Presentation Matters

For fundraisers, whether the CEO of a non-profit or the preacher of a church of 100, the occasion arises when a public proclamation is required. Speaking to crowds, large and small, is part of the job description.

The two main requirements for any speech is a compelling vision and sincerity. No amount of polish or rhetorical expertise will overcome a poorly thought out plan or dubious intent. If you don’t have a story and you don’t really believe in what you are “selling,” don’t get up to speak.

But you can have an amazing vision and possess the sincerity of a saint and still miss the mark with a poor presentation. At the very least, you do not want to lose points because of of a distracting speaking style.

Here is one tip.

Have someone videotape your next presentation. Watch it. By yourself.

Now, let me tell you, this is going to hurt. It is humbling to watch yourself. It will sting. Your feelings will be hurt. You may never want to speak again in public. You get the picture? It is going to be bad.

As you watch the video take notes. Watch the video again with the sound off so you can focus only on gestures and your body. Watch it a third time just to prove you can endure pain.

Pout for two days. Engage in negative self talk. Go visit your counselor. Treat yourself to a chocolate shake. Eat supper at a buffet. Call your Mom for an encouraging word.

Then select one thing and shoot for improvement. You will see ten things that you need to fix, but just pick one. Focus on that one area of your presentation next time. Really work at it. Practice. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Strive to make corrections.

I did this today in a presentation. The speech coach at the seminar last week had talked about making eye contact—literally picking faces out of the crowd and speaking directly to them. Then pick another set of eyes and speak to that person. It sounded simple. Just look people in the eye. So I tried it.

I bombed. Really. I got so flustered I lost my place in the speech and gave up on the eye contact. The negative thoughts were only in my head, but honestly, I was kind of embarrassed. But I am going to try again next week.

Some people are simply amazing public presenters. We wonder how they do it, while knowing we could never be that good.

But the good news is, everybody can improve their speaking abilities.

Just pick one thing.

Shear The Sheep?

Garrison Keillor tells the story of Clarence Bunsen in one of his Lake Wobegon monologues. Clarence attends Lake Wobegon Lutheran church and not the Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility. (What an amazing name for a church. This line never fails to get a laugh.)

As a respected member of the community and co-owner of Bunsen Ford, Clarence is the logical choice to head up the capital campaign at the Lutheran Church. In fact, Keillor notes Clarence has headed up the two previous campaigns.

Pastor Ingquist invites Clarence to chair the committee with these humorous words. “Clarence, shear the sheep.” Clarence eventually gets to the task, but only after skipping church for two months because he knows everyone is avoiding him. Shoot, the parishoners don’t even want to make eye contact with him.

Churches are often fearful of the tactics used in a campaign. They have preconceptions of strong arming people and heavy doses of guilt. Another concern is what I call the “slick” factor. They worry that the campaign will be one long sales job.

An effective campaign casts a vision for the future and offers a challenge of faith. The church tells their story as effectively as possible. People pray for 40 days. They study scripture. They hear testimonies. Over time members get excited and rise to the challenge. As consultants, it is a delight to witness this process over and again.

Strong arming and guilting does not work, and more importantly, it is not God honoring.

Does every church member receive the challenge in the spirit it is given? No. Of course not! When you start talking money, people can get really defensive very quickly. To use an old country cliche, “Sometimes a bit dog barks.”

But this is what we hear with every campaign we conduct. In fact, we heard this just last week with our latest church. The preacher was worried about Brother So and So who was going to be against the campaign. “I hope we can just control him somehow,” was the best the preacher hoped for. Commitment Sunday rolled around three months later and the Brother said, “This campaign is the best thing we have ever done at this church.”

The Carpenter’s Plan leads campaigns that are inspiring, transparent, centered on scripture, bathed in prayer, and God-honoring.

No one wants to be manipulated. If practices like that ever worked, they shouldn’t have.

Making Friends

A friend of mine was recently installed as the first female Chairman of the Board for a local non-profit. She is a talented woman who will serve this organization well.

