Director’s message

August 2017

Most fundraising professionals and many nonprofit personnel are familiar with the newspaper, Nonprofit Times, which is available as both hard-copy and on-line ( However, they may not be as aware of Exempt:  The Financial Magazine for Nonprofits ( It is published six times annually by Nonprofit Times.

In the November/December issue of 2016, the lead article discussed “Five Things That are Making Regulators Buzz.”  Written by Tracy L. Boak and Karen I. Wu, the article acknowledges that legal issues and compliance regulations are perpetual operations concerns, but they consider five to be of greatest interest to regulators, and therefore perhaps present the greatest challenges to nonprofit leadership.

First is the failure of boards to properly implement governance and compliance regulations, such as matters of conflicts of interest. Second is inadequate scrutiny of fundraising and overhead costs, such as high costs of hiring a fundraising professional and misrepresentation of how much is actually spent on the program versus the costs to bring in the donated funds.  Third is the matter of restricted funds and donor expectations. Fourth are the complex issues of the use of technology in fundraising; these raise many questions, from legal matters to use of donor data that is collected.  Finally are the considerations of social impact efforts, such as income-producing ventures rather than donations. This, perhaps, is the one that will bear consideration for some time to come, due to the vast changes that occur in this arena.

Understanding the viewpoint of what is significant in terms of regulations of nonprofits isn’t necessarily an easy matter but is vital for ethical and credible organizations that are accountable to their donors and the public. Exempt makes that challenging task easier for the busy nonprofit and fundraising professional.  

July 2017

One of the influential and significant organizations in our field is the Urban Institute, which houses the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Based in Washington, DC (see, the Center, long led by Dr. Elizabeth Boris and currently by Sarah Rosen Wartell, published in late 2016 a most significant report—State Regulation and Enforcement in the Charitable Sector. PSI sometimes fields questions about regulations, which can be challenging to track and at times understand, so this document is of great value in ensuring NAD organizations are in compliance.

The study is the first systematic analysis of state-level oversight and regulation of charities in the U.S. and was done in collaboration with Columbia Law School and consists of three components. The first is a legal analysis of laws in the 56 U.S. jurisdictions. The second is a survey of the state and territory offices charged with oversight, regulatory and enforcement authority. Interviews with about two-thirds of the officials at these organizations comprise the third section.

A few highlights of the report, which is available on-line, are the following:

  • No single state law regarding charities exists; the laws are complex and cover many areas.
  • Organization and staffing of the offices also varies.
  • Most registration oversight is with the state attorneys’ general offices, followed by secretary of state offices, as well as other entities listed in the report.
  • Uniformity is encouraged among states.
  • Fundraising abuses, trust enforcement, and governance are the three most common areas of activities.

While the report is complex and cerebral, the astute fundraising professional would benefit from a perusal to at least develop an acquaintance of the basic information it presents, and to have this resource on hand for referral.


June 2017

As most of our readers no doubt know, the Association of Fundraising Professionals is a leading group for the fundraising profession, and one of PSI’s collegial organizations.  Perhaps one of the best features of the association is its journal, Advancing Philanthropy (click herefeaturing the spring issue).

As the website for the journal states, “A true member benefit, Advancing Philanthropy, the bi-monthly magazine published by AFP, provides practical information, useful tools and other resources to help members succeed and advance.”  The short summaries of research studies, special news about chapters or new publications, the feature articles, the Q/A section, and more, all provide a well-rounded information source for the inquiring and thoughtful professional.

We’re particularly proud when on occasion PSI staff and their constituents and/or colleagues are featured in articles or news items.  A recent article, “Show and Tell,” by Wilson “Bill” Levis, Randy Fox, Benjamin Miller and Cathy Craver featured the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) and provided highly relevant information on understanding how comparative fundraising statistics can be understood and applied to practice, particularly in the area of donor retention.

Launched more than a decade ago and building on the work of pioneers such as Bill Levis and Jim Greenfield, the FEP has seen increasing use by the progressive and careful practitioner and now sports a site on the AFP general website.  

The article, “Show and Tell,” has sidebars as well as readable and readily understandable graphs that aid in the application of this innovative and highly useful tool.  The readers is invited to submit comments or questions to

We’re focusing on this feature article in Advancing Philanthropy this month because it’s an exciting and progressive tool and because PSI has developed its own version, the Fundraising Fitness Test.  But we also value our collaboration with AFP as a collegial association, which adds to the service impact of both PSI and AFP.  We encourage you to read Advancing Philanthropy for your own professional growth and knowledge acquisition and will keep you informed about essential items that specifically capitalize on our association with AFP.  

May 2017

Nonprofit World Magazine is a useful, readable, hands-on type of journal and is entirely on-line (See According to Jason Chmura, Membership Director: “Nonprofit World Magazine is a “must read” and should be on every nonprofit executive and professional’s desk.The online magazine, published quarterly, provides informative and educational articles on the most pressing, challenging topics in nonprofit leadership and management from leading nonprofit experts. It covers everything from board governance and development to the issues affecting day-to-day operations of a nonprofit like accounting, communications, fundraising, human resource issues and management, volunteer management, branding/marketing, and more. Don’t miss out on what nonprofit industry leaders are discussing. Stay in-the-know with Nonprofit World Magazine.

As you noticed, Nonprofit World is now being published exclusively online. The number of members who were opting out of the print version has continued to grow over the past several years, and – coupled with rising print/shipping costs – we would have been forced to raise prices for print issues beyond what we felt was reasonable or sustainable. By making Nonprofit World an exclusively digital publication, we’ll be able to focus our resources on making the online experience far more enjoyable for everybody which we hope will lead to long-term success. The PDF of the full magazine like the one that you received as an attachment is available by logging on to the Members Only section. We send an email reminder to all members when a new issue is available, but do not include the PDF attachment due to the file size.  If you have suggestions on ways to make Nonprofit World more enjoyable as an exclusively online publication, please let me know. We’re in the process of exploring many different options, and welcome any/all feedback.”

In a recent issue one article in particular by Emily Davis that attracted me was “Does 100% Board Giving Matter?” One of PSI’s constituents had recently asked me that and my own response was, “Of course,” but then I realized that at times Adventist organizations don’t adhere to this mantra or practice, and in this context we must acknowledge that Adventist boards are, in some cases, different from the norm in the nonprofit sector in the U.S. This article gives not just the quick-and-easy answers but also provides the rationale for this practice. For example, “When every single board member gives to the organization, it demonstrates a crucial commitment. Board members must set an example for staff, volunteers, and other donors.” The article goes on to give further reasons why board members need to give and provides concrete suggestions as well.

For further board information, including how to work with Adventist boards which at times really ARE different, contact me, Lilya Wagner.

April 2017

FYI From the Director

When I first entered the profession of fundraising, there were few journals—or for that matter, few books as well—that were available for us to read and learn. These were credible and helpful as I developed professionally, and putting together a bibliography of such printed resources was a cinch. That’s no longer true!

On the positive side, there are many journals of substance which contain excellent material and these are the ones that I will bring to your attention each month via the PSI website. On the flip side, there is reading material produced today that perhaps doesn’t quite measure up to high-quality standards and even may border on hype. Of course, these will not be named, except to say, “If you’re going to spend time reading, and money in purchasing subscriptions, make sure that you get the best, that you choose material that truly represents the best in professional practice in fundraising.”

A journal that I have found useful because it contains helpful how-to articles and news items is NonProfit Pro (see A recent article particularly caught my attention, which appeared in the January 2017 issue:  “The Best of Tech–New Platforms We Love In The Nonprofit Sector.”

As the author, Maya Bur, states that the relationship between nonprofits and technology is always evolving. And at the same time the value, utility, and significance of technology, especially social media, in carrying out our fundraising efforts is of inestimable value. (For data on how social media is working and increasing in returns, write PSI).

She also acknowledges it’s tough to keep up with the developments. I certainly was surprised to read about some of the new strategies such as GiveCampus and Benevolent. Not only does this article introduce us to some of the best platforms but it also explains “Why we like it,” in other words, why professionals use these and get good results.

NonProfit Pro is worth a look, especially for smaller organizations. You may wish to peruse their website and perhaps get a sample copy.

—Lilya Wagner

March 2017

FYI from the director

As promised in my last Director’s Message, each month I will summarize an article of significance to fundraising and also highlight the best journals in the field.  Those of you in higher education are familiar with CASE Currents, of course, but this journal frequently has articles that apply to other organizations and best practices.  

The December issue of Currents contained a useful article by Sandra Gurvis titled “Ten Reasons Why People Give (and Five Why They Don’t).”  This article points out some of the most useful motivations that fundraising should note.  There is other research on the topic that we can share with you as well, but this is a great start to making ourselves aware or at least reminding ourselves why people would respond to our requests.

For example, the first reason listed is one to which I relate, with pleasure—“Giving is like eating chocolate cake!”  The second reason should resonate with Adventist organizations because we know (and research has proven this) that it’s more blessed to give than to receive—“Giving is an innate trait.”  By the way, a PowerPoint set of slides on the topic of “it’s more blessed to give than to receive” is available by writing to me.

The reasons listed in this article parallel much of the research conducted by Paul Schervish and John Havens, which can be found at this website:  There are other excellent resources on that site as well.

Of course, there are valid reasons why people DON’T give as well, and much of it has to do with how we treat our donors, including respecting their wishes and respecting THEM!  

For more information on the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, please see

Wishing you well!  

—Lilya Wagner

February 2017

FYI from the Director

Our profession and field of activity is privileged to have a number of excellent publications that inform our practice and keep us up to date. PSI is fortunate to be able to subscribe to what we consider the best in the myriad of information that assails us!

During 2017 I will be sharing with you key articles from the best publications, and thereby informing our constituents and clients about what’s in print currently, which might be helpful for you to know. I will summarize the highlights of key articles and refer you to the original publication. Of course you may know some of these publications, but others might be new to you.  Or, if you’re new to the field, this will broaden your outlook on what’s available “out there,” and supplement what PSI can do for you.

First, of course, is the long-standing publication on which many of us have relied for years. In my experience it’s been the best all-around resource because it includes articles on current issues, highlights best practices, lists funding sources, has some jobs’ information, and in general keeps us current. A fairly recent addition is the Daily Update, which I appreciate very much because it keeps me reading on a regular basis and truly keeps me up to date. I’m talking about, of course, The Chronicle of Philanthropy (see  

For example, an article published in the latter part of 2016 addressed the economic impact of faith-based organizations, both nationally and in our communities. The article cited an important study, the Religious Freedom Project issued by Georgetown University professor Brian Grim and his daughter Melissa, who is a research fellow at the Religious Freedom Center. It will be most instructive for you to peruse this report—

Faith-based organizations might be able to use some of the information, as reported by the Chronicle, as they make a case. These organizations contribute nearly $1.2 trillion annually to the nation!  Congregations in particular are credited with $418 billion in economic impact. That’s highly significant as we reach into our communities for additional funding, besides income from our immediate constituents (i.e., Adventist church members).  

I hope that you will find these monthly columns instructive as they point you to additional resources and also the most valuable publications in our dynamic and exciting field!  

As always, my best wishes to you for your continuing success,

Dr. Lilya Wagner

January 2017

The Stacked Deck

David sat back with a satisfied sigh.  In another week he and his organization were going to celebrate real victory!  Because of his work and management of a capital campaign, the goal of nearly $3 million had been reached–and ahead of schedule.  Besides that, he had incrementally increased the annual fund income and added to the endowment fund, in spite of the dire economic circumstances of the country and his city.  

The constituents and friends of his organization had pitched in with unprecedented vigor, and he felt the warm satisfaction of having led in that team spirit.  Seeing a volunteer who had hesitated to get involved in the first place accompany him to close a major gift had been one of the highlights of his professional life.  According to what he had learned, particularly through The Fund Raising School training he acquired over time, having a peer participate in major gift cultivation and solicitation was a significant success factor, and he was happy to give credit to his boss and volunteers for the significant sums they brought in.  He knew his boss appreciated his work and enthusiastically participated in bringing the campaign to a successful closure.  

Then his face clouded and he shut his eyes as a rush of memories stormed to the forefront.  His euphoria faded as he remembered some conversations.  First, he could still hear his boss telling him, “I’m retiring.  Yes, I know.  It’s a bit earlier than I had expected but now with this campaign behind us, I think I can do so and not leave you or the school in a lurch.”  David sighed.  His boss had been uncommonly supportive, he knew.  He had heard plenty from his professional friends and in particular a senior-level fundraiser who finally quit her job because the better she did, the less her boss liked it since it demanded more activity and accountability on his part (the board was watching and wasn’t pleased with his avoidance tactics).  His boss went on, “But we’ll have a major celebration and I will remind the search committee for my replacement that fundraising has been very important in building this organization to its present prestigious status.”  David would miss him, but he was fairly confident that his success of the past five years of either reaching or exceeding his goals would carry him through the transition and on to more years at the institution.

Imagine his surprise when he learned that a consultant was being brought in to conduct an audit of his department.  Presumably, the organization’s leadership wanted to see if they were on course and what they should consider for the future.  Why? was the first thought that popped into David’s mind.  Then he relaxed.  With the growth of his program and his evident success, perhaps all the assessment would do would be to show that he was doing well, and perhaps even convince the leadership that his work deserved more support.  He had quickly learned that the organization’s future focus was going to be on program development–not that they had anything for which to apologize, but it seemed like the physical plant and fundraising would not be a priority anymore.  

