THE SECOND QUESTION: Talking to Donors About Their Kids’ Inheritance

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The first question about how much parents will need for the rest of their lives is not that difficult. The second question about children’s inheritance is often more complex because it’s not just a matter of how much we can give, but how much we should give and when. Below are a few thoughts on what to say and what not to say in a planned giving conversation about transferring wealth to the next generation. Continue reading

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CAREER STRUGGLES: Pursuing Success but Getting Lost in the Process

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I’ve had the privilege over the years of working with thousands of nonprofit fundraisers. These are great people doing great work, and they’re making the world a much better place. I can’t help but notice, though, many are struggling. I’m particularly sympathetic to frustrations and discouragements I hear from young fundraisers working somewhere down on the organizational chart. I was in that very same position many years ago. I finally had to draw a circle around myself and just focus on things that I could control within that circle. If you’re a struggling fundraiser (young or old), I hope my story helps.
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FAITH-BASED PHILANTHROPY: Appealing to the Devout Affluent

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Through the years, my observation has been that people of faith are extremely consistent and usually very generous givers. This article focuses on one particular group of faith-based donors with two main characteristics: 1) those who are very devout and very serious about their relationship with God, and 2) those who have very high giving capacity. I call these the “devout affluent.” Below are a few the unique concerns that these donors bring to the table and what fundraisers need to keep in mind when appealing to them Continue reading

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NONPROFIT OVERHEAD: Making the Case for a Sustaining Tooth-to-Tail Ratio

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Tooth-to-Tail Ratio (T3R) is a military term used to measure the strategic efficiency of a fighting force. T3R is the ratio of combat forces (the teeth) to the number of support personnel (the tail) required to place one foot soldier onto the battlefield with the tactical support to succeed in his mission. The financial Tooth-to-Tail Ratio for a nonprofit organization is reported annually on Form 990 in terms of percentages spent on administration, fundraising, and programs. It’s a topic of conversation everywhere I go. Continue reading

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FUNDRAISERS AS MATCHMAKERS: Getting Donors to Fall in Love with Your Organization

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Fundraisers are a lot like professional matchmakers. They regularly introduce eligible people to their organizations, point out all the most admirable qualities, and hope those potential donors will fall in love and begin lifelong relationships. If they can win hearts and minds to their causes, the money will follow. So, how do fundraisers get donors to fall in love with the organizations they represent? Continue reading

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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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