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The Fundraising Talent Podcast Profile

The Fundraising Talent Podcast

English, Finance, 1 seasons, 114 episodes, 3 days 19 hours 27 minutes
asking our profession's most difficult questions
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Do fundraisers understand the nuances of corporate giving?

How many prospective funders agree to meet as a simple courtesy only to pass up the opportunity that has been presented to them? What if a better understanding of how corporations go about their decision-making processes could reduce the fundraiser’s workload and increase the likelihood of winning a corporation’s support? These are the kind of questions that today’s conversation with Lori raises. Lori reminds nonprofit leaders that, while they certainly see their cause as a top priority, unless they have caught the attention of their prospective funders in a meaningful way, they’re simply one of many items on a to-do list that never stops growing.Lori is the author of The Boardroom Playbook: The Not So Ordinary Guide to Corporate Funding for Your Purpose Driven Organization. Lori’s book is an effort to ensure that nonprofit leaders don’t knock on the doors of corporate funders without first making sense of the dynamics that play out among those on other side of the table. Lor
29/05/202343 minutes 54 seconds
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Are nonprofits relying on too much play-it-safe fundraising?

Angie’s journey as a writer has always been about making sense of leadership, taking risks, and helping people realize their potential. Her latest book, Bet On You, is about demystifying what it means to take risks and seeing risk as the path to opportunity rather than getting anxious and worried about what might come of our decisions. Today’s conversation with Angie reminds me of what we just heard from our previous guests: those who dare to make the boldest asks are those who achieve the most extraordinary results.Our conversation has us grappling with the question of whether nonprofits are reliant on too much play-it-safe fundraising. Angie wants us to remember that there comes a time when playing it safe no longer works. How many of our organizations have been checking all the right boxes and playing by the rules only to realize that we’re not achieving our goals and would really enjoy more fun and excitement in our work. Angie suggests that, when we get to this point, we
28/05/202342 minutes 8 seconds
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What sets a good fundraiser apart from a great one?

I confess, I don’t read a lot of books about fundraising; I have always found them to be either too tactical or little more than chatter about manipulative gimmicks aimed at getting us into Mrs Smith’s pocketbook. However, Amy and Josh’s BeneFactors: Why Some Fundraising Professionals Always Succeed is neither of these. Rather, it’s a refreshing and enjoyable read written by two fundraisers who are both committed to their craft and understand the complexity of what it means to raise extraordinary dollars in the twenty-first century. Josh and Amy set out to create a book that not only inspires a new generation of fundraising leaders, but also provides a practical guide for nonprofit executives to raise up new development professionals for the field.In our conversation today, we cover a lot of territory, reflecting on Amy and Josh’s thoughts about how we relate to donors, what sets a good fundraiser apart from a great one, and what role mentors play in our profe
03/05/202352 minutes 43 seconds
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Does your nonprofit need a Fundraising CEO at the helm?

Several years ago I began paying close attention to the places where expectations of the nonprofit leader were evolving from an internally-focused leader whose expertise closely aligned with the organization’s program and services, to an externally-focused leader whose expertise aligned with leading a complex organization reliant on the support of a diverse constituency. I’ve had the greatest opportunities to make the most sense of this while consulting with boards that expected their senior leaders to assume the posture of what I routinely refer to as the Fundraising CEO. Much of my conversation today with Bradley on The Fundraising Talent Podcast is reminiscent of conversations that I’ve had with board members, CEO’s, and their teams about what it means to have a Fundraising CEO at the helm. It’s not a role for everyone, and not every organization is ready for it. Leveraging the strengths of a Fundraising CEO isn’t about fundraising, per se. It has a lot more to do with org
11/04/202338 minutes 55 seconds
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Is the traditional capital campaign overbuilt, highly inefficient, and clunky looking?

A couple of weeks ago my friend Jim Langley managed to stir up a lot of conversation with his suggestion that the traditional approach to a capital campaign was ill-suited to the times. Jim likened the approach to the 1970 Oldsmobile 442, the legacy of which I discovered, after conferring with my dad, can be a rather controversial topic. Some suggest that the 442 is one of the worst cars on the planet; while others insist that it’s always gotten a bad rap and that, by comparison to other muscle cars, it deserves more credit. According to Jim’s argument, the 442 was a beautiful thing in its day; however, he insists that any rational person today would consider it overbuilt, highly inefficient, and clunky looking. My dad concurred that the 442 was high maintenance, but remarked that, despite that, it was certainly a fun ride - perhaps all that would be needed to “seal the deal” with particular major
26/03/202357 minutes 59 seconds
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Is bullying one of the reasons why fundraisers are unhappy?

Like many fundraisers, Kathryn describes her entrance into the profession as a search for meaningful work. For the most part, what she found was that facilitating the exchange of charitable gifts has been a rewarding experience and that it has afforded an opportunity to form valuable relationships with her colleagues. However, she also discovered that, at times, the job was lonely, stressful, and wrought with unreasonable expectations. She has dealt with demanding and creepy donors as well as bosses who lacked training and really didn’t know what they were doing; her last supervisor was a vicious bully. As she has shared these experiences with others, she has discovered that they are far more common than they should be.Kathryn wants to know whether fundraisers are happy in their jobs and, if not, whether bullying is a factor in why they are unhappy. As a professor of practice at the John Martinson Honors College at Purdue University, Kathryn’s research isn’t aimed at just ask
25/03/202345 minutes 46 seconds
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To remain a viable contributor, direct mail fundraising has to evolve quickly.

Andrew has committed himself to getting direct mail right for a long time. For as long as I have known him, I have watched as he processes what’s going on in the world and what’s being said or discovered and then applies it to his craft. Most recently, Andrew has engaged in a stream of honest conversations with the team at Dickerson, Bakker & Associates and he’s my guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast to talk about these conversations. In short, Andrew isn’t giving up on direct mail; he does, however, want us to admit where it notoriously lets us down and to revisit the underlying assumptions that have ensured its privileged role in our fundraising strategies for decades.Today’s conversation isn’t the stereotypical “is direct mail dead or alive?” conversation. What Andrew wants those who are always in direct mail’s corner to admit is that, if we don’t address some of its weaknesses - those we have known were there all along, we’re going to find ourselves in
21/03/202352 minutes 7 seconds
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What would Jane Addams have to say about philanthropy in the twenty-first century?

For some time now, I have been contemplating what early twentieth-century activist and reformer Jane Addams would have to say to those of us who are asking tough questions about philanthropy. In short, I believe she would ask whether our work reflects a commitment to strengthening democracy, creating proximity among the haves and the have nots, and exemplifying what it means to be a citizen rather than a mere consumer. While I believe Addams would sympathize with many of the critiques that are being thrown at philanthropy today; I also believe she would encourage us all to be hyper-diligent in understanding what appropriate expectations we should have of it.For those who are not familiar with Jane Addams and her views on philanthropy, she was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, co-founder of the ACLU, and co-founder of Chicago's Hull House. Addams’ views on philanthropy afford us a contrast to Andrew Carnegie’s “responsibilities of wealth” and the no
11/03/202345 minutes 25 seconds
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Are nonprofit leaders expecting too much of fundraising tech?

I’m headed to Omaha later this week, and one of the first things I’m going to find is a great Reuben sandwich. As the origin story goes, while playing cards with “the committee” at the at the Blackstone Hotel, Reuben Kulakofsky, a local grocer, ordered the now famous corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich. Impressed with this original idea, the hotel owner made the sandwich a permanent fixture on his menu. While Kenley, my guest today on the podcast, evidently isn’t a big a fan, I rarely pass up the chance to have a good Rueben. Kenley is a member of the line-up for our Roadshow stop later this week in Omaha where he will be sharing his thoughts about how nonprofit leaders keep their heads on straight when it comes to the technology. In short, Kenley wants to impress upon us that perhaps our expectations are too high and, as one of my previous guest recently suggested, that we have put far too much faith in the CRM-centric approach to fundraising.Kenley assures us that he
28/02/202339 minutes 31 seconds
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Omaha Roadshow Speaker Spotlight: Brandi Holys

As we have resumed our roadshows, we have found that shining a spotlight on local leaders greatly enhances the learning experiences for our participants. My guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast is Brandi Holys, Vice President of Advancement at Gross Catholic High School, and a member of the line-up for our Roadshow stop in Omaha next week. In partnership with The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, Brandi, Kenley Sturdivant-Wilson, and Kevin Mahler have partnered with Responsive to ensure a high-energy, thought-provoking series of conversations about what it means to build and sustain meaningful relationships with donors in the twenty-first century.Brandi is the Vice President of Advancement at Gross Catholic High School and the host of Philanthropy is NOT a Bake Sale Podcast. Brandi is a big believer in the fact that it’s the transformative power of philanthropy combined with genuine and meaningful relationships that allows our sector to solve complex problems. W
23/02/202335 minutes 28 seconds
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Are all of us being more intentional about the decisions we make?

Lauren wants to remind us that “regrets don’t really solve problems, but taking action will”; and that “it’s never too late to try.” She wants to encourage us to start being more intentional about who and where we want to be in the world and to confidently take the necessary steps towards moving in that direction. Dissatisfied with where they found themselves, Lauren and her family recently made the decision to relocate to Charlotte, NC, a place that aligned with particular interests and hobbies, afforded a more progressive political scene, and was more responsive to the priorities of young Black professionals.Coincidentally, today’s podcast conversation with Lauren is in many ways a continuation of the one we enjoyed with Nancy last week. These two conversations, both centered on intentionality, beg the question of just how many of us are finding ways to be more deliberate about the decisions we make. Perhaps The Great Recession and experiences like the pandemic, the murder
15/02/202340 minutes 56 seconds
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Omaha Roadshow Speaker Spotlight: Nancy Williams

As we have resumed our roadshows, we have found that shining a spotlight on local leaders greatly enhances the learning experiences for our participants. My guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast is Nancy Williams, Founder and CEO of No Empty Pots, and a member of the line-up for our Roadshow stop in Omaha next month. In partnership with The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, Nancy, Brandi Holys, Kenley Sturdivant-Wilson, and Kevin Mahler have partnered with Responsive to ensure a high-energy, thought-provoking series of conversations about what it means to build and sustain meaningful relationships with donors in the twenty-first century.The mission of No More Empty Pots is to connect individuals and groups to improve self-sufficiency, regional food security, and economic resilience in urban and rural communities through advocacy and action. What I most appreciated about today’s conversation was that Nancy was so clearly able to translate the Indigenous circular w
09/02/202344 minutes 30 seconds
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How can collective giving shake up philanthropy?

For those of us who want to overhaul charitable giving and reengineer the status quo, Sara’s TedTalk offers a glimpse of what we need to do. Sara wants us all to make sense of the power of collective giving. Sara is the founding CEO of Philanthropy Together, a growing movement of people-powered philanthropy aimed at resourcing grassroots nonprofits, shifting power dynamics, and promoting widespread philanthropy. In her Ted Talk, Sara describes the four components of a thriving giving circle: belonging, discourse, trust, and to act. Sara wants us to see that collective giving affords us an opportunity to practice democracy in a way that our individual giving habits can’t. The decision-making process allows us to get outside of our own heads and to hear another person’s perspective, perhaps someone with whom we don’t have much in common. As we emerge from the recent pandemic, Sara wants us all to realize that we are hungry to find meaning in groups and understand that there is
31/01/202352 minutes 30 seconds
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Are your fundraising practices stuck in The Consumer Story?

Some of us are having a hard time making sense of why, in the last two decades, nonprofits have lost the support of twenty-million donors; and we don’t understand the appeal of donor advised funds, giving circles, and direct giving as alternatives to the traditional pathways that our charities create. I would insist that these and other trends are the effects of a mischaracterization of the donor and their growing intolerance for a role that they never agreed to play. Where did the idea that our donors should behave like passive, predictable consumers come from?In making sense of how this mischaracterization of the donor evolved, I have found Jon Alexander’s, Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us, especially helpful. Jon’s book gives us a critical lens through which to understand why our organizations have become what Robert Putnam called, “mailing list organizations” and, as one of my guests has described, why our sector has become so CRM-centric. </
25/01/202354 minutes 8 seconds
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How can sector leaders improve the donor experience?

David and Sam are both members of The Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Supporter Experience Committee. This network of fundraisers is dedicated to identifying best practices and providing thought leadership aimed at ensuring quality supporter experiences. In today’s podcast conversation, David and Sam challenge us to ask whether less homogenous and less industrialist fundraising practices might improve the fundraising experience for those on both sides of the exchange. Many of David and Sam’s observations beg the question of why so many charities remain content to squeeze enormous populations of donors into a system that assumes that everyone shares the same motivations for giving.   Throughout our conversation, David and Sam repeatedly brought us back to the opportunity they see for sector leaders willing to make changes that might turn around some of the troubling trends and remedy some of the mistakes we make over and over again. We explored some of the insights t
19/01/202355 minutes 49 seconds
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Are fundraisers becoming more discerning about where they can thrive?

Alex isn’t kidding when he says it seems like The Chronicle of Philanthropy has been retelling the same story about disillusioned fundraisers for a long time. Those of us who have been around for a while are well aware of the fact that, at any given time, at least half of the fundraisers out there are looking for another job and that very few boards and bosses have come to a consensus about how fundraising really works. As of late this familiar story has zeroed in on how poorly prepared some employers are with making hiring decisions and how often they miss opportunities by relying on an arduous interview process.Alex believes hiring managers need a wake up call; and, on the flip side, he insists that candidates need to know how to see the red flags that distinguish between an job where you’re being set up to fail rather than given an opportunity to thrive. For example, Alex wants fundraisers to listen more closely to whe
11/01/202349 minutes 5 seconds
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Are nonprofit leaders designing resilience into their organizations?

Stuart wants us to carefully think about whether we’re designing resilience into our organizations and, if not, ask ourselves if difficult and uncertain times are really to blame for some of our financial misfortunes. I have been an admirer of Stuart’s work for quite some time. His research begs the question of whether our scholars have done more harm than good by borrowing as many theories as they have from the marketplace. Stuart’s “Nonprofit First” thinking insists that we should construct theory from what has emerged within our sector rather than from somewhere else. During today’s conversation, Stuart and I unraveled how nonprofit organizations often come about with the help of government subsidies only to later become increasingly dependent on charitable giving. As the government fades, many nonprofit leaders implicitly assume the donor will step up to the plate and play their role similar to how the government did. What these leaders miss is that these are fundame
26/12/202250 minutes 30 seconds
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What effect will the FTX Bankman-Fried fiasco have on fundraising?

I was grateful to Alex, co-founder of The Giving Block, for ensuring that we add a timely conversation about the FTX-Bankman Fried collapse to The Fundraising Talent Podcast’s library of conversations. Shortly after this story started making headlines, I appreciated seeing that Alex and Pat offered their take on the situation and assured nonprofit leaders that the effect of this fiasco would be minimal for most charities and their crypto-minded donors. This was perhaps welcome news for those who, like myself, are only beginners at making sense of how cryptocurrency fits in our fundraising efforts. What effect all this will have on effective altruism, Bankman-Fried’s ideological framework of choice, is yet to be seen. Alex wants us to remind ourselves that the failure of an individual or an entity is not the failure of entire industry. Alex explained that FTX played a very small role in Crypto Philanthropy and he insisted that this will not slow down the growth of this in
21/12/202233 minutes 39 seconds
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Are fundraisers creating better roles for their donors to play?

As a leader in Seattle’s arts community and a college professor, Jackson is just getting started. Southern Theatre magazine has recently named Jackson among a group of rising leaders who are paving the way for the future of fundraising. What I most appreciated about today’s conversation was that, while Jackson is explicit in his desire to do away with fundraising’s narrow focus on the top three percent, he’s evidently chosen not to be envious and make wealth-bashing part of his repertoire. Jackson isn’t typecasting anyone.In today’s conversation, Jackson challenges fundraisers to check themselves before they set out to raise money. He wants fundraisers to think carefully about their own relationship with money and wealth and to examine how they go about engaging with and soliciting the support of their donors. Jackson wants us to ask ourselves whether we’re creating opportunities for our donors to be better people and whether we’re creating experiences aimed at creating
17/12/202252 minutes 4 seconds
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Why are nonprofits afraid of their own obsolescence?

Today’s podcast conversation offers a tough pill that I suspect some of us aren’t willing to swallow. Jim wants us to wrestle with the question of why today’s nonprofits are afraid of their own obsolescence. Instead of planning to eventually close, Jim wants to know why, for all intents and purposes, our organizations collectively make up what has become a growth industry. Are we willing to admit to ourselves that raising money for problems that never get solved is big business? Jim’s tough pill reminds me of the “Shirky Principle” which says that institutions will preserve a problem to which they are the solution. When we think about our fundraising efforts, have our donors become co-conspirators in ignoring root problems and not telling the truth? Are we placating our donors with easy-to-fund problems with which we believe they will be more comfortable and of which they can easily make sense? Jim wants to us to find the courage to solicit support for real solutions tha
08/12/202245 minutes 9 seconds
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How does unseen diversity impact a fundraiser’s journey?

My conversation today with Jillian was a great reminder to me of what I have always believed to be one of the most meaningful aspects of nonprofit work: the opportunity to create community around common struggles. For most of our lives, Jillian and I have shared a common obstacle that can interrupt our daily lives in life-threatening ways. 99% of the time, our seizure disorders are completely manageable, and we can exist in the world just like other able-bodied citizens. Unfortunately, in a matter of seconds and without warning, our lives and the lives of anyone in our care can be at great risk. Discovering that we shared this common thread in our stories is what initiated today’s podcast conversation.Jillian insists that the best fundraisers are always curious, authentic, and able to bring their whole selves to their work. This is what Jillian demonstrated today; she showed up, shared a part of her story that no one would be able to make sense of without the benefit of
30/11/202253 minutes 57 seconds
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What if the gift economy informed more of our fundraising practices?

My conversation today with Adam was both timely and inspiring. Adam wants us to see how the logic of the gift affords a more holistic, long-term, and collaborative perspective where the focus can be on the quality of relationships rather than making comparisons of one’s contribution to another. Adam explained how he has produced programming at Jewish Studio Project that, rather than using the traditional fee-for-service approach, relies on the gift economy. He explained that everyone contributes what they can and recognizes that they are there to give just as much as they are there to receive.With this logic in mind, Adam shared how it has informed their approach to Giving Tuesday. Rather than just ensuring that as many gifts as possible flow in their direction, they have sought out opportunities to model gratitude and extend generosity to other organizations. For this year’s Giving Tuesday campaign, the Jewish Studio Pr
26/11/202243 minutes 21 seconds
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Should fundraisers let their board members off the hook?

Stephanie Schwartz is the Founder and CEO of Little Bean Group, a fundraising consultancy in Washington, DC. Stephanie loves to work with leaders who want to dream big and who recognize that fundraising is often the path by which their dreams come to fruition. Stephanie affords her clients the benefit of extensive experience in both education and advocacy. In today’s conversation, Stephanie challenges us to change our expectations of board members and not necessarily, as I often say, “letting them off the hook” but thinking strategically about where they can most effectively contribute to the overall fundraising effort.Stephanie and I agreed that today’s nonprofit leaders are wise to distinguish between the ways and means that a fundraiser can shine versus where board members have similar opportunities. Stephanie wants us to grasp that, for the majority of our board members, this means finding ways to be engaged in fundraising that don’t necessitate an ask. It also means
16/11/202236 minutes 45 seconds
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Conversation w/ the editors of Collecting Courage: Part Two

This is the second in a two-part conversation with the editors of Collecting Courage: Joy, Pain, Freedom, Love which has been described as “an honest, raw account” of the experiences of 14 Black charity leaders and fundraisers in North America. In response to the project’s success, the editors are convening readers who want to continue on the journey towards racial reconciliation and collective healing in our sector.Nneka, Nicole, and Camila recently joined me to discuss both their book and The Path to Action Conference later this month. In this segment, Camila helps us understand the myriad of obstacles that she encountered early in her career despite having readied herself as well as she did. Camila explains how what she accomplished was “diminished, disregarded or discarded” by a sector that she genuinely wanted to be believe in and to which she wanted to remain committed.If these conversations stirred you as they have me, I would encourage you to accept t
05/11/202227 minutes 29 seconds
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Conversation w/ the editors of Collecting Courage: Part One

This is the first in a two-part conversation with the editors of Collecting Courage: Joy, Pain, Freedom, Love which has been described as “an honest, raw account” of the experiences of 14 Black charity leaders and fundraisers in North America. In response to the project’s success, the editors are convening readers who want to continue on the journey towards racial reconciliation and collective healing in our sector.Nneka, Nicole, and Camila joined me to discuss both their book and The Path to Action Conference later this month. Nicole begins by helping us see in between the lines of her poetry and then challenges us to see the “jacket” - a metaphor for what our brown and black colleagues are expected to conform to in our sector. I can recall previous guests who have similarly described this jacket that many of us either remain unaware of or simply refuse to see. If this conversation stirs you, I would encourage you to accept the invitation that has been exten
04/11/202231 minutes 10 seconds
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Are nonprofits underestimating the value they afford their corporate sponsors?

Heather wants charities to recognize that they may be vastly underestimating the value they bring to their corporate sponsors and that, in doing so, they may prohibit themselves from building mutually beneficial relationships that can bring far more value than simply financial support. Heather explains that we’re beyond the era of old-school corporate giving where the charity delivers on the good and the corporate sponsor just delivers on a check. Heather is the founder and president of The boutique fundraising consultancy, BridgeRaise, which helps nonprofits take their corporate giving efforts to a new level starting with aligning everyone’s values. Heather wants nonprofit leaders to see that they are bringing more to the table and have the opportunity to welcome their corporate sponsors into an active, co-creative type of relationship. The type of relationship Heather describes allows leaders to do away with the deficit-thinking that always postures the charity with th
30/10/202249 minutes 56 seconds
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Can fundraising learn how to have higher expectations of relationships?

Greg kicked off today’s conversation with the suggestion that there is going to be an increasing divide between those shops whose fundraising efforts can thrive and those whose cannot. Greg believes a lot of this will be evident in the success or lack thereof in organizations’ planned giving efforts. While Greg insists these efforts don’t have to be especially complicated, our organizations will have to match our desire for these more significant gifts with the wherewithal to most effectively and appropriately negotiate, receive, and acknowledge them. Our team at Responsive appreciates that Greg is among our consulting colleagues who are allowing our Three Lanes Theory to inform some of his thinking on this.During the second half of today’s conversation, it took an especially thought provoking turn when we posed the question of whether having higher expectations of the relationship rather than of the individuals involved in the exchange translates into greater success in
27/10/202245 minutes 34 seconds
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Are donors deliberately hoarding money in donor-advised funds?

How does the assumption that our donors are intentionally hoarding wealth in a donor-advised fund help any of us accomplish our goals? And, perhaps more importantly, how does such negative spin help anyone make sense of why these tools have become so popular in the last several decades? While the critics want us to focus on changing legislation and trying to coerce generosity with additional rules and regulations, I say we ought to learn how to have more meaningful relationships with our donors. Will changing the rules necessarily improve our bottom-line or just make our jobs even harder than they already are?My conversation today with Lisa and Stephen centered around what Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer in her book, The Social Meaning of Money, refers to as earmarking. Zelizer explains that human beings have always made a habit of earmarking monies that align with particular types of relationships. I asked Lisa and Stephen to wrestle with whether giving our donors
12/10/202251 minutes 10 seconds
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How can fundraisers improve their outcomes by embracing the obvious?

Cathy is the development lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. Bloomberg Philanthropies works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people by focusing on five key areas: the arts, education, the environment, government innovation, and public health. Encompassing all of Mike Bloomberg’s giving, Bloomberg Philanthropies includes his foundation and corporate and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works with mayors in cities around the world.During our conversation today, Cathy encourages us to embrace the obvious and, as a mentor once told her, “be open to people who sees things that you don’t, but should.” Cathy wants to encourage us to approach things with a conversational, exploratory, “how could we make sense of this differently” attitude. She encourages us to stop looking for moonshots and begin to embrace the obvious - what’s in arms-reach, accessible, and available to us. To this point, Cathy concludes w
03/10/202238 minutes 37 seconds
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Will the next generation of non-profiteers go about fundraising differently?

Conversations of this sort have me convinced that the next generation of non-profiteers will think very carefully about whether to embrace the twentieth-century, consumer-oriented approach to fundraising to which many of us still remain very loyal. Dion has only been at this for a couple of years and has quickly figured out that contemporary fundraising has a tendency to focus on the short term, commodify the stories of those being served, and elevate the donors like kings and queens rather than as fellow citizens who share in a commitment to the same cause. Dion is the founder of Dion's Chicago Dream, a non-profit feeding those in neighborhoods without access to fresh food and produce. Food deserts, areas in which it is difficult to find affordable and healthy foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, affect every part of the city, with a larger presence in the South and West sides of Chicago. Dion’s initiative has expanded to assist residents in need in every Chic
29/09/202245 minutes 31 seconds
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How can fundraisers ensure their organizations more than transactions?

Today’s podcast conversation with Ray Gary was fantastic. Why? Because Ray evidently doesn’t relate to the world like a technocrat who is convinced tech will save the planet. Ray certainly understands the role technology can and should play; however, he also understands that technology can’t be expected to do all the heavy lifting. Ray wants to see generosity become a habit and lifestyle rather than a one-off transactional experience that we’re often counting on technology to ensure happens. As the founder and CEO of IDonate, Ray believes that if applied correctly technology can amplify the good that the sector is already doing.Our conversation today went in all sorts of directions - everywhere from why the nonprofit sector is so CRM centric to what Peloton can teach us about being a part of a dynamic community. Ray describes Peloton as an example of how an organization can transform a product or service into way of life. Ray explains that what makes Peloton such a remar
27/09/202251 minutes 41 seconds
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Do our board recruitment strategies align with our DEI aspirations?

My guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast is Paulina Artieda, executive director for The New Philanthropists, an organization that works to create more racially diverse and inclusive nonprofit boards in Austin. Their mission is to build a pipeline to leadership for people of color; cultivate diversity, equity, and inclusion among mainstream nonprofit boards; and enable nonprofits to be more effective stewards of public trust and to produce better outcomes for the people they serve. My conversation today with Paulina begs the question of whether our board recruitment strategies align with our DEI aspirations.As Paulina and I got warmed up, we started wrestling with some of the questions boards should be asking themselves. Is it time to abandon any semblance of “give, get or get off,” the privilege of board members “buying” their way into their seats, or the habit of recruiting individuals who sit on boards everywhere else? What Paulina and her team want us to make
12/09/202245 minutes 47 seconds
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What if more nonprofits accurately reflected the communities they serve?

Madge challenged us this morning by asking what would it look like if more nonprofits accurately reflected the communities their organizations served. This is one of the conversations I have with my students every spring, and my career has afforded me opportunities to see where we’re getting this right and wrong. How do we ensure that our boards and bosses have a grasp of who they are serving and why? As Madge explained, studies have shown that less than 20% of nonprofits are led by people of color while the vast majority of our nonprofits serve communities of color. Much of our conversation today was about making sense of how to change this reality. Madge is the CEO at Mission Capital, a capacity building organization in Austin, that has been serving the region’s nonprofits for over 20 years. As Madge shared with me, Mission Capital’s explicit goals are three-fold: to close the racial leadership gap, to increase organizational resilience and sustainability, and to expan
08/09/202243 minutes 17 seconds
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Does fundraising have a bad case of shiny new toy syndrome?

One of our goals with our roadshow is to shine a spotlight on highly capable individuals who are helping their local nonprofit community to thrive. One such individual is Cat, founder of the Giant Squid Group, who I’m delighted will be a part of the lineup for our upcoming roadshow stop in Austin on September 16th. In our conversation today, Cat and I connected the dots between fundraising’s bad case of shiny new toy syndrome and the realization that a lot of these new toys aren’t actually delivering on their promises. What concerns Cat is the effect that these shiny new toys have on the professional development of young fundraisers and whether these new toys get in the way of learning how fundraising really works. Cat’s critique is similar to that of Lucy Bernholz who describes the effect of the “givingscape” as commodifying giving rather than democratizing it.Today’s conversation has us asking whether making charitable giving fast, easy, and painless is rea
30/08/202247 minutes 46 seconds
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Has the window of opportunity for greater fundraising self-care begun to close?

Earlier this year, Evan wrote an article for Candid’s Philanthropy News Digest entitled “We need a ‘Nonprofit Development Bill of Rights’” wherein he insisted that the time for “us” has arrived. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that self-care and psychological safety have moved front and center; and we owe it to ourselves — and our donors — to make sure we take care of ourselves. Evan’s proposed “bill of rights” is not anything most of us would expect for our ourselves and our employers no matter the role in which we happen to be. Since this publication, Evan has had many opportunities to discuss and explore his ideas with friends an colleagues. Unfortunately, what concerns Evan today, less than six months since his article’s publication, is that the window of opportunity for getting some of these things right for our professional community seems to be closing too quickly. While Evan is positive about the progress we have made, he’s concerned that perh
23/08/202257 minutes 12 seconds
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How do we make professional development more accessible?

If there is anything that my twenty-plus years in this space has revealed, it’s that professional associations have a way of getting themselves into a mess of trouble. While I’m sure the reasons for this can simmer up from just about anywhere, I suspect most of the trouble is emerges in between the inclination to create rulebooks for how to most ethically get the job done and the need to ensure that their sponsors are happy enough to underwrite next year’s conference. Recently, after watching yet another group of members unravel their disappointments with conference organizers in the Twitterverse, I began to wonder how long these associations will be able to maintain their role as fundraising’s gate-keepers to professional development and networking.I had a hunch that our friends at FundraisingEverywhere might have some ideas about how traditional associations might keep themselves out of trouble. In 2019, Nikki and Simon founded FundraisingEverywhe
16/08/202238 minutes 40 seconds
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324 | What if we incentivize sticking around rather than raising lots of money?

I have often advised employers to bet on time rather than money. More often than not, the opportunities for fundraisers to raise serious money are there; the question is whether we can keep our fundraisers around long enough to prove it. My conversation today with Stephanie echoes this point; in order to get this right we have to think more holistically about the jobs we are creating for fundraisers to fill. As Stephanie explained, it’s going to come down to meaningful work and competitive compensation. In my mind, meaningful work is largely a matter of how long they stay in the role rather than how much money they raise. We have to create environments where fundraisers can thrive. I would insist that too much of the conversation about professional turnover has always been about addressing one side of the time/pay equation while ignoring the other; we’ll pay fundraisers well, but who gives a damn whether they want to stick around. Stephanie and I wrapped up today where I
12/08/202244 minutes 56 seconds
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Can fundraising embrace the science of muddling through?

As I shared with Andy today, I recall one of his books being among the first that I read early in my career. Now, more than two decades later, it was a pleasure to find so much common ground in how we think about fundraising. Perhaps what I most appreciated about our conversation was that Andy wants fundraisers to enjoy space where the metrics aren’t the focus and where collecting a check isn’t the only goal. As I have said many times myself, we have to afford the relationship the opportunity to do at least some of the job for us. Andy wants fundraisers and their employers to be more comfortable with ambiguity because our world seems to get more complex and unpredictable by the day; Andy insists that developing a tolerance for ambiguity is a good trait to have. As studies demonstrated decades ago, Andy wants boards and nonprofit leaders to appreciate the fact that muddling through can sometimes be as good an approach as a well-structured and highly detailed strategy.
30/07/202240 minutes 45 seconds
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Why don’t fundraising wizards talk about the messy middle?

Early in my career, I figured out pretty quickly that the fundraising wizards want nothing to do with the messy middle. Instead, half of them decide to become overly-invested in new donor acquisition while the other half try to one-up each other in the billionaire campaign club. In this kind of environment, it’s no wonder everything feels so transactional, donor attrition is what it is, and our fundraisers are fed up. Blame the wizards.Today, I sat down with Laurel and Noah, two members of Responsive’s team who, like myself, have made a lot of sense of why the fundraising community, consultancies in particular, won’t talk about the messy middle. What Laurel and Noah have discovered is that the messy middle is where fundraisers have the opportunity to shine, where their employers make sense of how it all actually works, and where the wizards start to feel like they’re getting in the way.As Laurel and Noah discuss in todays podcast conversation, the messy middl
23/07/202238 minutes 36 seconds
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Are fundraisers being more selective about whom they work for?

What I have found enlightening about my conversations with Michelle is her studies in anthropology and her active involvement in several well-organized discussions aimed at addressing some of our sector’s enduring challenges. What I also find noteworthy is that, while some might like to accuse such discussion groups of over-thinking, the colleagues who are seated at the table with Michelle certainly don’t see it this way. Today’s conversations with Michelle confirms that our sector will never reach higher aspirations without asking some tough questions. When I asked what Michelle believed was the common thread among the conversations she is a part of, she described a heightened awareness that what got us here isn’t going to be adaquate for the road ahead. While fundraisers may have tolerated being part of an intervening subculture in the past, they are now insisting on more active and influential roles. Michelle explains that her peers are well aware of the fact that the
15/07/202246 minutes 20 seconds
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Can fundraising professionals let go of their favorite toys?

As a privileged white guy, these are the types of conversations that keep me on my toes. Today we’re happy to have Noah, a member of our consulting team, co-hosting; which means I have one obligation which fellas like me don’t do very easily - today, my job is to just shut up and listen. Today’s conversation is just a taste of what Noah and Martha will be talking about at #BAMEOnline later this month. Martha and Noah want us to ask ourselves whether our existing tools, those we’re comfortable and familiar with, will allow us to dismantle the injustices many of us are trying to address. In other words, can fundraising professionals let go of their favorite toys?Martha is the founder of #BAMEOnline - the first conference of it’s kind. Martha describes #BAMEOnline as advancing liberation for all people rather than just those of power and privilege. It is a space where Black and POC who have done incredible fundraising can share the keys to their success. Martha also explain
08/07/202244 minutes 57 seconds
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Are fundraisers spending too much time chasing after new donors?

I was delighted to have Mazarine as a returning guest on today’s episode of The Fundraising Talent Podcast. Mazarine is the founder of Wild Woman Fundraising and the Nonprofit Consulting Conference. Mazarine also hosts the Asking for More podcast and she is the author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising and Get the Job! Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide. In today’s conversation we wrestle with whether, in light of the higher aspirations within the nonprofit sector, the social sector playbook is overdue for some twenty-first century revisions or perhaps even needs to be completely re-written.Practically speaking, such aspirations seem to have overlooked how we expect fundraisers to spend their time. Mazarine and I talked about how many fundraisers are stuck in job descriptions that don’t afford them the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with donors and, instead, encourage them to spend the majority of their time tinkering around with new donor acqu
28/06/202251 minutes 24 seconds
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Are fundraising professionals patiently earning the right to ask?

I don’t often get the pleasure of having a conversation with an author who has influenced my thinking, which makes today’s  conversation, in which I have the pleasure of hosting two of them, especially exciting. Both authors are returning guests so they know the routine. Rebecca introduces herself as having been fortunate to live in the company of generous people; she is the author of Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as a Ministry. Tyrone introduces himself as the son, grandson, nephew, and cousin of Black Baptist preachers and First Ladies; and he credits these individuals for framing his perspective of philanthropy and inspiring his career. Tyrone is author of Madam C. J. Walker's Gospel of Giving: Black Women's Philanthropy During Jim Crow.Tyrone explained that Growing Givers’ Hearts as gave him permission, early in his career, to think differently about the work we do. He describes the book as an encouraging counter-narrative to what Robert Payton begrudg
22/06/20221 hour 11 seconds
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How many nonprofit organizations are stuck in the wrong story?

Today I had the pleasure of a lengthy conversation with Gloria Novovic about “Rethinking Philanthropy,” a series of articles published by The Philanthropist Journal that seeks to chart a “just transition” towards a vision of Canadian Philanthropy that is anti-racist, justice-oriented, and based in solidarity. Gloria began by observing that, while there is a lot of rethinking about philanthropy going on, much of it is oriented towards a critique of what we have done wrong in the past rather than what we can do right going forward. Today’s conversation begs the question of whether the nonprofit sector has itself stuck in the wrong story and posits that, rather than trying to mimic what the private sector or our government accomplishes, we need to see our distinctiveness as a good thing. Among the many insights that Gloria offered, she described our sector as winning by losing: in the process of winning the support of large donors, corporations, and other power brokers, we
15/06/202252 minutes 40 seconds
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What are the most insidious myths about planned gift fundraising?

What I initially appreciated about my conversation with Tony was that, after he found himself dissatisfied with his work as an attorney, he re-engineered himself as a fundraiser and has since found planned giving to be very meaningful and rewarding work. Tony describes himself as an evangelist of planned giving and is the founder and the creator of the Planned Giving Accelerator which helps nonprofit leaders design and implement a planned giving program for their organizations.  As we have had very few podcast conversations about planned giving, I was especially grateful that Tony came prepared to address several of the myths that often get in the way of launching a successful planned giving effort. After Tony addressed what is perhaps the most insidious of planned giving myths - the idea it is a conversation about death - we explored a few others that linger close behind on the list. As I shared with Tony, I recall early in my career making the assumption that planned g
08/06/202237 minutes 21 seconds
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Can digital champions strengthen your online fundraising efforts?

My conversation today with Melanie reminded me of the work of that Damon Centola has done on understanding how digital networks affect social change. Very similar to Centola’s observations, Melanie wants to us to make sense of who our digital champions are and what value they can bring to the organization. These individuals create the social reinforcement that is often essential in compelling others to act. As I suggested to Melanie, the less predictable aspects of this approach will be unsettling for those who prefer to see a straight line between themselevss and the donation. However, as we all know, such “assembly line” fundraising has been waning for some time; and perhaps the nay-sayers just need some encouragement from the people like Melanie to convince them to give this nonlinear approach a try. What I most appreciated about our conversation was hearing how this concept applies to the baby boomers and those we may assume are not especially responsive to playing m
29/05/202238 minutes 53 seconds
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When did professional fundraising become “guru-city”?

Tim insists that the fundraising community has become “guru-city” - chock full of self-declared experts who believe everything they say is golden. Tim believes that there really is no such thing as a fundraising expert and instead of having all the answers, he has designed a company that allows him and his team to be about the business of learning. The team at NextAfter wants to journey alongside their clients in order to understand what the donor is saying to them. Tim describes their team in much the same way that we refer to ours at Responsive as a professional learning community. Tim’s approach to learning and expertise evidently informs his opinions about the how and why of messaging that we employ in fundraising. He explained that thanks to the Don Drapers of the world, we have all developed impressive bull-s**t detection capabilities which allow us to see right through much of what of what shows up in our inboxes. Tim wants fundraisers to wrestle with what should
22/05/202230 minutes 47 seconds
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Should rested Black women take the helm of today’s nonprofit sector?

Today Nneka started our conversation by sharing some additional perspective into the thoughts that she shared in Collecting Courage, a collection of personal experiences written by Black fundraisers whose stories make us think twice about the inherent goodness we often assume of our sector. Nneka shared how fundraisingafforded her an opportunity to find herself; from there she began to understand the meaningful role that fundraising plays in starting movements, preserving history, and telling the stories of oppressed people. After celebrating the work of the Collecting Courage authors and some of the history of this project, Nneka challenged us to contemplate the possibility of rested Black women taking the helm of today’s nonprofit sector. To clarify, we’re not talking about tokenism or another committee. Nneka insists that there are perfectly capable, willing, and ready Black women who have the power and influence to completely overhaul the culture of our sector.
14/05/202256 minutes 41 seconds
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Are fundraising professionals being ruthless advocates for themselves?

It seems a lot of us are thinking about career changes lately; and my conversation today with Kristi begs the question of whether fundraisers are, to use her words, being ruthless advocates for themselves. Kristi started our conversation with the topic of adequate compensation; however, as I shared with her, I remain skeptical that compensation alone in our space is the real challenge. Regardless, Kristi insists that the next generation of fundraising professionals must keep reading; keep experimenting with new ideas; and, when it comes to adequate compensation and benefits, keep brining it up!Among the many compensation and career development questions that we contemplated today was whether fundraising as a career path has a tendency to plateau and inevitably leave us looking for something else. Why is it that after a decade or so, so many of us are looking for opportunities that our employers can’t offer? As I shared with Kristi, I have often wondered how many of our c
07/05/202252 minutes 16 seconds
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Can fundraisers be recognized as our community’s best boundary spanners?

Today I enjoyed a thought-provoking conversation with Killian, one of the newest members of our consulting team here at Responsive. Killian has found fundraising to be very meaningful work and enjoys assisting his clients in getting it right. Killian and I began our conversation by asking how many fundraisers actually want the responsibility of building meaningful relationships with their donors and will stick with relationships long enough to ensure the the most significant and sustainable levels of support. We went on to discuss whether fundraisers should aspire to be our community’s best boundary spanners, admired and recognized as being confident at the lunch table with people who are unlike themselves and whose experiences and world views are very different from their own.Killian reminded me that it was Tocqueville who applauded Americans for their tendency to voluntary organize associations rather than rely on the marketplace and the state to orchestrate social rel
30/04/202245 minutes 15 seconds
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Is your nonprofit benefiting from both high and low context fundraising?

My conversation today with Collin reminded me of an important point that we often make during our roadshows and when working with clients. Do fundraisers know how to differentiate between and ensure their organizations benefit from both low and high context fundraising efforts? One of the fundraiser’s primarily responsibilities is to discern when low context fundraising efforts have done their part and when high context fundraising practices are now in order. It is at this point in the relationship that a fundraiser must have a strategy in place that transitions the relationship from mailboxes and inboxes to coffee shops and lunch tables. As I argued in my first book, this can be as easy as distinguishing between the strategies that ensure the initial gift and those that secure the subsequent gift. Colin is certainly right about the fact that our friends who deliver on low context, “lane one” tactical efforts lack the incentive to move donors out of their preferred chann
23/04/202251 minutes 47 seconds
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Is the fundraising community growing wiser in these challenging times?

In her recent contribution to Carefully & Critically, Meena used the word “struggle” to describe her professional journey over the last two years. I have similarly used the word “angst” to describe what so many of our colleagues have articulated in the more than 170 podcast conversations that we have broadcast since March of 2020 when the pandemic became our reality. Meena’s article and today’s conversation are an exploration of the wisdom that she’s gained with the help of her LinkedIn Community in the last two years and how she has been able to apply that wisdom to her work.So many of our guests have described the last couple of years as a journey towards understanding the struggle of being committed to meaningful work that can so easily let us down. As a data enthusiast, the struggle has afforded Meena an opportunity to explore questions that otherwise might have been ignored and overlooked. For example, how could analytics evolve in such a way s
16/04/202235 minutes 1 second
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308 | What if fundraising relied on more asset-based thinking?

Early in my career, I learned pretty quickly that a sure-fire sign that you’re dealing with a wizard is that everything is focused on what you’re lacking. Then, after being convinced of what you’re lacking, the wizard is relentless in promising to deliver of solutions that will forever ensure he’s at the center of your thinking. This isn’t a story our team at Responsive buys into; and Mallory, our guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast, evidently doesn’t buy it either. Mallory wants more fundraisers to recognize that they already have what it takes to be successful and that focusing on what’s missing only gets in the way of learning this most important truth. Today’s conversation was all about asset-based thinking and the unfortunate tendency in our sector to focus on what’s missing. Walk around the exhibit hall at any fundraising conference and you’ll quickly discover just how many wizards are betting on our deeply entrenched deficit mindset. Whatever we feel we
09/04/202255 minutes 22 seconds
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How do today’s employers prepare for tomorrow’s workforce?

Today I asked Janelle and Nikki if the aspirations employers have for their employees are missing anything that we should consider about those we will be hiring in ten years. Jobs for America’s Graduates helps young people succeed both in school and on-the-job to ensure that they have opportunities that afford them productive and rewarding careers. Having served millions of students since 1980, the team at JAG recognizes that this moment in time is unlike any other and demands exponential growth in the next several years. My conversation today with Janelle and Nikki had me wondering if we’re preparing the right path for our next generation of fundraisers and whether the challenges we’re encountering today will be the same in another decade. In order to create the workspaces that will meet the expectations of tomorrow’s young people, those whose educational journeys have been abruptly interrupted by a worldwide pandemic, tomorrow’s workforce will need to be agile, go deep
22/03/202252 minutes 23 seconds
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What do we gain by drawing a line between fundraising and marketing?

I spent most of my career believing that the myriad of arms-length tactics that consume most fundraising plans (GivingTuesday, direct response, special events, etc. ) were the problem. Then I encountered a simple insight. One of the earliest scholars in the fundraising community, Paul Schervish, explained that it was important to distinguish between those efforts that lead people to become givers in the first place and those that lead some donors to make larger than average gifts or to increase their giving. The inability to make sense of such a distinction was the problem I didn’t see early in my career. Following Schervish’s logic, we encourage our clients to make sense of those efforts that most effectively yield their initial gifts and those that ensure the subsequent gift.What was especially encouraging about today’s podcast conversation was learning that Julia is encouraging her clients to make a very similar distinction. Julia encourages her clients to make sense
15/03/202249 minutes 37 seconds
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Is fundraising suffering from a serious case of narration sickness?

It’s pretty obvious that, rather than staring at our laptops, Tim and I would have preferred to have today’s podcast conversation on a back porch with some bourbon and a few cheap cigars. The two of us arranged this conversation to talk about NeonOne’s report that just released yesterday. However, it didn’t take either of us very long to climb up on our soapboxes. Nearly everything we ranted about today centered on the question of whether more should be expected of the those publishing reports about fundraising trends and donor behavior. Or, as Paulo Freire would say, is fundraising suffering from a serious case of narration sickness?I really appreciate Tim’s observation that we are at an inflection point in the fundraising community, and this won’t be the last time that I applaud his assertion that we’re an industry that worships transactions. The question is whether those who publish reports that quantify this behavior are doing the heavy lifting to help us make sense
09/03/202254 minutes 20 seconds
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Should we learn to see fundraising through the symbolic lens?

I am always grateful to our guests on The Fundraising Talent Podcast because sometimes they help me make sense of some of the ideas that are rolling around in my head. I, like many of you, am trying to reconcile what’s happening on the other side of the planet with the challenges of everyday life at home. Today, I asked Debra whether the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine was an opportunity for fundraising to live up to its potential and whether there will be things that play out in the weeks and months ahead that we will need to understand on a more existential level.Before we dived deep into these questions, Debra introduced herself as someone who found her way into fundraising because she was “tired of selling high priced shoes to women who should know better.” Now, after having tried to retire, she finds herself in the trenches trying to help charities discover a bold, brave way of funding whatever it is they set out to do in the world. <p cl
06/03/202241 minutes 5 seconds
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What happens when the donor flips the switch on the relationship?

What happens when our criticism of the donor backfires and, like a page from an Ayn Rand novel, all our philanthropists begin to disappear? What happens when the controls that we currently enjoy having at our finger tips start to work in the donors’ best interests instead? What immediately came to mind during my conversation today with Paul was discussions of VRM technology that would allow the donor to cut off access to their information with the flip of a switch. Paul wants us to consider the fact that some of the information asymmetry inside our CRM’s has the potential to backfire which could result in class-action lawsuits and hordes of donors insisting that their donations be returned. With so much bad behavior going on in the sector, Paul believes that such events are just a matter of time.While discussing Paul’s new book, The Future of Fundraising, I asked him for his best advice for the young fundraiser who is perhaps still trying to decide whether or not to stic
25/02/202247 minutes 22 seconds
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Could fundraising benefit from a new approach to leadership?

What if what ails contemporary fundraising has less to with those who are in the fundraising seat and more do with the leadership style of those we’ve given the privilege of being the boss? Many of our recent conversations have shed light on how we are raising the expectations we have of our leaders. Today’s conversation with Kim Jennings suggests that some believe we could reduce the turnover and improve performance by expecting that the boss embrace a new approach to leadership. Kim wants to see fundraising leaders become much less authoritarian and metric-driven and, instead, see our work more holistically and reliant on coaching skills. Kim has observed that many of our bosses are great at giving directions - they know how to assign metrics and tell us whom to ask and for how much. But once the directions are given, these bosses don’t have much more to offer. Kim points out that the same can be true for their approach to professional development - they are more than
22/02/202254 minutes 41 seconds
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Do boards and bosses have unreasonable expectations of fundraising?

The pandemic has been a reminder that our world is not predictable; that most of what happens is beyond our control; and that, if you really want to accomplish your goals, the best you can do is remain self-aware and highly adaptable. For our team at Responsive, it’s been a challenging two years trying to keep a vision alive while managing the expectations of those who wanted to be a part of something new at one of the messiest times in human history. In today’s podcast conversation, I am pleased to introduce Mike Dixon, a long-time friend and now business partner, who genuinely believes in what we aim to achieve for the nonprofit sector and brings a number of strengths that I admittedly don’t have. Despite the myriad of challenges that we have encountered, Michael shares an appreciation for what has been accomplished in the last two years and looks forward to providing leadership to our consulting team in the years ahead.  In many ways, today’s podcast conversation foll
13/02/202247 minutes 18 seconds
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Is nonprofit fundraising long overdue for a reset?

My guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast is Kimberly, host of The Intersection Podcast and avid user of Clubhouse which is perhaps were we first met about eighteen months ago. Kimberly kicked us off with the idea that fundraising is long overdue for a reset. She believes that many of the underlying beliefs and assumptions that have gotten us to where we are today need to be surfaced and understood; and, as painful as it might be, we may have to let go of some of them. Kimberly and I agreed that much of this reckoning could happen with a simple overhaul of the fundraiser’s job description, a consistent theme in several recent conversations. Instead of signing on for job descriptions that don’t look any different than an operating manual for a machine churning out inanimate objects at scale, fundraisers need to look for opportunities where they are given the chance to build meaningful relationships with donors who, rather than behaving like self-interested consumer
05/02/202252 minutes 24 seconds
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Do boards and bosses want to ensure that they are the hero in the story?

What do you get when you put an academic who is all about the most effective fundraising methods between two rabble rousers who never shy away from giving their opinions. That was the lineup today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast with Dr. Russell James, author of The Socratic Fundraiser, and Greg Warner, founder of MarketSmart. The essence of our conversation was whether fundraisers both desire and know how to have genuine conversations with their donors and whether using the Socratic method is the ideal pathway to the meaningful opportunities that are available to our organizations. Today’s conversation reminds me of earlier conversations in which we’ve talked about how the sector has seemingly confused the advantages of being great story-tellers with those of being great story-listeners.What I found especially thought-provoking was how we ended up asking why boards and bosses are notoriously uninterested in fundraising methods that afford the fundraiser and donor oppo
29/01/202248 minutes 44 seconds
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How much of fundraising’s success depends on meaningful places?

Today I was privileged to connect with Laura Tepper, Executive Director of Development at the University of Pennsylvania, Carey Law School where she oversees all annual, major, and planned giving efforts. Her career spans all functions of frontline fundraising, including the recent Power of Penn’s Law campaign that raised $281M including two of the most significant gifts ever given to an American Law School. Today Laura and I talked about whether returning to the office is a reasonable expectation or if we should perhaps allow remote working to become the norm. This is an especially important conversation for Penn with its historic location in the heart of Philadelphia.This really had me thinking about how much of fundraising hinges on the meaning behind significant places and whether becoming overly reliant on virtual spaces is going to have effects that we haven’t quite begun to anticipate. We can all appreciate what a zoom platform affords us in terms of fostering mea
26/01/202248 minutes 56 seconds
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How many job descriptions will dramatically change in our post-pandemic world?

How many job descriptions will dramatically change in our post-pandemic world? This is the essence of the conversation I had with Brent, founder of Evertrue who, like myself, never shies from the opportunity to provoke a conversation about what might take our fundraising efforts to another level. During today’s conversation on The Fundraising Talent Podcast, Brent pointed out that we were all reminded very quickly that meaningful conversations with our donors don’t necessarily require a plane ticket and a stay at the Holiday Inn. This awakening among boards and bosses could arguably have the effect of redefining a lot of jobs for a lot of fundraisers.What is especially thought-provoking about today’s conversation is the notion that the pandemic has afforded an entire new cohort of fundraisers the opportunity to experience what academics are now calling perceived proximity - the sense that we are in the same room with someone who could literally be o
15/01/202249 minutes 15 seconds
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Why does fundraising let money be the hero in so many of our stories?

I could enjoy conversation with Guirlaine for hours, listening to how she describes her work and allowing her to provoke my thinking about how we can more effectively seize opportunities to a be real fundraisers. Today’s conversation was about Guirlaine’s  article in Responsive’s winter edition of Carefully & Critically. Guirlaine wants more of us to learn how to stop being so focused on money, get it out of our way, and begin to experience fundraising as more meaningful work. She asks why fundraisers let money be the hero in their stories.Much of today’s conversation was about understanding how fundraising builds a bridge between the haves and have nots allowing us to see and experience our common humanity. We concluded with the recognition that we have to find freedom from the belief that we and our donors are not bound together; and, instead, see that we are in an interdependent relationship. We have to allow the work to transform us in the same way that we expect it
08/01/202235 minutes 10 seconds
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Did the pandemic afford us time for some tough conversations?

For this last episode of The Fundraising Talent Podcast of 2021, I’m delighted that my friend Samuel Butler has returned to enjoy a conversation about his recent article in Responsive’s Carefully & Critically. As a fundraiser in the UK, I am grateful that Sam offers us a perspective of fundraising that those of us on this side of Atlantic don’t always have the benefit of.We started today’s conversation with Sam’s observation that the silver lining in the pandemic may be that it has given a lot of us an opportunity to sit back and really contemplate what it is we are doing. For the fundraising community, this has meant leaning into a number of difficult conversations that were much easier to overlook when we weren’t in the midst of a global pause. Sam and I meandered around the rest of his article and concluded with a statement he makes in the journal, “...we will need to bring the right people in to assist us in doing so; instilling in them a more robust and fearless att
29/12/202150 minutes 48 seconds
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Do some of us take for granted how easily we can navigate fundraising?

One of the privileges of hosting The Fundraising Talent Podcast is the opportunity to develop meaningful friendships with individuals like Lisa Baxter who originally participated in a panel discussion  back in the early 2019. Now Lisa’s back to talk to us about her featured article in the winter edition of Carefully and Critically. Today’s conversation was an no-holds barred one for both me and Lisa. I find it convicting to think that much of my fundraising experiences are similar to a game of checkers while someone like Lisa has always found herself in a far more complex game of chess. I hope that conversations like this one will help others not to take for granted the ease with which they may have been able to navigate this work.For those who have yet to download the winter edition of our journal, Lisa talks in her article about being totally and unapologetically yourself and giving yourself permission to stop playing by archaic rules and feeling the need to people-ple
18/12/202139 minutes 32 seconds
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How can fundraisers do the right thing and get caught doing it?

What happens when a donor has a long history of giving, they have unimaginable wealth, and all the reasons in the world to support your cause, however something in your initial meeting suggests that they donor may have dementia. In these types of situations, Tony and Tara want fundraisers to do the right thing and get caught doing it. In what might become an increasingly common scenario, Tara and Tony want fundraisers to know how to honor the donor, meet expectations for their employers, and do so within an ethical framework. How do we ensure that our donors have the “donative capacity” to make a gift? Today my guests were Tara Adams and Anthony Pomonis who are raising awareness of the limitations that some of our donors might have and the care we should be expected to provide in response. Our conversation afforded us an opportunity to talk about ethics, metrics, privacy, and a number of other big issues that are sure to come up in these situations. If you’d like to lear
13/12/202150 minutes 1 second
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Are nonprofits giving their power away by cutting ties with bad actors?

How do those of us on the receiving side of charitable giving get bolder in what we ask and expect of those on the giving side of the relationship? Questions of this sort, originating from fundraisers all all stripes, convince me that an increasing numbers of fundraisers are anxious to establish influential peer relationships with their donors rather than the inferior, supplicant role that we often inadvertently assume. Our conversation today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast began with Sarah Beth making a case for why we should stop giving away the power we have by divesting in companies whose decisions with disagree with. Sarah Beth wants us to wrestle with the question of whether nonprofits are giving their power away by cutting ties with bad actors?Sarah Beth believes that rather than divesting in these relationships, we should strive to have the greater levels of influence and clout in order to change the directions of where these enterprises are headed. I would arg
04/12/202142 minutes 45 seconds
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Does fundraising deliberately distance itself from the truth?

April describes herself as a loyal Baltimore Raven’s fan and a lover of all things philanthropy, equity, and social justice. Our conversation today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast began with the assertion that fundraising has deliberately distanced itself from the truth and begs the question of what would happen if we were more honest with ourselves and our donors. April wants us to confront the fact that we are taught to be ok with the disconnect between reality and the narrative we tell the world. Perhaps our appeal letters are some of the most obvious examples of such deceit. April pointed out that our dishonesty amounts to a lack of authenticity and an obsession with jargon.April’s career has afforded her experiences on both sides of the shop, both raising major gifts and administrating programs. Having the advantage of multiple vantage points, she understands why it’s so easy to tolerate a story that isn’t true. But it isn’t just those of us on the receiving side
24/11/202152 minutes 21 seconds
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Great Fundraising Opportunity w/The Salvation Army

Are you looking for a great opportunity to work for a world-changing organization and a boss who genuinely gets fundraising? Today’s podcast conversation with Megan is a quick addition to this month’s regularly scheduled guests. Megan is the Sr. Donor Relations Director at the Salvation Army in Milwaukee, and she is excited about hiring a new fundraiser to join her team. Megan has been a fan of the Fundraising Talent Podcast for quite some time; she was a guest in 2019, and I was delighted to have her back today for what we now call the “reverse interview.” Instead of interviewing the candidate, we put the boss in the hot seat and ask them questions that we believe everyone should ask a potential employer. If you, perhaps, are interested in joining Megan’s team, download more information here.As always, we are grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. And, if you’d like to download Responsive’
22/11/202121 minutes 31 seconds
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Can fundraising evolve for those who give on their own terms?

When I first announced that I would be having this conversation with Tyrone, I described his telling of Madam CJ Walkers story as an indictment of the wizards of contemporary fundraising and I asked how much better the fundraising experience would be if we were encouraged to engage with donors like Madam Walker in more meaningful ways. While it’s certainly admirable that so many of our organizations express a willingness and desire to engage with more diverse communities, we have to also interrogate the reasons why we haven’t done so in the past. What have we not acknowledged about history or our identity that has prevented individuals like Walker from being better represented among our constituency.Tyrone shared with us today that he wanted to answer the question of what it meant to be a generous African American woman in the midst of Jim Crow and what it means to be a philanthropist who gives on their own terms. For Walker, giving wasn’t about wha
18/11/202159 minutes 15 seconds
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Can fundraising learn how to put the relationship ahead of the gift?

If you’re the shop that is all about rushing your donors into year-end gifts for the mere purpose of achieving some arbitrary goal, you need to listen to today’s conversation on The Fundraising Talent Podcast. Today’s conversation with Alex begs the question of how to genuinely put the relationship ahead of the gift and how, in doing so, does the organization sets expectations for what is raised from year to year. Alex sees the donor experience as being like a journey that, from our vantage point, isn’t especially easy to predict. Rather than always interfering, today’s conversation offers a case for why we should create cultures where we can receive gifts when the donor is ready to take the next step in their journey.Today’s conversation reminded me that the most meaningful gifts will rarely align perfectly with our schedule. Despite the wizard’s insistence to the contrary, renewal rates are not the ultimate measure of fundraising effectiveness. Our eagerness to close g
11/11/202149 minutes 54 seconds
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Do we owe ourselves a new case for fundraising?

My conversation today with Al begs the question of whether now is the time for a new case for support which, perhaps, begins with having written one for ourselves. The bosses are calling everyone back to the office and no doubt insisting that we raise more money than we did last year, while opportunities to work elsewhere abound and donors are not giving as they did pre-pandemic. With all this movement and change, now is a great time to ask ourselves what we believe about fundraising; what motives we believe compel the decisions our donors make; and, most importantly, what will ensure that these relationships can be sustained for many gifts to come. Rather than a case for support, perhaps we owe ourselves a case for fundraising; not something one of the wizards of contemporary fundraising wrote, but something that articulates in our own words why our work matters.These are the types of questions Al and I pondered today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast. Al insists that f
31/10/202148 minutes 53 seconds
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How does a fundraiser find more meaningful work?

The question I often want to ask any fundraiser who explains to me that they are frustrated and disappointed in their work is whether they know how to search out and identify opportunities that will ensure them an opportunity for meaningful work. Instead of discerning whether a new job will offer them the chance to shine in meaningful ways, I see far too many fundraisers gravitating toward alluring mission statements and charismatic bosses who ultimately let them down. My guest today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast is Scott Perry who has made it his business to help his clients improve these types of discernment skills. Scott wants to ensure that, rather doing work fraught with disappointment and burnout, all of us have the opportunity to flourish and thrive in our workplaces. Scott has recognized that many of us, regardless of the professional path we have taken, were told deceptive tales of how it all works. Most of these tales originated at the beginning of the twen
25/10/202159 minutes 36 seconds
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What expectations should fundraising have of the board?

My conversation today with Gretchen reminded me of some of the observations that I have made concerning boards and fundraising. Throughout my career I have noticed two consistent yet disparate themes that I suspect those with even a brief tenure in fundraising will be familiar with. The first is what we might call “board knows best”: board members whose inclination is to always assume the existence of expertise that the fundraiser doesn’t have and therefore they must provide. The second theme, perhaps a defense mechanism in response to the first, is what we might call “blame the board” which is the tendency of nonprofit leaders and their fundraisers to scapegoat the board for all the reasons fundraising isn’t working. Neither storyline is particularly helpful, and I am hopeful that our listeners have the benefit of working for organizations that have matured beyond both of them. Today’s deliberation of board dynamics with Gretchen was much enjoyed. Perhaps a bit uncertai
16/10/202155 minutes 8 seconds
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Does attending to the office do fundraising more harm than good?

Carrie and Laura picked up on something during the pandemic that perhaps others were overlooking; while all of us were working remotely, many of us were experiencing extraordinary fundraising outcomes yet always insisting that they were eager to get back to the office. Why? What necessity is there for attending to the rituals of the office when we can achieve the same or perhaps even greater outcomes from home? When it comes to fundraising, especially for those whose focus is on major donors, do the obligations of the office do more harm than good? These were the questions I discussed with Carrie and Laura today on The Fundraising Talent Podcast. If your team has been discussing the idea of not returning to the office, you’re not going to want to miss this conversation. Carrie was leading a remote team long before the pandemic forced us all to work from home, and she has found it to be an especially effective tool for attracting and retaining top tier fundraising talent.
07/10/202147 minutes 23 seconds
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What are the 3 types of donors that every fundraiser should understand?

This week our guest is Sybil Ackerman-Munson at Do Your Good. Sybil shared with us the three types of donors that every fundraiser should know and understand. For two decades, Sybil has been a trusted advisor and has helped give away over $45 million. Sybil has served on numerous boards, task forces, and stakeholder groups; and what I most appreciated about our conversation today was that her insights have emerged from experience with being on both sides of the charitable gift exchange. I’m always up for a framework that helps us make more sense of ourselves and others, and that’s what Sybil had for us this morning. As she began to describe each type of donor, I immediately began to recall personalities throughout my career who fit each part perfectly. I have to say that, as someone who has spent my entire career thinking about how to better understand and relate to donors in more meaningful ways, Sybil’s three-type framework deserves to be at the top of anyone’s resourc
29/09/202151 minutes 45 seconds
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Are you a reluctant fundraiser?

A consistent theme in my conversations lately is that fundraisers need to be more diligent in determining who they work for and knowing whether they’re signing on for a job in which they can successful or one from which they will end up resigning in less than two years. It occurs to me that my conversation today with Cindy about her new book Raise It! The Reluctant Fundraiser's Guide to Raising Money Without Selling Your Soul may be a great place to begin improving this level of discernment. Cindy’s book raises asks whether we can effectively rewire our brains to address the reluctancies we have towards fundraising. Cindy insists that rewiring how we think about fundraising is the only way to ensure we’re getting in front of our donors in meaningful ways, enjoying the work, and securing extraordinary gifts that advance our missions. What was perhaps most thought provoking about today’s conversation was the question of whet
25/09/202157 minutes 55 seconds
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Can fundraisers create an equation that increases giving?

I have enjoyed getting to know Brian and am eagerly awaiting the next time I’m in Indy so that, as we did just months before the pandemic, we can enjoy great food and drinks as we banter about how to fix all of fundraising’s problems. Brian, now Vice President for Research at RNL, has been an annual giving and major gift officer and hosts the Fundraising Voices podcast. Lately, he has been asking if we can build an equation that increases giving? As Brian shared with us today, the donation equation combines six factors drawn from top industry insights that have been shown to increase the chance a donor will give to your organization.Rather than getting too deep into the weeds on Brian’s equation, I asked whether his equation could contribute to what I believe is the emergence of a field approach to developing fundraising expertise. Because of the nature of our work, and noting where fundraisers say they have had their most valuable learning experiences, I see evidence th
23/09/202158 minutes 48 seconds
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Should fundraisers learn how to “dwell”with their donors?

I recently asked my friends Rebecca and David to join me to discuss an article that David had written about what leaders in higher education should expect of fundraising in the next year. Our conversation offered a whole new layer of meaning to David’s encouragement that advancement leaders need to be carefully thinking about renewal, re-engagement, and raising the bar. Perhaps what was profound about this conversation was the notion that fundraisers learn how to appropriately “dwell” with a donor in order to ensure that they are putting the relationship ahead of whatever proposal we are trying to advance. Afterwards, I had to double-check my understanding of what it means to “dwell” with someone; it is not a term I’m accustomed to using and certainly something I wanted to contemplate more. To “dwell” means to remain for a time, and when we say that we are dwelling with someone there is often a degree of intentionality that accompanies it. How many of us have learned how
15/09/202157 minutes 42 seconds
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What holds fundraising back on larger, unrestricted gifts?

Caitlyn wants to know what is holding back some nonprofits back from asking their donors for more significant and unrestricted gifts. While Caitlyn knows these types of exchanges aren’t sexy and may not seem all that appealing to some of our donors, they arguably provide an organization with the most flexibility in advancing their mission. But suppose our understanding of how we arrive at such opportunities is flawed? Caitlyn has learned that investing in relationships that lead to more in-depth conversations is the path to discovering where these opportunities can be found.  Unfortunately, some leaders won’t encourage their fundraisers to venture down the exploratory path and, therefore, never connect the dots between the tight restrictions applied to a gift and their lack of investment in relationships.Our conversation today raises the question of whether leaders understand what it takes to raise the expectation of more flexibly and generous gifts. With these aspiratio
11/09/202150 minutes 43 seconds
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What does your boss have to say about fundraising’s competing ideologies?

We have had a number conversations of the sort that Ben and I had today; and, admirably, all of our guests are generally very forthright about where they stand amidst debates about competing fundraising ideologies. Ben believes that too few individuals like him and me, white men of privilege, are doing their part in these conversations and that we all need to collectively acknowledge the inherent racism baked into our system. As someone who insists he’s in this for the long-haul, Ben wants to see a greater tolerance of risk, an inclination to lean into more than just what makes us comfortable, and the pursuit of more than job security. As I shared with Ben today, he and I are on the same page; and I admit to wrestling with some of the same questions that he is. I too want to ensure that I’m using my platform to do more than merely make life more comfortable for myself. That said, there are some questions that I don’t believe enough fundraisers are asking themselves when
07/09/202152 minutes 17 seconds
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Did the pandemic permanently change some of our fundraising pratices?

My conversation today is the final of four that we have had with our spring contributors to the most recent publication of Carefully & Critically; Responsive’s professional journal aimed at elevating voices from the mainstream as well as those at the fringe of the fundraising community. In John’s article, he is asking if the pandemic has been good for advancement and like our conversation earlier this week with Dominique, whether the pandemic was the beginning of a season in which we explore new ways of doing meaningful work. As I have said repeatedly both on and off-air, the pandemic offered fundraising a qualitative turn.John tells us that after the pandemic became our reality in March of 2020 he was slow to enact too many changes and that perhaps like most of us, he was unsure whether this was going to last weeks, months, or years. After a few weeks of just taking it in, John was convinced that getting back to normal wasn't going to happen. John
04/09/202126 minutes 42 seconds
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Will special event fundraising ever measure up to our expectations?

This week’s podcast conversations are with contributing authors to our recent edition of Carefully and Critically, Responsive’s professional journal. Today we talked with Dominique Calixte who asks if it is time to rethink special events; and, later this week, we’re going to be talking with John Feudo who is asking if the pandemic has been good for advancement. In both of this week’s conversation’s, we are asking whether the pandemic has been the beginning of a season in which fundraisers can begin to experiment and explore new ways of doing what can and always should be meaningful work.In today’s conversation with Dominique we wrestle with the question of whether special events will ever measure up to the expectations that we have for them and, in our determination to see that they do, how much of the status quo are we are willing to let go. Dominique insists that special events are among the most transactional fundraising strategies that our sector relies on and that i
01/09/202136 minutes 5 seconds
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What can fundraising learn from bad market research?

This morning I was delighted to, once again, enjoy a conversation with our friend and fundraising colleague, Travis. In addition to keeping his feet in the field as a major gifts officer, Travis is the founder of Role Identity Solutions and an adjunct at the Lilly School of Philanthropy. Any of our regular listeners will know that Travis has afforded us several enlightening conversations here on the podcast, and I am grateful that he has also been one of the contributing authors to Responsive’s recent edition of Carefully and Critically. In his article, Travis asked what we in fundraising can learn from bad market research. What we can glean from the misadventures of the team at Segway is similar to what we learn as fundraisers when we are overly presumptuous about a donor’s interest in a particular initiative or when we overlook the possibility that their charitable interests have changed completely. Just as the team at Segway made the mistake of focusing their attentio
26/08/202130 minutes 47 seconds
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What will your fundraiser say when the headhunter calls next week?

Unless you have been living in a cave or under rock for the last couple of months, you’re aware that the labor market is hot as hiring freezes are over and the great resignation is being talked about in all types of industries. My conversation today with Wendy was all about how nonprofits are navigating this phenomenon and how leaders can ensure their people aren’t bailing on them. Wendy has devoted her entire career to serving nonprofit organizations and continues to do so as the managing partner at Boyden’s Boston Office.Here’s a question nonprofit leaders can ask themselves. If Wendy calls your fundraiser next week, what will they say to her? Perhaps they will say, “No, I’m not interested in making a change right now.” Or maybe they are going to say, “Yes, get me out of this crazy place as quickly as possible.” All of this really comes down to your employee retention strategy that Wendy insists shouldn’t be all that different from your donor retention strategy. Those
21/08/202148 minutes 34 seconds
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Will the current system deliver on fundraising’s higher aspirations?

It was perhaps two years ago when a mutual friend introduced me to Meghan, and I immediately felt compelled to help elevate her ideas throughout the sector. Not only do I believe that Meghan represents a smart and ambitious generation of young leaders, but she is also demonstrating extraordinary courage in sharing her opinions both as a guest on the podcast today and as the featured contributor in our recent edition of Carefully and Critically. Meghan provided our readers with a very timely and provocative article that begged the question of whether our sector can learn how to better center the voice of the marginalized communities that we serve and offers a counter-narrative for how meaningful and effective a more community-based approach can be for those on either side of the exchange.As our conversation got really warmed up, Meghan and I wrestled with how much we believe in the current system and whether it can be counted on to meet some of the expectations that so ma
18/08/202158 minutes
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Are we using the wrong approach for retaining fundraising talent?

Nonprofit bosses and hiring managers, are you trying to understand why your fundraiser just bailed on you? If so, this is the podcast conversation you need to hear. I met Kate after speaking at the Ottawa fundraising conference back in May, and we subsequently struck up a conversation on social media. Kate insists that we have got to stop sending a million emails as if we’re communicating with passive consumers and start treating our donors like human beings who actually matter to us. What quickly emerged from our conversation was the idea that perhaps fundraising needs to make some bets on our donors as loyal citizens instead of relying on marketing gimmicks that are, by design, sending all the wrong messages. Kate believes that the “iPad babies” aren’t going to tolerate the cheap, shallow tactics contemporary fundraising has gotten itself way too invested in.Kate insists that humanization is the most important part of fundraising and that perhaps those who are handing
12/08/202156 minutes 38 seconds
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Perhaps a field approach to fundraising expertise is a bit overdue?

I have quite enjoyed getting to know Angee, first at our roadshow in Toronto in partnership with our friend David Hutchinson, then as a guest on the podcast shortly thereafter; now Angee is back to share with us how she has navigated the pandemic with the help of Responsive’s three lanes model. It was quite encouraging to hear that the centerpiece of our sense-making toolbox provided a framework for Angee to think through how she might approach the uncertainty of what has been our reality for the last eighteen months. While often confused for a prescriptive plan, the three lanes are intended to help fundraisers make sense of what’s leaning in their favor with the help of a systems-level understanding of how fundraising really works. Rather than relying on experts who notoriously put their experience on loan only to ensure they are called upon over and over again, tools like the Three Lanes ensure that fundraisers develop expertise of their own.Perhaps what most excites m
10/08/202157 minutes 8 seconds
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Despite their set-backs, why do fundraisers recover so quickly?

Sam was our guest on the podcast a year ago, and at the time he was navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic combined with unemployment and the recent loss of some friends. The conversation we had was about the notion that fundraising is about listening to stories rather than telling them. I recall thinking then as I listened to his story that, despite the set-backs, Sam was a talented individual with a knack for fundraising and that it would just be a matter of time before he would find himself on top again.My assumptions were correct; and Sam, just like a lot of fundraisers, has made a strong and positive recovery from what has been a difficult year for all of us. I have always found this to be case with fundraisers; despite the ups and downs of what can be very misunderstood and under-appreciated work, fundraisers have a tendency to bounce back very quickly. What was most telling about today’s conversation was that, in the midst of the last year, Sam’s confidence as
05/08/202146 minutes 50 seconds
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What if fundraisers took a chance on convening genuine conversations?

Before the world shutdown, was your gala or golf tournament starting to wane? Are you ready to resume that event that, even before the pandemic, was perhaps yielding disappointing outcomes? Kevin wants event planners to consider abandoning what in some cases has evolved into an exhausting and uninspiring event generating nothing more than than a lot of small talk, and instead focus on genuine conversations among those at the table. Kevin wants us to take a chance on an unscripted engagement with fewer people around the table and, rather than being in control of everything, allow serendipity to do its part.As evidenced in today’s podcast conversation, Kevin has given as much thought to what these events should look like as what they shouldn’t. He believes it’s important that a convening event not be an attempt to solve every problem that surfaces around the table, that the host organization not assume responsibility for taking action on what emerges, and that the focus re
31/07/202154 minutes 57 seconds
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Does fundraising need to get better at how we receive the gift?

In her more than 30 years of fundraising, Penny has observed that the money has become increasingly more important than the donor's giving experience. I would venture to say that the same has become true for fundraisers. Arguably, donor attrition and turnover are merely two sides of the same coin. To remedy this, Penny’s consultancy prioritizes renewing the support of current donors and ensuring a genuine human-to-human interaction that ultimately means a more meaningful experience for those on either side of the exchange.What was particularly thought provoking during today’s podcast conversation with Penny was her observation that fundraisers have become quite adept at asking but not so much at receiving. Our conversation raises the question of whether we have deliberately designed systems that ensure a high volume of asking without necessarily creating the most meaningful opportunities to receive. Penny had me wondering whether this offers some insight into our poor re
29/07/20211 hour 7 minutes 9 seconds
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Can we really expect fundraisers to succeed without social capital?

Kathryn asks when we are going to begin having some tough conversations about the fundraiser’s experience? And, depending on where we find ourselves in the fundraising community, when are we going to ask whether we are contributing to or undermining their opportunity for success? Perhaps some of us don’t really care how successful the fundraiser actually is? For Kathryn, the answer to these questions is quite simple; whether we’re talking about boards or bosses, association leaders, consulting shops, direct response, search firms or wealth screening, the majority of us are curating a culture that has a creepy obsession with the numbers. From my vantage point, if we don’t learn how to measure at least something qualitative really quickly, the entire system might just collapse.Kathryn insists that our professional community, like so many others, has bought hook, line, and sinker into a fallacy that permits us to make every decision based entirely on what the quantitative d
22/07/20211 hour 1 minute 13 seconds
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How do our adverse experiences make us better fundraisers?

Are today’s fundraisers really itching for more best practices, expensive credentials and industry buzzwords? If they are anything like Jessica in upstate New York, I don’t think so. As I listened to Jessica share her story today, I heard an individual who wants the opportunity to show up as her authentic self; and she wants the same for her team. The way I see it, Jessica is part of an emerging generation of fundraising leaders who recognize that the donor rarely cares one iota about our assent to professionalism. They would much prefer we demonstrate that the cause matters as much to us as we know it matters to them.For Jessica, fundraising as meaningful work has become an opportunity to share her story of overcoming adversity. Jessica’s story reminded me of my own challenges with a life-long seizure disorder. Despite the limitations this has created for me, it allowed me to relate to my major donors at the Epilepsy Foundation in very real and meaningful ways. What do
20/07/202153 minutes 44 seconds
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Do fundraisers genuinely believe that grateful patient programs are ethical?

My conversation today with Paul Hood, which in many ways is a continuation of the “listening” conversation that we had earlier this week, begs the question of whether fundraisers support the notion of grateful patient programs and the like, or do they merely tolerate them, and given the opportunity, would prefer that their work be more exploratory. When I think of fundraisers like Paul who insist that their practices align with the highest ethical standards, I believe they would be far more fulfilled without some the data and, instead, to simply rely on their communication and relationship-building skills. Both of which our guests consistently demonstrate that fundraisers have in remarkable and immeasurable ways. The question becomes whether their employers give them the opportunity to use them.Our conversation today aligns with some of the thoughts that I have previously expressed about the naïveté that is inherent in some of our thinking. I believe we are in the cusp o
17/07/202157 minutes 58 seconds
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Are fundraising professionals listening to their donor’s “money” story?

Some of us don’t understand our donor’s decisions because we’re not listening. Today, Wanda and I wrestled with the question of whether fundraising professionals are taking the time to hear to their donors “money” stories. Wanda shared that by listening closely to the role that money has had in the lives of our donors, we are given an opportunity to resolve some of the other power dynamics that often surface in these relationships. What makes these conversations so important is that they afford the fundraiser insight into the nuances that inform their donor’s decisions and perspective that gift histories and wealth screening information cannot. While such data might enlighten us in some ways, we will never learn more than by sitting down, perhaps over coffee or lunch, and inviting them to share in this way. Wanda and I also talked about why some fundraisers don’t afford themselves this type of opportunity in their work. I would venture to say these individuals often miss
14/07/202154 minutes
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How can white fundraisers best ally with their BIPOC colleagues?

I’m always grateful when guests like Becky allow me to integrate their thinking and are likewise confident enough to integrate mine. Today, Becky and I wrestled with how we as white fundraisers can be allies with our black, brown and indigenous colleagues. To begin with, I suspect that what triggers most of our hesitancy is making our way through conversations of this sort without putting our foot in our mouth, saying something we might regret, or implying that we’re completely naive and out of touch. My inclination is always to jump in with both feet, to be receptive to feedback, and to be able to admit quickly when you’ve made a mistake.Becky fully recognizes that she has resources available to her that would benefit her BIPOC colleagues in meaningful and significant ways. In partnership with our colleagues at CCF, she has begun writing some thought-provoking pieces that reveal some of the inherent tension that many of us feel in these discussions. I suspect that conve
11/07/202157 minutes 51 seconds
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Have fundraising practices been conditioned on low expectations?

My conversation today with Kevin reminded me of all the dangerous assumptions that we sometimes make about how fundraising really works and of the practices that often compel us to think about what we do. After 33 years of experience leading development programs for both local and international organizations. Kevin's not afraid to challenge people’s thinking when it comes to supporting good causes. For example, how many of our challenges originate from the belief that the only way to raise more money is to accumulate more donors? And, once donor acquisition is running amok, do hoards of $20-40 gifts lead one to assume that these gifts accurately reflect the capability of their donors? Do contemporary fundraising practices convince us that our donors are broke and therefore perpetuate our low expectations?Kevin insists that we need to treat all our donors like we would a major donor. He shared with me his experience of helping an organization go from from 14 to 40 major g
07/07/202150 minutes 45 seconds
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261 | Should I work for a boss who won’t invest in their own professional development?

Several of our recent conversations have been about what fundraisers should expect of the organizations they work for and how they can discern whether the boss has an accurate understanding of how fundraising actually works. Sarah has taken this inquiry and made it the focus of her research. Among the various questions she asks, perhaps the most relevant for fundraisers in transition is whether they should expect the boss to have invested in their own professional development in fundraising.  In summarizing her work, Sarah was quick to give credit to those who have traversed this terroirty ahead of her, the most noteworthy perhaps being the 2013 underdeveloped study that has raised made us all much more aware of the challenges organizations face in terms of hiring and retaining fundraising talent. It was particularly interesting to hear what Sarah describes as a perception gap between how CEOs and Chief Development Officers understand their challenges and opportunities. 
29/06/202139 minutes 25 seconds
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260 | What happens when “warm glow” fundraising plateaus?

Our recent conversation with Sandi Bliss caught Tammy’s attention. Our discussion reminded Tammy of some of the observations she made earlier in her career while supervising a team of fundraisers. Tammy observed that once her team no longer had something tangible to “sell,” they began to feel like impostors and didn’t quite know how to negotiate more complex and long-term giving opportunities.Tammy’s team found themselves at the place where transactional fundraising plateaus and where every attempt at selling the same “warm glow” becomes increasingly more difficult. Being stuck here means donor attrition sky rockets, fundraisers quit, and acquisition costs go out the roof. At Responsive, we call this transition point the messy middle lane, the place where a more meaningful gift reflects one’s genuine commitment to and confidence in the mission rather than the naive and impulsive assumption that they’re single-handedly changing the world. Tammy want
26/06/202154 minutes 56 seconds
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259 | Has your boss demonstrated their willingness to invest in fundraising?

When meeting with a client, Sherry doesn’t go straight to fundraising tactics. Instead, in order to understand whether an organization is up to the task of achieving its goals, she begins by asking some probing questions. This often starts with knowing how much money needs to be raised, as opposed to some vague and arbitrary numbers, and whether there is a willingness to dedicate the resources necessary. As Sherry points out, a lot of us are signing on for jobs where the expectation is nothing more than to tell stories and ask for money. That’s not how it works. In the midst of all this talk about “the great resignation,” my conversation today with Sherry raises the question of why some fundraisers are signing on to work for bosses who don’t really get fundraising and perhaps have no intention of ever trying to. Before we accept an offer, perhaps we should discern whether the boss is committed to investing in fundraising. Sherry insists, and I concur, that fundraisers ne
22/06/202158 minutes 59 seconds
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258 | Is the talk of decolonizing philanthropy misdirecting our attention?

As a Latinx fundraiser for thirty-five years, Armando has earned the right to have an opinion or two about the challenges we’re facing in today’s nonprofit sector and he believes that, in many ways, we’re missing the point in some of our most heated debates. Armando insists that if decolonizing philanthropy is our goal, it’s not going to happen by focusing on large foundations. We’ve got to remind ourselves what we’re all told in fundraising 101: foundations have never been where the real sustainable opportunities are and never will be. What’s worse, convincing ourselves that in some way the powers that be behind these large foundations will just hand over their power, influence, and assets is simply naive.Armando wants to remind us that these supposed powerhouses of philanthropy only account for a small fraction of what’s actually contributing to our sector and that they don’t hold nearly as much clout as some would like us to think. While their size, stature, and polit
19/06/202150 minutes 42 seconds
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257 | How much of fundraising’s pre-pandemic playbook are we throwing out?

Today’s conversation with Jeff at EAB was fascinating to say the least. Our conversation, informed significantly by the research that Jeff and his team have either conducted or been a part of, centered around the question of how much of fundraising’s pre-pandemic playbook we are going to throw out and what are we going to keep. Jeff shared with me that the traditional advancement models we see in higher education, largely predicated on alums willingness to show up and agreeing to participate, hasn’t been showing signs of improvement for quite some time. He explains that these aspects of fundraising has been on an unsustainable path for quite some time and that the pandemic simply forced many of us to confront this reality.Jeff explained that many of our challenges on the road ahead will surface simply because our inability to work out the economics. I suppose what was most encouraging to hear was how much opportunity is actually out there if we are
17/06/202149 minutes 22 seconds
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256 | Fundraisers, is that really your story to tell?

As is customary on the podcast, we have thought provoking conversations that give us hope of one day arriving at more enlightened fundraising practices. Well, today’s conversation really had us moving in that direction; and I am really grateful to Cathy for being our provocateur today. Cathy helps organizations raise money in difficult places, for causes that don’t always make for the easiest of stories to tell, and I appreciate her for challenging our thinking about where storytelling makes sense and where it doesn’t.The questions Cathy had us contemplating were whether fundraising professionals are necessarily entitled to tell the stories of those we serve and in what cases our expectations might cause unintentional harm. With all the Storytelling going on, it’s a fair question. When should someone’s story, perhaps one that involves unresolved trauma and abuse, be off limits even when told with the best of intentions?As always, we are grateful to our friend
11/06/202140 minutes 57 seconds
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255 | What could fundraisers achieve if they took the indirect route?

My conversation with Karl immediately reminded me of the brilliant little book, Obliquity, by LSE and Oxford professor John Kay, who makes the argument that our goals are best achieved indirectly. While counterintuitive, Kay explains that the most successful, most profitable enterprises don’t focus on profits or shareholder value. Arguably, this is a lesson fundraising hasn’t learned. Far too much of contemporary fundraising adheres to a direct approach, and I would venture to say that our fundraisers suffer the brunt of this truth. The direct approach convinces us that our attention should be narrowly focused on donors and dollars.Karl has developed an appreciation for the indirect route in real time, discovering that being embedded in his community in a variety of ways makes for opportunities that he wouldn’t otherwise encounter. The oblique approach has taught him to trust the process and to not to become overly anxious when things diverge from where he thought they w
08/06/202147 minutes 25 seconds
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254 | Do the guardians of donor-centered fundraising have a bit of a PR problem?

It sounds as if donor-centered fundraising might have a bit of a PR problem, and Scott’s got the data to explain why. A couple of months ago, Scott launched a poll which asked, is "donor-centric" fundraising on its way out? While the poll results may not be all that surprising, a close look at the participants behind the responses tell an interesting story. Among those participating in Scott’s poll, the guardians of donor-centered fundraising tend to be older, white men working for large institutions.As I listened to Scott’s reflections on his findings, it is apparent that the comments that followed challenged him to think more critically about what these various ideologies mean and how they inform his work. While desiring to remain true to his values, he’s evidently teachable and pays attention to what those on the other side are saying. Scott strikes me as similar to a lot of the fundraisers that I talk to: not at all about the buzzwords that experts notoriously conjur
03/06/202158 minutes 34 seconds
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253 | Was the pandemic an opportunity for fundraising to make some necessary changes?

My conversation with Alex today raises the question of whether the pandemic was a jumping off opportunity for those who have for stuck on a burning platform for far too long. Throughout the pandemic I have heard several of my guests similarly insist that the pandemic forced critically important changes that were easy to avoid until a crisis of this magnitude came along. Alex explained that for some organizations, the pandemic was an opportunity to demonstrate bravery, increase their tolerance for risk, and persuade key decision makers to do the same.These are the types of insights that Alex and the research team found in between the lines of the latest Charity Benchmark’s report. The findings are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the effects of the pandemic on the charitable sector and in particularly for those who are in the UK. As Alex shared with me, the pandemic has had a significant impact on long-term thinking and will no do
29/05/202146 minutes 22 seconds
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252 | Did the pandemic teach fundraisers how to create perceived proximity?

Imagine being brand new on a job just days before the pandemic put nearly the entire world on lock down. What would that experience be like? That’s the question I started with today in my conversation with Gail Carter who has managed to successfully navigate her first year as the Vice President of the University Development at the College of Charleston. I was most intrigued to learn that the lock down didn’t necessarily impede Gail’s acclimating to the new role, and it seems she is well prepared for the road ahead. I appreciated hearing how Gail and her team have successfully adapted to the uncertainty that the pandemic has thrown at us and taken it in stride. I suspect that what we will hear from many fundraisers in the months to come is that the pandemic provided us all an opportunity to rely on tools that we have long had at our disposal but had perhaps not fully embraced. And perhaps we have discovered that, despite geographical limitations, we can create what resear
25/05/202148 minutes 39 seconds
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251 | Will fundraising ever learn that the conversation is the work?

When fundraising is compared to sales, when we insist on pre-determined solicitation amounts, and when everything is all about the ask I’m inclined to ask where is the conversation? Where are we demonstrating our ability to have a meaningful conversation with another human being? As Sandy and I discussed today on the podcast, it concerns me that so few fundraisers have embraced the notion that, as poet and Oxford professor David Whyte says, the conversation is the work. As Sandy evidently has, how about we talk about multi-million dollar conversations rather than multi-million dollar asks?Are we so naive as to think that if everything about the donor can be efficient, predictable and controlled that our boards and bosses won’t expect the same from our side of the table as well? How many of us know how to have genuine, open-ended conversations with a donor that don’t adhere to a script we’ve already memorized in our head? How many of our employers recognize the conversati
19/05/202145 minutes 7 seconds
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250 | Are nonprofits are ready for crypto-based fundraising?

Someone early in my career explained that nonprofits are notorious for operating at least two years behind the rest of the working world when it comes to innovation. This individual insisted that rather than being the early adopters, we’re more inclined to the be the laggards due to our aversion to risk. Contrary to what this person had observed, I have always believed nonprofits should be the innovators rather than the last to adapt to someone else’s bold, new idea; slow to change means missing the chance to change the world. I think we are getting better at this, and perhaps people like Pat are helping us along in our adoption of new ideas. We seem to be leaning into the messy reality that multiple generations are using a multiplicity of channels to give. What Pat wants us to add to that complex mix is the understanding that we’re on the verge of adding a multiplicity of currencies and that, while we generally assume our asset-based donor to have at least paid off thei
12/05/20211 hour 1 minute 34 seconds
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249 | When it comes to fundraising, perhaps less can really mean more?

How often do we ask ourselves whether half as much effort might yield the same results? Perhaps these are the types of questions that the pandemic has afforded us the opportunity to ask; and I suspect that a few of us, like Mike Hoffman at the US Naval Academy, have been taking good notes. Today, Theresa and I had the pleasure of talking with Mike who shared with us some of the lessons he and his team have learned in the last year. The first among them, when it comes to fundraising, perhaps less can really mean more.I believe a lot of fundraisers like Mike have paid close attention to what actually worked in their favor and what didn’t matter in the slightest in the midst of the recent pandemic. This experience has allowed us an opportunity to take notice of what actually contributes to our success and, perhaps more importantly, what is really just getting in our way. Enjoying genuine conversations with the half of our donors who actually want to talk with us, developing
11/05/202148 minutes 53 seconds
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248 | How can nonprofit boards be bridges to smarter organizations?

For over a year and a half, David O’Brien and Matthew Craig conducted 60 interviews with nonprofit leaders around the country; and in their new book, Building Smart Nonprofits, they share their thoughts on a range of subjects from sources of capital, the infamous overhead myth, evaluation of program effectiveness, and the telling our story. David explained to me that many of the leaders they interviewed are re-examining what has and has not worked in their favor and how their boards partner with them to overhaul their funding models. David is the quintessential board member; after a successful forty year career, he found himself with a desire to give back. This motivation landed him on lots of boards; and, despite all his experience and education, he admits that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing. David explained to me that his motivation for the book was two-fold. First, an awareness that the efficacy of funding models based on galas and golf tournaments has peak
07/05/202145 minutes 2 seconds
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247 | Should nonprofit fundraising aspire to be a more interdisciplinary endeavor?

Fundraising as an interdisciplinary endeavor was where Fraser and I wrapped up our conversation however that was only after tossing around a myriad of topics ranging from US politics to the effects that Walt Disney and Don Draper have in our worldviews. I was grateful to hear Fraser suggest that we bring behavioral economics to the forefront of our thinking and allow it along with a few other disciplines to enhance our thinking in the field. The team at Good Works strikes me as one that can be counted on to think carefully and critically about what their client’s are trying to achieve.This was my second conversation with the team at Good Works and I’m delighted to a part of the line up with both Holly and Fraser this week at Fundraising Day in Ottawa. I’m excited to hear what Fraser will have to say about story telling and, perhaps afterwards, the two of us will begin working on our case for more interdisciplinary thinking in fundraising. This has l
03/05/20211 hour 2 minutes 9 seconds