What are we accomplishing???

I’m a bit obsessed with the people in the photo above. For anyone who doesn’t recognize them, it’s the cast of The West Wing. I’m currently working my way through season 5 of 7 and I just love it.

I couldn’t find the actual quote from the show, but I believe it’s C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, who reflects one episode on the fact that on that day she actually got to accomplish something. What a notion! But I feel that in many workdays, too. I do a lot of work, but am I actually accomplishing anything? It’s not an indication of not working hard enough, but we spend so much time discussing things, following up on things, that how often do we complete things? How often do we get to point to something and say, “I did that for the organization!”? Or, even better, “I did that for the donor!”

I’m writing this post because I had that moment very recently. I met with a donor back in September who had generously started an endowed award at the university. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons that were no individual’s fault, the award hadn’t been given out to a student last year. Naturally, the donor was unhappy about this, and keen to find out how I was going to rectify the situation. As a result, was keen to rectify it.

So I worked… I met with people, I followed up on the student award application process, I checked in with the appropriate departments once, twice, and even more times… and guess what happened? The award has been given out this year! And, there were two eligible recipients, so since it hadn’t been awarded last year, it was given to both students this year! I feel so proud. I even had the pleasure a few weeks ago of going out for dinner with the donor and the two recipients. Delivering on our promise to the donor, and giving them the opportunity to see the impact of their generosity in the success of two great students? Priceless.

Some days we actually get to accomplish something. I’m going to work to see if that can become most days.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Three Years of What Gives Philanthropy and the launch of #WhatGivesWednesdays!

Happy 3rd Anniversary, What Gives Philanthropy!

I am so proud to dedicate this post today to celebrating the 3rd birthday (November 23rd) of this blog: www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com. 1095 days… 85 posts… 26 guest posts… Now that I think about it, the word “proud” hardly does it justice. I am delighted that I’ve continued to truck along with this blog for three years now, and that I’ve had so many of you reading what we – and I mean we – put out there for you. Thank you.

On the blog’s 2nd anniversary, I recommitted to excellence, but on its 1st birthday, I took the opportunity to change things up. This year, I’m going to do that again. It’s time for a change.

Why??? For two reasons. Firstly, it is healthy to mix your life up and try to take your endeavours to a new level when you have the opportunity to. Secondly, because Paul Nazareth told me to.

I’m partly kidding, but only partly. Paul Nazareth is a mentor of mine who I absolutely admire. I was lucky enough to see him for a coffee back in September and he encouraged me to do two things: (1) seek new opportunities for my blog, and (2) find a niche for myself. Now I didn’t want to arbitrarily assign myself a niche, so with his guidance, some introspecting, and by seeking advice from other friends/peers, my potential niche – or at least an area of interest – made itself clear: young donors. Or, how I’d prefer to refer to them as: young (non)donors.

I don’t want to go too far into the topic of young (non)donors yet, but here’s what I do want to tell you. We have a new initiative here at www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com: #whatgiveswednesday. This is going to be a year-long project to begin with, and we’ll see from there. We all know that we can’t ignore our youngest constituency, and we’re starting to learn a little more about them, but it’s still a bit of a mystery. My mission – and I hope you choose to accept it with me – is to crack this mystery!

Every other Wednesday (on the weeks I don’t already post), there will be a post by me or a guest blogger focused exclusively on young (non)donors. Why do they give? More importantly, why don’t they give??? What’s important to them? How can we engage them best now to ensure they stay engaged in the future?

Do not fear, the regular Friday posts will continue, but next week on Wednesday (November 26), you’ll see the first #whatgiveswednesday post and we’ll get started on our year-long mission.

Thank you for reading and I can’t wait to see what transpires in year four!

…oh! One other thing: posts will from here on in will never be longer than 500 words. I love that The Annual Giving Network always keeps their blog posts short and sweet, so I’m committed to doing that, too!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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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The 5 Most Interesting Things I Learned on Day 1 of #AGCongress14

 

the 5 most interesting things I learned on day 1 of #AGCongress14

Ideally I would save this blog post for next week, but my sanity relies on routine, so I’ll stick with my regularly scheduled “every other Friday at 10:00 a.m.”.

What’s today’s post about? Well, right at this very moment I am in a session called “Picasso & Edison: Learn how to be both an artist and scientist in today’s fundraising world”, led by Samantha Laprade, CFRE (a.k.a. @GryphonReport). No, I am not blogging in front of her rather than paying attention to her session! I am writing this post from the comfort of my hotel room in Toronto on Thursday at 5:00 pm. I have just attended Day 1 of the 2014 Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress in Toronto a.k.a. #AGCongress14. Yes, it’s me and dozens of other Annual Giving nerds talking about what we do and how we can be excellent at it. I’m in heaven!

