Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Creating and sustaining a fund development culture in your organization

How do you promote and sustain a fundraising culture inside your organization, while coping with external pressures, program needs, budget limitations and an overworked staff? Are you a development professional or an Executive Director who has to manage and allocate resources to different areas of your nonprofit? If you so, and you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join me Tuesday, March 25th from 3 - 5 p.m. at the San Francisco Foundation Center for an important FAB workshop titled, "Creating and Sustaining a Fund Development Culture in Your Organization."

DER's Fundraisers Anxiety Busters (FAB) workshops are quarterly, peer support workshops for intermediate and seasoned fundraisers, and nonprofit staff and volunteers with development responsibilities (3 or more years experience requested), to share fundraising strategies and tactics, meet challenges and solve problems. This month's guest experts will be Lucy Barnett, the Director of Development for Sutter VNA Hospice in Santa Rosa, and Regina Neu, a Fundraising Counsel and University Professor, who has spent over 25 years working in the nonprofit sector.

I’ll be co-facilitating this event with fellow DER board member Michael Magnaye, Development Director at the SW Community Health Center, who will be taking over future FAB facilitation duties in 2008.

Seating is limited, so for more information or to register, please visit the DER website today.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

30 tips for effective nonprofit board leadership

When you are fundraiser like me, you routinely are asked to join nonprofit boards. In the last 4 weeks alone, I've been asked to join the leadership of 4 different organizations! I couldn't tell you how many times I've been asked the same question in the last 12 months, as I've lost track.

While some people have the capacity to serve on multiple boards, I simply don't. Particularly because I'm the new board president of the Development Executives Roundtable, a trade association for nearly 200 Bay Area fundraisers, representing organizations with combined budgets of approximately $1 billion. DER is an all-volunteer group, so we're a "working" board in the fullest sense of the term.

I recently posted a question on LinkedIn asking for advice as a first-term board president. Given how essential this role is to successful fundraising, I thought I'd share with you just some of the invaluable tips I received:

  • Avoid micromanagement, while making sure you understand the big picture.
  • Be passionate about your organization, making sure everyone you meet hears about your nonprofit frequently.
  • Communicate clearly and frequently to the membership and the outside world.
  • Develop a plan. If you don’t already perform strategic planning, start now. Establish a list of realistic and attainable goals, and make them happen.
  • Develop individual board member agreements that specify what each member will contribute and what they can expect in terms of support and opportunities.
  • Ensure all board members play a role in agency fundraising.
  • Find 15 minutes on the agenda of each board meeting to either reflect upon a big picture trend or to learn about an issue that affects the work of the nonprofit.
  • Find opportunities to expand the participation of regular members in big and small ways so they have a stake in the organization success.
  • Have a strong treasurer who keeps true financial oversight.
  • Hold monthly check-in calls with agency leadership to act as sounding board and provide coaching. Call all board members once per quarter and thank them for specific things they have done, checking in on their sense of engagement.
  • If you ever decide to hire paid staff, make sure to establish a true partnership with the executive director, rather than a vertical relationship, and keep expectations realistic.
  • In advance of board meetings, call key board members to check the pulse. Often important or sensitive matters will emerge in private that may not be suitable to be addressed in a larger context.
  • Insure that all members of your board share a common vision for the organization.
  • Keep organized records so when your term is done you can hand off information to your successor. Make sure that officers and committee chairs are doing the same.
  • Develop patience. Learn how to smile when you really want to cry.
  • Less is more. Doing the right 1-2 member-driven items is far more valuable than a laundry list of initiatives.
  • Make sure there is a shared understanding of the importance of board development, and what support directors need to be successful.
  • Make sure there is an engaging and challenging conversation on the agenda for every board meeting and that it is well framed.
  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you were elected to do and what you are bringing to the table.
  • Review the year and look at what worked and what could use improvement
  • Run effective meetings. Have an agenda, with times, and follow it.
  • Strengthen collaborations with other organizations in your sector.
  • Succession planning is critical. Have board officers and committee chairs take the lead in scouting for successors.
  • Use the board executive committee to preview of the full board meeting agenda and really road test it to work out kinks.
  • Weed out the people who have nothing better to do than to contribute through negativity or simply want something to put on their resume.
  • When chairing a meeting, find ways to draw in people who don’t always get a chance to speak or who are newer to the board.
  • When people’s terms on the board expire, find ways to hold on to them in some capacity if they contributed a lot: perhaps by forming an advisory group?
  • You need a process person and a cheerleader on the board. Decide which you are and then find a partner to play the other role for the organization.
  • Your primary market is your membership. Just as in any other business, you must assess the needs of your market.
  • Recommended books: The Best of Board Cafe, Great Boards for Small Groups, Heroic Leadership, Nonprofit Board Answer Book, Basic Principles of Policy Governance, Boards that Make a Difference, Good to Great and The Social Sector, The Source, and Leaders Who Make a Difference.
Big love to all those who contributed their words of wisdom, including: Aaron Hurst, Beth Yoke, Birgit Van Hout, Brian Weiner, Chris Sinton, Doug Barg, Gayle Uchida, Glen Peterson, Greg Lassonde, John Darrouzet, John Kenyon, Jovida Ross, Juanita Carroll Young, Kliff Kueh, Kliff Kuehl, Lela Davia, Marion Conway, Mike McClure, Morrie Warshawski, Neal Gorenflo, Peggy Hoffman, Sara Farina, Stephen Peelor, Steve Novak, Pam Cook and Sushma Raman.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

All fundraising rises and falls on leadership

In preparation for my new role as Board President of the Development Executives Roundtable I’ve been reading a lot of leadership books, by authors ranging from Deepak Chopra to Peter F. Drucker to Marcus Aurelius.

