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CASE FOR ENDOWMENTS: The Long and Short of Fundraising

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Not many people spend the better part of a decade in college with the goal of becoming a fundraiser, and neither had I. However, I was intrigued and astounded at what I heard in a meeting of college presidents. As a result, my dissertation topic became an analysis of institutional outliers—university fund development programs that stood head and shoulder above the average. And my career launch eventually became Thompson & Associates, Inc. Continue reading

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WHAT’S ON YOUR DASHBOARD? Identifying Your Key Performance Indicators

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DONOR PERFORMANCE is a gauge I recommend that you monitor only about once a year, simply because it’s a performance metric you can’t control. All you can control is your development staff performance. Consequently, gauges related to STAFF PERFORMANCE are the ones that should command your undivided attention. Increasingly, nonprofit executives have developed a habit of watching, even becoming fixated, on the wrong gauges. And some are in danger of flying their organizations right into the ground. Continue reading

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STRATEGIC MOMENTUM: John Harvard and a Series of Unfortunate Events

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I wrote a paper in graduate school on the Harvard legacy and have been intrigued with the idea of it ever since. It’s a great example of several key elements of strategic giving—leverage, timing, and momentum. In other words, the greatest philanthropic impact is the result of leveraging your life situation with the right gift at the right time to the right organization, creating long-term sustainable momentum. Continue reading

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CULTIVATION STRATEGY: Fundraising for Your First Quarter

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What you as a nonprofit executive do in December and January each year is a “tell”—that is, it reveals a lot about your (or your institution’s) fund-development mentality. Are you a year-end closer or a springtime cultivator? Appealing for year-end for giving resolutions that you have not yet planted or cultivated is a silly thing to do. Continue reading

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SIX BLIND MEN & THE ORGANIZATIONAL ELEPHANT: Microscopic and Telescopic Versions of the Fundraising Narrative

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The story of the elephant and the six blind men has been told in one form or another since the early fifth century B.C., and has been used to illustrate everything from religious toleration to team synergy. Here’s my application to donor relations and organizational communications. Continue reading

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CRESCENDO INTERACTIVE, INC.— A Conversation with Charles Schultz

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Charles Schultz and I go back a long way. Charles is the principal author of the Crescendo Planned Giving Software and the GiftLegacy Pro eMarketing System. He is also the editor for the charitable tax planning web site. Last month Charles and I sat down for a conversation about values, careers, and Crescendo Interactive, Inc. Continue reading

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THE EFFECTIVE ASK: Sticking to a Script or Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

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I love to fly, and I love relating to donors. Consequently, I can’t help but think about the two in the same context. Fundraising is a lot like piloting my Cirrus SR22 Turbo, and flying my Cirrus is a lot like fundraising. There is an aspect of every conversation with current or potential donors that could be described as “flying by the seat of your pants.” Continue reading

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