Getting Your Heart Broken

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I was thinking this past week about the biggest gift I never got. He was a very successful investor and an equally successful philanthropist. What I remember most is that he was a very nice man. He lived on the priciest block of real estate in Chicago.  Going to lunch with him was an “invigorating experience.”  Believe me when tell you, he was in the big leagues. One of the smartest people I ever met, he was not particularly intimidating, yet somehow you felt the need to be at your best.  I won’t be so intrusive of his memory to

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What is a Gift?

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Has anyone ever asked you what a gift is? One morning I was having breakfast with the late Jimmie Alford who, by the way, was a very nice man.  I asked him, “We talk about gifts all the time, but how exactly would you define a gift?” “Rob, that’s a very good question, actually.  No one’s every asked me that before, I confess.  Can you give me some time to think about it?” Here’s what Jimmie sent me: “We define a gift as any asset conveyed by the donor to the ownership of the organization that can be applied to

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The Fundraising Trifecta

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I was at a conference and got to know a talented development professional who was new to our field.  During a break from the morning session, this young man turned to me and said, “You know, Rob, the very best thing about development is that everybody wins. “The donor wins. “The institution wins. “And the development officer wins.  I love that about our work.” I told him and I will tell you, those are profound words.

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The Phone Call

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So often, success in our work is just the result of old-fashioned common sense and simply giving the donor the chance to help us. This is the story I promised to share with you last Sunday night.  My boss at the time told it to me. “It was over the holidays and not many people were in the office.  But we had someone at the switchboard and the call came through to me. “It was obvious from the get-go the gentleman on the other end of the line was in a hurry.  He sounded exasperated about something.  I hoped it

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The “Right-Sized” Event

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Saturday was pizza night.  I stopped by to pick it up and had to wait a minute or two. As I did, I noticed how smoothly things ran.  It’s a tiny shop, carryout or delivery only, with customers constantly in and out. I thought to myself, “this place runs like clockwork.”  Not one of the cooks or cashiers seemed stressed.  Everyone had a smile on their face.  Every customer felt cared for.  What was their secret? It hit me.  They had enough staff.  More than enough help so that every aspect of the operation was attended to, from waiting on

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“Don’t Crush Hope,” Continued

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A couple weeks ago in the Weekend Briefing we told you about “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading” and we reprinted, with permission, a quote from the book titled “Don’t Crush Hope.” Here’s more: “In the book I talk about six concrete things leaders can do every day to help bring more hope into the workplace: “Help people see a better future. “Help people see how they might get to that future. “Show people how much they matter. “Help people see how much their work matters. “Help people see how small steps are the key to success. “Show people how they

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So, What’s Your Story?

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“Stories” are all the rage now in fundraising. As they should be. Every nonprofit I know works hard at telling their stories to their donors. But do we ever think about asking our donors to tell us THEIR stories? I was channel-surfing the other night and happened upon one of those “vintage music” shows on PBS.  They find old rock-and-roll groups, have a concert, film it, and intersperse the footage with lots of requests for donations to your local PBS station. I know you’ve seen them.  It must work, because there’s a raft of those shows. The one I happened

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Thoughts on Simple

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Who would ever imagine I’d be talking about Arianna Huffington?  The founder of the Huffington Post never brings a cell phone or tablet or computer of any kind into her bedroom.  She “tunes out” 7-8 hours a day. Arianna makes a point of saying that email can be a great liability to us, not an asset.  She suggests that we all become slaves to our email, that we often spend the majority of our day reacting to others, rather than proactively pursuing our own ideas and our own agenda for the day. — Here’s an excerpt from the blog, The

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Work at Simple

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It was the best T-shirt I ever saw. Not the color.  Not the fit.  What it said. “Work at Simple.” Oh, if we only would do that! Fundraising shops work very hard at being complicated. One fundraising software dominates the market.  It requires the attention of a full time staff person.  That’s common knowledge. Development shops associate “sophisticated” or “advanced” with the most complicated schematics and plans.  Ask what’s going on and it can make your head spin! The most brilliant fundraising management philosophy I’ve ever heard: “We believe our job is to remove the roadblocks, the speed bumps that

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Practicing with Live Ammo

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Kasie Ambrose sat in her parked car, a few doors down the street from Joan Gillespie’s house.  It was five minutes to ten in the morning.  Kasie knew the drill.  Be on time, but don’t be early. She was doing two things at once; trying to breathe, and trying to get the palms of her hands to stop sweating. “Why am I nervous?” she demanded of herself.  “This is our third visit!  She knows me.  The last two went pretty well.  I don’t get it.” But Kasie did get it.  This visit was supposed to be an ask. Kasie was

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