David expected to be included in the preparations for the assessment.  After all, that was accepted protocol, business as usual.  Once again he was surprised when a consultant showed up, bypassed him, and began interviews.  Wasn’t he going to be asked for recommendations on whom to interview, particularly donors and volunteers?  Apparently not.  David was justifiably insulted, and disappointed when he learned who had been selected for the interviews—that the deck had been stacked!  Why? he once again had to ask himself.  What was going on here?  Should he take this as a hint?  Was the fundraising program in danger of being downsized?  Was he not needed anymore?  Normally an upbeat person, David couldn’t fight the dejection and depression that hit him, and hard.  Clearly, he was being marginalized. Maybe it was time to bow out rather than fight unworkable situations.  

Finally he made the decision that it was better to resign while showing positive growth and much success, rather than risk a downturn in both funding income and his reputation.  He took little comfort in the sympathy of his professional friends and family.  He truly cared about the organization and this didn’t bode well for his department.  He also worried about what would happen to his donors, those whom he had cultivated and had cared for with sincere feeling.  

David gathered his wits and wisdom around him and began a job search.  He had to learn how to present himself and his success, how to match his skills to a particular job opening and modify his resume accordingly, and he had to keep up his confidence and self-respect–perhaps the hardest task in view of what had happened.  

As he proceeded on his job search during a tough economic time, he had to do a lot of personal evaluation and soul-searching.  Did he really want to stay in fundraising, he asked himself?  Was it time to turn to some other career experience and expertise he had acquired over the years?  As we leave David to his job search, we can ponder along with him the following conclusions:

Life isn’t fair.  Get over it.

It’s not about you.  It’s about the leadership, and more often than not, it’s about the particular point in time in the organization’s life.

There’s only so much a professional can do.  Sometimes circumstances divert a successful path.

No matter what you do as a fundraising professional, sometimes it just doesn’t work!  

Sometimes it’s better to bow out while on top rather than go down with the ship (yes, he knew he was mixing metaphors but at that point he didn’t care).

P.S.  I was recently asked if the content of my columns is real.  Yes, every column is based on real-life incidents, sometimes a bit disguised by a combination of events and circumstances to protect the innocent and not divulge the identity of the not-so-innocent.  If you have nightmares to share, send an e-mail.


December 2016

Collaboration and the Art of Negotiation—Part Two

Last month we met George and his dilemma at Global Works, where his colleagues were happily entrenched in a world of silos.  “Turfism” frustrated him to no end, and worse yet, hampered his assignment and responsibility for fundraising.  While trying to change the prevailing mentality, George had outlined some benefits for collaboration, along with some possible steps that an organization could take to accomplish that goal.  That, however, was the easy part.  He knew that if any change would take place, negotiation would play a significant role.  So he began to research what negotiation really meant.  Happily, he found just the right source in Forbes.  He read:

If you’re in the middle of negotiations, “non-starter,” “take it or leave it” or “not at that price” shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary.

Most universities don’t offer Negotiation 101, and few parents teach their children the nuts and bolts. It’s a learned technique, and picking up the basics isn’t hard. Whether you’re a veteran sales rep for Pfizer or a Merrill Lynch trader, you can always sharpen your skills no matter extensive your experience.1

That seemed encouraging.  He read on.  The first piece of advice was to listen!  How elementary, George thought.  Then he wondered just how much he had listened to his colleagues for whom the silo-mentality was as comfortable and natural as breathing.  He remembered his own advice–to understand why others might not want to collaborate.  Perhaps he ought to ask fewer questions, complain less about “turfism,” and listen to not only what colleagues were saying but to listen and listen again, particularly paying attention to what was implied as much as what was said.  OK, point number one noted mentally.

The article went on, listing three basic points to consider before even beginning to negotiate.

  • At the outset, everything is on the table.
  • Unless you’re in the military and can give orders to subordinates, there will be give and take.
  • The purpose of negotiation is to cut a deal–not to smash your opponent to bits.

Defining the issue, the article stated, and gathering the information was essential to getting started.  George thought he knew what the issue was, as well as all relevant effects and side-effects, but perhaps he hadn’t really listened   The author wrote, If possible, get relevant information from the other side. Organize it logically so you can refer to key points during the discussions as needed.

Well, what were the real issues?  Lack of office supplies, no matter how frustrating,  wasn’t as relevant as lack of information flow.  How could he bring people to the table and encourage a sharing of information that was so vital to his getting his own job done?  He read on.  Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your position. Think how you can use your strengths to increase your gains.

So, what did he really bring to the organization?  How could he help others at Global Works see the strengths and progress he perhaps represented?  At this point George began to make a list on paper, remembering what he had just read, and adding on as he continued through the article.

  • Listen.  
  • Define the central issue(s) but don’t ignore other side issues which may be equally critical for skillful negotiation.  
  • Be cooperative but stay alert. Try to anticipate what the other side will say and do.  
  • Be clear on what you want, but outline what you will give up and the price of this concession.   
  • Remember that there’s always a way around a problem no matter how big it may seem at the time.
  • Make it possible for both yourself and the other party to concede gracefully.  Remember that both sides leave with something in hand after a good negotiation.

George sat back and reflected.  How did all this apply to the basics of fundraising?  He reviewed his list and applied it to his fundraising plans.

  • Talk to colleagues once again, this time focusing on their goals for accomplishment, and defining how fundraising fit.
  • Identify reasons for the silo mentality, then come up with a minimal list of why collaboration would help achieve the goals in stated above.  
  • When stating what you want, show how it helps all in the organization.  Your colleagues won’t much care how you get your job done, but they probably will pay attention to reasonable and credible statements about results.
  • Acknowledge you won’t achieve everything in the first negotiation, but that you can have minimal win-win steps over time.

George tried his approach.  At first suspicion reigned.  Then reluctance.  But when George found a funder for a shared-interest cause, and showed how most divisions brought strengths to the project, the first step was accomplished.

Six months later, George had an office fully stocked with the necessary supplies, the good will of many colleagues, and one funded project that required half of the senior personnel to work together in order to reach the goal.  Perhaps, he reflected, he should be the one to write a curriculum for at least a one-day workshop if not an academic course which he would name, Negotiation 101!

November 2016

Collaboration and the Silo Mentality–Part One

Most universities don’t offer Negotiation 101, or Collaboration for Greater Effectiveness 201, George thought as he stared at his colleague Al.  Having recently joined the Global Works organization as a chief fundraiser, George now had the task of finding out what was needed from him and his expertise.

George had just asked where he could get supplies for the desk and office he had inherited.  There seemed to be an abundance of paper clips (did his predecessor have a fetish about paper clips?), and out of date Foundation Center volumes, but no paper for his printer, ruler to measure the size of a drawer, or pens.  He began to prowl the halls, ending up in the workroom.  That seemed like a logical place for such supplies.  Tentatively trying to open the metal cabinet doors–the few he found in the workroom–he was a bit puzzled that they were locked.  He looked around for shelves that might at least have paper.  And he didn’t feel quite right about filching the few dozen sheets of paper he found in the copier.  

As he walked down the hall he peered into offices of his new colleagues.  Since Al was at his desk, he seemed to be the next best source of information on how to equip an office at Global Works. Al looked as puzzled as George felt.  “We each buy our own supplies, because that’s what’s written into the grant proposals on which we survive,” Al said.  George felt like replying, “How about swapping a handful of paper clips for a ream of paper,” but he was too new on the scene to attempt any clever retort.

Little did George know this was just the beginning of “turfism” as he had never encountered before.  Indeed, there was no central supply.  More importantly, information was guarded in ways resembling the CIA.  Senior personnel meetings consisted mostly of vague statements and reports, never anything concrete on which George could develop a case for funding support.  An air of suspicion prevailed–suspicion about what the XYZ division might be doing, or what an external competitor might be up to.  

OK, George thought.  I’m equal to this.  I’ll find a project in which everyone can participate, and one in which each division of Global Works has some experience, and perhaps we can begin to pull together.  Good luck, whispered that part of his mind that had already begun to question the wisdom of taking this job.  It had seemed so appealing–start ramping up fundraising from nongovernment sources, have the chance to influence many needs around the globe, work with accomplished colleagues, and build something new for a twenty-year-old organization.  Now he was spending more time searching for his place in an organization that seemed to have such clear boundaries that no map or organization chart was needed.  The invisible walls that separated the divisions might just as well have been the venerable China wall or a medieval castle in old Europe.

George despaired of ever penetrating the silos that defined Global Works.  I suppose I’ll need to begin some effort at promoting collaboration, he thought.  What can I say or do that could be convincing?  He believed that, as a newcomer, he had an equal chance of either being ignored or being listened to, just because he was new.  A distinct memory of the cliques of his seventh-grade year permeated his musings, and shoving these feelings aside, he began a list of why cooperation and collaboration might be beneficial.

  • Causes are strengthened when an organizations works together, and benefits to those in need are increased.
  • Financial and human resources can be more efficiently used when efforts aren’t duplicated.
  • When knowledge is shared, everyone benefits because we work smarter and our results are better.
  • Donors of all kinds prefer to give to cooperative efforts—it’s less confusing and more effective.

George stopped.  I should address, he thought, why this might not work, because then I might think of more positive points to share.  He started a second list–why collaboration might not work, he carefully wrote at the top of another piece of paper from a ream he had purchased from a nearby Staples store.

  • Collaboration means thinking outside of our usual way of doing things.
  • We fear losing identity and independence if we share information and resources.
  • Sometimes people just don’t get along.  
  • Coperation means change, and sometimes we fear change.
  • Sometimes we think, “It won’t work here.” “We’re different.” “We’ve always done it that way (and it’s comfortable).”
  • We just don’t know how to collaborate and do it well!

So, how can I bring about change, George pondered?  Pulling one more precious sheet of paper from the Staples packet, he wrote,

  • Be clear on purposes of cooperating and collaborating.  Why is this a good thing to do?
  • Define processes.  How will collaboration work?  
  • Look for common interests.
  • Look for how organizational and individual skills can maximize results.

He stopped and thoughtfully laid down his pen.  I think I need to create that Negotiation 101 course in order to carry out even the slightest semblance of collaboration at Global Works, he concluded.  But this is a start!  

October 2016

Beware, all ye who enter–a checklist for avoiding a no-win job (Part Two)

If your future employing organization asks how many millions you’ve raised, respond with a question.  How many millions has the organization raised each year?  If you’re asked whether you bring an impressive Rolodex with you, be suspicious.  Explain you’re not a pied piper with a line of major donors following you.  Try to clarify that it takes a while to identify a major donor, and even longer to bring such donations to fruition.

If you can’t see records of donor interaction, fundraising reports, database information, find out if you’re expected to establish such infrastructure. If so, will it be understood that these tasks take time and you can’t launch into full-scale fundraising immediately, therefore delaying the anticipated and desired results.

If there is no fundraising plan in place, then ask if there is an organizational plan.  If there is none, discreetly find out why.  Is this a seat-of-the-pants organization, which may mean you could have a hard time pulling together the right information to make a strong case?  

If you can’t be shown fundraising case statements, solicitation materials, records of donor cultivation and solicitation, be sure to find out just what you’re expected to accomplish.  Will you be asked, “Show me the money!” after your first month of employment?

If the ambience doesn’t feel right, follow your instincts.  There may be too many differences in personalities for your comfort level.  Remember, you will spend a considerable part of your day in this environment.  Are you comfortable?  If not, can you identify why?  If you’re an analyst by nature, figure out why you’re feeling uneasy.  If you’re a pragmatist and think you can make anything work, ask yourself if you’re being too confident or optimistic.  If you’re tending to react with your emotions–a trait that is often undervalued–check whether you can put hard facts behind the emotions.  However you choose to determine what’s just not quite right, step back and take a deep breath.  Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into situations that don’t seem quite the appropriate fit for you.

Remember above all, fundraising is a great career.  Where else can you find such variety of activity, a myriad of opportunities to work in your area of interest, know you’ve made a difference at the end of the day or the end of a project, meet interesting people, be challenged by circumstances, people and environment, and have great satisfaction that you’ve helped make someone’s life better?!

September 2016

Beware, all ye who enter—a checklist for avoiding a no-win job (Part One)

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Few jobs are perfect. The trick is to see what imperfections we can live with and balance with the positive aspects of the job. Some like multi-tasking so a one-person post with much variety would weigh in on the positive side. For others, such a seemingly discombobulated world would be a true nightmare.

If future colleagues, board members or the boss are heard to mutter, “If we hire James, we won’t have to do another thing,” then run for the fire escape as quickly as possible. Obviously you will have to work very hard to begin establishing a team approach to fundraising–and in all likelihood, that may not happen.

If expectations aren’t clear, or seem unrealistic, or are based on hopes and wishes rather than a fundraising track record, ensure you’re not expected to be a miracle-worker. You might use a collegial organizations as a comparison of what can be done, or quote experts, or get a respected consultant’s opinion before you over-promise and over-commit.