One of my favorites is John C. Maxwell’s classic Developing the Leader Within You. It is a must read for anyone leading a nonprofit development team. I agree with Maxwell, who says the world needs leaders:

  • Who use their influence at the right times for the right reasons;
  • Who take a little greater share of the blame and a little smaller share of the credit;
  • Who lead themselves successfully before attempting to lead others;
  • Who continue to search for the best answers, not the familiar one;
  • Who add value to the people and organizations they lead;
  • Who work for the benefit of others and not for personal gain;
  • Who handle themselves with their heads and handle others with their hearts;
  • Who know the way, go the way, and show the way;
  • Who inspire and motivate rather than intimidate and manipulate;
  • Who live with people to know their problems and live with God in order to solve them;
  • Who realize that their dispositions are more important than their positions;
  • Who mold opinions instead of following opinion polls;
  • Who understand that an institution is the reflection of their character;
  • Who never place themselves above others except in carrying responsibilities;
  • Who will be as honest in small things as in great things
  • Who discipline themselves so they will not be disciplined by others;
  • Who encounter setbacks and turn them into comebacks;
  • Who follow a moral compass that points in the right direction regardless of the trends.
QUESTION: What steps can you take to develop the leader within you in 2008?

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How fundraising has changed my life

Am honored and humbled to announce that I have been elected the president of San Francisco’s Development Executive Roundtable. Hank Ross, the godfather of contemporary fundraising, founded DER many decades ago. He had a dream of a group that provided accessible training and peer support to fundraisers at all stages of their careers. Today DER builds thriving organizations and communities by helping nonprofit professionals teach the joy of giving.

For those of you who knew Hank, or know of his legacy, he talked a lot about the transformative power of fundraising: the ability to change not only the lives of those who receive, but also those who give gifts.

However, we do not often talk about the transformative nature of fundraising on those who ask for gifts on behalf of others. What can happen to you when you dedicate your life to fostering generosity in the world? I’d like to share briefly how fundraising has affected me, and the role DER has played in my life.

Not too many of us grow up as young children wanting to become fundraisers. Like many of you, I made a mid-career change into this line of work. After being let go of my previous job during the dotcom bust I looked around for other work. Given my background in nonprofit marketing, fundraising wasn’t too big of a stretch. Moreover, if I could learn to raise money, I knew I’d always be employable. It was simply a practical decision.

Soon I went to my first DER meeting, and like many others before and after me, I stood up and introduced myself as an unemployed person hoping to break into the field. That first day I met people who would become my friends and mentors, who would help me find jobs, and whom one day I would later hire.

Like many others, at first I found soliciting gifts very difficult. To be an effective fundraiser, I soon learned I had to come to terms with my own relationship to money and privilege. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that one of the greatest obstacles in raising money is not finding people who will give, but helping people become more comfortable with receiving abundance in their lives. Too many of us in this culture don’t think we are worthy of such attention or affection. In order to foster generosity in others, the first person we need to start with is ourselves. One who is mindful of the practice of fundraising, can develop a spirit of self-acceptance and generosity toward themselves, others and the world.

Today fundraising does help pay my bills, but it is much more than that for me. It is a sacred calling. I believe you and I are inheritors of a tradition of giving and receiving that goes back to our earliest cultural memories. It is at the root of all our major spiritual practices and indigenous cultures. We who help transform the world, cannot help be transformed in the process.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I encourage you to join DER with me. Individual memberships are only $50. Not too bad a price to pay to transform your life, don’t you think?

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Donor communications and stewardship strategies workshop

Your year-end fundraising campaigns is working and the checks are beginning to coming in. Now what do you do? How do you find the time to effectively engage your donors to strengthen their relationship with your nonprofit? What communications strategies will increase their interest in your agency? What are effective stewardship activities that encourage gift renewal and increased support?

If you live in the Bay Area you can get answers to these and other questions Wednesday, November 14th from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at the Development Executive Roundtable FAB workshop I'll be facilitating at the San Francisco Foundation Center.

FAB ("Fundraisers Anxiety Busters") is a free, peer support network for intermediate and seasoned fundraisers, and nonprofit staff and volunteers with development responsibilities, to share fundraising strategies and tactics, meet challenges, and solve problems. I'm happy to announce our two November guest experts will be Dean Zaldue-Hilkene, Manager of Annual Giving at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Barbara Hirst, most recently the Associate Director of Development Major Gifts at California State University East Bay.

These events always fill up. So for more information or to register, please visit the DER website today.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area corporate philanthropy trends roundtable

Looking for an opportunity to meet some of San Francisco's leading corporate grantmakers? Then join me for lunch, Friday, November 9th, noon - 2:00 p.m., as DER, The Foundation Center and San Francisco Business Times co-host our annual Meet the Corporate Grantmakers roundtable. Last year's gathering inspired one of my favorite blog posts; I'm sure this one won't disappoint either.

In 2006, the San Francisco Business Times reports that the greater San Francisco Bay Area’s top corporate philanthropists increased their Bay Area giving to about $140 million. The panel plans to address current trends in how Bay Area corporations are selecting the organizations they support, showcase local corporations who were recently recognized at the San Francisco Business Times Corporate Philanthropy Summit in July, and shine the spotlight on a new corporate donor in the region. Panelist include:

  • Randy Chun, Regional Vice President, Wells Fargo
  • Larry Goldzband, Manager, Charitable Contributions, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Rey Ocañas, SVP, Community Relations Executive, Wachovia Bank
  • Sylvia Samano, Vice President, External Affairs-Bay Area, AT&T California
Please visit the DER website for more information and to register online.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Making your case in controversial situations

How should you respond to hostile or "challenging" questions when you’re representing your organization? How can you improve your “quotability” with the press? What’s the best way to take a stand when opinions differ?

