Posts filed under ‘Nonprofit Research’

Philanthropic Research


Sure, these days there are certificate programs as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in nonprofit management and philanthropy. I’m old (veteran, experienced what have you). When I began my career in philanthropy, I learned on the job.

This week I realized how my university work in Political Science and History with a minor in Sociology helped get me where I am today – along with a Mom who supported and believed in me and a network of fundraising professionals who held their hand out and pulled me up.

Currently, I am building fundraising portfolios from scratch. This includes reviewing current and lapsed donors. Talking about prospects suggested by leaders and those who seem a potential fit based on news items.

Photo credit: Maura Hernandez

Do they fit in a portfolio? Well that’s where my university experience doing research, writing and intuition comes to play. My majors and minors required a lot of research from primary and secondary sources. I had to write, review and think about the subject to determine if my thesis was proved or I needed more explanation. I am old – all this research was done without the Internet or a computer for that matter. I loved this work – the smell of the library, looking for resources in the card file and finding actual books on the shelves.

This love of research carries over to my work in philanthropy. I am curious – not a stalker. My work at university taught me to keep asking questions. Look for more information. Refine and narrow the details to hone my argument.

This is the same work I deploy when building a portfolio.

  • What tells me this person might have philanthropic interest (let alone capacity)?
  • Are their values aligned with the mission?
  • What experiences did or are they having that fit with the work?

So many more questions.

The research is but a first step. And one that does not take a long time. At some point I decide they should be in the portfolio and then determine what my outreach will be (moves management) so I can learn more from them as the best of primary sources.

There is nothing better than a face to face conversation about the donor’s experience, passion, interests and stories. And the beginning of a relationship where I can serve as a catalyst for their philanthropy. I want to help them turn their passions for mission into a philanthropic investment that has impact and provides them with a wonderful sense of belonging, accomplishment and pride.

It all began at university – unbeknownst to me and many decades later – I know why I was meant to hone my research skills.

Stay tuned on how and why writing all those political science and history papers contributed to my fundraising skills.

19/07/2017 at 22:42 Leave a comment

Charitable Giving UP Down Under!


The good news is Australians are giving more than last year. Philanthropy and fundraising is new(er) in Australia than in the US. Everyone tells me the culture is different. And their right.

Continue Reading 03/05/2016 at 23:00 Leave a comment

Daring to Lead* – A Survey of Nonprofit Executive Leadership


It provides insight from 3,000+ nonprofit CEOs and Executive Directors. They reflect on their work with their board members and fundraising roles, responsibilities and expectations. While the latest survey was 2011, the first was in 2001, over the years I have been following the survey – it is sad that not much has changed.

Continue Reading 09/11/2015 at 09:18 Leave a comment

Is Asking for More Money the Answer?


As you may know, The Chronicle of Philanthropy released their list of the Philanthropy 400. You can read about the changes, surprises and insights on your own.

But this article The Lessons of the Philanthropy 400 written by William Suhs Cleveland got my attention. He is a doctoral candidate at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He has updated and revised many of the figures that appear in The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 400 database showing fundraising totals for more than 1,100 groups over the past quarter of a century.

While the article offers some insights as to who’s on and off the list, changing demographics of donors etc., it is his last paragraph that really got my attention. He offered it as a warning,

Nonprofits — and the donors who support them — must keep an eye on what insights the Philanthropy 400 offers. It tells us which causes and groups are growing fast enough to meet social needs — and which are falling out of favor. And it is a reminder to everyone that if we don’t get better at asking Americans to give more, we can’t expect to solve the problems of our communities, the nation, and the world.

Fundraising has never been about “asking.”

Strong, authentic relationships with our donors are what makes the difference between good to great fundraising. And this is where academia and the real world collide.

Of course we fundraisers ask for money – but that’s only 5-10% of our work. Cultivation and stewardship is where great fundraisers spend their time. Our donor-centered approach allows us to connect donor’s interests and passions to our mission and people. This connection is what engages the donor to invest.

Sometimes we don’t ask – the donor asks us!
“What can I do?”
“How much can I give to make an impact?”
“Where can I give most?”

They are so involved and engaged, the donor is looking for ways to help.

And yes, donors change their minds, move on to other impact opportunities. New fundraising approaches are certainly impacting HOW donors are giving. But the best online giving programs also create a “connection” between donors and mission – in real time, with videos, emails and call to action – to give or do something. Online programs that keep asking don’t do well – so we’re back where started – building relationships. And when done really well they provide a starting point for the philanthropic journey we will take with our donors.

Is the Philanthropy 400 useful or interesting? Well it’s a “measure” of something that’s measurable – how much and who raised the most. I’m more interested in impact – and so are our donors. But as we all know a list of Philanthropy 400 according to “impact” would be quite different, maybe impossible, for the universities who help gather the information.

But our greatest donors and fundraisers know what great impact looks like. If we share it effectively before, during and after the “ask” we have created long lasting relationships that allow our donors to make an impact.

03/11/2015 at 09:10 Leave a comment

Connecting through Great Communication


You can’t do good science (insert your work here) without good communication,” Alda said. “You need to raise funds. The public has to back it. And you have to respect the fact that policy makers have not spent their lives studying (your work) science. They don’t talk your lingo.

Continue Reading 23/10/2015 at 09:51 Leave a comment

Fundraising & Behavioral Economics


In this post – an overview of the class I attended by Alan Hutson, Jr. and Bernard Ross on Behavioral Economics and how it applies to our fundraising, donors and success. The session was extrapolated from Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast Slow.

Continue Reading 06/04/2015 at 11:18 1 comment

Donors Don’t HAVE to Give Anything


Philanthropy is about mission, passion, relationships. Connecting those who want to give to programs and people they care about is how successful fundraising partnerships work. I don’t know a fundraiser who would tell a donor they “should” give or ask them to “give up” anything in order to support a program or organization.

Continue Reading 28/06/2013 at 10:55 Leave a comment

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