Five years ago this friend was talking to my co-worker. In the course of the conversation she let it be known she was looking for a creative and leadership outlet. Work was winding down for her, and she was searching for a way to be useful. My co-worker asked, “What are your interests?” When he heard her answer, he immediately said, “Let me introduce you to this CEO of a non-profit. I think it would be a fit for you.”

Five years later, after time on committees and the board, she is running the show.

Is it really that easy to find new Board members? Probably not. But my co-worker friend is a good asker of questions. He thrives on seeing others succeed. He notices gifts and possibilities in others and can make things happen. He is on the look-out for people all the time.

I on the other hand, am focused on my to-do list. Writing this blog—it is on my list. (And I don’t mean to brag, but writing a blog was actually on my list for tomorrow.) Projects, tasks—that’s what I am talking about.

My co-worker can knock the work out, no doubt about it. But his focus is on people, on teams, and on collaboration. This is one reason he is a great consultant for capital campaigns.

Every organization needs someone like my co-worker. You can hire plenty of people to get out reports and plan events and do stuff. But who is finding your next four board members? Who is engaging others in the mission? Who is genuinely interested in others?

Who is making friends for your organization?

A Non-Fundraising Post (Sort of)

These words in my morning reading leaped off the page.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Psalm 37:9

The Psalmist is concerned about evil doers. Most likely he has been on the receiving end of their mistreatment. His consistent advice, to himself and us, is along the lines of “put your trust in the Lord and do good.” (verse 4)

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

These are strong words aren’t they? Can my anger and rage lead to evil? If left unchecked, of course it can. Every day we see egregious displays of mayhem on the front page of the paper and the precipitating culprit is often unchecked anger.

While we certainly hope we are not in danger of winding up in the newspaper, the poisonous impact of anger lurks around every corner. Anger can lead us to:

  • Looking down on others

  • Withholding affection

  • Passive aggressive behavior, which can border on silliness

  • Harsh, unkind words

  • Self-hatred and meanness

  • Self-righteousness which is evident to everyone but us

  • Lack of compassion and empathy

  • Revenge

  • Lethargy

  • Numerous physical maladies

Anger is bad news.

PS Since this blog is on a website connected with fundraising, I feel compelled to make a tie in. So here it is. An angry person will make a lousy fundraiser. This sentence is not written in an effort to be funny or witty. It is simply true.

New Year's Resolutions?

I love New Year’s resolutions. The opportunity for a fresh start. New goals. Possibilities. Moving forward with improvement. Ah, hope springs eternal.

I hate New Year’s resolutions. The same extra 10 pounds hang on my frame on February 15. Shame lurks around the corner. Really? You were going to read War and Peace? What were you thinking? The answer on War and Peace is I read 200 pages five years ago, and I keep thinking winners never quit and quitters never win.

What we are thinking when we make resolutions, official or otherwise, is things can always be improved. We can do better, can’t we? Of course we can.

When it comes to fundraising, resolutions abound. Whether you are in a non-profit setting or at a church, there are always things you can do better. Here is a starter list.

  • Purchase the new software. Whether it is an online giving platform or a donor rating service, there is software that can improve your fundraising.

  • Invest in your people. Have your key employees received the training they need?

  • Get a special contribution on the church calendar now.

  • Develop a planned giving program. Don’t fret over the magnitude of the task. What are the first three things you need to do? Do them within a month.

  • Find a new videographer. Shoot compelling videos that tell the story.

  • Didn’t preach on giving in 2018? Come on now, you know better than that. Book it right now. You don’t have to plan an amazing four-week series on giving, but you need to do something.

  • Spend more time cultivating donors. You can eat at your desk while churning out a report or you can take a donor to lunch. Choose the later more often in 2019.

  • Schedule a board retreat. Hire a facilitator—someone really good.

  • Look at your printed pieces. Has your material gotten long in the tooth?

  • Say thank you more often and more sincerely.

  • Attend a good conference.

I know what is on my list. What about you?


Diana Butler Bass in her book Grateful, starts out by saying, “I have always struggled with gratitude. I want to be grateful, but too often I find myself with no thanks.”