For answers and other questions, please join me next Friday, October 12, noon - 1:30 p.m., for the Development Executive Roundtable (DER) monthly luncheon presentation. Our guest presenter, Melinda Henning, will offer two templates for organizing your thoughts as well as her best tips for managing stress in controversial settings. Note, this month we'll be meeting at Oakland's Preservation Park. Please visit the DER website for more information and to register online.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Help wanted: Good pay and benefits

Welcome to the land of fundraising, we need you! Look around. It’s a complex world where people feel isolated, powerless and fearful. From threats of global terrorism to global warming, today’s challenges seem overwhelming. Like you, my heart breaks when I see someone forced to live on the streets or go without health care. There must be a better way, but what is it?

What if we lived in a world were we cared for our neighbors? What if instead of being fearful of differences we embraced them? What if instead of feeling helpless, we lived a life of abundance? That is the gift you give to others when you become a fundraiser. By connecting donors with the gentle joy of giving, you help them discover what it means to be human. In joining with others and giving to those in need, donors recognize they already have everything they need.

You are the Johnny Appleseed of generosity. Years from now you will look back and see all the young children you helped graduate from college, the local park that was once an toxic landfill, and the community center built in the middle of former gang turf and know your life was one well lived.

Here’s my recommended steps for entering the field.
  1. VOLUNTEER: What good cause do you care about? Development offices are always looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out at events. My first fundraising gig was volunteering to write grants for a small arts group. Join a nonprofit board. Even without experience, if you are willing to support fundraising efforts, you’ll be snapped up.

  2. LEARN: Take classes, read books and subscribe to blogs. Research your city to find free or low cost training. The Foundation Center offers free classes in five major U.S. cities. In the San Francisco Bay Area CompassPoint, The CBO Center and USF are great resources. I’m a huge fan of the writing of Kim Klein, Hank Rosso and Kay Sprinkel Grace. Today’s thought leaders are bloggers. If you have time to read only one, make it the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Give and Take, which summarizes all the rest. Start developing your expertise now.

  3. NETWORK: Find the nonprofit trade associations in your town. If you're a regular reader of this blog you know I’m a big fan of Development Executives Roundtable, in fact I'm on the board. Five years ago when I decided to change my career I walked into my first DER meeting, stood up and announced I wanted to become a fundraiser. At that meeting I met people who would become my professional colleagues, career mentors and good friends. Other resource include local branches of the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

  4. START: We all must begin at the beginning. My first paid job was part-time telefunding. A horrible job really, but learning how to ask for money 30 times a day is a good skill to develop if you wish to build a career in fundraising. Now I’m a successful freelance Fundraising Counsel. Last week I turned down an interview to lead up a $45,000,000 capital campaign. I can tell you most certainly that there are always more development jobs available, and the pay scale is higher, than found in other nonprofit departments. If you can learn to raise money, you will never be without work.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Why do we (I) give?

Big thanks to Holden at GiveWell for the personal invitation to join this week’s Giving Carnival, which is focused on the topic of “What charitable cause are you personally most passionate about?” He wrote, “I've seen the interest you've taken in what motivates others (including me) to give; I'd love to see something about what motivates you.” Well, how could I say “no” to that?

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Tracy Gary of Changemakers speak on the topic of creating a personal giving plan. After her presentation I stood in a long line to buy a copy of her book, Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan. She autographed my book writing, “Be focused and audacious. Give strategically.”

With my trusty highlighter in hand, I finished reading my new book in one weekend. Soon I ordered the companion workbook, which with simple forms and easy exercises provides a good roadmap for creating your own personal giving plan.

I’d like to tell you I finished that plan, but my mia culpa is that have not. Here we have another example of the old truism, “those who give advice would be best served by following it themselves.” So don’t listen to me, listen to Tracy. I know I should.

But if I were to become more focused, audacious and strategic about my giving, the first step would be to ask myself how I currently give of my time, talent and treasure. After a bit of reflection, I find it falls into four levels—from outside to inside—they are friends/family, work, self and spirit.

As a professional fundraiser, I really appreciate it when my friends and family get involved in supporting causes that they care about. Honestly, I love it when they ask me for help, and I’m always willing to contribute a few dollars. The cause may or may not motivate me, but by giving I know I’m honoring our relationship. The size of the gift is usually small, but this past year it includes the most generous single financial gift I’ve given. They range from contributing to my friend Anna’s bike trip to donating money to a fellow fundraiser undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Later this month I’m looking forward to attending a fundraiser for the Square Peg Foundation, organized by my talented 15 year-old-cousin Natalia. Though I’m happy to give financially to these groups or offer advice when asked, I find I rarely donate my time to these causes.

Given the huge demand for professional fundraising support and because there are only so many hours in the day, I find I’m in the enviable position of turning away jobs on a regular basis. This allows me the freedom to partner with organizations whose values reflect my own. Look at my project list and you can get a good sense of what I care about. One of the practices I’ve made regular habit since consulting is to financially donate to these nonprofits, usually before I start any work. In this way, I try to model one of our core teachings, “we can’t ask others until we give first of ourselves.”

