Fundraising: The Beauty & The Pain

Dec 14, 2018

This week, I've been reminded of the beauty and the pain of fundraising.


Variety - In fundraising, every day is different. You decide who to call, where to go and what to say. You're constantly trying new things, meeting new people & traveling to new places (even if a lot of those places are Starbucks!).

Learning - Every new conversation yields a new idea, life lesson or new aspiration. Donors share their secrets to retiring at 50, their dreams for how they'll be remembered and their family recipes for chocolate chip cookies.

Generosity -You see the very best in humans. You sit with someone as they decide to give their money away. They could do absolutely anything else with that money, but they choose your org. That's magical.


Paralysis - When you don't know who to call, where to go or what to ask for, your office can feel like prison. You have those brutal days - where you just stare at a list of names for hours, but never actually send an email or pick...

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Dec 07, 2018

Anand Giridharadas calls philanthropy “the elite charade of changing the world.” I respectfully disagree.

Giridharadas makes many excellent points in his new book, WINNERS TAKE ALL, but his focus on Big Philanthropy obscures the remarkable good done by regular-people-like-us-philanthropy, and especially the ways that small, place-based nonprofits do change the world, in ways little and large, every day.

This is the story of an award-winning chef, a plucky nonprofit, a generous family and the community foundation that put it all together and changed some lives.


Micki Chestnut has a very different take than Donald Trump on how to “Make America Great Again.” She prefers a different president’s motto.

“Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.’ That’s been a touchstone for me. And I thought, I can do something right here, right...

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Why We Quit Our Jobs...

Oct 19, 2018

"We've loved it here, but we have to quit."

Last October, Nancy and I sat down in our boss's bright, huge corner office and quit our six-figure jobs in higher ed fundraising.

We cried.

We apologized.

We laughed nervously.

We cried more.

But we did it. We quit.

As the year anniversary of our last day of "work" and our first day of entrepreneurship approaches (November 1st! There WILL be wine!), I can't help but reflect.

Why did I quit?

People thought I was crazy.

I'd been there for 10 years.

I was leading the largest team.

I had a big, bright corner office.

I had insurance.

I had a pension. A pension! Money for life that keeps growing the longer you stay!?!

I liked my job. I loved my team. But...

I wanted to do more.

To help more people help more people.

To help fundraisers across the country raise more money.

To help nonprofits everywhere make more change.

One year later, it's happening.

Fundraisers Monthly members are getting more visits, having better conversations and raising...

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3 Reasons We're Inspired by Fundraisers

Aug 03, 2018

What does it take to be a fundraiser?

I know, I know. There have been hundreds of articles written on this (including this one from us) and hours of conference sessions devoted to it.

But this week's got me thinking differently.

You, my fellow fundraiser - you're crazy special.

I was terrified for the first 3 years of my career (4 if I'm being totally honest).

I fell into my very first fundraising job - believing if I could sell coffee to grumpy morning people, I could surely raise money. (Helpful career hint: it's not the same AT ALL!)

After two years sorting through paper files and "raising" a tiny bit of money as it fell into my lap, I talked my way into a bigger, better job in a bigger, better town.

I felt like a fraud.

Not only at my job, but with donors.

I had no confidence - no roadmap - no clue where to go or what I was supposed to talk about.

I walked into dozens of immaculate homes, corner offices and Starbucks completely terrified - believing I would say something...

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Three Tips for Getting More Done in Less Time...So You Can Enjoy Your Summer

Jul 06, 2018

It's summer and the livin' is easy...except we still have to work!

If, like us, you want to squeeze every bit of joy and awesomeness out of both work and play, we commend to you the following hacks.

1. Thunderbolt from the blue (okay, actually, via the Amy Porterfield podcast, from Brooke Castillo): 

Don't sit down to "work." Sit down to produce. Give yourself (way) less time than usual and settle for imperfect, but Get. It. Done.

This is so huge! How many days do you "work" so hard, only to realize you haven't actually accomplished anything on your impressive to-do list? 

Pro-tip: Take your top priority and give yourself two hours to accomplish an actual, tangible result (you got the appointment! you drafted the proposal! you planned the trip!).

We can hardly say how amazing this is. You feel free and in charge of your work at the same time. You get more done in less time and get to go have some fun already. Give it a shot!!

2. Very much connected to #1, Don't do what...

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6 Secrets to Contagious Content

Jun 08, 2018

If you've been watching the NBA Finals, you've seen Uber's new Moving Forward campaign or Mountain Dew's, drink? soda? I never know what to call Mountain Dew.

