Getting Your Heart Broken

By Featured Content

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?

By Featured Content

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

By Featured Content

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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A Dozen Tried and True Donor Cultivation Tips

By Major Gifts

The best cultivation technique I’ve ever found is this: If you want to do something nice for someone, don’t do it for them.  Do it for someone they love. Send their spouse a birthday card or bring over cranberry nut muffins.  Sweatshirts for their kids.  A gift to their newborn grandchild. The best ever?  I wrote a letter to an alumnus and told him his dad was a treasure to our institution.  The guy never forgot it. Flowers, as a thank you, a get well, or a congratulations never, ever, fail. If your donor has an assistant, your donor spends more waking hours during the

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Reunions

By Events

I really thought this was lost forever.  I’ve searched for this essay for two years.  It combines some of my very favorite things; superb writing, a story with a message, and a shared experience. According to his website, “William Zinsser is a lifelong journalist and nonfiction writer—he began his career on the New York Herald Tribune in 1946—and is also a teacher, best known for his book On Writing Well, a companion held in affection by three generations of writers, reporters, editors, teachers and students.” I first read this essay more than 25 years ago.  I regret I don’t know

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Events? Or Major Gifts?

By Events

A reader writes: “Rob, one topic I would be glad to hear more about is special events. “I recently relocated from a large university setting to a much smaller development shop.  Special events occupy quite a prominent place in our fundraising strategy, and I’m constantly being asked to work on them. “It’s been quite a challenge.  I do see some benefit, but it takes away from my capacity for visits, proper follow up and strategy.  Should I be expected to do both visits and events? “If I may, two underlying topics here are, one, what is the role of special

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When Events Can Be Magic

By Events

It was the biggest gala in our history.  We’d been working for months to give it our very best. We knew it meant so much to the organization. The thing about events, you don’t get a second chance to make it right. Soon after dinner I pulled an index card out of the pocket of my tuxedo and headed over to the president’s table.  On the card were the names and table locations of the donors he needed to see that night. I got to my boss’s table and asked if we could make the rounds.  He gave me a

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Why Events are So Valuable

By Events

Events have been part of the advancement profession forever. Today this proven fundraising vehicle may be relegated to the development backseat. This technique is considered outdated by some, compared to social media and other trends of the moment. It’s interesting how often we regard the newest concepts as the best concepts.  Not always so.  When a fundraising vehicle has served so many for so long, there’s a good reason. As a carefully-positioned element of an overall annual plan, this “old warhorse” of development can provide targeted messaging to your key donors, an entrée to new donors, and multiple residual benefits. Events are

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The Phone Call

By Featured Content

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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13 Keys for a Good Visit

By Major Gifts

No doubt you and your colleagues are making lots of visits at this time of year.  Here are 13 tips for a good visit I’ve learned along the way: Never be late. If you have to wait for the person you are meeting, do not sit down.  Stay standing.  If you sit, when the person you are meeting enters the room, he or she will be looking down at you.  This is not the way you want to begin. Your demeanor should project quiet confidence.  Not cockiness.  Quiet confidence. Remember to do these four things, all at the same time, when greeting your

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