As someone who identifies as queer, it is probably not surprising to learn that the majority of my personal giving is within the LGBTQ community. In particular, I donate and volunteer with organizations at the vanguard of the struggle for gender equality and personal liberty, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights or the Transgender Law Center. I’m a former Board member and current legacy circle member of New Leaf, San Francisco’s mental health and outpatient center for LGBTQ individuals and families. Last year I helped lead a volunteer effort to remember the 40th Anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot , San Francisco’s version of the Stonewall Riots, but which happened three years earlier. Internationally, I support the Global Fund for Women, which makes grants to women's groups that work to gain freedom from poverty, violence and discrimination. (Whom I should mention, has most savvy direct mail materials I've ever seen. I'd donated just to be on their mailing list.)

Like many people, I moved to San Francisco over a decade ago looking for a dream, a dream that has unfortunately died in the hearts of many people. One place that I found that it still lives is Glide Memorial Church, a non-denominational, multi-cultural, social justice community rooted in the values of the civil rights movement. For many years they received my largest donation, and over the years I’m sure I’ve given them more money than I have any other group.

But I left Glide a few years ago, looking for a more personal spiritual practice not rooted in Christianity. I’m drawn to the ethics of Buddhism, but as I like to joke with my mentor, my meditation practice is not to meditate. So though I occasionally sit with half-a-dozen various groups in town, I have yet to commit to a particular sangha—a group of people with whom to cultivate wisdom, mindfulness and compassion—that I would call home.

What I am slowly coming to believe is I don’t need to go to a church, temple or any building to practice the precepts in my life. Rather my life, and particularly my work as a fundraiser, is becoming my spiritual practice. For are not those of us working in development called to help people remember the joy of giving, build connections with their neighbors, act on their values and help those in need? From this vantage point, fundraising becomes a sacred activity, one I am grateful to practice in my daily life.

So in fact I do have a sangha, the Development Executives Roundtable (DER). If how we spend our time and money is any indication of what our values are in the world, than DER is at the center of my life right now. Formed over 30 years ago by Hank Rosso, the godfather of professional fundraising, DER is dedicated to growing and enhancing the community of development professionals by providing low cost, accessible learning and networking opportunities directed towards fundraisers at every stage of their careers. The impact of our work, though hard to measure, is quite large. We are a small group of volunteers serving hundreds of nonprofits reaching tens of thousands of clients. So it is not too surprising to discover that last year they received my largest combined donation of time, talent and treasure.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

How to ask for a gift: Successful face-to-face solicitation workshop

Let's face it, many fundraisers, board members and volunteers love to do everything in fundraising except ask for money. Usually it is because they have simply never learned how to actually make an ask. The fear of asking for a gift from a complete stranger--or worse from a close friend--is legitimate. After all, if not handled properly it can put those involved in an uncomfortable position.

If you've ever had fears asking for money--and I know I have--please join me next Friday for what maybe the most important training you'll attend all year. How to Ask for a Gift: Successful Face-to-Face Solicitation is co-sponsored by the Development Executive Roundtable (DER) and will feature national Fundraising Consultant Philip Byrdsong. This luncheon event will be held August 10, noon - 1:30 pm at the San Francisco Foundation Center.

Learn how to prepare for the donor visit, anticipate and meet donor objections. Overcome your own fears, and learn how to ask a potential donor for money. Build your confidence by learning techniques that work. This is one session you'll want to invite your board chair, campaign chair and volunteers to attend with you.

Philip is probably the most value-based Fund Development Consultant I know. With over a decade of experience in the field, he is an active member of the Association for Fundraising Professionals, Northern California Planned Giving Council, National Center for Black Philanthropy and DER, as well as Disabled American Veterans. He has raised funds for United Way, California Peace Action, Central American Resource Center, A Better Chance, NAACP, East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Committee, International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, and others.

If you've been a good boy or girl this year, don't wait for X-mas to be rewarded. Learn how to ask for gifts all year around. For more information and to register, simply visit the DER website.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Partnering with board members in the end of year push

Successful fundraising requires engaged leadership at both the staff and board level. Are you looking for strategies to create a more effective partnership between these two groups at your nonprofit? If so, join me for a free Development Executives Roundtable Fundraisers Anxiety Buster (FAB!) workshop entitled Partering with Board Members in the End of the Year Push, which I'll be facilitating at the San Francisco Foundation Center on Aug 8, 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Together we’ll clarify expectations, address obstacles, identify resources and discuss effective strategies that you can use in creating successful partnerships between staff and boards. Learn what you need to have in place to inspire your these two critical groups, and insure a successful end of the year fundraising campaign. Strengthen your own network with others doing similar work.

FAB is a free, peer support network for intermediate and seasoned fundraisers, and nonprofit staff and volunteers with development responsibilities (3 or more years experience requested), to share fundraising strategies and tactics, meet challenges, and solve problems. Peer leaders with expertise in each session's topic will help address issues identified by the group. Light refreshments will be served.

Peer Leaders
Julie M. Ver Steeg, CFRE is Associate Managing Director of Brakeley Briscoe, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading specialists in fundraising consulting and nonprofit management. She has over 25 years experience in nonprofit fundraising and management, including significant experience in capital campaigns, development assessment studies, major gift strategies, annual fund development, membership programs and volunteer and staff training.

George Clark is the Chief Development Officer of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which promotes the independence, equality and self-reliance of people who are blind or visually impaired. George is also the current President of the Development Executives Roundtable. Like Julie, he has several decades of experience in the field.

To Register
Please email fab[at]dersf[dot]org. Attendance is limited to 25 participants, so please register soon!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Getting the greatest possible impact from your annual report

An important fundraising tool is the annual report. Does your organization produce one? If so, has it been effective effective in leveraging larger gifts? If you'd like to work with your organization to produce its first annual report, or improve on last year's efforts, please join me this Friday, July 13, noon -1:30 pm, for DER's monthly San Francisco luncheon.