You’ve got to love that. A book on gratitude written by one who claims to be lousy at it. I don’t know about you, but many books seem to be written by those who are just a bit too self-assured. I will gladly listen to advice on thanksgiving from one who admits she struggles with the whole idea.

My interest was rewarded by multiple gems, like the following:

“Gratitude is, however, more than just an emotion. It is also a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated, an outlook toward life that manifests itself in actions—it is an ethic. By “ethic,” I mean a framework of principles by which we live more fully in the world. This ethic involves developing habits and practices of gratefulness that change us for the better. Gratitude involves not only what we feel, but also what we do.”

“A disposition that can be chosen and cultivated.” That is good. That is really good.

So how could I put such cultivation and choice into practice?

  • Keep a thanksgiving journal or log. Simply write down the blessings and serendipities of any given day. On my list for today? After a week of rain, comes a cloudless January day. Thank you Jesus.

  • Write letters of thanks. Not emails—old-fashioned letters with stamps attached.

  • Say thank you. Make a game of it. How many people can you thank in a day, from the mother who gave birth to you to the server at lunch?

  • Take a prayer time each week where you only express thanks, nothing else.

  • Learn to playfully chide yourself for behavior that does not engender thanksgiving. My wife and I have started laughing at ourselves when we gripe about other drivers.

  • Do things that make you happy. I know this sounds self-absorbed, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, I love my local library. Stopping by and reading for 30 minutes in the late afternoon fills me with joy. And thanksgiving.

What about you? What can you do to cultivate gratitude?

The Wonder of People

I opened up Sunday School class by giving them the opportunity to ask the preacher anything they wanted. Thankfully they avoided controversial topics like the church and politics and gave me fun questions like what do you like about your job, what do you not like, how do you prepare a sermon, and does it bother you when you see someone sleeping during your sermon?

(On vacation last month I heard a particularly uninspiring sermon and was reminded of how hard it is to listen to a sermon. So no, the one who dozes on Sunday morning doesn’t bother me. Not much at least.)

The funniest question from a young mother of two. “How do you deal with people all the time—the disappointment? I think I would just stay mad all the time.”

I laughed out loud. I can remember that same young woman fifteen years ago as a mouthy teenager who gave her Mom and Dad fits.

Of course people disappoint us. The donor who fails to fulfill a pledge, the deacon who runs off with a co-worker, the whiny complaint from an entitled church member—all of these and more can get under our skin.

What keeps me from staying mad all the time? The wonder of people. These people I have seen in the last month alone have provided encouragement enough for a year.

  • A 23 year-old who has bravely faced a chronic illness for years received her permanent ileostomy just today. She is trusting and clinging to faith. She is an inspiration.

  • The retired physician who lives on Social Security and gives away over 50% of his income every year.

  • The young dads who took a week off from work and went on a mission trip to Central America.

  • The faithful volunteers who teach my grandchildren every week at church.

  • My friend who lost a child just two years ago and now ministers to others who have suffered loss.

  • The 86 year-old grandmother who visits people in the Nursing Home every week.

  • Another group of men and women who took off work to do hurricane relief work in the Florida panhandle.

  • The Board members who have served on the non-profit’s board for years.

Goodness knows there is significant anger and craziness in the world. But if I look closely all around me I see goodness and faithfulness and hope and especially wonder.

The wonder of people. Open you eyes. They are all around us.

Tithing, Taxes, and the Strategy of Bunching

(The following article comes from the Presbyterian Church of America Foundation.)

Bob and Susan Smith are generous Christians. They give $15,000 every year to their local church. When they file their taxes every year, they’ve traditionally experienced specific tax savings by itemizing their deductions, including deductions for their charitable contributions and state and local taxes. Bob and Susan have no mortgage, so they don’t have any interest expense, but their state and local taxes average $8,000 per year.

However, recent changes to the tax laws significantly increased the standard deduction, eliminating the specific tax savings they’ve enjoyed through their generosity and other eligible tax deductions. Though they intend to continue their generosity, the tax code no longer incentivizes them to give in the manner they previously had.