If board giving is meager, beware. If these records aren’t shared with you, head for the exit. It’s possible that the board just isn’t behind the effort, or perhaps doesn’t even understand fundraising. So when things don’t turn out to be stellar in the first year, the fundraiser will no doubt be led to the altar as a scapegoat.

If you’re expected to be a one-person marching band, check on expectations. Are you a convenience, are you being hired because someone thought fundraising would be a good idea, are you singing a solo with no hope of a choir backup? If possibly yes, then take action. Either bow out or right at the beginning of your discussions or draft a realistic plan to present. There’s no point in being too optimistic, something that fundraisers often experience because they tend to be visionary, capable, and have a “can do” attitude.

If your future boss promises the moon, ask yourself why. Is this a ploy to shift responsibility? Does he or she perhaps want to abdicate fundraising roles?

If you’re expected to function on a meager budget, or without human resources at your disposal, check on what has been accomplished with this budget. Your future boss, colleagues, board and organization in general may not have learned or accepted the fact that it takes money to raise money. Even if you’re a novice, check on reasonable fundraising expenditures, particularly if you’re expected to begin or re-establish a fundraising program.


August 2016

Fifty Miles and a Watch

Martina sat back in her chair and surveyed the papers on her desk. While feeling slightly overwhelmed, she also breathed a sigh of satisfaction. She had what she considered an ideal job—the restoration of an old schoolhouse on the local fairgrounds and planning of programs that would take place in the facility once the work was done. She had a reasonably good board with connections and the will to see the project to a successful completion. The location was ideal and would attract crowds during the fair season and schools at other times. And best of all, she didn’t have to do this alone (although she didn’t have a fundraiser and wore two hats—as executive director and also as fundraiser). She had just been given the go-ahead to hire a fine and reputable fundraising firm! She thought, “Anything’s possible?!”

Fast-forward to six months later. Martina is sitting at her desk once again but her euphoria has faded. The relationship with the consulting firm fast took on the characteristics of a bad marriage. While both she and her board were captivated by the consulting agency’s rep, it turned out that he was not the one ultimately assigned to Martina’s campaign. The feasibility study was meager and interviews seemed scanty in information. The board was disillusioned and felt they had been embarrassed by a poorly-executed feasibility process. Yet the bill for these services stared her in the face as she turned her glum gaze toward the ever-growing pile of papers. She really didn’t receive much help, she felt, she didn’t learn much that was new, and a backlog of work had accumulated while she spent time supporting the work of the consulting. What had gone wrong?

She went to the community nonprofit support center and asked to see the director. “Can you help me,” she said, hating the plaintive tone of her voice, “I seem to have come to an impasse with my consultant—both in what I thought he would do for us, and in how the board and the donors are reacting.” Jonathan, the director, listened carefully; this was not a time for quick and easy answers. Martina genuinely needed how to find her way out of a morass, and yet Jonathan also wanted to maintain a good relationship with the consultant, one of several who worked with his constituents and clients. A bad experience wasn’t the norm, so he also wondered what had gone wrong. Jonathan asked to see the contract. Nothing seemed out of order. So what happened? He could sympathize with Martina—she certainly wasn’t the whiny kind and was known to be a proactive professional and go-getter. In fact, she had taken this job against the advice of some mentors, and so far had done well.

After some subsequent visits that consisted mainly of analyzing the situation, Jonathan and Martina decided there were some problems that perhaps could have been avoided with a more careful selection of a consultant and subsequent agreements, and some problems that perhaps could be remedied now. She managed to get the firm to send the original consultant to speak to her, revise the report appropriately, and also meet with the board. Not all was satisfactory, in spite of efforts to remedy the situation. The campaign was slowed down, the board’s enthusiasm was dampened, and she thought she looked bad as a professional.

Meeting with Jonathan once again, she mused, “What should I have done differently?” Jonathan thoughtfully provided her with a list of suggestions to consider when she next needed a consultant—which, Martina thought, would be a long time in coming! She remembered a standing joke that someone had told at a recent meeting. “What is the definition of a consultant? Answer—someone who comes from more than fifty miles away, asks to see your watch to tell YOU what time it is—and then keeps it!” She remembered how many in the group had groaned at this corny joke, but right now she could identify with this rather slanderous definition of a consultant. After some reflection, however, she reviewed the list. Good suggestions, she thought. I need to share these with my colleagues.

  1. Determine what kind of help you need, then interview several consultants and also get references. Remember that you’re in “the driver’s seat,” and this is a business transaction, with you remaining in charge.
  2. Discuss the need for consulting with the candidate(s) and carefully weigh the answers. What are they saying, versus what are you hearing? How do the candidates’ responses differ or compare? Do they seem flexible, or does it seem that they studied the rule book on the way to the site?
  3. What kind of sample contracts do the candidates present? Read between the lines as well as the content. It protects both sides of the relationship.
  4. Once again, be clear on what you need and what the consultant promises. Also be clear on what is needed from you once the work begins.
  5. Remember that relationship “chemistry” is important. This person will be a member of your team and challenges will be plentiful without adding personality clashes or differences.
  6. This is a business relationship. Don’t be cowed, intimidated, or pushed around by a consultant. Retain your professionalism and use your professional knowledge. You’re a partner, not an underling.
  7. Remember the advantages of using a consultant, and see if these apply to you—objectivity (especially in feasibility studies or fundraising assessments); expertise not available in-house; opportunities for learning, especially for new, young and support staff; attention to specific areas of fundraising (especially in the case of a capital campaign) for which you don’t have time or expertise; and the chance to learn new information and techniques.
  8. Remember three C’s—cooperation, communication, and clear expectations from both sides are key to a successful relationship.

Martina met with Jonathan once again—he had become a good listener besides having some sage advice when she needed it. “I’ll know better next time,” she sighed. “I should have taken more initiative myself in undertaking this business transaction.”


July 2016

The “Quick Fix” Syndrome

Patrick often conducted workshops or training sessions for various types of practitioners.  He did this as part of his affiliation with an educational institution and also as a consultant.  This was an enjoyable task for him because it was a chance for him to review what were the latest best practices and research, and how this information could be adapted to the organizations represented in his courses.  At this stage of his career as a fundraising professional and now a trainer and consultant he thought he had, to use the cliche, “seen everything.”

Therefore he was a bit taken aback when, on the morning of the second day of training as major gifts were being discussed, a woman raised her hand and asked, “What website can I use for finding lists of major donors for my organization?”  

Patrick responded, “Your best major donor prospects come from your own donor lists . . .” and he was going to go on when the course participant interrupted and said, “I know that.  What I’m looking for is websites that tell me where the major donors are.  If I can find them, then I’ll figure out ways to interest them in my organization.”

Patrick let a few moments of silence go by while he pondered how to satisfy this participant and yet adhere to the tried-and-true principles of fundraising.  He finally said, “If there were such lists, those donors may not be available to your organization.  You can find online annual reports and specific donor lists, but you would be most productive if you start with your own donors and prospects and then expand with the help of your board . . . “ and again he was interrupted.

“But I’ve been told,” continued the participant, “that there is a website that’s the best for finding the wealthy.  If I can only find that website, I can target some of them.”

Patrick felt deflated.  Clearly he wasn’t coming across in the way he wanted to in teaching best practices.  He realized that he was up against the proverbial gremlin of the profession–the quick-fix syndrome.  This fundraiser wanted to truncate the process and go at it in the quickest way possible and she didn’t want to heed reality.

That evening Patrick sat at his desk in his hotel room and pondered.  How could he help this participant and many others obsessed by the quick-fix syndrome?  In his vast experience he had seen too many nonprofit leaders and boards, and sometimes constituents and donors, want fundraising to happen quickly, often in response to a crisis.  It just doesn’t work this way! he said to himself.  He remembered another recent incident at another training session.  “Our grant is running out,” a man said at the beginning of the course.  “How can we get donors to give in the next three months?”  Patrick remembered with regret that this particular organization, which hadn’t planned for sustainability, was off the map by now.  He reflected that a fairly common question when organizations haven’t planned ahead is–how can I find donors quickly and get them to give quickly?  The unknowledgeable and uninitiated see other organizations bringing in donations, and they want to replicate this, quickly and easily.  

He got out his computer and prepared some PowerPoint slides to show the next day.  His first slide said, “Our hurry-up society with its quick fixes (like TV commercials where a headache is cured in seconds) wants the same result when finding financial support for its nonprofits.”  He jotted notes on what he would say to lead into the next series of slides that expanded on the quick-fix syndrome and its implications for fundraising.  His next slide read, “It takes time for us to cultivate the donors who support our organizations, to cultivate the development of healthy nonprofit organizations.”  He went on to the third slide: “The expectations that are forced on us, or that we are allowed to desire, are serious and challenging.”  And he closed with, “Therefore it’s unrealistic and counterproductive to think that easy answers and quick fixes are possible.”  

The next morning Patrick didn’t take time for the usual Q/A session with which he usually opened his day of training but launched into his brief but profound PowerPoint presentation.  When he had finished showing the slides and expanding on the points and illustrating them, he said, “Are there any questions?”

“Yes,” answered the woman who had initially spoken up about the website listing the wealthy, “were you able to find that website for me?”

Patrick sighed.  He felt like putting his head on the lectern and pounding it with his fists.  Clearly there wasn’t a “quick fix” to this one!  He hoped the rest of the class had taken to heart his admonitions and when they left his training session, they would go back to their organizations and discuss with their bosses, boards and volunteers the principles he taught, which definitely didn’t include quick fixes but involved thoughtful planning for sustainability!  He thought of a favorite old quote by Epictetus,

“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig.  If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time.  Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”


June 2016

The Bill Gates Syndrome

One Sunday morning Alex sat sipping his coffee and instead of focusing on the paper, or picking up his text message, or even mindlessly watching the TV news, he stared absentmindedly beyond all three means of communication .  His mind was churning.  He had been troubled all weekend.  On Friday, as a parting shot accompanied by a lukewarm “Have a good weekend,” his boss had said, “Alex, you know we badly need to recover in this economic crisis and it’s up to you to get us over the hump.  Can’t you get some of that stimulus package money, or better yet,  just go to the Worthwhile Foundation?  They have plenty of money, I hear.  Anyhow, DO SOMETHING!”  And then the boss uttered the weak wish for a salubrious weekend.

Have a good weekend!  Whom was he kidding?!  It wasn’t so much the “go to the Worthwhile Foundation” that bothered Alex but what lay behind it.  Alex was no slouch.  He had done his homework and knew that the arts organization for which he worked, Vibes for Violinists, was not on their priority list.  What really irked and worried Alex were phrases that kept ringing and singing through his head, like a bad commercial tune that hummed inside him incessantly.

“It’s up to you . . .”

“We’re in a crisis—get us over the hump.”

“Stimulus package money.”

“The Worthwhile Foundation—they have plenty of money.”


After thinking rather evil thoughts about his boss, Alex began to move beyond worry and on to fuming.  Did his boss think that he, Alex, wasn’t doing a good job?  How could he say something as dumb as “it’s up to you?!”  What had gotten them into this mess in the first place?  For beginners, a lack of interest and therefore involvement by his boss, who should have been part of the fundraising effort and team.  Second, the lack of financial acumen to see that a contingency fund of some sort should have been in place.  Alex was no financial whiz but even he knew that living in the “hand to mouth” state was risky.  Third, shouldn’t this be an organizational effort, with both the president and CFO and others involved?  It wasn’t just up to him!  Finally, what bothered him most was that after two years and eight months and three weeks of employment, he still haven’t succeeded in educating his so-called team.  What was it going to take to show his boss, at least, that it took time to build up a solid fundraising base, that just because people had money didn’t mean they had arts interests, and that sustainability was the key word, not emergency funding, which didn’t appeal to most donors.

Now quite thoroughly angry and depressed, he took a sip of his now-cold herbal tea and dashed to the sink to spit it out.  What to do?!  Both by Monday and for the long term?  Should he consider a job change before things got worse?  Fortunately for him, he remembered that the local AFP chapter had built up not just a good mentoring system and even though he didn’t have one, he could think of several senior professionals whom he could call, even on a weekend.  Better yet, he remembered his last day of the five day Principles and Techniques of Fundraising course which he took from The Fund Raising School.  He had filled in a form on what he would do that next week, the next three months and then the next six months and had exchanged it with his favorite fellow participant.  Alex dashed to get his big red binder, the curriculum for that course, and where he had jotted down Merilin’s phone number.  He would call her, and risk calling her on a Sunday!

Merilin was home, especially since it was an unearthly hour for her (being in a different time zone) and Alex blurted out his dilemma, tripping over his words because of frustration.  “Whoa,” responded Merilin,  “slow down!  Don’t tell me you’ve been blindsided by the ‘just ask Bill Gates’ syndrome?!  My sincere sympathies to you!  I lived in Indianapolis where the same thing happened.  ‘Just go to the Lilly Endowment, they have lots of money,” was what I heard repeatedly.”  She sighed and paused.  

Alex repeated, “The Bill Gates syndrome, huh?!  How true!  I’m relieved you understand.  But what can I do?  I have to present some sort of plan on Monday.”

“Well, I hate to ruin your Sunday, but try these action steps,” Merilin replied.  Together they brainstormed for the next hour.  Alex breathed his fervent thanks and they made plans to meet at the next AFP convention, since Merilin lived two time zones away.  Alex turned to his computer and began to draft a mini-plan on how to extricate himself from this dilemma.