So on that note, today’s post is the five most interesting things I learned yesterday on Day 1 of Congress. Here goes…

  1. STOP! Be stupidly creative. The very inspiring Joel Faflak of Western University started the day off by telling us to stop doing what you’re doing and do something mindlessly creative. Draw, see a musical, do something! Our creativity is being threatened by the business of our every day work, but we can’t stop cultivating it.
  2. Don’t solicit young alumni with the traditional academic segmentation. My friend Ryan Brejak of the University of Guelph (and a guest blogger for this site) delivered a great session on young alumni giving and stressed that millennials need to be segmented differently rather than by their faculty. Segment them by the non-academic affinities they have.
  3. Why would they care? I attended a panel about “How to Write for Development” and asked them what’s more important in a fundraising letter, to emphasize need or success. Chuck Chan of University of Toronto replied that it’s most important to focus on why the reader would care about this. Would they care about a dilapidated building, or would they care about what’s going to happen in a new one?
  4. There are three types of donors. I attended my mentor Paul Nazareth‘s session about planned giving and he outlined three types of donors: (1) the DNA donor, where giving is in their DNA, and so is your organization; (2) the academic, who values your institution because of how they turned what they learned into success; (3) and the trouble makers and weirdos who had a great time at your institution who will give back because of their experiences.
  5. Everyone should be an annual fund prospect all the time. The last session of the day was led by two fundraising powerhouses: Lorna SomersBob Burdenski. They talked about the worlds of major giving and annual giving colliding, and Lorna stressed that major gift prospects/donors should never be taken out of annual solicitations. They should always receive the calls, direct mailings, etc. and major gifts should “opt out” of this if really necessary, whereas the default will be that they’re solicited annually.

What a great day Day 1 was. I bet I’m already energized by Day 2 and it’s only 10:00 a.m.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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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A shocking concept!

You know what I hate? When every other Friday comes along (that’s when I post on here) and I have no clue what I’m going to write.

You know what I love? When every other Friday comes along and I have one awesome post ready to go, and then something happens and I schedule that post for later and write another even more awesome post. That’s what happened this week, and I hope this energizes you like it energizes me.

This week I got to have a beer with John Lepp. John Lepp is awesome! John is a Partner at Agents of Good. Please check out his Twitter and the company’s website. The work they do is so inspiring!

Last week I had a coffee with Paul Nazareth. I think you already know how awesome I think Paul is. Anyway, when I met with Paul, he mentioned John, and I said, “Funnily enough I have a beer scheduled with John next week!” Paul was delighted to hear it, and referred to John as a “disruptive leader”. That made me even more excited for some one-on-one time with John.

So John and I met at a half-way point between where we both live, and we started talking shop, of course. John’s expertise is in direct mail, so we talked a lot about that. He shared the truth, which is that every single organization is doing the same thing. We talked about that for a while, and then I commented that somehow I didn’t find that discouraging, but the opposite – encouraging. John agreed and said it was exciting! It means it’s not hard to surprise people with something different.

So I said, “John, what can we do? If you could distill your knowledge and insight down to a few actions, what are they?” John replied with a number of things, but one of them stood out the most for me. Hold onto your seats, because this is going to come as a bit of a shock:

Call your donors.

Get on the phone, call them, and see how they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be an ask, it’s not even really a thank you call – though we should take every opportunity to say thank you, I think – it’s just a personal, meaningful check-in.

When I worked at the Annual Giving Call Centre, even the longest calls barely took five minutes. John gave me a soft challenge of spending one hour a week calling donors.

Here’s the thing, and this is a shameful secret of mine: I hate making phone callsThis is a personal and professional challenge. I’m great at communicating via email, I feel confident and comfortable in person, but the thought of getting on the phone is just… I don’t like it.

One of my mentors – not John or Paul, though they’re both now on my personal Board of Directors (great blog post about that concept from Paul here) – reminded me recently that the way to get comfortable with something is to do it repeatedly.