How can Bob and Susan continue to be generous and maximize the tax advantages of their charitable contributions? By “bunching” their charitable giving.

What is bunching?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has introduced many Americans to the concept of bunching. Recent changes to the tax code increased the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. As a result, many couples will likely not have enough itemized deductions in any given year that exceed the standard deduction. However, by combining two years worth of giving into one, and with their itemized state and local tax deduction for that year, couples are able to leverage the power of itemized deductions.

Bunching is a strategy of combining the charitable contributions of two years into one. For example, Bob and Susan would give $30,000 in 2019 but give $0 in 2020. In the giving community, bunching means doubling up on donations in one year and skipping donations all together the next.

The bunching strategy is used every other year. In the bunching year, donors give two years worth of charitable donations, itemize their deductions, and beat the standard deduction. In the years in between bunching, donors skip giving and take the standard deduction.

Why bunch?

Bunching enables generous donors to overcome the standard deduction amount every other year. If you give away $15,000 per year, your itemized deductions may not exceed the standard deduction threshold ($24,000 for married couples filing jointly). However, if you bunch your gifts and give $30,000 away every other year, you can itemize your deductions and exceed the standard deduction threshold.

Using a bunching strategy enables Bob and Susan to support the ministries important to them while leveraging the power of itemized deductions every other year, and also take advantage of the new higher standard deduction.

How can you bunch responsibly?

Bunching does present a practical problem for donors and charitable organizations. If Bob and Susan Smith give $30,000 in 2019 to their local church, their local church may expect this same level of giving on an annual basis and set their budget around it. However, if Bob and Susan donate the $30,000 every other year to their PCA Foundation Advise & Consult Fund® (a donor-advised fund), they can take a deduction for the $30,000 in the year of their donation. They can then pace their giving in increments over a two-year period from their Advise & Consult Fund® to their church as they would have normally. Bunching your charitable giving through a donor-advised fund saves you time and gives you peace of mind knowing your funds are actively and responsibly given.

What do church leaders need to know?

Church leaders need to be aware that some members may be doubling up on their giving this year or in future years. As a result, church leaders need to inform their members of the advantages of bunching while also encouraging them to use a tool like the PCA Foundation’s Advise & Consult Fund to pace their giving to their church. Though churches should never budget presumptuously, the tax code revision introduces an extra measure of cautiousness.


A Sample "End of Year Giving" Letter

Non-profits should be keenly aware of the importance of updating their donors about the changing tax law and how it impacts charitable gifts. Every non-profit or church needs to send a letter like this to their donors or church members every year. This letter was written by my friend Ben Powell at World Christian Broadcasting.

Two Strategies for Year End Giving

Some nonprofit organizations receive 50% or more of their annual income in the last month of the year.  This is primarily because many people only think of donating to a favorite cause before the end of a year for income tax purposes.  To be specific, many people’s level of giving is dependent on their income for the year.  

Regardless of your personal planning circumstances, World Christian Broadcasting is just thankful you choose to include us in your charitable priorities.  We are so grateful you have decided that this ministry is important and one that deserves your support.  Without you and others with similar values, we would not be able to make the good news of Christ available to millions of people.  Thank you for your support!

The new tax law will affect everyone’s tax situation.  You may need to visit with your tax advisor to determine the best strategy for your personal circumstances.  In general, you will probably find it advantageous to find ways to make contributions that could preclude you from receiving additional income.  It is predicted only about 15% will itemize deductions this year - about half as many as before.  This is because they will find it better to take the standard deduction.

For example, giving stock instead of cash could benefit you, especially if you were going to liquidate stock to provide cash for your charitable giving.  This strategy would eliminate potential gain from the sale of securities, and could therefore lower your tax bill for the year.  

 Retirees aged 70½ or older will especially want to consider the advantage of giving directly from their IRA.  Instead of making donations with the proceeds you would receive from your IRA, using the IRA transfer provision will reduce your income for the year. Under this provision, even distributions required with the Required Minimum Distributions can be used for this purpose.  Again, this strategy would reduce the retiree’s income for the year and thus their taxes.  