Mission Minded founding partners Jennie Winton and Zach Hochstadt will lead a discussion about creating annual reports that get results. Learn more about how to select and work with consultants, important design basics and critical questions to ask before you begin. Whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring professional designers and writers, Jennie and Zach will help you determine what’s important in creating an annual report that builds your reputation, drives donations and reports on what’s most important inside your organization.

For more information and to register, simply visit the DER website.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Avoiding the flaws that doom your grant proposals to the reject pile

Bay Area readers who missed Susan Fox and Cheryl Clark's excellent presentation this past April on the top 10 flaws that doom your grant request to the reject pile now have another chance hear them live. Please join them Friday June 8, noon - 1:30 p.m., at Oakland's Preservation Park for the Development Executives Roundtable monthly luncheon. Learn proven techniques for transforming ugly duckling proposals into beautiful swans.

This event is co-sponsored with the CBO Center. For more information and to register, simply visit the DER website.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Creating dialogue fearlessly: Media relations overview

Tickets are still available for next Friday's DER luncheon, featuring nonprofit public relations expert David Perry. I'll be at the front door assisting with registration. Would be great to see you there.

David is one of the first people whom I met when I moved to San Francisco nearly 10 years ago, and I'm grateful to call him a friend. He's is a firm believer in the philosophy that there are only two forces in the world -- fear and open communication. He mirrors this concept by fostering dialogue between his clients, the media and the community at large. For his efforts, his firm was named the Exceptional For-Profit Arts Related Business by the Business Arts Council in 2006 for its stellar work with nonprofit arts clients including the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, Asian American Theater Company and others.

David's presentation will provide you a guide to basic public relations, including examples and instruction in the use of standard tools (news release and pitch writing, database management, media relationship building) and how to set up a basic campaign for your organization that will get the attention you need.

Friday, May 11, 2007
12:00-1:30 p.m.
Location: Lighthouse for the Blind
214 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
Cost/Registration: DER members = $12, non-members = $20
Reserving your space by Wednesday at the DER website.
Lunch is included in your fee.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mastering Major Gifts: Putting Donors First

As a successful nonprofit fundraiser, you know that major gifts are the result of successful partnerships within your organization and within the community. Nonprofits with successful major donor efforts have developed a truly donor-centric culture. Organizational leadership plays a key role in establishing and maintaining these partnerships and culture.

But getting to this point is easier said than done. So if you are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'd like to invite you to join me for a free Development Executives Roundtable Fundraisers Anxiety Buster (FAB!) workshop entitled Mastering Major Gifts: Putting Donors First, which I'll be facilitating at the San Francisco Foundation Center on May 16, 3:00 p.m. - 5: 00 p.m.

As a group, we'll discuss issues such as how to build a unified major donor campaign team, craft appropriate policies and develop a donor portfolio. Together we'll review successful strategies for leveraging existing major donors and additional natural partners. Get the help you need in identifying the critical elements to develop, sustain and grow your base of contributed support. Strengthen your own network with others doing similar work.

FAB! is a peer support forum for intermediate and seasoned fundraisers, and nonprofit staff and volunteers with development responsibilities (3 or more years experience requested), to share fundraising strategies and tactics, meet challenges, and solve problems. Light refreshments will be served. Guests with expertise in each session's topic will help address issues identified by the group. Our guest experts will be:

Mark Lachman, Senior Major Gifts Officer, California Pacific Medical Center Foundation
Mark is Senior Major Gifts Officer at California Pacific Medical Center Foundation and has over 15 years Development experience in both small organizations with few systems to support fundraising as well as in larger institutions. Mark is responsible for three different funding priorities at CPMC with a total philanthropic need of $6 million. He carries a personal portfolio of 150 donors and coordinates the Board of Trustee’s year-long solicitation process. In 2005 Mark implemented a portfolio system for the CPMC Foundation Trustees after piloting this process in a subcommittee. Last year the 44 Trustees approached 675 prospects and raised over $4 million.

Melanie Hamburger, Associate Director of Philanthropy, The Nature Conservancy
Melanie brings over 15 years experience in major gifts, special events and volunteer management for nonprofits, and a prior career in corporate finance and marketing. Her major gift experience covers a broad range: at The Nature Conservancy, she cultivates and solicits 50 donors for gifts of $100,000 over 3-years and is personally responsible for raising nearly $2M this year; as development director of the California Historical Society, she started a new program for $1,000+ major donors, increasing the number of donors at that level by 77% and resulting revenue by over 400% in six months. Using the Moves Management approach to major gifts, Melanie works with senior managers and business leaders to tap "natural partners" in major donor access and cultivation. Currently, Melanie sits on the Board of the Development Executive Roundtable.

To Register
Please email fab[at]dersf[dot]org. Attendance is limited to 25 participants, so please register soon!

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The changing face of philanthropy: Engaging communities of color in asking and giving

I hope you can join me for the Development Executive Roundtable's April 13 luncheon, from noon - 1:30 pm, at San Francisco's Foundation Center. Though I admit, perhaps we could have come up with a better title than the above header, which in my mind implies communities of color aren't currently engaged in philanthropy -- a myth I've already dispelled -- but apparently this is going to be just one of the important topics addressed.

For according to the publicity blurb, there will be a "lively discussion with grantmakers and development professionals about changing the preconceived notions about who is engaged in the work of philanthropy, strategies for recruiting and retaining staff that are representatives of diverse constituencies, traditions of giving in ethnic communities, and strategies grantmakers are using to diversify the nonprofit and foundation fields."

