FRANKLIN AND WHITEFIELD: The Immovable Donor Meets the Irresistible Fundraiser

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In a previous post I wrote about Benjamin Franklin’s 200-year endowments to the cities of Philadelphia and Boston to fund apprenticeships. Like so many planned gifts, Franklin’s bequest was motivated by his own life experiences. At age 12 Franklin signed on as an apprentice in his brother’s printing shop. Another experience that factored significantly into the Franklin endowments was his long and highly unlikely relationship with the Rev. George Whitefield. Below are four takeaways for 21st century fundraisers. Continue reading

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CLOSING ON MAJOR GIFTS: Classic Sales Training Techniques Applied (or not) to Nonprofit Solicitations

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Historically, nonprofit executives (including fundraisers) emerged from the ranks of financial professionals, business leaders, academic faculty, or the nonprofit’s most experienced program staff. In contrast, a relatively small number make the transition from direct sales to fundraising. That’s both good and bad. It’s good because many of the best salesmen don’t make great fundraisers. It’s bad because fundraisers coming from other professions don’t have the background to determine if and when traditional sales tactics are appropriate. Below are a few observations about traditional sales training, closing techniques, and major-gift solicitations. Continue reading

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NOBLE OCCUPATION: A Little Bit of Don Quixote in All the Best Fundraisers

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Don Quixote perceived himself as a man on a mission, a knightly quest to become the champion and defender of all who were in need. Like the fictional hero of the Spanish novel, the most effective nonprofit leaders I’ve known are those who have been able to maintain a kind of romanticized ideal about their occupation. But that’s not always easy to do. Contending with unrelenting needs as well as the occasional setback can wear down your idealism and enthusiasm over time. Continue reading

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SOLICITING MEMORIALS: Understanding the Need to Give in the Wake of Tragedy

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Sheryl and I lost our only grandchild ten years ago this month. In the aftermath, our family made an unprecedented memorial gift. The great fundraising lesson from our greatest loss is that unprecedented gifts often come from donors who have a felt need to give back in response to their own personal tragedy or their own personal triumph. In the last thirty-five years I have been involved with structuring thousands of memorial gifts for families. Here are a few general principles I follow.

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ACCOUNTABILITY ATTITUDES: Why You Can’t Fool Experienced Donors

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Creating a positive culture of accountability is not something accomplished by decree, i.e., the values we “decided” to adopt at a recent strategic planning meeting. Cultural values develop through time, particularly over difficult times. Leaders who stick to their standards when it’s costly demonstrate what they really believe. That’s why leaders who create distinct cultures of accountability (whether empowering or toxic) do so because they have so thoroughly internalized those ideas. Below are three attitudes about accountability that can eventually turn into positive or negative donor relations issues. Continue reading

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ACCOUNTABILITY CULTURES: Toxic vs. Empowering Systems and the Effect on Fundraising Staff

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I used to keep a file in my desk drawer on the positive and negative lessons I learned from leaders—some great, others less than great. Eventually, the file was misplaced but many of the ideas were sticky enough to remain with me through the years. Below are a few of those leadership lessons on the importance of creating a culture of accountability that is both empowering and productive. Continue reading

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THE CASE FOR ACCOUNTABILITY: Why I Love It and Would Feel Lost Without It

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As unusual as it sounds to say, I love personal accountability. Consequently, I’m committed to a process of carefully tracking and analyzing where I’ve invested my time, talent, and resources. Without that process, I’d feel a bit lost. In fact, the more accountable I am, the more secure I feel in relationships with God, family, and friends; with clients and donors; with Thompson & Associates’ staff and associates. Realize it or not—believe it or not, your private and professional relationships are defined and sustained in the context of accountability. Continue reading

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