 Thank you, again, for your support of World Christian Broadcasting.  2018 has been a good year for this ministry.  We anticipate continued growth in language services in the years to come. We are so glad you have partnered with us in this exciting mission.  If you would like clarification about the strategies discussed, please contact us today.

Ten Reasons to Pursue Estate Gifts

1.   Over the next several years it is estimated $12 trillion will pass from the greatest generation to the boomer generation. Each year 20,000 estates worth over $20 million are transferred. 

2.   Organizations that receive a significant number of estate gifts are those who ask for estate gifts. Large organizations like universities have entire departments devoted to these efforts.

3. If you are not asking your donors for planned gifts, rest assured, someone is.

4.   Organizations can perform a valuable function for donors. Many people can benefit from the assistance and education the non-profit can offer. A simple example is reminding donors that one of the most effective ways to give from an estate is to donate IRA’s. Unlike other assets in an estate, proceeds from IRA’s are taxable to the beneficiary. A non-profit, however, does not pay tax on the gift.

5.   People like to give to institutions that are making a difference in their communities.

6.   People want to make a difference with their giving. While they have concerns about supporting family members with estate gifts, many realize they can make an outsized impact through bequests to non-profits as well.

7.   A significant number of people are eager to make a planned gift but simply do not know how. Many would give a “child’s portion” to good works if they were asked.

8.   According to many statistics, a typical planned gift is 200 to 300 times the size of a donor’s largest annual gift.

9.   Those who put forth even minimal efforts in planned giving eventually receive 50% to 100% more than those who don’t.

10. Anyone can make a planned gift. This is not someone only wealthy people do.

Effective Listening

Jerold Panas, the dean of fundraising in the United States, recently passed away. Below is a helpful reminder from him about the power of listening.

  1. Is the ultimate mark of respect you can pay a person.
  2. Puts the other person in the spotlight.
  3. Is the heart and soul of engaging a person.
  4. Makes you an outstanding conversationalist.
  5. Allows the other person to gain ownership.
  6. Demonstrates your thoughtfulness.
  7. Is the basis for a true partnership.
  8. Is a skill that can be learned.
  9. Turns an objection into advocacy.
  10. Provides giving clues.
  11. Is the springboard to securing the gift.
  12. Is the key to renewing the gift.
  13. Helps you learn something new.
  14. Can turn a negative into a positive reaction.
  15. Enables you to develop a strategy.
  16. Is the most important element in being empathetic.
  17. Ensures your success.


A Spirituality of Fundraising

John Mogabgab of Upper Room Books has edited a series of books from the writings of Henri Nouwen. A 2011 book in this series is entitled A Spirituality of Fundraising. 

My friend Amy Alexander, Executive Director of The Refuge Center for Counseling, has summarized her key takeaways from the book.

  • Generosity begets generosity, especially when it is rooted in the rich soil of relatedness.
  • The desire for authentic relationships is stirred in others.
  • Fundraising is first and foremost a ministry. 
  • We trust that our donors will become richer in giving. "You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity." 2 Corinthians 9:11
  • Fundraising is just a spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.
  • Whether we are asking for money or giving money, we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration.
  • Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate in our vision and mission.
  • Donors get to participate in a new communion with others while becoming part of a much larger spiritual vision and fruitfulness. 
  • We are declaring: "We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you."
  • Asking people for money is giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the Kingdom. To raise funds is to offer people the chance to invest in the work of God.
  • Once we believe that we have something of great value to give, then we will have no trouble at all in asking. 
  • When Jesus fed the 5000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish, he was showing us how God's love can multiple the effects of our generosity. Matthew 14:13-21

Mission and Fundraising

A non-profit client recently received a $1.0 million gift from a foundation. The gift came after almost two years of consistent nurturing of the relationship and persistent solicitation. Forms were filled out, data supplied, meetings conducted, emails sent. At times my clients despaired of ever receiving a gift. They thought the Foundation liked them, but the more time passed, the more they wondered. Was all their effort going to be for naught?