Panelists announced so far include Evette Brandon, Youth UpRising’s Development Director, who has worked with a number of community-based organizations with an explicit commitment to eliminating the negative effects of economic injustice, health disparities, sexism and racism on communities of color. She has worked with the Community Health Academy, The Center for Third World Organizing, The Applied Research Center, Girls After School Academy, and the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT). She has also served as a Board member with GIFT, The Todos Institute, Conciliation Forms of Oakland, and the Alumnae Association of Mills College. Ms. Brandon received her Master in Public Health from San Jose State University.

Also presenting will be Priscilla Hung, Co-Director of Grassroots Fundraising, whose programs include GIFT- Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, publishing the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, and hosting Raising Change, A Social Justice Fundraising Conference. Priscilla learned how to fundraise by completing a GIFT internship. She is Co-Editor of Reversing the Flow: A Practical Guide to Greater San Francisco Bay Area Corporate Giving Programs, 2001-02 Edition.

Additional speakers to be announced include guests from The California Endowment and The San Francisco Foundation.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What do Development Directors Want?

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals 1 in 2 of you won't last in your current job for even 24 months. If you weren't already concerned about the future of the fundraising profession, perhaps you are now?

So what's an Executive Director to do? Are you having difficulty searching for a new Development Director? Not finding the candidates you hoped for? Are you fortunate enough to have hired a great candidate and want to make sure he or she stays? Concerned that you might have a Development Director who is thinking of leaving?

If so, you’re not alone. Fundraising stars Ruth Herring and Barbara Pierce recently hosted a workshop at CompassPoint addressing this exact topic.

Here's a sampling of what local Development Directors said they needed to be successful in the job. Sound familiar?
  1. Realistic, achievable goals.
  2. Support for Development Director by Executive Director.
  3. A leadership role in the “big picture” planning for agency as member of management team.
  4. Priorities: Opposite of “everything is equally important” approach.
  5. A strong, working Board and direct access to Board members.
  6. Respect for fundraising and donors.
  7. Opportunities for learning, access to experts.
  8. Good employment benefits (retirement, flexibility, etc.).
  9. Opportunity to see the results of their work.
  10. Inspiration by and trust in the Executive Director.
My question is, what do Executive Directors want? It so easy to point our fingers at the Executive Director or at the Board when things get challenging. Yet weren't we hired to manage exactly these types of difficult situations? Would love to hear your thoughts below.

Alternatively, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join me Wednesday, May 16, 3pm - 5pm at the Foundation Center as I facilitate a free FAB workshop on, "Creating the Dream Team: Best Practices for Executive Director and Development Working Relationships."

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

White supremacy, fundraising and you

I was saying good-bye to one of our guests at last Friday's DER luncheon in Oakland when another man came up to him and gave him his card. "I come to a lot of these gatherings, but you're the first Black man I've ever seen at one of these things, and I just wanted to introduce myself."

And he's so right. Oh, I could name a few other Black men I occasionally see at fundraising trainings throughout the Bay Area, put on by DER and other organizations, but the point is the fundraising profession --both here and across the country -- is overwhelmingly dominated by White-identified European-Americans, like me.

According to my Center of Philanthropy Certification in Fund Raising Management 2004 training materials, in past years "there has been no significant change in the ethic backgrounds of fundraisers, at least among fundraisers who join professional organizations." In 1982 and 1990 CASE surveys, People of Color represented 4.5% and 5.6% of their membership respectively. In a more recent survey [1999?] sent to a random 2,501 members of AHP, CASE and NSFRE/AFP, all but 4.1% of the respondents were White.

Now one could quibble and say there are so few Black men in our field is because it is dominated by women. That's true, to a point, as that same survey of 2,501 documented the number of women in our field has surpassed the number of men. (Though not in the higher-level and higher-paying jobs. Naturally.)

Yet there simply is no denying the fact that whatever the gender, there is a huge gap between the actual number of fundraisers of color versus the communities we represent and serve. According to the 2000 Census 68.7% of the folks living in Oakland are People of Color. The gap between this number, and the actual percentage of fundraisers of color, can only be described as a statistical measurement of racism.

How such a gap cannot leave anyone feeling angry and frustrated is beyond me. If one were to argue there were say, even 2 or 3 times as many fundraisers of color in the Bay Area or nationally than identified in recent surveys, we would still have a long way to go toward creating equality within our profession.

So while I know that talking authentically about race can be challenging for many, I want to point you to a handy resource you might find helpful in engaging your own community. It's Damali Ayo's free guidebook I Can Fix It! Here's the Cliff Notes:
White People
Do you want to change racism in the world? Guess what? You have to start with yourself! Cause you know what? If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem! Here are five easy things you can do starting right now (and continue for the rest of your life)!
  1. Admit it. You have a race.
  2. Listen up. Honoring People of Color and believing their experience is eye-opening.
  3. Educate yourself. Read a book or get on the Internet.
  4. Broaden your experience. But not until you've successfully completed steps 1-3.
  5. Make a plan. Take action. Become visible.
People of Color
Are you sick of racism? Of course you are! But you want to do something to help move things forward without going crazy from frustration. Here are five easy things you can do starting right now (and continue for the rest of your life)!
  1. Get real. It's not that easy being "green."
  2. Speak out. "You didn't really just say that, did you?"
  3. Educate yourself. You don't have to teach White people, but you do have to educate yourself and other People of Color.
  4. Build ties with others. There is power in numbers
  5. Take care of yourself. Racism and combating it take their toll.
Here in the Bay Area, I've found the anti-racist training I've done with Untraining to be very liberating. Other area resources including SOUL, Catalyst Project, Center for Third World Organizing, Data Center, HiFy, CoAction, Project Change, CWC, and Applied Research.