First, he wrote, ask for a meeting with the president and CFO, explaining that in order to make a good request and to avoid embarrassing the organization (never mind himself, but he wasn’t going to mention that) he needed to know more facts.  Could they please discuss the financial situation with him so that he could ask wisely?  

Second, he would print out the website pages of the Worthwhile Foundation as well as the stimulus package information and show them that funding wasn’t available, but then quickly move on to his real plan, which was a three-step approach to raising some contingency money.  He had a loyal donor who had said, after his last pledge payment, “I like what you’re doing, so let me know when you need help.”  Alex would have felt better if the donor had said, “I like what Vibes for Violinists is doing,” but he wouldn’t worry about that now.  Then he would ask Mr. Salvador to introduce him to some other corporate prospects.   Then he would approach those donors for a matching grant.

Third, he planned to say in a very tactful manner, “My professional mentors,” and he would name some recognizable persons, “have indicated that now is a time to begin building sustainability, if an organization is still alive in this bad economic time.  I’d like to show you a one-page outline of how WE can do this.”  And he would have ready some of the steps he had already been trying to take, but perhaps would now have at least a half-listening ear.

Alex went to refresh his cup of tea.  He sipped the hot beverage and mulled over his plan.  It just could work.  Then, after his meeting, he would weigh his options.  First, he would once again plan on how to get the organization and especially the president to work with him, and failing that, he would resign.  And he would do so while he could show a good track record and be a desirable candidate.  If he waited too long, he would be part of the downhill slide of Vibes for Violinists.

And what if the president said he couldn’t meet, that it really was up to him, Alex, to DO SOMETHING?!  Well, he could always say, “As you requested, I’m doing something and so that you can put my plan into your overall administrative duties and know what’s going on, I’d like to show you what I am carrying out, which is, mainly, your request.”  And if that didn’t work, there might be an ethical way to share his plan with his development committee chair, without divulging those irritating words,  “It’s up to you to DO SOMETHING and get us over the hump.”  After all, it had been a Friday afternoon and a gloomy one at that.  Perhaps on Monday reason would prevail.  He sighed—a mixed sigh, both of mild relief because he now had a plan at least, and a contented sigh because after all, it was a Sunday, the sun was shining, he had done so much hard thinking and planning, so he deserved a round of golf!

May 2016

Peacocks, Peons and Planning*

Megan eagerly looked forward to her interview at the International Outreach to Africa organization where she had applied for the vice-president for advancement position.  She had made the initial cut and now was headed, with confidence, to her second and hopefully last interview before she could enjoy this exciting cause.  

With outward patience but inner excitement and anticipation she waited in the little lobby of the organization’s headquarters.  She studied the annual report she found on the table, lurking beneath old copies of Time and National Geographic.  She looked at the date.  Hmmm.  Two years old.  Well, it would still give her some idea of the organization.  Wow, she thought, this organization works in 22 different countries!  Just think the causes for which she could raise funds.  Just think how many people she could help through her skill and experience in raising funds from private sources.

She had arrived early and before long she had exhausted the annual report’s contents.  She looked at her watch.  Still ten minutes to go.  She could bring herself even more “up to speed” if she could read the most current annual report.  She went to the receptionist’s desk and patiently waited until the young woman finally made eye contact and tore herself away from texting on her iPhone.  “Could I have the most recent annual report,” Megan asked.  The receptionist looked blankly at her.  “It’s on the table there, unless someone stole it,” she answered.  “Yes,” Megan replied, “but it’s not the most recent one, I’m sure.”  “Well, we ain’t got another one, you know.”

A bit nonplussed, Megan slowly went back to her seat.  Oh, well, she thought.  I’m sure the president can enlighten me on that one.  She sat back and idly surveyed her surroundings.  The map behind the receptionist certainly was impressive, with beautiful pictures.  The lack of a current annual report couldn’t diminish her eagerness to join such a proactive organization.

Her interview time arrived and she was summoned into the board room.  There sat the president, whom she had met on her previous interview, along with three other people who were strangers to her.  She tried to think back to the pictures on the annual report.  Only one seemed to match those pictures.  Well, turnover wasn’t a bad sign, was it? The interview proceeded. She provided information and answers confidently and with conviction, keeping her excitement under control.  Then the president said, as he began to gather the papers strewn in front of him, “Now, do you have any questions for us?”  A bit taken aback by the almost dismissive attitude, she said, “Yes. I do.  Could I see the strategic plan for the organization and the fundraising plan, if it isn’t part of the organizational plan?  And by the way, could I have the latest annual report?  The young lady at the desk didn’t have a copy.”  

An uneasy silence settled on the group and glances were exchanged.  Megan noted that the glances were among the three to whom she had just been introduced, and in turn they cast uneasy looks at the president, as if waiting for an answer along with herself.  The president settled back in his chair and smiled benignly at Megan.  “We’re in a planning process just now.  Because of that you would find our old plan woefully out of date, so we won’t look for that copy.  However, you will have the exciting chance to be part of that process if you are our finalist.”  He said this with such finality that Megan didn’t feel confident enough to bring up the matter of the annual report once again.  No doubt the two were connected.

Fast forward nine months ahead.  Megan, indeed, was the finalist.  She settled into her small office with the big window (which had seemed better than the larger office with no window) and began to discover what her job was all about.  She knew she had to, with her one staff member, work on the database.  No problem there.  That could be updated and added to with competence.  She looked at previous funding records.  Quite sparse.  That wasn’t very satisfactory but, being a proactive, energetic person, she assumed she would, in no time, add to those records.  Then she began to inquire about fundraising goals and projects.  Now she ran into a brick wall.  She asked the president, “What do you want me to plan on for fundraising?  What countries and projects do we have for which I can raise money?”  “Whatever you can get money for is fine with us,” came the astonishing reply.

Slowly the sad truth sank in.  Without a plan, it was quite unclear as to what she was supposed to accomplish in terms of fundraising goals.  Without a plan, there were no accountabilities.  She had a hard determining who was responsible for what, and therefore who would help her make a case for funding, and worse yet, for what?!  As for the planning process–well, it consisted of the senior staff getting together, brainstorming for a day and having a lovely lunch, while a highly-paid consultant took notes and promised the next iteration of the plan.  Whether or not that ever arrived Megan didn’t know.  It certainly didn’t come to her.  Time went by and Megan began to realize some sad truths.  She made a list of these, for future reference–a point in time that might come much quicker than she had planned, either by her choice or that of the organization.

  1. Planning is essential in order to know just what will be accomplished by the organization.  if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?!  
  2. Planning makes responsibilities apparent.  It outlines who is responsible for what and when.
  3. Planning brings a team together, working toward a common end result with a common vision and mission.
  4. Planning expresses accountabilities.  With no plan, no one need be blamed for anything because it’s not clear what each person was to accomplish.
  5. Planning is essential for the fundraiser.  Without a plan to clearly indicate what the fundraiser is to accomplish, for what purpose and with resources, the fundraiser will be expected to perform miracles without internal support.
  6. A plan expresses trustworthiness to donors, especially major ones such as philanthrocapitalists.
  7. Indicators that hint the lack of planning should be heeded, such as ancient annual reports and maps that look good but lack substance (most were mirages on the landscape of the organization’s accomplishments).

Megan realized she should have heeded the warning signs, but for her it was unimaginable that an organization such as the International Outreach to Africa would not be a well-organized one with a plan into which she and her expertise would fit.  Without demands for accountability, the president could preen like a peacock and make things look good, even if the whole scenario was a house of cards, while she, the peon, would be left high and dry and perhaps even be the scapegoat.  Sadly she brushed up her resume and left for another position, this time much wiser and watchful for warning signals that would spell out her success or frustration and perhaps ultimate failure.

*Even though this features and international development organization, disguised of course, the principles apply to ALL nonprofit organizations.

April 2016

The Meaning of the “Behind My Back” Routine

Cassandra had been at her fundraising job for about three months. While quite challenging due to the economic downturn, the job seemed to have much promise and was fulfilling. She worked for an organization that she cared about–one that focused on abuse victims–and had a significant number of high-ranking board members, persons of influence in the community. Her boss was quite OK, she thought, although sometimes it seemed that she knew much more than the boss and outperformed her. That didn’t seem to matter, though, because the boss treated her well and let her enjoy her achievements. “It could be much worse,” Cassandra said to herself. “My boss could want or even demand the credit for the funds I bring in, she could keep me out of the information loop, or could be resentful of me. I think the status quo is quote a good situation, actually.”

Little did Cassandra know that this comfortable and workable status quo was about to change. One Monday morning she came to work, walked down the hall to her office, then did a double take and doubled back to peer into the chief development officer’s office. It had a forlorn look. Shelves previously containing fundraising books and record binders were empty. The desk was bare. The walls were bare. Cassandra stared. What had happened? Obviously her boss was gone, but when, and why, and now what?!

Quickly Cassandra learned that her boss had quit just ahead of being fired. Well, she thought, I guess the fact that I was bringing in most of the funds didn’t go unnoticed. But Cassandra was uneasy. She hadn’t minded being the chief fundraiser–not that her title or salary indicated this status, but the philanthropic income certainly did. Cassandra pondered the situation. She almost persuaded herself to go to the president of the organization in defense of her now-absent boss, and then had second thoughts. What difference did it make at this point?! She might as well get used to the turn of events and proceed with business as usual.

Then, little did Cassandra know that the wheels of change were turning without her knowledge, or worse yet, without her being involved. After a few weeks during which she held the reins of the fundraising program, suddenly a new person showed up. The president came in with a woman whom he introduced to Cassandra as “. . . your new boss. Please make her feel welcome, introduce her around, and help her move into her new position.”

Cassandra was stunned. What had happened?! Please don’t tell me, she thought, that I have a new boss and even though I was the main fundraiser, brought in the majority of the funds–something I thought the president knew or my boss wouldn’t have been under fire–I was never consulted, the candidates were never introduced to me, I had no chance to scope out the potential new bosses, and no one cared what I thought! Her thoughts raced as she tried to paste on a smile and act gracious. Inside, however, she rebelled. How could they treat me this way?! Now what??

How should Cassandra relate to this situation? She decided she should, first of all, sort through her own feelings and reactions, take her time doing it, and then decide her future action. After all, there was nothing she could do about the situation and if she reacted hastily, she might be vulnerable to a noose around her own neck!

First, she sorted through what reactions were possible. Was the fact that she was totally ignored during the search and hiring process an indication that:
a) she wasn’t important to the organization, even though she was in a number 2 position in fundraising;
b) fundraising wasn’t important to the organization;
c) her work was recognized but not valued as lending status to her position;
d) it was just an oversight and she should get over it.

Cassandra decided she really did need to give considerable thought to the situation or she wouldn’t know how to move ahead. Depending on which of the situational options she selected, subsequent actions would be somewhat dictated. If a and b were the answers, then perhaps she was swimming upstream and would eventually be eliminated as well. If the answer was d, then she might actually be able to flourish and grow with the job. How to decide?

Rather than react precipitously, Cassandra went about her business as usual, but her heart wasn’t in it. She was alert to nuances, she dissected every statement made by the new boss, she was distracted, and her productivity dropped. Not that anyone noticed–that kind of action would catch up with her later, she knew.

About three months later Cassandra came to a conclusion. She decided the situation was a combination of all the factors she had identified. The president hadn’t consulted her when hiring a new chief fundraiser because he didn’t value fundraising. He just wanted it to happen and didn’t want to pay much attention to how it happened–how funds were raised and with what results.

Cassandra chalked it up to a learning experience, realizing there was nothing she could have done about the situation, particularly since she didn’t know that a) her old boss was leaving, and b) a new boss was being hired. Regretfully she weighed her options and while sad to leave a cause that meant a lot to her, she also recognized her career would stall before long. Sometimes, she decided, there just isn’t anything to say or do, and in order to perform professionally, one must move on.

In short, analyzing and understanding a situation can be a valuable experience, and a fundraiser who has been subjected to the “behind my back” routine can learn to enhance analytical skills, hone perceptions, strive for objectivity, and plan ahead intelligently–and perhaps find a new job! Some situations just can’t be changed and unless the unforeseen happens (like the departure or demise of the uncaring and thoughtless president) it’s better just to face reality and find a better venue. They key, therefore, is to do it intelligently, understand the situation, analyze it as objectively as possible, and select the right option.

March 2016

Fundraising:  Smoke Alarm, Fire Escape, or Security Blanket? (Part Two)

Joe thought he had approached his new job carefully.  He weighed each of the points that seemed mildly alarming or of serious concern, considering whether these presented routine challenges in fundraising, or if they were cause for alarm.  Remembering what his mentor had told him about “smoke alarm” situations—the warning signs of a no-win job, of challenging or impossible situations camouflaged as opportunities—he didn’t rush into the job but took his time in discovering as much as he could about what he would face if he accepted the position.

After saying “yes” to the offer and sending e-mails to friends and family which exuded enthusiasm and excitement for his new position, Joe arrived on site and moved into his new office.  The school year was into its second semester, so Joe had extra challenges in catching up with the campus routine, events, corporate culture, and demands of his role.

