Finding Motivation When the Sun Is Out

Just over a week ago, I was delighted to contribute a guest post to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter Blog. When I was invited to write a blog post for AFP Greater Toronto, I hemmed and hawed over what I might write about… and then I lost my motivation. That’s been an overarching theme of my summer, and was when I was working for Trinity College School, too. In educational fundraising, summers are especially tough. At first it’s a great novelty to have the students empty from campus at the end of April, but by July it feels like there’s no energy to tap into.

This is not an unusual predicament for any professional to be in, and fundraising professionals are no exception. I hope you can find some inspiration in my post because when the sun is shining in through your window and distracting you from the work at hand, you might need it!

Please enjoy my post here, and I encourage you to check out AFP Greater Toronto Chapter’s blog on a regular basis to see what other fundraising professionals have to say.


It’s the summer. We’re all staring longingly out our office windows (if we’re lucky enough to have them), wondering why on earth we’re stuck inside working when we could be enjoying the sun, the fresh air, and this brief period of time in Canada where we don’t need a jacket or coat of any sort. Prospects aren’t returning our calls or emails, our colleagues are all taking turns going on vacations, and it’s hard to find the motivation to get back to the work in front of us.

I’ve had a few of these moments lately myself. Despite the lack oSummerKitef motivation, summer is an important time for planning and preparing for the new fundraising year. It’s during these quieter months at work that we have the rare opportunity to sit and think; analyze what worked this past year, strategize about what we need to change, plan out our mailings, and firm up our stewardship processes. It all sounds well and good, but there’s one problem…

I just can’t find the inspiration! Where is that passion I had for my job a few months ago? So naturally I turned to Facebook and asked my friends, what do you do in this situation? How do you motivate yourself?

One of my very wise friends said, “I have stuff on my wall in my office to remind me of the outcomes of my work.” Brilliant! And then I turned and saw a card on my desk that I received from an alumna of the institution who was selected this year for our annual Philanthropy Award. She wrote me to thank me for my help in preparing her for the event that honoured her. She wanted to thank me! She has a great philanthropic story to tell; she’s never given more than $350 in any given year, but she’s given to the university every single year since she graduated.Every year!

Even better, her gifts have been designated annually to pretty much wherever the funds were needed most. In many cases she’s directed her gift to our unrestricted fund, giving the university the flexibility to respond to unforeseen emergencies or even worthwhile opportunities. She’s given to the library many times, too! Her gifts directly impact students, and that’s what I’m here for in the first place.

Speaking of students, next to the card on my desk is a photo of a student and a donor. This donor created a financial assistance opportunity at the university in memory of his deceased son. I had the opportunity to set up a meeting between the donor and this year’s recipient of his award which gave the donor the chance to truly see the impact of his philanthropy. The student expressed – eloquently, I might add – his gratitude to the donor, and he shared what he plans to do with his life after university. It was so rewarding to witness a donor seeing the effect his generosity has on an actual student.

All of us fundraisers, wherever we work, are here to raise money to make an impact. The outcomes of our work are clear; we are so lucky in that sense. Other professionals out there might struggle to see the point sometimes, butfundraising professionals know exactly what they’re here to do, and we have lots of examples that can motivate us through even the sunniest of days.


Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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NPD.Sig.Hor.ColorI wanted to write a rare off-schedule post to recognize this special day of the year: National Philanthropy Day!!! 

National Philanthropy Day – celebrated on November 15th since 1986 – is “the special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – have made to our lives, our communities and our world.” (National Philanthropy Day – Official Website)

I’m proud to live in Canada because our Parliament recognized this significant day last year with a new bill.  This is an official day!  An official day to celebrate the meaningful time, talent, and treasure given by generous people from coast to coast.

I’m also proud to work in this field; a field where on a daily basis I get to experience the selflessness and passion of people who want to make an impact and a difference for the causes and organizations they support.  It is a beautiful thing!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: New to Fundraising??? Bookmark These 6 Online Resources

New to Fundraising? Bookmark These 6 Online Resources

So you’ve decided to go into fundraising. Congratulations! While you undoubtedly have a giving heart and a passion for making the world a better place, those traits will only get you so far in the nonprofit world. You’ll soon discover that there’s a lot of hard work involved in securing the donations and gifts necessary to facilitate real change.

Thankfully, there are some online resources that can guide you through the
fundamentals of fundraising, whether you’re targeting the everyday consumer or the Steve Wynn types of the world. Here are a half dozen of the best.

1. Network for Good.

Even though it calls itself “a fundraising guide for the overworked nonprofit,” this site does an excellent job of providing first-time fundraisers with the nuts and bolts of the industry. With everything from articles to eBooks to webinars, Network for Good is a wealth of information about topics such as using email, social media, planned events, or websites to bolster your fundraising efforts. There’s even assistance with nonprofit marketing.

2. AFP’s Toolkit for New Fundraisers.

At first glance, it’s obvious that the AFP has a large number of resources to aid you in getting your feet wet in the world of fundraising. But one of the more unique aspects of this toolkit is the emphasis on setting your organization’s ethical principles, standards, and relationships with donors. After all, successful fundraising entities aren’t just skilled at revenue generation; they have a clear focus and message that underpins every action they take.

