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Does AI Have a Role in Major Gifts?

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By David Lawson, Co-Founder & CEO, NewSci, LLC

There is no more human of an action than giving time and treasure to help people who you have never met and for benefits you may never receive. It has been proven this act releases pleasure chemicals in our brain, making it something we want to do again and again.

Lower level giving relies on this fact of biology to bring in donations through the mail, on-line, events, and kettles. This serves as the base of the giving pyramid.

Major gifts is perched atop this pyramid, demonstrating year after year that no sector on earth can monetize a relationship better than our own. Name another industry as capable of using value-based pricing. You can’t…
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Unlocking Corporate Philanthropy

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By Aaron Wooden, Senior Consultant, FTI Consulting

I recently left the fantastic Corporate Engagement team at Northwestern University, where I served for over 3 years as the research analyst. I had many responsibilities, but most projects could be bucketed into two broad areas, prospect research and institutional analysis. Over my time there, my experiences with corporate prospects led me to think of them as a unique category of philanthropic support worth noting.

First, in a recent report on corporate giving from Bentz Whaley Flessner, one key finding indicated that corporate foundations have not increased their funding of non-profits at the same rate as budgets from other units within a corporate prospect. Because of this fact, there are still…
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Answer This Question! Give Me A Report!

By Gil Israeli, GI Financial Resource Development and Dir. of Operation, Osher ELC

The Director of Development in a small operation says to the Development Associate, “Answer this question!”

Then: “Just her gifts.”

Or: “What boards is she on?”

“Answer this question!” is common in the nonprofit where the ED and Dir. of Development may be the same person. On a shoestring budget, she can’t afford a wealth screening or to buy prospect lists or to bring in a hotshot consultant. Perhaps the database and prospect pool are sorely lacking. She can’t spend time writing research reports…
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Comembership and the BIG Major Gifts

By Gil Israeli, GI Financial Resource Development and Dir. of Operations, Osher ELC

When seeking to connect with a major gifts prospect, it is smart fundraising to draw on a lay person who knows the prospect well or can connect to the prospect through a few degrees of separation. Since this isn’t always possible, the next best strategy is to introduce and connect people who share avid, strong affiliations and affinities. One anthropologist has described these social traits as “co-membership” – unique points of contact in shared identity.

The really good fundraisers and prospect researchers go beyond identifying prospects and look for points of co-membership between your helpful community and prospects. These are ideal launch pads for relationship-building and just a few of these include… Read more

The Enron Debacle, 18 Years Ago—2019 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

Infiltrate? Such a strong word. But let’s ask: Has your organization succeeded at leveraging prospect research – specifically, you – in its drive to cultivate donors?

Do you know this maxim: There’s truth in every stereotype. So, is it possible that a few of your colleagues view you (the prospect researcher) as introspective, a bit on the social-periphery at work , a person that merely looks up data, and happy in your cog-like position in the organization? This is harsh stuff. Still, I must say, I’ve heard some of this over the years and prospect researcher colleagues have shared their similar experiences with me.

Us knowledge workers earn our living in a world that is supported by stereotyping behavior. Ours is a fast-moving society, especially one in which our non-profit employment has been so shaped and streamlined by technology for each one of us so that our identities have also been shaped to yield the fastest and (ideally) loqest-cost paths to revenue. We stereotype to create a quick shorthand to navigate social situations, especially immediate short-lived ones. Even worse, stereotyping becomes entrenched in our long-term memory, especially in recurring situations, with years of work in rigid bueracratic organizations where the hierachy of job functions becomes the over-riding definer of who you are as an employee and, perhaps also a person. Then there are the secondary desciptors of a worker’s qualities. Are you a collaborator? Are you a mentor? Or, are you mainly defined by a handful of functions: the prospect researcher or grant writer and so on. We all know that this may extend to the point such that the stereotype eclipses your individuality, your creative ideas, and the opportunities you have for growing beyond your position.

Let’s all look beyond stereotypes. Fundraisers are not just just salesmen. They can have a sensitivity to human behavior, language, and people’s needs that can somewhat resemble those of a psychiatrist. Usually, they are not intellectuals (most intellectuals want to spend their time in the world of ideas, learning, teaching, doing research and writing), while the fundraiser is interested in one main application. Unlike the psychiatrist, their business goal is to lead the prospect to make a financial gift. The sensitivies and subtleties of achieving this requires its own skill set and you can’t learn this through a book or seminar.

What about prospect researchers?

I’d like to make some observations about how you can grow in your organization beyond your desk, beyond looking up data, and be welcomed as a voice in your fundraising operation.

Perhaps you may not yet have the opportunity to be present at Major Gift Management meetings. The meeting is a staple of all organizations with genuine major gifts programs. (Not those that occasionally raise major gifts.) In this context – in this meeting, fundraisers and management meet to discuss a slate of key prospects, those that are being actively solicited for these major 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 contributing through prospect management.

How do you get inside that room? (How does anyone?) Prove your value.

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