He had only been ensconced in his new environment for about a week when the president called him in.  Joe hadn’t been in the campus leader’s office before.  As he sank into the leather chair that faced the president’s desk, he thought, “Maybe I overlooked something.  Shouldn’t the president have communicated with me earlier?  Is he going to be a significant leader for my fundraising efforts?”  A little nagging doubt crept into his mind and made its way down to his midsection. Then he was brought back to the moment by the president’s first words, “Joe, we have a problem”  

A problem?  What kind of a first-time greeting was that?  A distinct sense of “uh-oh” took over Joe’s mind and feelings.  “Yes, sir,” he replied, not sure how to respond to this first encounter with his new institution’s leader.  An uncomfortable silence descended.

The president cleared his throat, looked down at the pile of papers on his desk, finally raised his eyes to meet Joe’s worried and intense gaze.  “Yes, we have a problem.”  He hesitated.  “I might as well be blunt about it.  We hired you with the expectation that we would receive a large foundation grant which would pay your salary and also help us get started with fundraising in a big way.”  Once again he paused and hesitated.  “Well, the grant didn’t come through.”  

“Yes, sir,” Joe replied again, really not knowing what would be an appropriate response.  The whole scenario became more and more puzzling.  What had he not been told?  What had he not heard, or listened to?  What had he forgotten to ask?  Had he really walked blindly into a no-win situation?  

“Yes,” the president continued, “so we have to ask you to get really busy and not just raise the funds we need for finishing out the school year, but also to raise your salary.”   He then added, “With your stellar reputation and accomplishments—yes, we checked into your background well—this should be no problem for you.  Right?”

Stunned, Joe looked at the rich carpet beneath his feet as his face assumed the same hues as the red in the floor covering.  Yup, he thought, my mentor was right about the smoke alarms.  His mind jumped to the old cliché, “where there’s smoke there’s fire.”  Clearly they were viewing fundraising as a fire escape—a desperate measure to get out of the red, to pay the vendors, to meet payroll, and who knows what else.  He stared at the president and asked, “I’ll get paid as agreed, right?  I spent my own funds moving up here to take this job and have depleted most of my savings.”  

The president mumbled something that Joe didn’t quite hear.  “Pardon me,” Joe leaned forward, “what did you say?”  

“Well, we were hoping you could volunteer until the funds come in to pay you.”  

To recap the feelings and thoughts that went through Joe’s mind would take too long.  He left town as soon as possible, realizing that the smoke alarm situation really did lead to fundraising being viewed as a fire escape—a way out of a desperate situation.  Fundraising really wasn’t sustainable at NoName College, had been sporadic and only geared up when great needs motivated action, and was in somewhat of a disarray.*  

As he trekked to his previous haunts, hoping his old job hadn’t been taken yet, he mulled over the “fire escape” situations he knew about or had heard from others.

  • A youth-service agency that was existing on a large grant from a local foundation that was nearing the end of its three-year funding period but was only now gearing up to do fundraising.  Friends who worked there feared it would go out of business when the grant ended.  What would then happen to the clients, to the youth who badly needed these services?
  • Another small college that was doing minimal fundraising from alumni—sort of maintenance level fundraising—but suddenly “discovered” a rather significant debt and wanted to gear up a major campaign to raise funds for debt reduction.  Joe wondered what kind of donor loyalty existed that would even begin to justify a major campaign, especially one for something as unpopular as debt payments.
  • A community orchestra that had existed happily on the largesse of a single patron whom they honored and feted, but who had suddenly landed in a hospital with major surgery and complications.  Why had they not diversified their donor base when they had a good income?
  • A community service organization for families and children that operated with state funds, yet a recent change in government administration caused a drastic reduction of the grant, and the organization hadn’t engaged in fundraising to any great extent—just an occasional small grant now and then was all they could claim, so there was little fundraising history and therefore a limited donor base.  What would happen to the needy families and children?

He pulled off the highway to get a drink of water and lick his wounds—both financial and psychological.  His faith in his own professionalism was shaken.  He had fallen for a lofty and idealistic job description, only to find that fundraising was not a significant part of the organization’s operations and activities and was only addressed when a “fire escape” was needed—a way out of a difficult or challenging financial situation.  

Like a dog crawling out of a wet and icy pond into which it had inadvertently fallen, he shook himself and grimaced as he headed back to his car.  Next time, he vowed to himself, I’m going to wrap myself in a security blanket when it comes to a fundraising job.  I’m going to look for an organization that has a sustainable, active, on-going, successful fundraising program where my talents can be used and I won’t be lowering the fire escape ladder!

*This incident actually occurred recently, unrealistic as it may seem.  

February 2016

Fundraising:  Smoke Alarm, Fire Escape, or Security Blanket? (Part One)

While creeping along with traffic along the way to work, I listened to early morning news on my car radio.  One tragic story of an apartment fire caught my attention.  Although admittedly I listened with half a brain at first, carefully checking for icy areas on the road, I quickly came alert when I heard that the fire was disastrous because the smoke alarm wasn’t working. Fortunately the survivors were able to abandon the burning building and there were no fatalities.

Because I was driving to work where I knew a number of people and organizations would be calling or e-mailing me with fundraising dilemmas, I began to think about fundraising and the various real-life situations.  How many fundraising disasters might be averted if we became more alert to the warning signs–the verbal smoke alarms of job ads–and heeded them? I began to reminisce about some of my colleagues, students, clients, and others who engage in fundraising, whether as full-time professionals or part-time volunteers–whether as mere dabblers or serious contenders for today’s philanthropic dollars, and some situations they had encountered.  

I remembered Joe*, a vibrant, energetic, knowledgeable young professional who already had some good experience working as a fundraiser for a foundation that supported student scholarships. Not quite content with his opportunities for career advancement and a bit disillusioned by the slow pace of the organizational culture, he began to respond to job ads.  Being single and therefore mobile, he thought it would be an adventure to relocate if the right job didn’t surface in his mid-Western city.  

One job ad interested him in particular.  This was from a small New England college.  As usual, the ad proclaimed, “Vice President of NoName College–Excellent opportunity for a serious and seasoned fundraiser.” It then went on to list the job responsibilities.

Development Plan – Propose quantitative fundraising targets and strategic, capacity-building priorities on an annual basis and lay out an action plan of initiatives to achieve goals.  Annual Fund – Execute annual appeals and direct mail campaigns.  Board Giving – Work with president, board chair and development committee chair to define a board solicitation plan and major gifts strategy.  Foundation & Corporate Giving – Meet with president to update funding priorities and develop new ideas for funding proposals; work with development staff to turn ideas into fundable proposals. Work with board to identify relationships that will improve foundation and corporate giving relationships.  Events – Identify events for the year and supervise and support development staff in coordinating event logistics and details. Endowment Gifts & Planned Giving – Develop a fundraising strategy to double the endowment in 10 years and identify a target audience and develop a planned giving approach.  Major Donor Identification – Identify potential major donors and develop a major gifts strategy.  Best qualified candidates will have a track record of raising seven-figure gifts.  

“Wow,” thought Joe. “This seems like a lot to demand from one professional.  Wonder what the catch is?  Maybe there is quite a large staff and I’ll be supervising more than I’m accustomed to.” He reviewed the responsibilities once again, mentally plugging in his experience under each responsibility description. Looking at it optimistically because he had been raising funds for scholarships and that fit nicely with higher education, and because he thought career advancement was most favorable in that environment, he took this step seriously.

His optimism began to fade quickly.  “What?  No fundraising plan? And this is a higher ed institution?  Maybe they just want me to draw up a new one, or refine the old one.”  So, he forged ahead. “Hmmm.  They say there’s a fundraising staff but they want me to ‘execute annual appeals and direct mail campaigns.’  If this is a senior position–a vice president position–why would the ad say this?  Well, maybe they misspoke in writing the ad.” He skimmed further down and the major gift item made him stop.  A small college with possible gaps in the fundraising operations–if he was reading the job ad correctly–and yet the expectations were in seven-figure major gifts?  And this after the phrase, “identify major gifts . . .?”  

However, being the perennial up-beat guy, the optimist when others cringed at challenges, the let’s-do-it person when others shrank back, Joe kept reading the ad.  He next focused on the qualifications section.

A sincere commitment to higher education and a comfort level in diverse social settings – from mixing with board members, to working with faculty, to visiting alumni groups, to presenting to foundation heads.

“Whoa,” he thought again.  “How many of us actually get to meet foundation heads?  Isn’t that a bit too optimistic, or even unrealistic?”  He read on.  A minimum of seven years of progressively responsible experience in fundraising with a track record of success in securing support from foundations and individuals as well as some capital campaign experience.

“Hmmm,” he mused again.  “I don’t recall anything in the responsibilities section about capital campaigns.  Well, OK.  Maybe they’re leading up to one.  Might be great experience.  But wait–I’ve never done a capital campaign.  Does this leave me out?  Surely my major gift experience, although not even in the six-figure range, would carry some credibility?”  And he read on.

Experience asking for gifts and positioning others to make the ask. Understanding of the relationship of marketing to development.  OK so far, but then the next item caused him to pause. Demonstrated management ability, with strong planning, prioritizing, project management and tactical execution skills with experience in organizing a development department, coaching staff and overseeing vendors.

“So, does this person inherit a fundraising team, or organize one?  And what’s this about overseeing vendors?  Does it mean relationships with vendors?  Do I become a purchasing agent on top of everything else?”  

Experience organizing the president and board around tasks they need to accomplish and ability to partner well with administrative team, board and program staff.

A touch of relief set it.  Joe had always liked organizing people and programs.  No problem here.  But wait.  Should he read between the lines and deduce that the president and board weren’t engaged in fundraising up to this point?  Outstanding written and verbal skills with the ability to articulate the college’s mission, programs and special strengths, and to present the college in a compelling and effective manner. Superior interpersonal skills with a “can do” personality, an entrepreneurial bent and high energy level.

Well, no problem here, Joe thought.  His natural energy and optimistic attitudes would be well suited to the desired qualification. Ability to think strategically and analytically with excellent follow-through, strong attention to detail and the ability to balance a variety of tasks with deadlines.  Flexibility to respond quickly to new opportunities and changing priorities. Computer skills are essential, especially with the latest versions of Word and Raiser’s Edge.

Again Joe paused.  No problem with the strategic thinking and follow-through.  These were comfortable operating habits.  But what’s that about Raiser’s Edge?  Familiarity was one thing. But for a vice president to be “skilled” in Raiser’s Edge?  That was quite another!

Bachelor’s degree required; advanced degree preferred.

“Nothing about a CFRE preferred,”  Jose mused.  “Might that indicate a lack of professionalism at this college when it comes to fundraising?”

Joe was about to toss away the ad but curiosity got the best of him.  At that point he called me for input.  Having been in some courses I had taught, he thought perhaps I could lend perspectives.  

I listened, then responded, “This sounds like a typical ‘smoke alarm’ situation to me.  While we need to consider that perhaps the wording in the ad was poorly chosen and expressed, maybe there are enough warning signals here.  Why not make a list of them, and then let’s talk again to see if it’s worth the time and effort it takes to apply for this job?  More importantly, this will alert you to warning signals that the job isn’t what you want.  If you get an invitation to interview, you’ll at least know what questions to ask.”

Joe did just that.  He made a lengthy list of his questions, decided to apply in spite of the warning signs because the location and mission of the college appealed to him, and was invited to interview.  Tune in next time to see if this “smoke alarm” situation turned into a real fire, and if the institution was actually in a fire-escape mode.

Dr. Lilya Wagner, CFRE

January 2016

Fundraiser Nightmares and How to Wake Up from Them

Growing up rather impoverished as a refugee child, one of the many deprivations I experienced was a lack of children’s books.  I read whatever was handy, but mostly these were adult books, and often in several different languages.

Imagine my delight in catching up with my missing childhood experiences when I was asked to teach “Literature for Children and Youth” at the higher education level.  I reveled with the forest creatures of The Wind in the Willows, shared anxieties with the characters of The Black Stallion, and laughed at the shenanigans of Little Women.  One of my favorite books, however, was Where the Wild Things Are.  Despite its fanged monsters, drawn with such vivid detail by Maurice Sendak, the story is ultimately a reassuring one.  Max returns from his imaginary adventures in the forest to find supper waiting for him, after all.

I have since reflected, as I made fundraising my career, that professional fundraisers often come across their own fanged monsters.  And unlike dear Max, we cannot just wish them away.  The challenge, then, is to confront and defeat them as gracefully as possible.

Because practical experience is the best teacher, PSI’s monthly Director’s Message will publish columns on “Fundraiser Nightmares and How to Wake Up From Them,” that will share with readers a real-world fundraising problem.  The situations presented in the columns will be drawn from personal experience, with only slight modifications to keep the content objective and not situation-specific.  Challenges can range from the trivial (a boss who insists on picking the color of the napkins at the spring gala) to the detrimental (a boss who won’t allow you to speak with your board) and everything in between (e.g.,founder’s syndrome, an inactive board chair, the silo mentality, and more).

Fundraising is a noble profession.  It offers great opportunities for career excitement and chances to intervene positively in the lives of people.  It also presents significant challenges, not always disguised as opportunities!  The goal of this column,* “Fundraiser Nightmares and How to Wake Up From Them,” is to alleviate the stress that so many of us feel and to provide suggestions on how to defeat the fundraising monsters that keep us up at night.  

