I recently was going through some of my books and came across one written by John C. Maxwell, an expert on leadership. The book is titled “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.” A quote in the chapter on generosity caught my eye. It says: “Your candle does not lose its light when it lights […]
Leading volunteers is more about “asking” and “thanking” than “ordering.” As we noted in earlier posts, volunteers are not your employees. They are free to decline assignments. A leader of volunteers cannot simply issue commands that must be carried out. Rather, a leader needs to use his or her influence to secure the personal commitment […]
According to the 2023 Giving USA Report, the longest running and most comprehensive report on the sources and uses of charitable giving in America, charitable giving levels reached $499.33 billion in 2022 – a decline of 3.4%. But that number requires some explanation. “To place these numbers in context, 2022 did represent a decline given […]
Over the years, I have heard horror stories of donations that ended up being a headache for the nonprofit. While these donations can be significant, the unexpected cost to the organization can negate the value of a gift. My own experience was with a retained life estate. This is when a person deeds a piece […]
Managing volunteers requires treating them, well, like volunteers. What does that mean exactly? First, it means recognizing that their involvement on a board or committee is freely chosen and can be withdrawn at any time for any reason without penalty or formal (as opposed to social) consequences. Volunteers are not the chair’s direct reports and […]
When it comes to team management, one size does not fit all. Not all teams are alike, and we should not expect that all team management will require the same approach. Let’s consider two quite different types of teams to understand how they lead us to very different management approaches. Team 1 is a leadership […]
What compels people to form associations? Associations are groups of like-minded individuals brought together for a common purpose. We have adages for that: “Birds of a feather flock together,” “Many hands make light work,” etc. Those of us who are part of associations find value and joy in being with, learning from and aiding others […]
Is there a correlation between a person’s religion or faith experience and giving? Certainly, we know it’s commonplace to give to the church of choice. In some religions giving is mandated or expected; in others it’s a personal matter. But what about giving beyond this level? Does faith or one’s religion have a major […]
COVID-19 did a number on the cultivation of major gifts. Primarily, it ended or greatly scaled back personal cultivation, which gave way to Zoom calls, phone calls, texts and computer chats. Some creative gift officers did arrange meetings outside with social distancing for those prospects who were willing to engage in this way. This did […]
I recently had an opportunity to spend the day with leaders from nonprofits across the eastern United States at Lighthouse Counsel’s masterclass with Bernard Ross. Bernard is an expert and thought leader in the field of decision science as it relates to nonprofit fundraising. The author of “Change for Good,”Bernard has spent his impressive […]
Relationship building is the foundational work needed for successful financial development. The key to relationship building with a donor is to know the donor’s story. You’ll want to find out who they are, what motivates them, why they give to your organization and what their philanthropic goals are. In the early stages of your relationship […]
The yes is all about the ask: the passion and the personal relationship. I love Syracuse University, where I spent my undergraduate years at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Newhouse School of Communications. The winters were long and snowy, and the spring was short and sweet. That seemed normal to […]
As I wrap up this series, I hope some of you are thinking differently about making the nonprofit sector your career path of choice. If you need just a little more convincing, here’s what Alex Walton, a person in her mid-20s and the client support coordinator at Lighthouse Counsel, says: “Young adults are constantly asking, […]
“If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.” Biddy Mason, entrepreneur and philanthropist Celebrated as “the great melting pot,” our country is a proud nation of immigrants. While many Americans are descended from those who came here seeking […]
Located on 40 acres in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, is the majestic Fisk University, home of renowned choral ensemble The Fisk Jubilee Singers. Not only did the group introduce Negro spirituals to the world, but it also was an early pioneer in fundraising with its global efforts to raise money to support the university. […]
Attracting new donors to your nonprofit is great. But retaining those donors is even more important. Did you know that the average nonprofit retains only 45% of its donors each year? That’s less than half of the new supporters who give to your nonprofit organization! How can you make more of your donors stay? You […]
