Ready. Acquire. Aim.

Once, twelve days into a new fiscal year, we threw out the annual plan.

Fundraisers love – and should love – their strategic and annual plans. We need plans. Then sometimes we need new ones. This is a blog post about agile planning, and thinking less linearly about the planning cycle.

Admittedly, the time we threw out the playbook was a dramatic one: Haiti. January 12, 2010. We all know the story: the earthquake and its horrible loss of life. 300,000 acutely injured, 1.5 million homeless. A minute after the earthquake, MSF/Doctors Without Borders launched the largest rapid emergency response in our history. (more…)

Delivering a baby, delivering a budget

One morning last December I went to outer space and plucked a star. We named her Beatrix.

She’s our first, and I’d not had much exposure to newborns before. Even less on how to care for one.

Bea and I’ve taken many long walks these past five months (moves management, verily) and I’ve had time to think back over my twenty-year fundraising career, and if there was anything there that could teach me to be a parent. More interestingly to my colleagues and team, how would giving birth and nurturing a newborn shape my leadership style back at work? (more…)

It’s you, not me

Today’s post is a morsel.

Short and sweet, it’s a petit four or, if you’re more of a savoury person, a piece ofbleu benedictinto finish a sumptuous year of blogging on101fundraising.org, our crowdblog.

A year ago next weekthe very first blog postwas published on this site. Since then, many more fundraisers have written, shared, and debated on many aspects of our profession: the theoretical, technical, and ideological. I have no agency to speak on behalf of anyone but myself, and so I thank you personally, Reinier and Jeroen, the Men in Black, for your genius and hard hard hard work bringing fundraisers of the world together in this space. And of course a multitude of thanks to my fellow crowdbloggers: your content has enriched my professional practice.


On the subject of thank you’s, today’s blog post subject: a quick case study on email subject lines. (more…)

Advice to a Professor

September 12, 2011

Dear Mr. Lipsyte,

Loved “The Ask”!

I’ve reviewed it, and wonder if you’d write a few words in response? We in the development world are really curious about your career choice for the protagonist, and how you researched the hard details of the profession.

I know the book has been reviewed extensively, but I can’t find one done by a fundraiser like me. Again, we’d really appreciate your perspective.


Rebecca (more…)

Hosting my first webinar: lessons learned

Thank you so much for the wonderful chance to really feel a part of what is happening in Haiti! These workers are real, sincere, ordinary people with the right training who work on behalf of our pittance donated to help the people in distress. Thank you so much for having enabled us to listen as the team told of their work in such an ongoing needy situation of our confreres in Haiti. Sincerely, a Donor, Oakville, Ontario

I hosted a donor accountability webinar last year. Like the curate’s egg, some parts of it were excellent, others, not so much.

Here it is:

(Click here if the embedded video is not working.)


Summer reading and toosh dev

That night I dreamed I was an indentured servant in colonial Philadelphia. Somehow, even in the dream, I sensed that I had once been a development officer in post-Colonial New York City.

We need every drop of philanthropy we can get. We must fasten our lips to the spigot and suck, so to speak.

“The Ask” – Sam Lipsyte

I’m blogging today from the land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will. What you call your own ‘where’ — camp, cabin, or cottage — depends on what part of Canada you’re from, but everyone’s destination looks pretty much the same: blue lake and rocky shore, family and friends, sunsets on the dock. And above all, in a Canadian camp/cabin/cottage there are books. The swollen and musty throwback paperbacks permanent to your camp/cabin/cottage and that you’d only read, for reasons both pragmatic and snobby, in that context (“Mrs. John Albert Jr.’s Guide to Making Soap out of Wild Game Fat”, “Summer Sisters” by Judy Blume).  And, of course of most of all, those books you’ve saved all year to read at the lake.


Integrated campaigning: throw away the best practices

Show me a fundraiser who thinks they’ve solved integrated campaigning and I’ll show you someone who whistles past the graveyard.

What exactly constitutes an integrated campaign, anyway? Is it simply having a landing page that looks a lot like your direct mail piece? And why do it? From a fundraisers’ perch, the answer to both questions is…money. Integrated campaigns can raise the money you need to meet your revenue objectives. They do this by using complementary channels, which create multiple levels of exposure and engagement points influencing your donors to action. Donate Now is a good one; Unsubscribe, not so good. (more…)

For whom the bell tolls: helping donors find solidarity through unrestrict​ed giving

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne

There’s an interesting exchange happening right now between MSF Canada and our donors, a phenomenon I think would be interesting to fundraisers outside of the humanitarian-NGO arena and that I’d like your opinion on. MSF Canada donors are again being stress-tested by us, the very organization many Canadians look towards as an outlet for their compassion in times of sudden crisis, most recently and specific to this post, last month’s cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. If our doctors’ acts of vaccination and surgery are their humanitarian tools, then the donations our supporters make are theirs. And so how do donors feel when MSF tells them we do not accept earmarked gifts for the catastrophe in Japan? Do we wrest from them a degree of solidarity with the Japanese people in asking for unrestricted donations?


Phone first!

As a relationship professional, I’m a big fan of Alexander Graham Bell’s electronic speech machine(*), the latter-day telephone.

My mantra when communicating with major donors: phone first. Phone first. Ph f. (Soothing, isn’t it?)

Email and letters don’t allow for the bilateral conversations our donors and prospects deserve for their generosity. The best “touches” by phone aren’t end-games of trivial information or data collection, either. The goal of every call you make should be to begin, advance or deepen a new or long-term relationship between your prospect/donor, you the fundraiser, and your organization.

The secondary goal of every phone call is to move beyond the business at hand – the hook – to get your donor/prospect to articulate what they need from you to further engage with your organization. The language and approach can be the same for loyal donors and discovery prospects: “I welcome the opportunity to update you on where we stand today, and our goals for the year.”


Major gifts: Fundraising from the frontlines

Years ago when I stepped on the tee box to play my first round of golf, I assumed success. My swing, short game and putting were decent after months of practice at the driving range. But that day my game never took off to even be able to fall apart. I knew the rules and had reliable shots – all the necessarytransactions to the game. I did not, however, know the etiquette of golf: the social behaviours that enhance the experience and sport, and expose a novice like I was then. I talked. A lot. I constantly walked in front of others’ lines on the green, and my club must still be at the bottom of that pond. Of course I was never invited out by that group again. In recreational golf, technique is necessary as a point of entry but is not enough.Values-based behaviour is as important to succeeding at the game as having a consistent fairway shot. (more…)