Dr. Lilya Wagner, CFRE


*Versions of these columns originally appeared on an e-newsletter site, onPhilanthropy, and have been revised and adapted for PSI constituents.

December 2015

Accountability in Fundraising: What Does It Really Mean?

What does it REALLY mean when we say we’re accountable as fundraisers? And to whom are we accountable? As fundraisers for 501c3 nonprofit organizations, we are accountable to all members of the public because we use public funds to operate. And increasingly, donors demand full transparency before committing their money: 6 out of 10 top reasons donors give directly link to the organization’s capability in accountability and stewardship.

When a donor asks to see our IRS 990 filing, I say “Absolutely, I’d love to send that to you.” It’s a great opportunity for me to share about my hospital. If you haven’t read yours, take a look at especially Schedule O (“program service accomplishments),” and work with your accountant to ensure your organization is well-represented. Most 990’s can be found for free on The good thing about accountability is that donors have more and more information so they can make good decisions about where they will give their money!

As fundraisers, we are accountable to:

  1. Ensure systems are in place: to provide good accountability of monies received, and to utilize monies as the donor intended.
    Accountability is a promise to the donor that goes far beyond just saying “thank you.” If your organization wants monies to be restricted for a specific purpose, you must state that restriction in writing at the time of the solicitation. Monies designated by the donor for an intended purpose must be used for that purpose, or returned to the donor (unless the donor re-designates it in writing for a different purpose). Accountability also means metrics and measurements to ensure your donor’s gift has created the intended impact! This is part of the fundraiser’s stewardship.
  2. Make your own gift first.
    This is a principle of accountability, not just good fundraising. Do your own due diligence: is this project worthy of your volunteers’ efforts and your donor’s investment? If not, work with your leadership to help make it into a worthwhile fundraising project, or find another project.
  3. Protect your organization’s reputation, as well as your own.
    Our PSI professionals provide great education on ethical and accepted best practices in our profession. For example, events should net at least 50% of gross. Events not producing this much revenue should be re-vamped or discontinued. PSI staff can help in setting appropriate internal benchmarks that ensure accountability!
  4. Protect your donor and your organization.
    As professionals we are accountable for knowing legal rules and ethical regulations, and policies and procedures. For example, if a donor provides an in-kind gift of $5,000 or more, the organization must file an IRS 8283 with an appraisal. Securing your CFRE is a good first step to ensuring you have the knowledge required to be a stellar and accountable fundraiser!
    Call PSI with any questions you have about accountability. They are here to help us!

Mary Anne Chern, FAHP, ACFRE, is President of the White Memorial Medical Center Charitable Foundation, Los Angeles, California.

November 2015

The Importance of a Healthy Culture of Philanthropy

I was researching several books and articles to help me write a strategic fundraising plan when I came across an article that began with this bold statement:

“Richard and I believe that if your organization does not embrace a healthy culture of philanthropy, your organization will not survive beyond the next decade.”¹

After I read this article and several others I began to study my organization’s culture of philanthropy. I listened better to how the various constituents – board, staff, customers, volunteers, and donors – were talking about the fundraising functions of the organization. Here are a few things I heard:

  • We’ve been talking about this new building for years. Why can’t we get it done? Has the development office tried selling the idea to donors?
  • I barely have time to teach, grade, prepare, do research, and sit on academic committees. I don’t have time to join a campaign committee.
  • Why is the development department asking me to help connect them with my former students? Doesn’t the department have these names already in its database?
  • I’d be happy to write an email or make a phone call introduction but I don’t feel comfortable with donor visits. Asking people for money isn’t really my thing.
  • My wife and I have been giving to the music program for years but we’ve yet to receive a schedule of the concerts for the year.

These comments gave me insight into the real sense of dread and shame associated with soliciting gifts from others. There was little ownership for the role each person in the organization played in fundraising. The thinking was that it was only the development office’s job to manage all fundraising functions. I began to see how not fostering a healthy culture of philanthropy was a great detriment to a non profit organization.

So what is a culture of philanthropy? And why is it so important?

In their research study Bell and Cornelius (2013) define a culture of philanthropy this way:

“Most people in the organization (across positions) act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building. Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving. Fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization. Organizational systems are established to support donors. The executive director is committed and personally involved in fundraising.”²

Several things in this definition stand out:

  1. Philanthropy and fundraising should be an integral part of the organization and is valued by all.
  2. Everyone in the organization should understand the mission, vision, and case for giving and can speak to it.
  3. Everyone in the organization, led by the executive director, should have a role to play in philanthropy.
  4. Respecting and engaging donors should be an organizational priority.

Why is it so important that everyone in the organization engage in building a healthy culture of philanthropy? Because a culture of philanthropy is pervasive. It involves every part of the organization’s functions – programming and program delivery, messaging, marketing, communications, priorities, roles. Simone Joyaux explains that “Each volunteer and every employee feels it [a culture of philanthropy]” and “Clients and donors recognize it whenever they connect with the organization.”³

Every member of the organization is a representative of the organization. When every member of the organization does their job well, when they serve clients to the best of their abilities, when they keep up their professional development to improve the service they provide, they enhance the organizational culture.

Additionally, everyone, “from the janitor to the chair of the board”3 has a role to play in philanthropic support for the organization. It simply cannot be done by one person or by one department. Let’s say your development office has three or four full-time frontline fundraisers not including your advancement services staff. A frontline fundraiser typically has a portfolio of 100-150 donors. That means your organization is reaching a maximum of 450 donors. Now imagine that your executive director, your board, your staff, your volunteers, and your clients are working TOGETHER on identifying and cultivating relationships with donors and helping with visits and solicitations.  You’ve just  doubled or maybe even tripled your organization’s reach!

So what kind of responsibilities are we talking about? We are all very busy and stretched to our limits!

Everyone can do something to enhance the culture of philanthropy in the organization. Some can write thank you notes, some can make thank you phone calls, others can introduce prospective donors to development staff, still others can sit on fundraising or campaign committees. Everyone should donate to the organization as they are able. How powerful would it be if an organization can approach donors and tell them that 100% of the board and staff are giving!

So the question is how can we embrace a healthy culture of philanthropy? I can’t say it any better than Simone Joyaux: “Everyone is an ambassador for the organization’s service, and for philanthropy and fund development. Being an ambassador means doing one’s own job well, understanding how all the various jobs in the organization create one integrated system, and—most especially—treating all of the organization’s customers (clients, donors, volunteers, community people, etc.) with care and respect.”3

I hope that all of us who are passionate about the work our organizations do will embrace a healthy culture of philanthropy so we can do the work entrusted to us even better.


¹ Perry, Richard and Schreifels, Jeff. “Don’t Give Up — Building a Culture of Philanthropy Takes Time and Effort.” Blog article. Veritus Group Blog. Veritus Group, 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

² Bell, Jeanne and Marla Cornelius, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising (San Francisco, CA: CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, 2013)

³ Joyaux, Simone. “Building a Culture of Philanthropy in Your Organization.” Blog article. Nonprofit Quarterly Philanthropy. Nonprofit Quarterly, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 26 Oct.  2015.

Rhanda Bonet-Graham is a fundraising professional who resides in Central Alberta, Canada. She is passionate about the non-profit sector and has dedicated her career to the arts and higher education for the past 15 years. She is currently looking for her next great adventure in philanthropy and fund development. She can be reached at

October 2015


In today’s philanthropic world managing CHANGE has become a part of our daily norm as leaders. We are each affected by numerous events outside of our control―economic, political, environmental, and human capital are all aspects impacting our ability to achieve our organization’s goals and objectives.

It was 2009 when personal circumstances allowed me to look for a new opportunity in my career path. At that time God opened unexpected doors bringing me from an international non-religious and non-political organization to serve at Southern Adventist University. Little did I know that the day I was planning to resign from my then current job, I would be greeted with a decision the board had taken a few weeks before to terminate my role and restructure the division in which I served.  CHANGE! I was already planning on leaving, but this change had a profound impact in my life, my leadership, and my trust in our God.

As leaders, how we cope with change speaks volumes to those around us. In my six years of service at Southern there has been plenty of change and even more change ahead. I have never been a big fan of change, so through my 15 years in the labor force I’ve developed some nuggets of wisdom for myself on what to be mindful of when change begins to show its face.

Cooperation is needed. Realizing that change doesn’t only affect you, but rather the entire team of the organization, try to find ways to be influential with your supervisors so as the changes happen you can be part of the conversation through a cooperative environment.  Another important lesson in cooperation is that you need to bring those downstream from you up through motivation and communications. Remember, “people help to support the things they create,” so as a leader seek ways to share with those downstream inviting them to be a part of the inner circle.

Hands-on vs. reactiveness. As President Kennedy once said, “ask not what your country can do for you ― ask what you can do for your country.” So when change appears I tend to grab my entrepreneurial hat and evaluate what I can do differently to assist in the change process. I evaluate expectations for myself and my team through the transition. I seek to provide solutions to our leaders to assist within my sphere of influence, thus allowing me to be proactive and not reactive.

Acceptance is not passiveness. There always comes a time for leaders like us when we need to accept the change ahead. The truth is that at many times we may want to fight the change ahead and it’s only through God’s grace that we can find the peace to let it drop. I invite you to read Mark 11:22-25. Once we are able to accept that changes ahead, we are able to move forward in ways that can uplift the kingdom matters.

Never give up. The work we are called to be a part of as those who invite others into the joy of philanthropy requires much of our energy and emotion. At times it can feel overwhelming and uncertain, but when this occurs I invite you to seek God and ask him to help you “get reappointed”. Joyce Meyer in her book New Day, New You states, “When you get disappointed, you can always make the decision to get reappointed!” When we seek the Holy Spirit in our daily work, He provides us with our mission, new path, and renewed spirits to overcome our disappointments. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 helps us to remember that it’s not all about us but about what Jesus can do through us.

Growth is inevitable. When we give our life, our work, and our praise to God; He will grow us ― for nothing given to Him will remain the same.  He provides daily growth and change. I realize that with every change I face and overcome, I will grow stronger in trust, faith, and wisdom through God’s grace.

Expectation need to be reviewed. The last nugget I think about when change comes up is what are the expectations of me and my expectations of others.  Expectations need to be realistic, tangible, and measurable. Change affects our emotions so we must put them through the filter of the Holy Spirit to ensure they are in line with God’s character.

In closing, my prayer for each of us privileged to work in this field is that we will seek God first in all we do. Change, we can count on just like taxes and death, but it’s what we do with that change and how we coop with it that will speak volumes of our character and journey with Jesus. Please don’t let change control your life in an unhealthy manner. Rather take time to self-evaluate and to bring it all to Him.

Geovanny Ragsdale
Southern Adventist University
Associate Vice President, Development


August-September 2015


The world of fundraising, like everything else, is moving forward with “new” ideas and techniques that allow it to grow and improve. The perspective changes as different generations take the helm and in the world of philanthropy it is very important that we keep up with these changes in what really interests and motivates the people of today.

The Case for Support has typically been defined as “An expression of the cause, or a clear compelling statement of all of the reasons why anyone should consider making a contribution in support of or to advance the cause.” While this is very true and clear, it has become, with the passing of the “Silent Generation” even more clearly that, as fundraisers, we must go deeper into this definition and break out the details of the “Story of the Organization”. No longer can we just talk about the “need” and the “programs” that we are seeking money for, but we must find a way to touch the heart of the potential donor in a very compelling, story-telling manner.

No longer can we talk about the “need” for a new building on our campus, or the growth of the endowment and expect people to respond favorably with a gift, believing that we will “put it to good use.” Now, we have to “show” that what happens with their money has and will make a great impact on someone. It is not about giving money to help the homeless, but rather it is about what your money has done and will do for someone specifically.

Answering the questions of “Who, What Why Where and How” we are going to impact the lives of people, students, patients, families, etc. is what makes the Case for Support compelling in today’s world.

This was shown to me recently by my Alma Mater, Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, when I received a “Stewardship Report” for 2014 from them with the title “You Helped Change Lives.” They had recently completed construction on a new building on the campus. In the report they told about the difference the building had made in the lives of 60% of Union College’s majors. This story was told with pictures and information that showed how vital this facility is to the campus.

Specific stories of people who have benefited and been touched by the money that is raised for a cause will almost always touch the heart of a potential donor and cause them to want to make a difference in someone’s life as the story they just heard.

To view an example of a “compelling” story that caused philanthropy to grow significantly for a medical mission project, click below and view my PowerPoint Presentation on “Preparing a Case that Empowers and Motivates”. The story of Maria demonstrates the difference that was made in her life because of the generosity of people who wanted to make that difference.

Click to view:

Preparing a Case that Empowers and Motivates

By Karen J Johnson, Ed.D., CFRE


July 2015

The sight of a brightly-dressed woman walking along a sidewalk with a sewing machine balanced on her head might seem unusual.  In fact, I didn’t think much of it after some months in West Africa.  Culture is like that; seeping in and changing perspectives, our norms.

Having just changed from working in higher education to healthcare philanthropy, thoughts of country culture made me ponder organization culture.  New eyes at a nonprofit bring new perspectives that you don’t want to lose to the “sewing machine phenomenon” where everything eventually becomes your new normal.  So how do you retain valuable insights when joining a new team?  And how do you hit the ground running with so much to learn?  Here are 5 things I’ve found helpful.