By the time you have been working in the nonprofit sector for 25 or 30 years, you are hopefully pleased with your career choices and proud of what you have accomplished over the years. But that’s no reason to coast through the rest of your work lifetime. For one thing, your colleagues deserve the best […]
Looking back over a 44-year career in and/or for the nonprofit sector, I am amazed at some of the things that worked out perfectly – and admit that there were other things that could have taken me screaming and running away from the sector. For this second article, I considered primarily what helped me grow […]
Did you deliberately choose to work in the nonprofit sector? Or was it an accident/chance/last best hope/another unintentional move? For me, it was totally unplanned. I graduated from college at the ripe old age of 20 at a time when inflation was in double digits and unemployment was high. Finding a job was difficult, so […]
Earlier this month, Lighthouse Counsel President Jeff Jowdy and I spoke at the Giving Institute fall meeting. The Giving Institute is the professional association of top ethical for-profits that help nonprofits fundraise. It is the sister organization of The Giving USA Foundation. The meeting included great educational sessions, many from the Mentor Series designed to […]
It’s Halloween! Let’s knock on some doors and see what tricks befall us. Maybe we can conjure up a few treats, as well. Scary door #1: The “Stop Direct-Mail Acquisition” Trick This door, decorated for the holiday with dollar bills, is tempting — but knock at your own risk. If this disaster dressed up for Halloween, […]
Fall is synonymous with football! But in the nonprofit world, fall is end-of-year giving time. How you approach your donors will mean the difference between a touchdown and a fumble. I recently received an email solicitation from an institution I have been very involved with; it was emailed to my address, but the letter itself […]
Once again, the charitable sector in the United States is looking healthy. That was the big-picture message to come out of Giving USA 2022: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2021. In a briefing on the report hosted this summer by Lighthouse Counsel, Dr. Anna Pruitt, a Giving USA lead researcher, talked about […]
Does your organization hold out its hand, asking for donations? Or does it reach out, seeking connections? The difference is vital. The former speaks of imbalance; of a taker who seems to be looking for one-way transactions and saying, “Trust me, I know better than you how to make a difference in the world.” But […]
Every memorable story has a hero. The hero is always the main character who sees a problem, overcomes adversity and selflessly saves the day. Who is the hero of your nonprofit’s story? If your organization’s storytelling is crafted around the narrative that your nonprofit is making an impact all by itself, then you are missing […]
Most organizations expect more from their professional employees than the employees are contractually obligated to perform. For example, universities need faculty members to serve on committees; social service agencies need employees to attend community events; businesses use employees to staff job fairs. Much of this work is necessary for the well-being of the organization, and […]
Many times, we think of stewardship as fundraising to pay off the church building and cover the pastor’s salary. But the stewardship of giving is more than a response to the generosity of God. The foundational principle of stewardship is that God is the owner of all, and we are simply passing on a portion […]
The Black Lives Matter movement may have raised awareness of racial injustice in America and inspired an increase in charitable gifts to communities of color, but it doesn’t seem to have had a significant effect on increasing racial diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) on governing boards, particularly for nonprofits. According to a 2021 BoardSource report, […]
Panel: U.S. nonprofits can adopt lessons learned during pandemic for 2021 and beyond Lighthouse Counsel is honored to be a member firm of The Giving Institute. In June 2021, we presented the findings of the institute’s Giving USA 2020 report during a virtual gathering titled “Giving USA 2021 Briefing.” The briefing started with Dr. Una […]
The news is good. Very good. While it’s hard to believe a statement like that — coming off a year and a half marked by an unprecedented-in-our-lifetime health crisis, political and economic turmoil, and a global movement around racial and social justice — it’s true when it comes to overall charitable giving. During Lighthouse Counsel’s […]
The proper recognition of donors by an organization is both a responsibility and a privilege. A donor who has invested in the work of the charity deserves to be recognized. Stewardship requires the organization to acknowledge a donor’s contribution for their partnership in advancing the cause of the nonprofit. While there are other benefits from […]
If your organization accepts estate or planned gifts — and it should! — there’s never a wrong time to cue your donors’ thoughts and actions toward their estate plans. That means the perfect time … is now. Remind your donors that if they are fortunate to have an estate plan already, they should work with […]