When it comes specifically to fundraising, locally there's CompassPoint's Fundraising Academy for People of Color, as well as AFP-Golden Gate Chapter's Multi-Cultural Alliance, which will soon be rolled out nationally by AFP. But the best organizations I know working today to change the face of philanthropy are GIFT and Grassroots Fundraising, which are in the process of merging. If you are concerned about the future of this field, please give them a look and consider offering them your support.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

More on the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving

In addition to facilitating the Development Executive Roundtable's quarterly FAB workshops, I'm also the Board Secretary, Governance/Recruitment Chair and Event Registration Coordinator for DER. I'll be wearing the later hat this Friday, February 9th, sitting behind the welcome desk for our monthly luncheon presentation. Would love to see you there! This month's topic is "Planned Giving on 5%-25% of Your Time" with guest expert Greg Lassonde, CFRE.

Please note, this month's event is at a new location for us, the East Bay Community Foundation's James Irvine Foundation Conference Center in Oakland, and is co-sponsored by our new partners the Center for the Community Benefit Organizations. Tickets are only $12/members or $20/non-members. Lunch is included in your fee. For more program information, location directions or advance registration, please visit the DER website today.

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When is the right time to move up, move out or move on?

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join me this Wednesday, February 7th, from 3 pm - 5 pm at the San Francisco Foundation Center for Fundraisers Anxiety Busters (FAB), a free forum for intermediate and seasoned fundraisers, nonprofit staff and community volunteers with development responsibilities (3 or more years experience), to share fundraising strategies and tactics, meet challenges and solve problems.

Co-sponsored by the Development Executives Roundtable (DER), this month’s discussion topic is "Career Planning and Professional Development." I'll be facilitating this workshop, and am very excited to share with you that our two guest experts are Pamela A. Cook, ACFRE, Development and Search Consultant and winner of the 2003 Hank Rosso Outstanding Fundraising Executive Award; along with Dee Dee Mendoza, Associate Director of Development at University of California Berkeley College of Engineering and Young Nonprofit Professional Network Advisory Board Co-Chair.

There are only a few seats left available, so to reserve your place today please send an email to fab[at]dersf[dot]org. For more information, visit the DER website.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Please join me for DER's annual holiday party

If you're located in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join me for the Development Executives Roundtable (DER) annual Holiday Party, Tuesday, December 12th, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at the Foundation Center. Advance tickets are only $15 and are available online. Tickets sold out last year, so be sure to reserve your space today.

Founded in the 1960's by Henry "Hank" Rosso, DER is dedicated to growing and enhancing the community of development professionals by providing low cost, accessible learning and networking opportunities directed towards fundraisers at every stage of their careers. I'm very grateful to be DER's current Board Secretary.

We're of course located in Northern California, so there'll be good food and wine in abundance, plus the return of the world-famous "Show Me the Money Players." I'll be performing again with those renowned thespians, the "Development Ducks." Not to be missed.

This event is cosponsored by the Foundation Center in cooperation with the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Golden Gate Chapter. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Multicultural Alliance, an AFP-GGC program that works towards diversity in the fundraising profession.

A big thanks to all our many generous sponsors who make this party possible, including presenting sponsor VanLobenSels/RembeRock Foundation.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Starting a planned giving program: You don't have to be a tax genius

Planned giving is fundraising. This fundamental truth has at times gotten lost when planned giving is seen primarily as an exercise in presenting the irresistible tax and income benefits of gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts to your donors. A tax-centered approach, besides being inapplicable to most of your planned giving prospects, can make successful fundraising professionals feel intimidated and inadequate when asked to start a planned giving program.

That's a shame, because though technical knowledge is important, the skills you already have as a fundraiser rather than technical expertise are key to planned giving success. Please join me October 13 for San Francisco's Development Executive Roundtable (DER) monthly luncheon to put the fundraising back in planned giving, to demystify its technical dimensions, and to help you approach the task with confidence and success.

Friday, October 13, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Lighthouse for the Blind
214 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
Presented by Planned Giving Coach Philip J. Murphy
Cost for Luncheon: DER members= $12, non-members = $20
(A calendar year membership is $40)

To RSVP please email "derrsvp AT" by Wednesday, October 11th. Lunch is included in your fee. Programs often sell-out, so it's "first come, first served!" Your reservation holds your spot. Please be prepared to pay at the door. Checks or cash only. No credit cards.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Measuring success: How to utilize evaluation information for fundraising purposes

Most folks I know don't really enjoy conducting evaluations. It's like reconciling your personal checkbook: good to do, but often ignored on a regular basis until it is too late to make much of a difference.

Program evaluations are of course required by many funders. But truth be told, we should all be conducting regular assessments and reviews of all our programs and activities, whether required by a funder or not. It really is the only way to make sure that our efforts are on track, reaching and surpassing our goals. (You do have written goals, right?)

To learn how to make your evaluations more useful and enjoyable, please join me Friday, September 8th for the San Francisco Bay Area's Development Executive Roundtable (DER) luncheon from 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m., at the Lighthouse for the Blind, 214 Van Ness Avenue.

Our guest speaker is Steven LaFrance, founder of LaFrance Associates, one of the Bay Area's leading evaluation, research and technical assistance consulting firms.

Reserve your seat by emailing derrsvp at by September 6.