Just like Uber and the Dew, nonprofits need to boost awareness. How do you spread the word without an NBA Finals-sized ad budget? Read Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Wharton marketing professor, Jonah Berger. Berger reveals six key principles (STEPPS) to help you craft contagious content:

  • Social Currency - We share things that make us look good.
    • How do you make the donor the hero of your story?
  • Triggers - Top of mind, tip of tongue.
    • What cues make people think of your org, the problem you're solving or the change you make?
  • Emotion - When we care, we share.
    • Donors give from the heart. Focus on feelings.

  • Public - Built to show, built to grow.
    • Show, don't tell. Use more video, photos & testimonials to truly demonstrate change.
  • Practical Value - News you can use.
    • How can you highlight your...
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Jun 01, 2018

It's Friday! We're looking back on a week full of inspiration. Hope you are, too!

Check out The Crossroads of Should and Must. This hardcover book is meant to be held, dog-eared, read and reread. Written by artist and designer, Elle Luna, each and every page is art, color and inspiration.

If you're facing a big decision, wishing for change, but unsure if it's right or just need a reminder that you're on the right path, read this book!

We're inspired by the podcast This Is Love. Created by the Criminal podcast team, these are deeply personal, quirky, funny, tragic and awe-inspiring stories of all types of love. In a time when we don't hear much about love and connection, these stories give me the warm and fuzzies (and a few tears).

One of my favorites is Episode 2, Something Wild and Large, about a 17-year old swimmer who encounters a baby grey whale in the Pacific Ocean.

We're also listening to our own podcast, Episode 7: Jen Sincero's 10 Secrets to Badassery. The big idea:


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Education Is Generous Change

May 18, 2018

We're watching Malala Yousafzai on David Letterman's new Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Malala, now in her first year at Oxford, reminds us that education is independence, identity, equality and a basic human right.

When Dave asked about forgiveness and meaning, Malala said, "I saw death so close and I realized that maybe this life is for a purpose. I decided that I would give this life to girls' education and speak out for them. We have to die one day. Why not do good and do as much as we can to help others?"

The Malala Fund's mission is to help the 130 million girls in the world who are out of school to learn and lead without fear.

The Fund's powerful message gives us goosebumps:

If one girl with an education can change the world, what can 130 million do?

We also love this Stephen Colbert video for another peek at the lighter side of Malala.

We are in awe of the late Sylvia Bloom, who, in her will, left more than $8 million to support scholarships for...

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Friday Inspirations, Episode 16 :)

May 11, 2018

Wow! We are watching Gates, Rockefeller, and Chan Zuckerberg take aim at poverty in the U.S. We geek out on seeing theories of change in action.

The Gates Scholarships embrace education as the way out of poverty and reward the best and brightest. Rockefeller and Chan Zuckerberg's Communities Thrive Challenge lifts up communities' own innovative, scalable solutions. 

If you do community work to alleviate/eliminate inequality, check out the Challenge! Grants are $1 million plus technical assistance and big publicity for results. Amazing!

We are reading The Culture Code, on how groups get and stay successful. Belonging is, unsurprisingly, at the center. Turns out the amygdala, that old reptilian part of our brains, not only spurs fight-or-flight, it also detects "belonging cues" and uses "immense unconscious neural horsepower to build and sustain your social bond." Fun fact: 

  • People at a train station during a rain storm were approached by a stranger....
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Fundraisers! Stand up. Stand out.

May 04, 2018

Congratulations to our graduates of Fund Development Institute!

We are ridiculously proud of these 21 amazing humans. They put up with us for FIVE full days of intensive learning. Because they were so truly awesome, Nancy and I said "yay" about 6000 times, clapped, jumped up and down, threw candy at them and threatened to do cartwheels.

We covered an insane amount of fundraising essentials, like:

  • Making a sparkling, irresistible case
  • Finding new donors
  • How to get the visit - the email formula & cold-calling
  • How to turn the conversation to $
  • The keys to killer cultivation
  • The Pre-Ask, the Ask & follow up
  • How to handle "no"
  • Stellar thanks
  • Board members as fundraisers
  • Writing for donors
  • Career development

This week, our hard-working fundraisers inspired us to re-read Seth Godin's Linchpin. This book challenges and inspires you to lead from wherever you are in your organization - to become indispensable. A linchpin invents, leads, connects, makes things happen, creates order...

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