  1. Ask

You’re only new once!  Take advantage of it.  Your what, when, where, who and especially why questions are welcome and expected your first weeks and months, and others’ responses build rapport while giving you information to be powerfully productive.  Personally, I’ve found that on month 4 or 5 there actually are dumb questions, so embrace your newbie-ness on day 1.

  1. Take notes

Take notes of everything that strikes you as different, needing change, or that you like.  These first impressions will prove useful as you revisit your notes in the coming months as part of setting direction.  It will also help you process, cope and thrive at your new organization.

  1. Engage

Meet everyone as soon as possible.  Again, you’re only new once!  I love that at my organization as part of my onboarding requires meeting individually with a slew of key staff and volunteers.  Be sure to go to their office or wherever is convenient for them.  Make it your goal to become better acquainted (I ask questions about family, kids, and where from) and be genuinely interested about what they do and how they connect to mission.

  1. Find Mission

It’s easy to get caught up in learning 23 new acronyms , what the name is of the person in HR or a major donor you just met.  Important stuff!  Nonetheless, make sure you schedule time to connect with mission; memorize it, learn the stories, know the history, meet those whom you serve.

  1. Read

Taking advantage of an early morning gives me time to read archived material in physical files or on computer.  I find it helps me better sculpt questions.  Take advantage of the very reason why we record information as it ensures stability, prevents making the same mistakes, provides basis for future decisions and more.  Try focusing attention first on top volunteer/fundraising committee minutes and notes from meetings with major donors.

Hey, you’re only new once!  Yes, already said, but worth repeating.  Embrace it, work it, love it and you’ll quickly become a person of impact.

Christopher Carey, MS, CFRE

Rocky Mountain Adventist Healthcare Foundation, Centura Health


June 2015

Making “Excuses” in Major Gift Fundraising

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

It is often said that major gifts fundraising is both an art and a science.  But in truth there seems to be a lot more written about the science than the art.  We can know all of the formulae for moves management, research, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship, yet utterly fail in securing major gifts.

It is a cold, hard truth that first-rate major gift fundraisers are a rare breed.  What kind of person can succeed where so many fail at raising high level gifts and commitments?  Is it a matter of drive and energy?  Is it how you “hob-knob” and work the crowd?  Could it be innate personality traits that enable a few to succeed where many just get by?

Perhaps it is the art more than the science.  At the heart of what makes a great fundraiser is the ability to engender trust.  Without the trust of high level donors nothing can happen.  A major gift fundraiser must be the genuine article: totally committed to the cause; approachable and friendly; prompt to follow through with anything promised; energetic and driven in a sensitive way; a careful listener who can assimilate what is heard.  This appears to be elementary but it is amazing how many cannot manage these basic abilities.  The number of nonprofits that stumble through fundraising is alarming.

Where imagination comes into play, in my opinion, is creating excuses.  Now my mother always told me to never make excuses, but in this context an excuse may be an effective tool.  I’m not talking about asking forgiveness for mistakes, but creatively looking for opportunities to advance the relationship.  Every major donor relationship is a voyage of discovery for both the fundraiser and the donor.  Excuses can make it all happen.

An excuse mentality searches for opportunities of a meaningful happening: a tour, a lunch, introduction to key players and experts, board members, meeting the CEO, linking with people of like interests, and more.  But there must be a reason for such an excuse.  It must be credible and flow naturally, not in a contrived manner.  Major donors see through a flimsy excuse immediately.  Once a good excuse is found, you must seize the opportunity and make the next move.  Carpe Diem!

Excuses are often an exercise in connecting the dots.  If a donor loves music, invite them to a symphony concert.  Over dinner you may discover other relationships and interests.  You may discover key persons in their life and what they value.  The very best prospect research is not what you learn over the internet but from the mouth of the donor!  If they have close friends who have given, bring them together.  Excuses can reveal synergy, enthusiasm, and commitment.  They provide a window into a person.

Solving a problem can be an opportunity.  A negative past experience can provide a chance to right the wrong and potentially strengthen a relationship that could be lost.

This takes time.  One year is a short period for a major commitment.  The effective fundraiser with a long tenure has a distinct advantage.  Those long relationships build credibility and institutional memory.  And remember, the best prospect for a future major gift is the donor who has already given, perhaps at a lower level.

Finally, it is not just about securing a monetary gift or commitment from an individual.  It is about creating a life-changing experience for the donor.  The person who benefits from a gift is not the only beneficiary.  It is the donor as well.

An individual recently made a $1 million gift to name the atrium of the Shawnee Mission Birth Center.  He is a very successful local businessman—he terms himself a “serial” entrepreneur.  His first daughter was born at our hospital.  Over time he has expressed that making this gift was a watershed event in his life.  After this everything was different: his business, his marriage, his relationship with the community at large.  His gratefulness for the opportunity to make his gift knows no bounds, even though the beneficiaries are the almost 5,000 babies born here each year and their families.  This gift has changed his life forever for the better.

The excuses that we employed were a Chinese New Year gathering, a tour with board members, giving photos of the tour, showing a list of naming opportunities, meeting the President/CEO, visits to his office to see his latest inventions, visits to negotiate the gift, events to offer sincere thanks, nomination to be the philanthropist of the year, and more.  It is a wonderful journey that shows no signs of slowing.

His gift has also inspired several new million dollar gifts!  One donor who expresses his or her gratitude illustrates the worthiness of your organization to a thousand people.  Also, pay careful attention to how you thank them.  This shows others how you will treat them when they give.

Find excuses today!  There is no excuse for neglecting imaginative major gift fundraising.  If you do not do it, who will?

By Louis Gehring, CFRE
Senior Executive Director
The Foundation for Shawnee Mission Medical Center


May 2015

Giving is a transferable habit that happens to be cultivated in religious settings
~ Jonathan Hill, Calvin College Sociology Professor

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a unique group of people.  The Spirit of Prophecy is unique.  The Sanctuary Message is unique. The Three Angel’s Message is also unique. According to publication Faith Communities Today1, Adventists have been characterized as one of the most philanthropic groups in North America.  So it is no surprise that when contemplating the applicability of philanthropic best practices, some may say: “That’s fine for secular organizations or for other religious organizations, but you know … we’re different.”

Well, you may be surprised to learn that the Connected To Give2 survey found no statistical difference in giving based on religious affiliation. In other words, we are more similar than different in how and why we give.  These conclusions have major implications for the philanthropy segment at large and in your local congregation. Here are some important points to consider when cultivating giving:

  1. People with differing religious affiliations, whether in faith or denomination, have been shown to give at similar rates and for similar reasons.
  2. Research shows there are three dimensions that influence giving decisions: organizational purpose, religiosity of organizational identity, and one’s self-perceptions about being religious or spiritual.
  3. Secular giving motivations parallel religious motivations, even across differing religious affiliations of U.S. and Canadian donors.

Historically, the philanthropy sector was broken down into two macro areas.  The first, and largest, was the religious segment.  It was defined as religious congregations focusing solely on spiritual development. The other segment was the secular segment.  It was thought to handle everything else, including health and human services, education, and so on.  This sharp split inadvertently understated the magnitude of the impact of religious sector giving.  Donations to church affiliated ministries like food pantries or health and wellness centers were not counted as part of the religious segment.  Since they fulfilled broader “nonreligious” needs, the donations were rolled into the secular segment.

Fortunately the Connected To Give study recognized the broader breadth of program support attributable to religious nonprofits.  The finding of this nationally representative survey of 5,000 participants was startling.  Of the total individual contributions to U.S. philanthropy, 73% are in the religious segment.  That total is composed of Congregations, which receive 41% of U.S. philanthropy donations, and Religiously Identified Organizations (RIOs) which receive 32% of U.S. philanthropy donations. Non-religiously Identified Organizations (NRIOs) receive the remaining 23% of U.S. philanthropy contributions.

Even more interesting is who gives to Congregations, RIOs, and NRIOs:

Religious and secular giving
From the Deseret News3 graphic above, we see that Religiously-Affiliated Donors lead giving in Congregation, RIO, and NRIO contributions.  We also see that Non-affiliated donors participate significantly in both Congregation and RIO giving.  An important take-away from the above is that Religiously Affiliated Donors tend to lead in donation rates across the board.  Moreover, Connected to Give also shows that Religiously Affiliated Donors tend to lead in median donation dollar amounts as well.  The main implication for your church is that cultivating a culture of generosity in your local congregation also spurs the generosity needed to fuel the growth of RIOs and NRIOs with mission projects synergistic with Christian community service values.  It is also an excellent reminder that many of your members are likely supporting, and will continue to support, multiple charities in addition to your local congregation and its other nonprofit ministries.

By the way, it is also noteworthy that giving rates among Protestant denominations, Catholics, Jews, and the myriad of other religious affiliations were about the same.  A Chronicle of Philanthropy4 article states that about half of all members of each faith group contribute to their religious congregation.  The only exception is for Jews, for which thirty-seven percent contribute.

So what are the key drivers in donor motivations? Connected to Give identifies three dimensions that influence giving decisions: organizational purpose, religiosity of organizational identity, and one’s self-perceptions about being religious or spiritual.  Additionally, the report shows the importance of the following motivators by religious affiliation:

donors graphic

When developing your key messages(s) it is important to consider the above.  It is also important to remember that Connected to Give2 further shows that frequency in attending religious services positively correlates with donation support.

Interestingly a New York Times5 article mentions that philanthropic psychologist—Jen Shang—suggests making conscious decisions about integrating a subset of these nine key adjectives into your philanthropic messaging as appropriate: kind, caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, fair, hard-working, generous and honest.  In effectively doing so, she has seen nonprofits see an average increase in giving of 10% by women.  She further recommends additionally layering on language signaling: strong, responsible, and loyal qualities when messaging males.  These findings have practical application as you transform your organization’s mission, values, and cause into a compelling “case for support.”  That case becomes a rallying point for your donors, your organization, and your messaging about your project or cause.  It is an important key driver in how strongly your members feel compelled to support your local church ministries.

Although geographic differences are often important, research also shows that Canadian charitable giving mirrors that found in the United States.  Like its neighbor to the north, the largest nonprofit segment in Canada is Religion.  Both Canadian and U.S. donors have been found to behave in strikingly similar ways.  The Charitable Giving by Canadians6 report shows there is a strong positive correlation between age, religious activity/attendance, and volunteerism with level of donations. Donor motivations for giving also align well with those previously discussed in this article.

When cultivating a culture of giving, consider using a three-legged platform of mission, message, and method of communication.  Create a compelling case for support.  Allow members multiple ways to donate their time, influence, and financial support.   Show your ministry partners how their valuable support is helping to change lives.  Finally, thank donors as early and often as possible.

Remember, we really are more similar than we are different.  So before you invite someone to partner in supporting your local ministry opportunities, ask yourself how you plan to incorporate the common motivational threads discussed above. Whether a church, food bank, or any other flourishing charitable organization, the fundraising best practices remain fairly consistent within the North American philanthropic sector.

by Michael Brown, associate director
Philanthropic Service for Institutions


April 2015

Planning is an essential part of fundraising.  Today’s donors want to see a plan, especially since a plan means accountability.  Most importantly, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know if you’ve gotten there?  This month Dr. Martin Clark, President of the Kettering Medical Center Foundation, addresses an essential piece of planning, one which goes beyond just the “to do” list and distinguishes your organization.  Our thanks to Dr. Clark for sharing his insights and counsel.


Every nonprofit claims to have a strategic plan, both for its own sense of progress and to be able to answer “yes” when asked by donors. In fact, most planning done today is not “strategic,” and many organizations plan effectively without really dealing with strategy.

What is strategy?

In simplest terms, a strategy is a plan to win. This is most easily seen in its military use because an opponent has been identified that must be defeated. Merely setting goals in the absence of an opponent is not strategic. Businesses recognize this because they seek to win by gaining market share (or other advantage) over their competitors.

Once an overall plan to win has been set, the individual components of that plan may be called “tactics,” and the specific activities designed to accomplish the tactics comprise “action plans.”

One way of determining if a plan is strategic is to ask questions like the following:

  • Do I have a clearly defined opponent/competitor over which/whom I must win?
  • What does “winning” look like in the case of my conflict/competition with my opponent?
  • Does my plan involve gaining a competitive advantage over my opponent?
  • What market disruption is central to my plan?

Working backwards, without a market disruption there can be no competitive advantage, and without a competitive advantage(s), there can be no plan to win.

For instance, let’s look at two schools as examples of how strategy might support fundraising.

Christian School A may have very worthy goals — such as balancing the operating budget, increasing enrollment, or even building a new facility — without thinking strategically. In these cases, planning incrementally can be very effective. The school assesses what it has currently and what it needs in the future in order to maintain or increase by a desired percentage. Achieving these goals can be very good for the institution and the Kingdom of God without any thought of winning over any competing school. Donors may be most pleased because the school seems stable and, perhaps, growing incrementally – a “status quo plus” approach. While appropriate for many ministries, this is not strategic planning.