So here’s my personal challenge, and please take the challenge yourself, too, if you need to: Call donors. For one hour a week. I find making my challenges public always gives me the extra drive to achieve them, so I will. I can’t wait to share the results!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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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Guest Blog: Top 5 Takeaways/Moments from APRA International’s 27th Annual Conference

From July 30 – August 2nd, we had the pleasure of attending the 27th Annual APRA International Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Nearly 1,000 attendees from multiple aspects of the profession – prospect research, relationship management, prospect management, data analytics, advancement services and fundraising – came together to network and participate in educational workshops. Like the prospect research sponges we are (okay, maybe a little nerdy?) we were eager to gain some knowledge and insights from fellow researchers.

  1. Proactive vs. Reactive Research. While both types of research are extremely valuable to development, the importance of focusing on proactive research was stressed in numerous conference sessions and keynote addresses. In the past, prospect researchers have been focused on reactive research (research profiles, answering reference-type questions, etc.). While this type of research is still a pivotal part of the prospect research field, there has been a large shift in the last few years towards proactive research, which is instrumental in the laying of a foundation for a successful campaign. What exactly is proactive research? This type of research includes establishing and tracking measurable metrics, generating project-focused new prospects, and effectively managing portfolio sizes. How is this done? Prospect research must identify and strive to forecast the needs of each individual development team member in order to best support them (see point #4 for more information on developing partnerships with fundraisers).
  2. APRA Canada Meet-up. Members of APRA Canada arranged to have dinner together one night while we were in Vegas, with 16 of us in attendance. We ‘inconspicuously’ (not!) met in the hotel lobby where a Canadian flag was proudly being waved. It was fantastic to compare notes from our sessions, and to swap stories from the prospect research trenches. It was beneficial and fun to share prospect research tactics from north of the border. And we finally didn’t get weird looks for our use of “eh”.
  3. Network – Use other prospect researchers as a resource! Best practices are generally transferrable from one organization to the other, no matter what country or type of organization you are from. We found that networking with fellow conference attendees, volunteers and speakers was extremely beneficial in taking ideas and concepts back to our organization. Coming from an academic institution ourselves, it was extremely helpful to interact with individuals from development offices of American institutions who have well-established and successful fundraising practices in place (Harvard University, University of California – Berkley, University of Pennsylvania to name a few).
  4. Strategic partnerships with Major Gift Officers. (a.k.a. Help us help you!) This ties in with proactive research (point #1) but deserves its own point. Prospect Research should understand the fundraisers’ benchmarks and their funding priorities, and on the flip side, the fundraisers should clearly communicate these goals. All too often, workplace silos can get in the way of productive partnerships and meaningful conversations that can result in success (ie GIFTS!). So, how do you develop these partnerships? It is important for the prospect research team to demonstrate to major gift officers that they are strategic partners in the fund development process. Some ways this partnership can be harnessed is through open communication with the fund development team, attending campaign/team meetings, having portfolio review meetings and integrating your prospect research work with their major gift goals (proactive research!).
  5. Smorgasbord of helpful tips and tricks. Investment advisors, real estate, public disclosure documents! Oh my! Between the conference sessions, keynotes, chatting with vendors, and networking we learned a lot of useful tips and tricks that will undoubtedly aid us on our quest to become prospect research superstars. We won’t go into great (and probably boring) detail about all the new and tweaked research tactics we learned; just know that we were in research and data bliss over the entire course of the conference.

We hope to one day return again to the APRA International Conference, to continue to gain knowledge and strengthen our skills in this field. Until then, we will continue to implement some of the great advice and suggestions to our own portfolios, and strive to practice exceptional research and support to our team.

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Written by Shannon Doherty & Sara Glover

Sara Glover Shannon Doherty

Shannon & Sara are both Prospect Researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University.

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.

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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.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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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On the hunt for fundraising priorities

I haven’t written my own blog post since I started my new job at Wilfrid Laurier University!  I’ve been lucky to have three amazing guest bloggers fill in for me over the past… nearly two months!  Wow.  It worked out well though because I’ve had my plate full with learning the ropes of a new position at a new organization.  Plus, one of the things I love about www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com is the range of voices that you get to hear from.  Philanthropy and fundraising can be such personal experiences, and so I’ll always emphasize the need for guest bloggers!

That being said, I’m excited to have this opportunity to reflect on my experience so far at Laurier.  As I think I’ve mentioned, my position is in Annual Giving, and my portfolio focuses on what we call Leadership Giving at Laurier.  It’s sort of the area that sits between the average annual gift and major gifts, which at Laurier start at $25,000.  We’ve got these amazingly committed donors who might be giving $1,000 a year, which is such a generous contribution, and so my role is to give them a little more dedicated attention.  Perhaps they’ve only ever given in response to direct mail appeals, so I get to meet with them in person, thank them for their giving, hear their story, and sometimes find ways for them to become even more engaged in the life of the institution… maybe through alumni programming, maybe through a new giving opportunity like a scholarship, or maybe just the personal touch of meeting with someone (me!) on an annual basis.  It’s a great position to be in!