Cost for all DER luncheons is DER members $12, and for non-members $20. (Calendar year memberships are only $40.) Lunch is included in your fee. You can pay at the door, checks or cash only please.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

End of year fundraising strategies that work

Guess what? I'm guest host for next month's San Francisco FAB gathering!

FAB -- for those of you not in the know -- stands for "Fundraisers Anxiety Busters." It's a free, quarterly forum for intermediate and seasoned fundraisers, and nonprofit staff and volunteers with development responsibilities, to share fundraising strategies and tactics, meet challenges and solve problems. Guests with expertise in each session's topic help address issues identified by the group. We're sponsored by the Bay Area's Development Executive Roundtable and hosted by local branch of the Foundation Center.

September theme is "End of the Year Fundraising Strategies that Work."

So with the end of the calendar year is right around the corner, and do you know where all your donors are? Do you dread the stress of yet another fall giving season? Is the Board expecting you to pull another rabbit out of the hat? Join us for to share with each other stress-reducing and effective end-of-the-year fundraising strategies that you can implement at your nonprofit before the IRS declares the year over one more time.

Guest experts will include Dr. Anthony T. Adessa ("Tony"). Tony has 30 years nonprofit experience, with a composite background in higher education, health, arts, social services, and youth. Presently the Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving at Alliant International University, he has also been a Development Director, Events Manager, and Department Chair. His areas of expertise include major gifts, grant writing, planned giving, annual fund, events, and endowment planning/design.

Also joining us will be Leslie Ewing, who brings 20 years of successful event planning and execution, grant writing, major donor solicitation/retention, and nonprofit and corporate collaboration experience. Currently, she is the Associate Executive Director of Marketing and Development at the Lyon-Martin Women's Health Services. Her fundraising background includes work with the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, The 1993 March on Washington for LGBT Rights, The AIDS Emergency Fund of San Francisco, The James Hormel Center of the San Francisco Public Library, The Women's Cancer Resource Center and Under One Roof. She is also a founder of the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund.

Event Details:
Wednesday, September 20, 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Foundation Center, 312 Sutter St., 6th floor, San Francisco
To register e-mail your RSVP to
Seating limited to 25, so register soon.
Email is for registration only. For information, please call 415-759-0476.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Telling the world who you are, the importance of marketing and media

Marketing is simply communicating effectively with folks who can help your organization accomplish its goals. Media can be a powerful way to reach these people. How can nonprofits develop their brand? How can they use the media to advance their mission and let the world know who they are? What does an effective communication strategy look like?

Join Zach Hochstadt, founding partner of Mission Minded, and Rosi Reyes, project media trainer and strategist at SPIN Project, as they talk about the connections between marketing, media and fundraising. This workshop is part of the Development Executive's Roundtable (DER) monthly luncheon presentation, held this month on August 11, 12:00 p.m. -1:30 p.m. at San Francisco's Foundation Center, 312 Sutter Street.

Reserve your seat today simply email by August 9th.

Cost for all DER luncheons is DER members $12, and for non-members $20. (Calendar year memberships are only $40.) Lunch is included in your fee. Please pay at the door, checks or cash only.

Note: The Foundation Center is committed to providing development education opportunities free of charge, and DER honors this commitment in our partnership with the Center by offering programs at this site free of charge, if you bring your own lunch. So please indicate if you will bring your lunch when you RSVP for this program.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

5 things to know about direct response fundraising

That's me in the middle at this month's DER luncheon, flanked by Judy Frankel of Project Open Hand and Nicci Noble of the Salvation Army, two amazingly talented development professionals. I came away with too many notes to reprint here, but here are just a few of Judy's top tips.
  1. Not all causes translate equally into direct response appeals, which can be extremely expensive. If your mission can’t easily be translated into a powerful human story or if your target donor is not reachable via lists, you might find other ways to build your annual fund. A well-structured Board networking effort or strategically run house party campaign may have greater payoff with less effort.
  2. The beauty of a postal appeal is that the mail package is a trusted and respectful first contact; it provides enough “real estate” to tell your story in a very personal way; and it continues to be the most cost-effective way to generate new donors, according to nationwide studies.
  3. If you do determine you’re a strong candidate for direct response appeals, plan on making a long-term investment. Understand that you’re not just raising money for annual operations: you are also building a donor database, which should be viewed as a big relationship-building machine, and will eventually be one of your organization’s most valuable assets. This may be a 3-5 year investment before real returns are realized.
  4. In acquisition appeals, getting the list right has the most impact on the mailing’s success or failure, so list testing is a very high priority. A distant second after list is package in its collective components.
  5. Direct response fundraising is an excellent way to move people up the giving pyramid. Contact your donors frequently year-round -- unless they request fewer communications -- to thank them for their support, ask them for money, and keep them familiarized with your work, especially with the people that you serve. This prompts people to increase their giving levels, because you are building relationships for the long-term through respectful and continuous communication. In time you will have a long and detailed giving history, making prospecting for major donors fairly straightforward.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

What's new with direct response fundraising?

Friday, July 14th at noon, I’ll be moderating San Francisco’s monthly Development Executive Roundtable (DER) luncheon presentation. This month we’ll be discussing direct response fundraising with Judy Frankel, Director of Direct Marketing at Project Open Hand, and Nicci Noble, Internet Development Director at the Salvation Army Golden State Division.

Properly executed, direct response fundraising can provide your nonprofit with loyal supporters, rapid growth, cost-efficient means of communicating your organization’s programs, and a consistent source of revenue. Equally important, your program can systematically identify major gift and bequest prospects.

Tickets are $12/members or $20/non-members, and includes lunch. We’ll be meeting at the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 214 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. To RSVP, please send an email to

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