The day the gift was announced, the CEO hurried to the Foundation office with a thank you gift. (My mother would call this a "little happy.") The director of the Foundation and the one probably most responsible for the donation, said, "Your organization labors in the trenches and sometimes you might wonder if anyone notices. We did."

When it comes to fundraising, this non-profit does multiple things right. They thank their donors well, they have talented and stable leadership, they work the fundraising process the way it is supposed to be worked, and they communicate effectively with their donors.

But this large gift ultimately came because this organization is doing life changing, important work in the community.

Yes, they are good at asking for money. But more importantly, they do good.

When it comes to fundraising, nothing trumps mission. Nothing.



A Candid Conversation About Money With Church Leaders

I did not select the title for an upcoming presentation to church leaders. The director of the event did that, but I must say I like it. Candid. What a great word. But conversation? I suspect I will dominate the conversation to the point that it sounds suspiciously like a lecture.

So here is what I plan on saying.

  • You must talk about giving with your people. Do not shy away from preaching and teaching about this important issue. The topic dominates scripture. Publicly stress the importance of giving in every way possible. Sure it can make people uncomfortable. So what? I am not saying pull out your shaming sermons and beat your people down. But you must teach the biblical view of stewardship.
  • Advertise. Remind the congregation of all the good things you do as a church. Members do not pay attention at budget presentation time. How many of your mission works can your average member list? You must frequently remind them about the soup kitchen downtown, the school in South America, and the children's home in a neighboring state. Find a creative volunteer, give them a list of things you need to remind people of, and cut them loose. One note. If you do video, do it well.
  • Get up to speed on online giving. The fees will take your bookkeeper's breath away, but online giving is here to stay. All the consultants claim the extra money you receive due to the ease of giving will more than make up for the exorbitant fees. I think they are right. Our online giving is up 50% over the past two years. We remind people of it about every six months.
  • Have special contributions. For years many churches have funded a portion of their budget--missions for example--by having a one-time yearly contribution. Budgets don't excite people. Specific needs encourage people to give. These special contributions also give you an opportunity to emphasize and advertise. 
  • Say thank you. One of the best things our elders have done over the past three years is call up several loyal church members and thank them for their generosity. We have sent contribution statements with a thank you scribbled on them for years, but those personal phone calls. They were the bomb. On another occasion a minister thanked a member for his generosity one Sunday. The next week the member gave a five figure, completely unsolicited contribution. If a church leader heeded only one piece of advice, it should be this. Say thank you.

Trends In Congregational Giving

Trends in congregational giving are constantly changing. What works in one decade may not be effective in the next. 

In our work with churches, one evolving trend we see at the Carpenter’s Plan is more churches relying on special contributions. Instead of just giving to the “church budget” for 52 weeks, leaders are encouraging specific times of giving for important works.

At my congregation, we have moved to a 50-week budget and allocate two Sundays a year for special contributions—one in the Spring and the second in the Fall. In 2017 these special contributions went to specific ministries supported in our budget for years. On these Sundays, all contributions went to that ministry. The ministry was motivated to “beat the bushes” for extra donations, and we hoped they would receive more funding than they would have from just being included in our budget.   

The results are in. Each ministry has received at least 25% more because of these special contributions. People like to give to specific things. 

This past week we had a special contribution for Global Missions. Our messaging was a bit awkward. We cut the budget to Global Missions by $100,000 and then told the church we needed $100,000 to complete our 2018 commitments. The teaser was everything given over $100,000 would go to five special projects, from a clinic in Honduras to a Bible College in the South Pacific. 

We produced video, sent out special emails and letters, and had Global Missions committee members email their friends at church with a specific request. In other words, we just didn’t make an announcement and hope. We worked it. 

$250,000 was given. To say we are pretty happy is an understatement.

This year at my church an extra $150,000 will go to Global Missions because we emphasized it. We made people aware of the need, clearly communicated how they could help, and we asked for a sacrificial gift.

