessary administrative help. But it was time well spent.  Without this “intel,” we would be writing to for instance, the Jones family about a service they know nothing about. How likely are they to give? Not very.

Next, we are including the name of their son or daughter into the text of the appeal.  This personal information will keep them reading and realize that we are speaking to them about the most relevant topic out there – their loved one – who we are providing services to.

Third, our families have shared with us that they are busy and often stressed.  Some families head up single parent households.  With the added demands of supporting a child with an intellectual/developmental disability, we want to make gift-giving easier, if they choose to do so. To that end, we are including return postage on the reply envelopes for our families, for their ease and convenience.

So take a minute, reflect. Sit down with members of your program service staff to brainstorm and collect personal information you already have on the families you serve. By demonstrating that you are thinking of THEM, you can make this year’s holiday appeal the most successful yet.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Fall is coming…are you ready for year-end?


Many of us had big plans for the summer.  No, I’m not talking about the trip to the lake or the summer vacation to the west…I’m talking about plans for the year end appeal that we intended to finalize but we got a smidge railroaded with other projects and it just didn’t quite make the cut.

Now is the time…write your letter (short – some experts now say 2 paragraphs max, compelling, pictures, infographics, etc.) and get your Board behind it.  Say you have a Board of 15 members…ask each one to write notes on 5 current donor letters.  Need more donors?  A great source is from your Board…ask each member for 5 new names to include and have them write a personal note on those as well.  Engagement of the Board is critical for your annual appeal…and, it’s pretty easy!  You do the legwork and make it easy for the Board to complete this important task. Drop the letters off at their office or home mail box for signature.  Provide them with sample notes to write at the bottom of each letter.  The bottom line…it’s our job to make it easy and effortless for our Board members.

One of my recent clients recruited 10 members from the community to just serve as the year end appeal committee.  The Board still did their part, but, the ad hoc committee was given one simple task.  Attend two meetings – the first one, provide names of 15 new potential donors and write notes on these letters.  The last meeting, attend a gathering in January with the committee and Board to celebrate the success of their efforts.  Sometimes folks want to help but have little time to fully commit to a Board or a steady volunteer position.  By engaging other members of the community, this agency was able to build its donor base across the years with the help of new folks to serve in this efficient and easy way.

Finally, once the gifts start rolling in, don’t forget to thank and thank and thank!  An email to the Board member is essential when one of their friends or neighbors makes a gift.  While an official thank you letter goes out from the not for profit, it’s important for the Board member to personally thank their friends as well.  Maybe it’s an email, a call, or a handwritten note they choose to send.  You can even make this easy for your Board members by sending them sample thank you note language that they can easily personalize and make their own.

When you engage your Board members and other friends of your not for profit at year-end, I promise, the fruits of your labor and your extra steps to involve them will pay off!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Ready, Set, Ask!


Football season is in full gear which means that fans are excited, non-fans are already tired of all of the hype and that the fourth quarter of 2016 is fast approaching. And if we’re nearing Q4, then it’s just about game time with regards to putting your year-end fundraising plans into play.

No doubt you and your team have been working hard in preparation for year-end and your appeals and Giving Tuesday strategies are coming together nicely. (BTW, if you’re with an Illinois non-profit, I encourage you to check out Forefront’s #ILGIVE campaign for Giving Tuesday and to sign up if you haven’t already.) But, while all of your year-end prep is going on, I have a question/challenge for you:

Who should you be asking for a gift between now and Thanksgiving?

I am in no way suggesting you should not adhere to your current major donor strategies and individualized plans. What I am saying, however, is that you undoubtedly have at least a couple of consistent and generous supporters in your prospect pipeline that are ready to be asked, face-to-face.

  • Which of your donors has given generously at year end for two or more years, even though you’ve never met with them and specifically asked them for a gift?
  • Who is on your major donor prospect list that is likely to make a gift between now and Dec 31st? Would they be open to a solicitation visit? Assuming you have been actively cultivating the relationship, is there a chance you’ve been avoiding taking the next step and asking them for a gift?
  • Are there any past board members, committee or gala chairs that you have been meaning to solicit but “haven’t had the time”?

There are probably more than a half a dozen other scenarios associated with your donors, volunteers and prospects that, if you take an hour to assess your candidate pool, you would find people who are actually ready to be asked. The challenge is to identify 6-10 people from your community of donors and make it a priority to schedule an intentional conversation with them to discuss their support and ask for gift.

Before everyone’s mailboxes, Facebook pages and phone lines are filled with the sound of the year-end giving season — get in front of the donors you can and make a personal appeal. Many folks already have an idea as to how much they intend to give this year and your direct ask will likely put you organization in a position to get a large slice of that pie. In addition to standing out from the crowd in their eyes, most importantly, the time and attention you invest in your visit together will certainly help to strengthen your relationship.

You’re ready. Now you just need to get set and go ask!

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 and the Development Committee for All Chicago.

Giving Tuesday is November 29th

GT 11.29.2016

by: Susan Bottum, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Labor Day is upon us, and with it, we say farewell to the summer.  As fall begins, many nonprofits move into high gear, knowing it is a good time of year to raise funds and cultivate donors.  And, it is the time to start thinking about your holiday appeal and potential Giving Tuesday strategy.

A few weeks before Giving Tuesday last year, I wrote a blog about some last-minute ways in which your organization could participate in the Giving Tuesday flurry.  In this blog, I would like to share with you a few strategies and ways in which you can be strategic about your year-end appeal.  As a reminder, Giving Tuesday is November 29, 2016.

 Develop a comprehensive holiday appeal strategy

  • What overarching message or compelling story do you plan to share?  If possible, utilize a consistent theme in the coming months.
  • Include a sentence or two about Giving Tuesday in your written appeal.
  • Identify a timeline for social media; for example, in the weeks leading up to Giving Tuesday, plan to send a weekly email, which includes a short client success story and photo plus a reminder about Giving Tuesday.  On Giving Tuesday, consider one email blast in the morning and again at the end of the day.  Also be sure to include information about Giving Tuesday on your Facebook page and utilize Twitter as well.
  • If possible, include a challenge grant.  Do you have a donor who may be willing to match donations up to a certain amount?  This is always compelling, especially for first-time donors.

Share your strategy with your Board and leadership

  • This is imperative as a way to get the word out.  Encourage Board and staff members, volunteers and other key stakeholders to spread the word about Giving Tuesday.  Their awareness and assistance can make all the difference.
  • Make sure they like your Facebook page, add the Giving Tuesday information to their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and forward the emails to friends, family and colleagues.

Don’t forget to follow up

  • Be sure to thank all of your donors in a timely manner – and share the results of Giving Tuesday.
  • Remind those who did not participate in Giving Tuesday that there is still time to give.  Their gift is important!
  • Analyze your results and communicate these results to your key stakeholders.
  • Identify a plan for 2017, which may include plans to enhance the process.

As you can see, Giving Tuesday should be one part of your overall strategy for the Annual Fund.  And, with a little planning, it can be impactful and not too overwhelming!