Christian School B may do an environmental assessment to determine where its mission and capabilities intersect with its community’s needs. Through prayer and careful analysis, it sets goals that involve capturing market share from its competitors (i.e., other schools, home schoolers), and thereby educating even more students within a Biblical worldview. These goals may involve starting new programs, focusing marketing efforts, providing scholarships targeted on specific students who help fulfill the goals, enhancing student life, or a myriad of other opportunities that advance the intersection. Whatever the tactic, the aim is to disrupt the market by introducing something(s) that will give the school a clearly recognizable advantage over its competitors. Because the plan involves a market disruption to gain competitive advantage, it is strategic.

At the risk of over-simplification, donors to these schools probably differ. Christian School A may primarily attract donors whose passion is to educate “our children,” however “our children” is defined. It is often defined as the children of a specific congregation or denomination. The changes and growth valued by these internally-focused donors may focus on increasing the quality and opportunities offered its children. Significant, God-honoring work results from this passion.

Christian School B, on the other hand, may attract donors whose passions are excited by expanding a Christian worldview (or other school distinctive) throughout the broader community. These donors will be motivated by a market disruption and will need to see how it will lead to a competitive advantage resulting in winning more students for Christian School B. While just as committed to their school and its quality, they are more externally focused in appreciating advancement.

Is this definition of “strategic” really no more than making a distinction where no real difference exists? Perhaps. But a real, substantive change to strategic thinking and planning will usually give well-managed nonprofit organizations a compelling case that will attract new donors and revitalize long-term supporters.

by Dr. Martin Clark
President, Kettering Medical Center Foundation


Growing in Fundraising

My journey in fundraising started at an early age where I attended the Topeka SDA church. They were an amazing Ingathering Church. My parents thought it would be a good idea for us to go out as a family so we asked for our own section of the town. I was hooked from the first night. It was so amazing to me to go up to a door, be greeted with such enthusiasm that a young person my age was “asking for money for those less fortunate than ourselves”. What really touched my heart, was that many of the doors we knocked on, in my opinion, would have been “those less fortunate than ourselves” and yet they were so generous and willing to share. Many opened their doors and invited me in and I loved the stories they told or how thankful they were to be able to help.

Then when I attended Academy, the school leaders saw how much I LOVED ingathering so they asked me if I’d go do the businesses in the towns we ingathered in. I loved it. I looked forward to every day we went and was sad when that day was over. My ingathering experience inspired my own passion for philanthropy. It inspired my own personal philanthropic giving. I found when I gave, even at a young age, it made me happy knowing I was making a difference. But what I didn’t know was that it would open up my future career and passion to become a Fundraiser.

In July of 1993, Enterprise Academy asked me to be their Development Director. My first thought was “it must be just like ingathering”. Yippee! I loved Ingathering so I was sure I’d love Fundraising.

The first six months I was in this position, I went in to the principal on a regular basis and try to resign. I kept telling him I couldn’t do this job. And he kept saying, “Yes you can. You know so many of these alumni since you graduated from here. Just tell them the needs of the school”. It was hard and when I called former alumni, they had such anger and animosity towards the school for something that had happened to them while they were students.

And then it hit me, I just needed to listen to these alumni and try to minister to them, help them get resolution to their anger or misunderstandings, or explain how things were different now. Then I could explain the vision for the school and the plans to make it the best school it could be. Things started turning around. Alumni and church members caught the vision and were excited about the program. They were excited to see the improvements and the enrollment increase because of student aid. I was starting to make progress, but still floundering around. I knew I needed more training.

Then the MAP (Model for Academy Philanthropy) program was launching at PSI. That was the turning point. MAP provided excellent training and mentoring, reasonable goals, matching monies, and amazing personal support. I know that the MAP training is the tool God used to encourage me on my journey as a fundraiser. I was at Enterprise Academy for eight years and we were able to raise a lot of money for student aid, building renovations, transportation needs, and the list goes on. I loved this job so much that I couldn’t imagine God would ever take me somewhere else.

That’s when I got the call to come to the Central California Conference to be their Capital Campaign Director. I kept telling them “No!” I had never done a capital campaign and I was scared that I might not be able to do it. I didn’t want to leave the school I loved and go into unknown territory. I fought it with every inch of my being. When I was talking to the HR person, he said, “Jackie, you aren’t giving God a chance to speak to your heart. Let us bring you out and see the projects that we need your help with.” God has a way of pushing us, doesn’t he?

I came and looked at the job, and the three projects were Camp Wawona, Soquel Conference Center (camp meeting location) and the Education Endowment. I knew I could put my heart into these three projects because they had each impacted my life growing up. I had fond memories of summer camp as a child. My Dad, Charles Case, was a Camp Director for many years and I worked for him every summer. Additionally, I loved camp meetings. One summer when I was about 12, our family travelled for my Dad’s job and we went to camp meetings all across the US. Seeing all those camping and meeting tents, and people’s passion to get away and commune with God was so inspiring. Because of my love for Adventist Education and raising student aid so that students could attend Academy, I knew the Education Endowment was right down my alley as well. I have now been the Capital Campaign Director for the Central California Conference since July of 2001. Every day is a joy for me. I love sharing the vision for Camp Wawona, Soquel Conference Center, and the Education Endowment.

My 21 year fundraising journey has been a blessing and has changed my life. I have found that fundraising isn’t just about asking for money. It’s also about ministry. I still continue to find many hurting people in my visits and I love being able to help resolve issues or clear up misunderstandings. It is wonderful to have a job that is all about connecting people with projects that are near and dear to their hearts and that promotes God’s Kingdom.

Written by Jackie Phillips
Director for Capital Campaigns, Central California Conference

March 2015


What’s Love Got to do With Giving?

Philanthropy is derived from the Greek, “philos anthropos,” and its English rendering is “lover of mankind.” It is expressed in different ways of giving. Even in the purely secular world, it is understood as the giving of resources for human needs: gifts of time; gifts of wisdom, experience or talents; and gifts of personal resources. One of the most important characteristics of philanthropy is that it is always active, never inactive. It expresses love, care, concern and blessings for the humanitarian needs of individuals to entire communities and even nations. Philanthropy is a demonstration of love for our fellow human beings in a very dynamic, energetic sense. Love always acts, and in philanthropy we are always actively seeking what we can do for others, similarly to the way God came to us, for us.

If philanthropy is all of this in the purely secular world, how much more important is it in the world of faith and the Church? How much of this epitomizes the teachings of Jesus Christ and the acceptance by many of His contemporaries of the two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”? Jesus explains that, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets,” (Matt 22:37, 39-40). Jesus not only lived this love, but He also died because of it. His death and resurrection were the vehicles through which He brought salvation into the world. Our salvation was the very purpose of His entering human history. His love is exemplified in His death for us, the Creator dying for His creation. In this respect, it can be asserted that Jesus Christ is the greatest philanthropist the world has ever seen. He had very little money and was supported by others in His ministry. But in His physical poverty, He still gave all He had, even His own life for the sake of mankind.

How many of us know that the vast majority of the teachings of Jesus Christ concern the spirit of giving? In short, He was so concerned about sacrificial giving in love as opposed to greed and hoarding that He spent most of His earthly time articulating Himself on this very subject. This resulted from man’s failure to interpret Old Testament teachings through the ideal of love. Until
the Son of God entered into human history, the Old Testament was interpreted legalistically, and this was the reason it failed to bind man to our Heavenly Father. It is only through love that man can be bound to Him. And philanthropy is love in action. Philanthropy in every sense parallels the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in the spirit of giving in love.

So, what’s love got to do with giving? Everything!

by Kisha Norris, M.Ed, CFRE
Executive Director for Advancement and Development, Oakwood University

February 2015


Transparency and Accountability in Fundraising

Long gone are the days when donors simply trust a nonprofit organization to do what it says it is going to do. Today, donors are increasingly demanding evidence that their contributive dollars are having the favorable and intended impact on the mission of the nonprofit—whether a church, hospital, symphony or other nonprofit. Organizations that are open and honest in their communications and that speak frankly about their operations will discover donors will not only trust them more, but will continue to give consistently to their organizations.

Transparency does not necessarily mean providing lengthy information in tremendous detail. While a board member may require a financial statement and supporting documents each time it meets, the average donor might find this information overwhelming and very difficult to comprehend. The secret to being transparent is to provide sufficient information that reflects the overall health, operations and accomplishments of the organization in a manner that can be easily understood by the donor.  Transparency is about communicating critical pieces of information to donors that inspire trust and confidence.

Why does or should transparency in fundraising matter?  Today, donors want to see the description of your organization’s mission in compelling language they can understand. They want donor-friendly explanations of your organization’s programs. They want specific, measurable information about your accomplishments. They want to know about your organization’s goals and objectives. They want to know how your organization measures and evaluates success.

Donors generally identify emotionally with nonprofits they support. The more information available about the organization’s mission, programs, activities and accomplishments, the more opportunities a donor has to connect with pulse of your nonprofit and understand the difference it is making. Providing this information can bond a donor to your organization by helping align his or her values with those values of your organization.

Perhaps, the most important reason transparency matters in fundraising is that it helps confirm an organization’s trustworthiness. When a donor is provided factual information in an unsolicited fashion, it helps affirm why their gifts should go to your organization rather than some other worthy nonprofit.  Providing accurate information—particularly as it relates to moneys raised, fundraising costs, acknowledgements, use of funds, accomplishment achieved, etc.—helps to fortify, in the donor’s mind, that his or her moneys are being used wisely.

Accountability and transparency are inextricably linked. While transparency promotes openness, frankness, honesty and communication, accountability requires compliance and the ability to explain or justify why actions were taken—or not taken. Because of the favored tax status, nonprofit organizations have an obligation to be answerable for the money it receives from the public. They must explain how the charity functions and how the moneys are used.

There are a number of ways a nonprofit organization can bolster its accountability and transparency with its stakeholders. A few approaches are listed below.

  • Scheduled regular communications with donors to apprise them of accomplishments to date
  • Share testimonials of those receiving direct benefit from the donor’s contribution
  • Accurately account for all gifts received
  • Promptly acknowledge all gifts (within 48 hours of receipt)
  • Timely file the IRS 990 documents, if required
  • Publish an annual report (include breakdown of expenses, programs funded, acknowledge contributors, etc.)
  • Post independent audit information, if required
  • Develop and adhere to gift and stewardship policies and procedures (internal)
  • Use the website to post information about board, staff, contact information, financial and donor appropriate information for public consumption
  • Adopt and adherence to the AFP Code of Ethics and the Donor Bill of Rights (insert link)

It has often been suggested that a fundraiser’s currency is transparency and accountability.  Every nonprofit benefits when it engages in practices that promote culpability and heighten donor confidence. When nonprofit organizations strive to become more strategic and effective, their impact and influence will grow – as will the curiosity, praise, criticism, and scrutiny they attract. Essentially, as nonprofits trade isolation for communication, openness and accountability, it will strengthen their ability to attract and keep their valued donors.

Written by Alphonce J. Brown, Jr., ACFRE

President, Docere Consulting, Inc.

January 2015


Understanding giving trends is highly important if fundraisers are to keep abreast of how their field is changing, and how they must adapt to these changes.  Equally important is the need to apply knowledge supplied by surveys, research, statistics and other credible analyses of these trends.

For this reason, the Director’s Messages for 2014 focused on giving facts, research and information. While it was be impossible to exhaust the possibilities of available information on giving, we provided practical and interesting information on some of the following topics to which you can link (see below):

Topics that will be addressed in this column, and substantiated with other resources PSI’s website will include:

        Overview of Giving USA

        Giving by Millennials

        Religion and giving

        Global giving and why many fundraisers are reaching beyond their borders

        Giving in Canada

        Healthcare philanthropic data

               And more.

Each of these columns is quite short, providing the highlights of philanthropy and nonprofits, including how this affects all sub-sectors of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, from higher education to community services, from healthcare to secondary and elementary education, from sustainable support to project and campaign fundraising.  For further information, contact the director:

 Career information for fundraising professionals and practitioners


Finding Meaning in the Mysterious–Careers in Fundraising (Part One)

Finding Meaning in the Mysterious–Careers in Fundraising (Part Two)

Finding Meaning in the Mysterious–Careers in Fundraising (Part Three)

Finding Meaning in the Mysterious–Careers in Fundraising (Part Four)

Finding Meaning in the Mysterious–Careers in Fundraising (Part Five)

Finding Meaning in the Mysterious–Careers in Fundraising (Part Six)

  1. Hart, Dirk, J. “Insights Into Financial Giving.” Faith Communities Today (FACT). .
  2.  McKitrick, Landeres, Ottoni-Wilhem, and Hayat: “Connected to Give: Faith Communities.” Los Angeles: Jumpstart 2013: pp. 16-17, 22. Available:
  3. Brown, Matthew, “Is Religious Affiliation The Driving Factor In Charitable Giving.” Deseret News online 8 Jan. 2014. Available:
  4.  Daniels, Alex, “Religious Americans Give More, New Study Finds.” Chronicle of Philanthropy, online 25 Nov. 2013. Available:
  5.  Wallis, David, “Getting Into a Benefactor’s Head.” New York Times, online 8 Nov. 2012. Available:
  6. Turcotte, Martin, “Charitable Giving by Canadians.” Component of Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-008-X (Canadian Social Trends), online 12 Apr. 2012. Available: