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The Enron Debacle, 15 Years Ago—2016 Lessons For Nonprofit Boards?

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By Dr. Eugene Fram, Professor Emeritus, Saunders College of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology Blog: Nonprofit Management

In 2001 Enron Energy collapsed due to financial manipulations and a moribund board. It was the seventh-largest company in the United States. Andrew Fastow, the former CFO and architect of the manipulations served more than five years in prison for securities fraud. He recently offered the following comments to business board members that, in my opinion, are currently relevant to nonprofit boards. Quotations from the article are italicized.

One explanation of his downfall was he didn’t stop to ask whether the decisions he was making were ethical (moral).

Nonprofits directors and managers can find themselves in similar situations. One obvious parallel is when a conflict of interest occurs. A recent court case documented instances in which… Read more

Why the Prophetic Model of Fundraising Doesn’t Work

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By Abi Sterne, V.P. for Jewish Experience & Director of the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Experience, Hillel International

Fundraising requires a paradoxical balance of audacity and humility. It requires both describing a seriously challenging situation or social ill, while also displaying an immense amount of optimism and vision for creating a brighter future.

In many ways, fundraising is like prophecy.

The most satisfying and effective fundraising meetings don’t start with a pitch. Much like the prophecies of the Bible, they start by pointing out a problem and presenting an alluring vision.

What is a vision, and why is it so important? Read more

How To Infiltrate Major Gifts Management Meetings

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By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer, American Technion Society

If you’re a prospect researcher who doesn’t attend major gift management meetings, read on… If you attend these meetings without a prospect researcher, read on… for you can certainly benefit from the researcher’s contribution and help promote his or her attendance.

Your organization may be relatively new to leveraging prospect research in its drive to cultivate donors. Likewise, you (as researcher) may not yet have the opportunity to be present at these key meetings where major gift prospects are reviewed. The major gifts management meeting is a staple of all organizations with genuine major gifts programs. In this context, fundraisers and management meet to discuss a slate of key prospects – those that are being actively solicited for these gifts and those that are in earlier stages of cultivation. Depending on your organization, you may not be involved in this meeting, may be involved in a token way or may have a much stronger role from the perspective of prospect management.

Here are ten actions Read more

Mind the Gender Gap – Women’s role in philanthropy – A Canadian Perspective

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By Mark Bowman, Prospect Researcher and Proposal Writing Specialist

Sometimes we men just don’t get it – especially when it comes to giving and philanthropy. As a prospect researcher and fundraising consultant in Ottawa (Canada’s capital) for the past decade, I’ve often heard the refrain that “Women don’t write the big cheques”. Really?

This assertion misses the fundamental point that men and women have different perspectives, in part due to their gender. There are distinct differences in our approaches to philanthropy and community engagement and in the way men and women connect with the cause (both financial and personal). Read more

Brushing Shoulders with China’s Nouveaux Riche

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By Melody Song Senior Development Officer, Calgary Zoo

The dinner was in a private dinning room with high ceilings and grand windows looking out to the dancing lights of downtown – a jungle of glass towers and pedestrian streets, bustling at all hours in this massive urban capital of one of China’s most populated provinces. Above the enormous round table was a beautiful modern chandelier, which set the quiet, but extravagant tone of the whole decor. The room also came with a private bathroom, bar, and a team of waiters. Our host, Mr. Zhang was a successful local entrepreneur, impeccably dressed at all times, humble and soft-spoken. As a fundraising professional from a zoo in Canada, I was with my President to attend. Read more

Know Your Audience: Storytelling Through the Generations

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By Sandra Larkin, Writer, Fundraiser, Communicator

Because we are literally hardwired to learn through stories, storytelling is perhaps the single most powerful communication tool available to fundraisers. Stories stimulate not only the analytical parts of our brains, but those that process sensory information, memory and emotion. Inside our heads, we share the experiences that happen in the story; we hear the crowd’s roar, smell popcorn and hotdogs, see the halftime band marching onto the field, lean forward with anticipation as the ball soars through the air.

A well-told story connects your donor, on an emotional level, to the way their gift can change a life, or change the world. By evoking imagination and empathy, a story makes giving a meaningful experience, not just a tax deduction. But not all stories are created equal, so telling the right story is crucial. “Know your audience” is a fundamental rule of communication, and the listener’s own experiences create the context in which your story is understood. Read more

What Fundraisers Want

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By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer, American Technion Society

I’ve gotten better at doing prospect research over the years, primarily because fundraiser colleagues have been generous in describing their work to me. After I provide them research, I follow up with the same five questions:

– How was the research useful?

– More specifically, in your meetings with the prospect, what research data did you leverage to get additional information from (about) the prospect?

– How did the meeting go?

– What’s your next step?

– Do you need additional research?

This is a good launching point for a rich conversation which will lead to plenty of other relevant topics such as prospect cultivation methods, planned giving, payment schedules, etc. Read more

My Letter To Your Vice President

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By Armando Zumaya Senior Vice President, Business Development and Campaign, The Mexican Museum

Don’t you hate unsolicited advice? I do. So let me give you some.

There is a better way to work with your Prospect Research and Management teams. When I lecture and meet my colleagues who lead large development teams, it’s becoming more common to hear smart and nimble prospecting and prospect management teams support VP level staff and their leadership.

However, it’s also amazing how many of my colleagues still put their Prospect Research and Management staff way down the organizational chart and rarely interact with them. They bury them in “Development Services”. The old view that Prospect Research and Management are passive, reactive services needs to be challenged.

My prospect research and management staff are my right hand strategic and tactical advisors. They report directly to my office, I do their reviews. They help me in a myriad of ways. I couldn’t imagine operating without that role in some shape or form. Read more

I Am A Matchmaker


By Steffanie Brown Manager for Prospect Research & Development Services, Florida Institute of Technology

No, you won’t find me behind the scenes on a reality TV show or an online dating website. You’ll find me in an office at a university, though you might also find others like me at hospitals, museums, or social services agencies. I am a fundraising matchmaker.

I work in a field known variously as prospect research, prospect development, or other similar titles. However, when I am asked to explain my work to someone who isn’t as familiar with nonprofit fundraising, I often say, “I’m a matchmaker.” I match projects to potential donors (or vice versa), and sometimes potential donors to development officers. Read more

Thanking Your Donors: Do It Right!

By Alicia Cerreto (twitter) Philanthropy Consultant, Alicia

August 4th’s Google Doodle celebrated John Venn, the inventor of the Venn diagram. I spent some time with my five year old son mixing and matching the different pairs:

Transport + Tiny = Clown Car

Sea Life + Thrives in Cold = Angler Fish Read more