In my years as a fundraiser, one ongoing debate has been, “Is direct mail dead?” Judging by my mailbox (not to mention the results I see from nonprofits), direct mail remains alive and strong. From weekly grocery store ads and letters reminding me it’s time to review my insurance options, to feeding hungry children, to […]
National Volunteer Week is a great time not only to recognize those who serve but to talk about the qualities of a successful volunteer. To paraphrase spiritual leader and author Elizabeth Andrew, volunteers don’t always have the time; they just have the heart! Volunteers reflect unselfish caring and patience. Giving back is a way of […]
Is patience a fundraising virtue? Absolutely! Patience, however, is not the lackadaisical approach of cultivation meeting after cultivation meeting with a donor while not moving the relationship deeper. It is not timidness or reluctance to make an appropriate ask for the appropriate amount at the appropriate time. Patience is not standing still or treading water. […]
Creating lifelong donors requires a special kind of love. With a pandemic in the mix, a nonprofit’s ability to navigate donor relationships requires additional creativity, intention and rigor.
What a different world we must navigate during the current pandemic. There is so much uncertainty right now. Without a doubt, COVID-19 has changed the lives of all Americans. We see it every time we turn on the news. Twitter and other social media sites are full of stories, sometimes uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking. Families […]
Ah, the perfect world: a world where we have plenty of money to do research and make decisions based on well-documented findings that provide a deep level of confidence in decision making. Sadly, most of us don’t live in the perfect world. In our world, we may only have money for the very basics — […]
Several weeks ago, while watching one of the earlier presidential press briefings detailing the COVID-19 crisis, I had an epiphany. The speakers were giving an overall view of the pandemic and explaining what was being done to put all the necessary procedures in place. When it came time for the press to ask questions, I […]
“As uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic continued to rattle markets and our psyches, a group of America’s foremost experts on giving and fundraising happened to be gathered for a regular board meeting of Giving USA – and ended up shaping recommendations for how all nonprofits can respond. Their main advice: Don’t stop talking to big […]
You know the old saying, “Hindsight is 20|20!” Well, I am proposing a new saying for this new decade: “20|20 vision is staying focused on the future.” Where do you want your nonprofit to be at the end of this decade? Do you have the board to get you there? How are your financial resources […]
As Lighthouse Counsel concludes its celebration of 20 years in service to the nonprofit sector, President Jeff Jowdy can’t help but feel great gratitude for the blessings he and his team have received over the past two decades. Since founding Lighthouse in 1999, Jowdy has built a team dedicated to professional excellence and fueled by […]
The “ask” is at the core of our work as development professionals. It is the critical moment of transforming a prospect into a donor. The ask is actual shorthand for the respectful invitation to a cultivated prospect to invest in the mission of the organization. It is the mid-point in our relationship cycle: identification, cultivation, […]
A family friend shared a story with me about a colleague who was the chief development officer for a national health nonprofit. The development officer wanted to get to know a local philanthropist who gave a small annual fund donation to his nonprofit each year. The CDO was aware of the donor’s generosity and her capacity to make large donations to causes she cared about. Their first contact…
For over 20 years I have served “faces like mine” in advancement, particularly in alumni fundraising. For many of those years, I thought my constituents were just recipients of charitable giving, which seemed to be the consensus. But African Americans have always been philanthropic. It took the 2012 Kellogg Foundation study Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding…
The staff at Lighthouse Counsel is a close-knit family– a mixed bag of backgrounds, personalities, skill sets and interests. We range in age from quite young to not quite so. But one thing we have in common is a genuine dedication to making the world a better place. One invaluable part of our team is our interns. We love their enthusiasm, their fresh insights and their hunger to learn…
I am one of those people who would do just about anything to avoid having to participate in fundraising activities such as selling raffle tickets, magazine subscriptions, boxes of cookies, tickets to an event and so on. You get the idea.When my daughters were in elementary school I chaired the PTA, which made for some awkward moments when they didn’t meet their individual and
THANK YOU! It is so easy to say, yet often forgotten. We teach this simple phrase to children when they are little, and we often correct them if they forget to say it. So, what happens as we get older, get busier, have less time and add more on our plate? We forget to say thank you. Yet, these two words make a world of difference and make an individual feel valued and appreciated.