3. The AFP Information Exchange.

Once you learn the basics, you’ll need to keep up with current trends and emerging challenges associated with fundraising. The AFP Information Exchange is a clearinghouse of articles and papers about topics that are directly relevant to today’s fundraising groups — and new content is added on a weekly basis. These pieces are designed to provide solutions to real-world problems based on the experience of fundraisers who have dealt with these issues.

4. DoJiggy.

This site will appeal to the computer-savvy individual who is seeking a turnkey approach to the various categories of fundraising. DoJiggy is a provider of software that comprehensively manages different aspects such as charity golf tournaments, pledge events and “walk-a-thons,” and online charity auctions. In addition, the site offers donor management and event management software, which assist fundraising organizations in their day-to-day operations. DoJiggy has service packages that support their software as well.

5. Sage Fundraising Online.

So much of modern charity work is handled online nowadays that “cyberfundraising” is a complex topic in itself. Sage draws on its vast expertise in this area to walk you through each aspect of online fundraising and teach you the best practices of each one — such as accepting donations, launching giving initiatives, and simplifying the process for givers. Sage also boasts an impressive cache of information on modern online fundraising trends as well as success stories of other charities and nonprofits.

6. Blackbaud.

Of course, different charity causes often have to approach fundraising differently — which is where Blackbaud comes in. The site breaks down its information by nonprofit category, such as education, animal welfare, faith-based groups, arts and culture, health care, and public broadcasting. There’s also a great deal of content about fundraising metrics and data management, so you can better identify the strengths and weaknesses of your group’s practices and initiatives and make the appropriate adjustments to improve your entity’s bottom line.

No matter what niche of fundraising you are in, chances are there’s been some person or group that has come before you and has had to address the issues and challenges you currently face. If you use these resources to draw upon their experience and expertise, you’ll be able to conduct all of your fundraising-related duties more efficiently and effectively.


Written by Chris Martin

Chris Martin head shot


Chris Martin is a freelance writer who has penned articles on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to charitable giving to corporate management.


National Philanthropy Day

Happy National Philanthropy DayWhat Gives’ readers!

As a Canadian and a fundraiser, I couldn’t be prouder that Canada has become the first country in the world to permanently recognize November 15th as National Philanthropy Day® (NPD).  Bill S-201 has given us the opportunity to officially honour the work of charities, donors, volunteers, corporations, and foundations.

I found this quote via the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and I absolutely love it:
“What makes philanthropy so special is that no one is required to give of themselves. There are no national laws or regulations which mandate that you must volunteer or get involved. Philanthropy is so powerful and inspiring precisely because it is voluntary—that through the goodness of our hearts, through our need to connect, through our desire to see a better world, we come together to improve the quality of life for all people.”

Today I will be making an effort to tweet more than usual, sharing some great quotes about philanthropy that I find.  Be sure to tune in and follow me at @fundraisermaeve.

For more on National Philanthropy Day, the current state of philanthropy, videos, celebrations, contests, and more, check out Canada’s official NPD website (supported by AFP):

Also, join the conversation on Twitter by tweeting what you’re doing to change the world in an online contest presented by AFP with support from TELUS. The five most inspiring, innovative and creative tweets sent to #npdTELUS will earn the senders a $500 contribution to the charity of their choice.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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??? per dollar raised

A month or two ago I attended a speed networking event organized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Toronto chapter.  This event was formatted so that a group of 3-5 individuals relatively new to the field of fundraising (1-5 years experience) sat together at a table and every 9 minutes a new “mentor” (established and experienced fundraiser) would join them, answering questions, offering advice, guidance, etc.  It was a neat experience as the format seemed to change every time a new mentor joined us – sometimes they would begin a dramatic soliloquy on the current state of fundraising, other times they would confidently and kindly answer your questions, and still other times they would ask you what you were most concerned about and challenge you with questions, expanding your mind and forcing you to consider alternatives.  I found it very stimulating and interesting.

One mentor in particular opened my mind to an interesting idea.  I believe someone at our table asked him what the average or even ideal statistic was when it came to “cost/dollar raised”, a metric sometimes popular in our field.  The mentor didn’t answer her question, but instead gave an enlightening and inspiring answer that deconstructed her question and made us think.

His answer was along the lines of this: “cost/dollar raised” is not a useful metric.  Some organizations keep cost/dollar raised very low and others may have an above average statistic, but what does it matter?  Certainly this proves that an organization is being efficient and fiscally responsible, and these are important things, but at the end of the day what are we trying to do as charities/organizations???

We’re trying to make an impact.

What if we could measure our impact/dollar raised???  Wouldn’t that be a more interesting metric?  Wouldn’t that be something more valuable to consider when determining how successful one organization is vs. another?

Then again, this wouldn’t be a metric that would or could really pin one charity against another, which I also appreciate.  Instead it joins us all together in working to make the biggest impact possible with the money we raise.  Doesn’t that sound like exactly what we’re working to do?

What do you think???


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email