Shoe Shopping & Fundraising


The shoe story came to me as I was preparing to give a talk about fundraising at a higher education institution where I serve on the board. How could I explain to faculty and staff not involved (and, in some case, not interested) in fundraising why it isn’t just begging? Read More

Annual Report Suggestions


First of all, allow me to congratulate you in having an annual report at all; many nonprofits don’t! Those that do make the effort often produce something with lots of pictures and few facts, or take a limited (often internal) perspective. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP) offers what I consider to be a much better model for annual reporting. Read More

The Neuroscience of Giving: A Natural High


A growing body of knowledge in psychology and neuroscience suggests that altruism is good not just for the beneficiaries but also for the benefactors. The argument is that helping others makes us happy, and even leaves us healthier and able to live longer lives. I must admit to a certain amount of skepticism about some (well, most) of what happiness experts – yes, they exist – say. But I was impressed by the authors’ willingness to subject themselves to MRI scans to see what happens in the brain when people help others by donating to a good cause. Read More

Fundraising Q/A: We want to rename a building but are concerned about alienating the donor it was originally named after. Suggestions?


Naming a building after a major benefactor is a time-honored tradition and one way to express the institution’s gratitude. It is almost, inevitable, however, that the building will outlive its usefulness and be torn down or radically altered (probably with the assistance of another donor) eventually. So, start “being careful” from the start, when you are crafting the gift agreement. Read More

Fundraising Q/A: Any new learnings about how to advance the causes you care about?


I am increasingly convinced that while the cause may be important, communications about the cause are even more important. One piece of new philanthropic research points to a perhaps obvious but often overlooked truth: If potential donors and volunteers are not aware of existing needs, they will be less likely to engage in philanthropic behavior. Also, more often than not people respond to a perceived need, rather than an objective need. Read More

Resources: Philanthropy Bookshelf


There are some good (and some not so good!) books out there about philanthropy. This month we’ll feature two that offer practical road maps for new and experienced donors and nonprofit board members: Giving 2.0 and Joining a Nonprofit Board: What You Need to Know. Read More

Fundraising Q/A: What advice can you offer an entrepreneur on how to be philanthropic from the beginning?


As an entrepreneur, you will be building and leading an enterprise. That gives you an opportunity – if not a responsibility – to encourage all members of the organization to contribute to the community and broader society. Read More

Fundraising Q/A: Is Reputational Risk Something Nonprofits Should Worry About?


The recent Volkswagen meltdown is a chilling corporate example of Buffet’s warning. It also illustrates this oft-heard advice: “Better to be proactive than reactive.” (Or, as the Chinese proverb goes, “Build the well before you are thirsty.”) Nonprofits are not immune.
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Fundraising Q/A: What are your views on professional telemarketing?


Many universities engage their students in fundraising, to reach out to alumni for donations and/or send letters of thanks for gifts. That tradition, however, seems to be changing and perhaps not for the better. We thought you might appreciate this (disguised!) letter from one donor to his university alma mater. Read More

Fundraising Q/A: Are restricted gifts an effective philanthropic vehicle, or an unnecessary drain on organizational resources?


The CFO of a social service nonprofit wrote to make the point that restricted gifts are not an effective vehicle. “My rule of thumb,” she said, “is that adding restrictions to gifts is like adding a 7% tax since we have to spend a significant amount of time managing those restrictions.” “What do you think?” she asked. My short answer: Restricted gifts clearly are a two-edged sword. Read More