Do you want to increase giving at your church? Pick a project, set aside a specific giving time, work hard at communicating the need, and ask.




Alleviate Your Board's Fear of Fundraising


Amy Eisenstein writes frequently on all matters connected to fundraising for non-profits. Her blog below is the first of three recent posts on fundraising and Boards. You can access all three blogs at the following link.

Fundraising can seem scary. It’s not something most board members have experience with.

Not only that, we live in a culture (in the US, anyway) where it’s impolite to talk about money. We don’t talk about out finances, how much we earn, or what we spend on vacations. So, the idea of asking people to give their money can be frightening.

The most important step in alleviating fear is providing education.

Your board’s mantra? Mission over money.

It’s important to remind board members that fundraising isn’t about money. Yes, you read that correctly. At its core, fundraising isn’t about money — it’s about changing the world.

So instead of talking about money, encourage your board members to talk about your mission. They should be talking about finding a cure, providing education, creating art, cleaning the environment, and educating children. Then, they can talk about how much those things cost.

Fundraising is so Much More Than the Ask

Fundraising is so much more than asking people for money. In fact, when I facilitate board retreats, I explain that asking is only about 5% of the fundraising process.

For example, let’s say you want to raise major gifts. What follows is a 4-step breakdown of the process and how your board can get involved in key steps.

Step 1: Identification

An important first step is identifying people who might make those gifts. This could take place over a series of meetings, including time for research and networking, over a few of months.

Board members can help here by introducing their friends, family members, colleagues, and networks to the organization. 

Step 2: Cultivation

The next step in the fundraising process is cultivation, in other words, building relationships. This involves educating your prospective donors about your organization, and getting to know them as donors and philanthropists.

This is a great place for your board members to help with fundraising, by leading tours, arranging meetings, and providing information. Cultivation also takes place over several months. 

Step 3: Solicitation

The primary reason people give to charity is because they are asked, so you can’t skip this critical step. However, it’s only one moment in time (usually a short, 30 minute meeting) in comparison to the longer effort put in for the other three steps. Asking is only 5% of 95% (in terms of time spent) of the fundraising process, but it’s what board members fear most.

Although we would love our board members to help with asking, it’s more important that they help where they are most comfortable and therefore likely to be most effective.

Step 4: Stewardship

This is the important follow-up that needs to be done after a gift is made. Stewardship is about saying “thank you” in ways so that the donors really feels thanked. It’s not enough to simply say “thank you” or send a note. It’s important to make an effort so that the donor understands how important their gift was, and knows that they made a difference.

This is a great place to get board members started with fundraising. They can make thank you calls, write thank you notes, and thank people in person.

Beyond Asking for Money

Once you break fundraising down into these four distinct steps, it becomes a lot less scary.

Ask board members to help where they feel most comfortable, and it will become easier and more enjoyable for them to get involved. As you can see, there is much more your board can do to help beyond simply asking for money.

What have you done to help reduce your board members’ fear of fundraising? Have you tried something different? Please share your experiences in the comments.


Thank You For Taking The Time

A client told me this story just today.

The head of a family foundation stopped by my client's non-profit to check things out. The foundation director was new, and she just wanted to see things for herself. The CEO showed her around, answered all her questions, and frankly enjoyed the visit. My CEO friend described the new foundation director as "delightful" and "so encouraging."

As she left, the director of the foundation said, "Thank you for taking the time to show me around and answer my questions. Not everyone does this."

Not everyone does this? Seriously? A non-profit accepts money from a foundation yet cannot take the time to offer a tour or answer questions? This is simply unfathomable. 

What about your interactions with donors?

  • Do you thank donors personally and promtly?
  • Do you keep key donors informed?
  • Do you even know your key supporters?
  • Do you listen to your donors?
  • Do you keep accurate records about interactions with your donors?
  • Do you like your donor partners?

Are you taking time for your supporters?




Retaining Donors

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.

