May 2, 2016

Where can you get money?

Step #1: Read this issue of The Agitator about giving across generations. Read my response, posted at the Agitator.

Step #2: Study the infographic.

Step #3: Review the original report from Blackbaud.

Step #4: Share the infographic with your boss, the program staff, and the board. Explain the implications. Offer insights. And, of course, make sure your development staff understands, acknowledges, accepts, and performs accordingly!!!

Step #5: Stop the crap. (“Oh my gosh, we need to focus on millennials and get gifts from them.”)

Step #6: Pay attention to research. You know: FACTS. SCIENCE. Destroy ill-informed personal opinion as soon as it rears its silly, ugly head.

Step #7: Please please please. Could we please build a profession? Could we please behave like professionals?

Thank you.


April 15, 2016

More songs to learn from

Have you been reading (and listening!) to my series about learning from songs and their lyrics?

So here’s a suggestion from David Kravinchuck, the chief Advice Dispenser at Fundraising Pharmacy. Such a cool company name! (And David is planned the new Western Canada Fundraising Conference!)

Here’s what David says about the lyrics: “It’s a lament that so many donors could be sharing with the charities they give to. ‘When you’ve laid your hands upon me and told me who you are…’ is just about the perfect way to describe most of the … communications sooo many orgs STILL use.”

I very much agree with David!

Here are some of the most hard-hitting lyrics … for the donor (or lover!)

How does it feel
To treat me like you do
When you’ve laid laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are

I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how do I feel


I thought I told you to leave me
While I walked down to the beach
Tell me how does it feel
When your heart grows cold
(grows cold, grows cold, grows cold)

March 21, 2016

Read and share – and fight for these!

Three really great blog reads.

Read. Learn. Share with staff colleagues, bosses, and boards.

Explain why. Help staff, bosses, and boards understand and accept and own and focus on the right stuff.

That’s your job. To use the right stuff from the right people. Explain the why. Help all those others accept and own and focus on the right stuff, not the wrong stuff.

This takes time. And I’m not talking weeks or months!


And if you can’t get this done… Look in the mirror first. Maybe you’re the problem. But maybe you’re not the problem. Maybe they’re the problem.

Find an ally (or two) to help you help them get it.

And if that doesn’t work…. Look for another job. You deserve better.

Filed under: Resources / Research

February 22, 2016

Relationship fundraising: Finally!!! Research so we can do it even better

Guru Ken Burnett wrote the book, Relationship Fundraising. Seminal book. Important that every single fundraiser read it.

And now, the gurus at the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Plymouth University, U.K. have done the research. Download the relationship fundraising research now. Read it. Apply it! Visit Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang, and Ian MacQuillin, who are doing work that needs to be done.

Shame on us fundraisers and our fundraising:

  • Fundraisers and fundraising rely too much on war stories and what others have done before. Yes, those others were (and are!) often marvelous. But where’s the research?
  • Fundraising is the biggest industry in the world running on war stories and conventional wisdom,” someone recently said. (But I don’t remember whom!)
  • Research from the Science of Philanthropy Institute at the University of Chicago notes that, overall only 7% of the surveyed nonprofits consult research before making fundraising decisions. That’s awful! And only 45% of the survey participants said they sometimes look at research.

This is no way to run a business!!!!

So read the research about relationship fundraising. Read the commentary at Critical Fundraising here and here.

Let’s make fundraising more effective. Please.


January 25, 2016

Planning for year-end fundraising … now

I know. It’s only the end of January… And I’m already talking about year-end fundraising. But let’s get started early.

Check out this article by Holly Hall. I’m enormously complimented because Holly is referencing an old article I wrote, “Year End Fundraising: The Not-So-Magnificent Obsession.” Holly calls this “one of the best articles I’ve read in more than two decades of covering the field.”

Thank you, Holly. And hey everyone, start thinking about 2016’s year-end. Think about it right now, because year-end shouldn’t be the focus.


November 16, 2015

Really good resources last forever

I’m sitting on the floor in the corner of my London hotel room. Feels good on my back. It’s actually 8:40 a.m. on October 16. This afternoon is the meeting of the Advisory Board for the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Plymouth University. I’m the chair of the Centre’s Advisory Board.

Yes, I write some of my blogs in advance…for example this one. In fact, I intentionally post many of my resource blogs weeks after the origination of the resource. WHY? Because really good resources don’t go out of date. Really good resources last forever.

You may have read the resource back when it first came out – because I’m so often sharing from places like NPQ…The Agitator…Jeff Brooks…BloomerangThe HubHillborn…wherever and whatever and more. But I want to remind you of the resource a while later. Because I think the resource is worth remembering and keeping and applying.

So here goes, some resources I find very useful and applicable and and and ….

“Your donors are trashing your emails. Here’s what you can do about it.” Thank you, Jeff Brooks. So many emails…How many get opened?

Carl Sussman’s magnificent always useful read it now article: “Making Change: How to Build Adaptive Capacity.” This is a must-read for any fundraiser, all management staff, board members. This is a great article for management of your own life, too!

Check out the 101Fundraising Blog. International. Yippee! And here are their top 10 right now. And read this one about looking out the window, not in the mirror.

Resources? More resources? Damn. I am so far behind! Read Steven Shattuck’s post of the Top 40 Blogs to read in 2015. I’ve shared this with you before. I’m sharing it again. And kicking myself to read more of these, too!

Okay. That’s it. I’m getting up from the floor now. Nice for my back but too hard for that other part of me at the moment!

Share some of your favorite resources in the comments section of this blog. We can all learn more together.