However, something funny happened about 4-6 weeks into my position: I realized I wasn’t fully-equipped to speak to Laurier’s priorities.  I’m an alumna of this institution, I worked for 3.5 years when I was a student in the Annual Giving Call Centre, and I was on the Alumni Association for 2.5 years between graduation and returning to work at this wonderful university.  I would’ve thought I was perfectly equipped to speak to the university’s priorities, but I realized I just didn’t have a handle on them like I wanted to.  On top of that, unlike our major gift officers, who each focus on a specific faculty/department, I have to speak about all the faculties to some degree or another.  Of course, not in great detail, but I just really wanted to have my finger on the pulse of the high-level priorities to a greater degree than I did… which was not really at all.

So, I pulled up my socks and booked meetings with all of the major gift officers in our office, and I’m in the process of sitting down with them all to discuss their faculties’ priorities.  My approach has been to learn about the big updates and priorities so that I have an exciting story to tell, but also to find out specific opportunities that would be in my prospects’ capacities, too.  So far the exercise has been great, and cultivating strong relationships with the MGOs is never a bad thing, because I have no doubt they will be great supports to me moving forward.

So there you have it!  Things are off to a great start, and as each day goes by, I’m feeling more confident and capable in my role.  Most importantly, I’m loving it!  Fundraising for my alma mater is truly a dream come true!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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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Where can I find passionate fundraisers???

When I started my current job, one of the first things my boss did was send me to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising (SIEFR).  After two weeks of getting myself oriented in the office, I travelled to Hanover, New Hampshire and took part in the Institute, which was held at Dartmouth College.  Talk about a great way to start my first real job in the real world! I remember the feeling of “coming home”, to put it in the most corny way possible.  While working at Wilfrid Laurier University in the Annual Giving call centre, I felt like I was in a bit of a bubble.  Over the course of my 3.5 years working there, I was totally immersed in the fundraising world and excitedly learning the ropes, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to have fundraising-related discussions outside of the call centre.  When I got to SIEFR, I realized there was an enormous world of people who were passionate about fundraising, too!  More than that, there were experts, and there was a wider variety of topics surrounding my chosen field than I ever knew possible.  I was wide-eyed and naive and incredibly excited to absorb everything I could. Two years later I’ve become a bit jaded to the professional organizations and networks out there for fundraisers.  I’ve participated in a number of seminars, workshops, webinars, and more, and have been exposed to more organizations than CASE, including:

However, thankfully the delight of connecting with like-minded individuals and equally passionate fundraisers has not worn off… especially when I’m exposed to something new, fresh, and very focused, like Young Non-Profit Professionals (YNP). You may remember me mentioning YNP (#YNPcanada) before in a guest post in April of this year: “Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???”, written by one of YNP’s founders, Brock Warner.  I heard about YNP through my sister, who encouraged me to attend their 1-year anniversary event back in March.  I went, met some great people, and was wildly inspired and energized by a speech by Paul Nazareth, Philanthropic Advisor (a.k.a. coolest job ever).  Needless to say it was a successful event as far as my experience was concerned. The reason I was inspired to write about YNP now is because I attended another one of their events this past Tuesday, July 24th, held on the rooftop of The Spoke Club in Toronto.  Once again YNP did not disappoint with a great venue, fantastic networking opportunities, and an incredible speaker – Daniel Bida of ZooShare (more on that fantastic organization later, perhaps). YNP is great because it’s so specific – young, non-profit professionals.  When you’re networking at a YNP event, you’re meeting people close to the same age and stage as you, facing similar obstacles in their career path, or celebrating similar achievements.  However, YNP is also great because it’s not just about educational fundraising, or even fundraising; it’s about professionals working in the non-profit sector, which casts the net fairly wide.  That means that you’re meeting people in all sorts of orgs with all sorts of positions, so it can be equal parts validating and inspiring; a great balance to have at a networking event. The point is that there’s something out there for everyone.  You may think that you’re uniquely nerdy and passionate about a topic, but then you’re exposed to something like YNP, and you realize you’re not alone after all.  Passion is everwhere! What’s your favourite professional organization???  (Be as specific as you’d like).

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
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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