                                                                                               Alexander Pope

That class in 18th Century British literature comes in handy every now and then. Alexander Pope—my man!

This famous quote from Pope comes to mind as I repeat a statistic I heard in a client meeting recently. This is where the little knowledge comes into play, because I did not check this out like I should have. But anyway, this is what I heard.

A recently retired CEO of a successful non-profit said that large corporations shoot for 90% retention of customers while non-profits only average keeping donors at a 45% clip.

At first glance, this just does not seem right. The non-profits I have worked with certainly have done better than this. Only 45%? Really?

But even if the number is dragged down by stats from mismanaged non-profits and mom and pop groups that crop up one year and disappear the next, that number is still alarming.

And now that I think about it, I did hear a telling statement last week in a Feasibility Study. The interviewee said, “Our organization does not do enough to thank donors. A single email thank-you is not enough.”

Goodness knows it is hard to find new donors. The competition for charity dollars is tremendous and donor fatigue is real. Most organizations, including the one I just mentioned, need to expand their donor base significantly.

Just remember. It is easier to keep an existing donor than it is to find a new one. Do not take your donors for granted.

What are you doing to keep your donors?


Thoughts on Preaching

I was speaking with a preacher friend recently, and he said something so simple and true, I wrote it down immediately.

“Every Sunday when I preach, I realize that I am being critiqued by 400 people. There are not many jobs like that. I have had to get comfortable with this fact.” My friend went on to say that despite improving in preaching, at least in his opinion, he now receives less compliments than in the past. “They just expect it,” he added.

Those 400 congregants critiquing my friend? They don’t all see it the same. The 20-year-old home from college wonders why the preacher does not have more of an edge, while the newcomer “just loves” the new preacher. The broken-hearted widow thinks the preacher lacks sympathy while another appreciates the no nonsense approach. The deacon wishes he used more humor like his favorite podcast preacher, and a long-time member thinks his preacher has gotten a little stale. And all the while my friend—he is just trying to be faithful to the text in front of him for that day.

This just in.

You can’t please everybody! Even your best homiletical efforts will fall short in some eyes. That home run sermon two months ago, the one you received ten complimentary emails about? More than one person left church that day griping about you raising your voice or only remembered your grammatical error. A host of your hearers could not tell you even one thing you said 24 hours later.

You can never please everyone. Never. So, don’t even try. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, strive to please him, bathe your efforts in prayer, do your best, and trust God.

If it weren’t so serious it would almost be funny. To stand in front of a crowd of people week after week and propose to speak on behalf of the Lord God Almighty. Who does this kind of thing?

So, to all my preacher friends, as you climb into the pulpit next Sunday, repeat these words.

“I cannot please everybody.”

And that is just fine.



Don’t Waste Your Time

“It’s too easy to spend time on needless tasks. . .It’s a secret of Adulthood: The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.”

These words from Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, brought me pause. Haven’t we always been taught, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well? And now, this author dares to declare such heresy?

I think Gretchen is right.

Most of us are busy, some insanely so. There is more to do than can possibly get done in a given day or week. Deadlines loom and meetings invade any unprotected space in our day. Technology makes turning off the work meter close to impossible. How do we manage this onslaught?

I make lists. The thrill of checking items off the list is intoxicating. By the way, we list makers believe others should thank us for making the trains run on time, picking the kids up from school, and promptly getting the minutes out from the last meeting. The slacker non-list makers have no idea the burden we bear for running the world.

What I do not think about enough is what goes on my list. Perhaps my day is overfull because I spend 90 minutes answering emails that could have been dispatched in 30. I straighten up my files in an effort to avoid the more important task of returning phone calls. I labor over the Power Point presentation that should have been delegated to a co-worker.

All of these things could be classified as doing tasks well.  But, the truth is, most of it was work I should not have done in the first place. I stayed busy, but I did not do what was most important.

Come to think of it, there is another old cliché. When a task is deemed insufficiently important enough to deserve hard labor, one declares to offer “a lick and a promise.”  

Some tasks, are only worth doing half-way.

Other tasks are not worth doing at all.