October 28, 2015

Bad government regulation…silent NGOs…cautious fundraisers…

I’m thinking this is a recipe for failure:

  • Several cups of: Government that doesn’t analyze; and, eliminates any input from fundraisers.
  • A couple cups of: Overly sweet NGOs with no tartness or saltiness at all.
  • Add a big dose of fear.
  • Add a pinch of arrogance.
  • Mix well to ensure no discernible flavor.

And there you have it… Nonsensical government regulation…sour and rotten. Accompanied by very few dissident voices because fear overcomes clear thinking and the will to fight.

Damn it. This is a too-commonly baked recipe in the nonprofit sector. 

Are you wondering what I’m taking about? A current British recipe resulting from the suicide of Olive Cooke. Her death is attributed to the crass fundraising strategies of ignoble nonprofits. Yes, that’s the hue and outcry from British media, and some vocal leaders of the nonprofit sector, mostly unchecked by thoughtful leaders.

What a silly, sorry accusation for an apparently lovely woman who gave time and money to charities that she cared about. How unfortunate that the nonprofit sector isn’t more respected and valued. Too sad that condemnation and threats cause so many to stay too silent.

So now there will be new regulations in the U.K. Bad new regulations that will hurt those in most need.

[A momentary aside: Despite the absurdity of “suicide due to fundraising,” it’s certainly valid to ask how NGOs and their fundraisers raise money. How we treat donors…How often we contact donors…What kind of choice we give donors…How we justify our voracious fundraising strategies with so little care for our donors…And on and on and on. Perhaps this is the wake-up call our sector needs?]

Don’t think that this can only happen in the U.K. Oh my, no! I’ve seen similar recipes in the U.S. for decades and decades. I listen to worried colleagues around the world.

Surely this entire situation – including response from the media and the sector and donors – is a useful conversation to have in your organization. What to do? Try the following:

  1. Assign your staff to read about Olive Cooke and the U.K. debacle. Then read Adrian Sargeant’s blog and The Agitator blog by guru Roger Craver. Now talk.
  2. Spend some time at an upcoming board meeting talking about the British situation. Then identify similar situations in your country. Talk about your NGO’s role in speaking out for or against public policy. Talk about how you might respond to donors who might be curious or even worried.
  3. Gather together some of your fundraising colleagues around your community – maybe your local fundraising association. Explore topics like: Position of the nonprofit sector, its value and respect for it… Speaking out as a sector, focusing on facts rather than hysteria and frenzy…

More recipes like this produce a weakened NGO sector. And a weakened NGO sector harms our communities, our societies, and – yes – the entire world.

So let’s get our act together. Please.


October 26, 2015

Read these. Pass them on. Talk about both with your colleagues.

Let’s kick some butt!

Ah, the millennials. And the Ice Bucket Challenge. And that new contemporary look. Old donors versus young donors… Let’s talk some more! (Oh please don’t. READ THIS!!  Make sure you read the imbedded article, too. 

How’s that equity thing going in your organization? Do you talk about equity in your NGO? I don’t mean lobbying for equity in the outside world. I mean equity…inside your organization. Because that’s where we can all start. READ THIS!

October 12, 2015

Setting your charitable contributions goal

From my archives… But I’m still flummoxed about how organizations do this…

How does your NGO set its charitable contributions goal? This is what organizations tell me:

First we add up all the expenses to carry out our mission. Then we figure out how much revenue we think is pretty reliable.” (That might be ticket sales if you’re an arts organization. Or maybe government contracts for services delivered. Or a for-sure grant from some foundation.)

“And then,” says the organization, “we figure out the gap and that’s our fundraising goal.”
Yup, the primary criteria for setting charitable contributions goal is how much the organization wants / needs to do its work.
Of course, most organizations also look at how much they’ve raised in the past. Let’s see: “Last year we raised 10% more than the previous year. So how about raising 15% more this year. Or, it’s a bad economy, so let’s just aim for raising 10% more again this year.”
Not good. Not the best way to determine your charitable contributions goal. In fact, I think the least important criteria for setting your charitable contributions goal is “how much you need.”
Instead, set your charitable contributions goal by examining both internal and external criteria. For example, internal criteria include:
  • donor-centered relationship building program
  • balanced mix of solicitation strategies and sources of gifts
  • board member participation to identify the predisposed, nurture relationships, and solicit gifts
  • number of qualified prospects in the pipeline
  • analysis of key donors to determine the likelihood of how much each one might increase his / her gift

And I have even more on my list!

Make sure you consider the external issues, for example, the economy.
And make sure that your board understands this is how an effective organization develops its budget and its charitable contributions goal.
July 6, 2015

One little starfish

On June 9, 2015, I presented at the Planet Philanthropy conference in Jacksonville, Florida. The 19 AFP Chapters in Florida come together annually to put together this conference. Wow. I’m impressed with the number of chapters in the state. And I’m impressed with the collaboration. Smart groups around the country – whether it’s professional associations or providers or or – collaborating makes a big difference.

The next day, I woke up to this email from a conference attendee.

“On behalf of all in that large room – I send appreciation for your spirit, enthusiasm and bold approach that we, as fundraisers need, so very much.
Your words were beyond a class, or a training, or a keynote speaker…They were empowerment – to do great things, every single day.. starting tomorrow.
Thanks for the huge difference you made to me – one little starfish, but one!
Thanks for the difference you made today.”

I am proud and touched by Marilyn’s comments. She summarized what I try so hard to accomplish. I do believe that fundraisers must be bolder. In knowing and applying the body of knowledge and research. I do believe that fundraisers must stand up to their boards and bosses: telling the truth; sharing critical information; fighting against “ill-informed opinions” and “we need money now syndrome,” and so much more.

Then Marilyn shared with me this video… which I had never seen. And Marilyn said: “What we do is as important as the different way we say it.”

Thank you, Marilyn Hathaway, CFRE… Habitat for Humanity – Seminole Apopa. Thank you.

Filed under: Leadership

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