Every nonprofit organization has a vision, a mission, a goal. Every one of them has a story to tell (about itself), and every one of them has stories to tell (about the people it serves and about impact, about how bad situations got better, how problems got solved and about the help of passionate donors).Your vision, your mission, your stories… they’re fabulous. Noble. Life-changing. Life-saving. Certainly enriching, and a step toward making the world a safer, saner, more hospitable, or just more beautiful and better, place to hang out.
While recently having dinner with a friend, she told me about her experience with a well-known nonprofit where she volunteers. After completing her volunteer responsibility, she returned her supplies to the organization along with a financial contribution. Knowing my friend, I am sure her check was not insignificant. She received her obligatory computer-generated thank you […]
A football team blows the big game. A promising business venture struggles and sputters. In the days that follow, more often than not, you will hear these words: “Let’s go back to the basics and learn what we’re doing wrong.”
Being the executive director of a not-for-profit organization is one of the most rewarding opportunities in the world. In the same breath I will tell you it is also a complicated challenge. You must manage multiple bottom lines – mission, financial, and a group of bosses (rather than one). It’s not easy.How do you make sure the job you’re interested in is right for you?
Relationships are vital, but ultimately you have to know how and when to make the ask For many of us, the journey to becoming a fundraising professional is unplanned. Guided by a strong inner philanthropic compass, we direct our energies toward raising money for causes and missions close to us. The reality, though, is that […]
Let’s face it. The non-profit advancement officer is mightily challenged these days. Especially in a small staffing situation often challenged with constant distractions and new opportunities. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. This is a common reality for the small shop, and unless addressed in a responsible way, it can paralyze progress and […]
I had a very rewarding and challenging fundraising position when I was with a large academic medical center. We had a rich history spanning well over 100 years, including founders who were some of the country’s most storied industrialists. Even many of our present day benefactors were well-to-do. The institution was known for being rich […]
“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.”These words, penned by Mark Twain, begin a story that has lasted the test of time. They begin the story of Huckleberry Finn and pull the reader into caring about a moment in time that only exists in our imagination.
In the nonprofit business, we hear it over and over—“our board is not committed to fundraising.” Unfortunately, many nonprofit executives complain about this dilemma and have no idea how to solve it. Luckily, the steps to developing a culture of fundraising and philanthropy are very simple and can be accomplished over a period of time. […]
I’ve had the privilege of working with many nonprofits during my career, from the smallest human services agencies to large colleges and universities. It has been a great pleasure to watch a number of them start as fledgling nonprofits and grow into highly successful organizations that meet important needs in the communities they serve.
On a recent trip to Rome, Ga., I had the opportunity to visit Berry College. Berry is a beautiful place nestled on 30,000 acres in Northwest Georgia, making it the largest college campus in America. The school was founded in 1902 by Martha Berry to serve rural boys when few public schools existed in Georgia. […]
When was the last time you talked to your best friend? When was the last time you talked with your parents or a family member? And I mean actually talked — not an electronic exchange? Or talked with a co-worker — in person, not by text or email? When was the last time you had […]
If change is so great, why is it so hard? It’s hard because it’s partly about creation and partly about blowing up the past. Change challenges our present state by allowing a new vision to rush in. If we are open to change new possibilities flow in to our lives. If we are not open […]
I have become a huge advocate for the planning process. But it wasn’t always that way.In my previous job as a development director, I felt that I knew our constituency better than any consultant coming in to help with a campaign. (This seems to be a common theme with many development directors.)
