Blog Archives

THE PREPARATION HABIT: Making the Most of Your Donor Visits

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Building long-term donor relations is an acquired skill that’s perfected over time. You can’t just wander in and expect to be successful because you “really, really love people.” Nor can you build a successful career by simply working hard. If it were as simple as that, a lot more fundraisers would be a lot more successful. The truth is, there are communications, management, and organizational skills at every level that are just down right essential. Continue reading

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PERPETUAL NAMING RIGHTS: Three Cautionary Tales and One Essential Piece of Advice

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Two separate gifts to New York City’s Lincoln Center illustrate the naming rights dilemma that many nonprofit leaders face. The first mega-gift came in 2008 from billionaire David Koch; the second from music and movie producer David Geffen. Both gifts to then Lincoln Center were for $100 million. However, two donors’ approaches to naming rights could not have been more different. A third illustration is sordid tale about a $20 million pledge with naming rights to small college that ignited a firestorm of anger among local residents, faculty, current students, and alumni. Continue reading

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RULE OF RECIPROCITY: Exchanging the Currency of Philanthropy

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One of the most powerful social norms is the rule of reciprocity. When we receive gifts, favors, invitations, or random acts of kindness, it creates a very real sense of personal indebtedness—a felt-need to pay back the favor. If, however, receiving gifts creates such a strong feeling of personal indebtedness, then career fundraisers are on the unfortunate side of that equation. Below are several ways fundraisers use the “currency of philanthropy” to build genuine reciprocal relationships among major donors.

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GOOD TO GREAT: Maximizing Fundraising Performance and Donor-base Potential

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Confronting brutal facts with unwavering faith, according to leadership consultant and best-selling author Jim Collins, is one of the characteristics of “10X companies” that were able to go from good to great. In this blog I talk about a Gift Clarity in-depth assessment, a strategic plan for fund-development, and a sample five-year staging plan—the overall objective being to maximize fundraising performance and donation potential. Continue reading

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WINNING TRADITIONS: Philosophy and Approach to Team Building

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I interact with a lot of fundraising executives representing institutions of all sizes and degrees of success—from the largest hospital network in the North America to small shops with two or three fundraisers. It would be a mistake to assume that very large organizations do all things very well while the very small always lack resources to implement a good fund development strategy. Sometimes it works that way; often it does not. When it comes to maximizing an organization’s funding potential, there seems to be little if any correlation between size and effectiveness. It has more to do with a consistent philosophy and leadership team along with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Continue reading

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STRATEGIC PLAN FOR FUND DEVELOPMENT—PART ONE: From the Big Ideals to the Nitty-gritty Details

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Over the last two years, I’ve been asking organizational leaders privately and publically if they have a strategic plan specifically for the fund development aspect of their organization. At a recent conference, I put that question to over 700 fundraisers. Only three raised their hand. The lack of response to this very informal survey and my follow-up conversations seem to beg two questions: 1) Is a list of fundraising goals the same as a strategic plan for fund development and 2) what difference does it make? Continue reading

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“IDEAL” LEADERSHIP: Beginning with the End in Mind

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Through the years, we’ve worked with hundreds nonprofits digging deeply into the inner workings of their mission, vision, and values. I’ve noticed that though they all have a vision for the organization’s program, it’s rare for a nonprofit to have an equally clear vision for donor relations. Visionary leadership is not just promoting ideas; it’s instilling, managing, and maintaining “ideals.” Nonprofit leaders should begin with a clearly defined vision of what donor relations would look like in the ideal expression of their organization. As Steven Covey puts it, “beginning with the end in mind”. Continue reading

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