Most of us in the fundraising field have heard over the past few years that a major concern for nonprofits is the alarming rate of declining retention among their donors.This probably grew out of the Great Recession where we were so concerned about raising money in very tight times that the emphasis on relating to our
At the ripe old age of 24, I consider myself a certified “Millennial,” qualified to make a few observations about what makes members of my generation different from everyone else. I am aware that my cohort has been the topic of countless studies with regard to what motivates us to give to worthwhile non-profit causes, […]
In the very near future, millennial engagement will be essential for nonprofits to continue cultivating a pipeline of support for years to come.However, for many nonprofits, garnering support from my generation is a major challenge. Millennials, also called “The Global Generation” or “Generation Connect,” have grown up in an entirely different environment from Generation X, Baby Boomers, and other age groups that often fill leadership roles in
There are basic, learned by kindergarten, principles that apply to fundraising. We often overcomplicate the path to successful fundraising. Here are a few tips that are guaranteed to help you leverage dollars:ASK: If you don’t ask, you are guaranteed a “No”.
As a snowboard instructor, I’m familiar with the “Smart Style” guidelines created by the National Ski Areas Association to help snowboarders and skiers be safe and have fun in freestyle terrain parks.And as a fundraiser, I see the value in Smart Style’s points and how they can apply to fundraising. Those points include:
A great deal of effort is often expended in securing a major gift. The early identification of a prospect, careful research into interests and capacity, and systematic cultivation efforts that precede the ask may involve a process of many months, even years.When a high-end, major gift is made, it should be a “no-brainer” to follow-up with a carefully
In more than 15 years of working with nonprofits, the Lighthouse Counsel team has been able to increase financial security for its clients in part through the solicitation of free product, service and equipment from community businesses—what is commonly known as in-kind contributions.
No one wants to admit it, but it’s happened to all of us. We’ve found ourselves looking at a room full of talented, dedicated volunteers with their eyes glazed over and yawning. You try to ignore the elephant standing there in the nonprofit meeting room, but let’s face it – your board members are finding your board meetings boring!
Talented staff members are your organization’s greatest resource. In a world where the best and the brightest are often wooed by large organizations offering high salaries and endless perks, nonprofits often find themselves fighting to recruit the best and the brightest for their organizations.Experts in the nonprofit recruiting field often cite these tips for recruiting the best nonprofit staff leaders:
Imagine that your dearest friend announces that he is engaged to someone that he just met yesterday. How would you react? You’d probably chastise him by calling him foolish and reckless. You’d tell him that he just didn’t know enough about this person and that it was too soon for such a big commitment!
Our team works diligently to provide vital counsel and direction to nonprofits, shining as a fixed point of light as they focus on transforming lives for the better.As we commemorate our 15th anniversary of service this year, we wanted to share some tips for nonprofits in 2014.
Recently my husband and I attended a volunteer appreciation event for an agency where I volunteer weekly, 2 -3 hours. Actually, I was to receive an award for volunteer service, my name and picture were in the program and on the table tents. We have been consistent annual fund supporters via a donor directed gift through United Way, which can be hard to track, I know.
How many times have you had someone from a non-profit say “this is a friend raiser not a fund raiser”? While I agree that every organization needs “friends” the tricky part is turning those friends into donors. Every young organization needs to build their donor base with “friends” but it is crucial to know how […]
I quickly glanced at the appeal letter before tossing it aside. More sobering statistics about starving children in a war torn country. My mind knew that I should be touched (who doesn’t want to help starving children, right?), but my heart was not moved. Chances are your heart isn’t moved either by the dozens of appeal letters that cross your desk.