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…)

How do you keep good people at a nonprofit organization?

How do you keep good people at a nonprofit organization? With limited budgets and the reality of high turnover in our sector, what can you do to help keep great staff.

At hjc we have come up with 9 key deliverables from the company, to our staff:

1. Give them a professional development budget that THEY control. It’s about respect and autonomy when it comes to learning and improving. Every staff member gets $1,250 dollars (plus travel) to go to conferences;  attend webinars; and purchase other training and books. It’s motivating and effective for us to give them complete control over their own personal PD budget.


I’m awesome. You’re awesome. We’re AWESOME…aren’t we?

A few years ago, while discussing a learning opportunity, a colleague of mine said: “The last thing I need is to sit and listen to a bunch of fundraisers talk about how great they are.”

At the time I was pretty offended. Now I think maybe she was right. We (fundraising professionals) really do look to each other for validation. We build ourselves up, cheer each other on and even have award ceremonies for each other. We need to inspire and support each other because we are still a long way away from this profession garnering the public support and respect it deserves.

You have read about my mother in law in previous posts. Eileen, didn’t really want me talking about my job of fundraising in social situations with her friends. I remember one birthday party in particular when one of the guests disclosed that he ran a small foundation and suggested that I submit a proposal. This innocent, friendly, organic conversation resulted in a family scandal that lasted for weeks. Eileen just couldn’t understand how I could be so crass as to “solicit her friends”. I never did follow up on the lead. The personal strife simply wasn’t worth the donation.

On another occasion at a major donor cultivation event I somehow ended up on the receiving end of a lecture about how fundraisers don’t need to get paid. In fact they “SHOULDN’T” get paid. I set my immediate defensive instincts aside and tried to patiently justify my paycheck by explaining that I have specific training. (more…)

Waarom Nederlandse fondsenwervers soms uit hun nek kletsen…

Soms wordt ik een beetje moe van alle fondsenwervers die elkaar allemaal napraten. We weten allemaal best hoe het moet. Maar tussen de theorie die we tot ons nemen (101fundraising/ IFC-Masterclasses/ IF-opleiding etc.) en de praktijk gaapt een gigantisch gat. Vooral als het gaat over de inzet van ons bestuur in onze fondsenwervingsplannen. We hebben allemaal wel ergens een stappenplannetje liggen. Bijvoorbeeld Neil Sloggies Essentials of Major Gift Fundraising uit de onvolprezen ‘Tiny’-serie’. We wéten, hóren en beséffen dat we ons bestuur moeten inzetten. Dat doen ze namelijk in de Angelsaksische fondsenwervingwereld al lang -en met succes. Dus moeten wij dat ook doen.

Maar doen we dat ook? Daarom de volgende vraag om eens te overdenken: hoeveel geld heeft jouw bestuur voor jouw organisatie binnen gehengeld afgelopen jaar en hoe heb je ze zo ver gekregen? (more…)

IFC: folding letters and licking envelopes!

Tomorrow one of the most inspirational fundraising gatherings of the world starts right here in The Netherlands: The International Fundraising Congress (better known as: the IFC).

About 1,000 fundraisers from more than 60 countries spend a couple of days in the same building. Talking, learning, sharing, looking, absorbing, listening and consuming fundraising. It’s both very impressive and somewhat intimidating if we sum all the money that is being raised by all delegates. But it’s also encouraging, because every charity represented once started small, and every fundraiser walking around once started as a junior.

When I convinced my boss 8 years ago that I needed to go there, I started out as an IFC Session Leader. If you ever attended the IFC you know what they do and look like: always asking for evaluation forms and kindly answering all your logistical questions, in bright green shirts (nowadays in bright red). (more…)

What would Grandma say?

Not so long ago I asked staff of the communication and fundraising department at a certain large charity if they were actually supporting their own cause. No more than 22% actually did. So I asked myself, what would my grandmother say of this?

I got to tell you a little bit about my grandmother. She was (she died a couple of years ago) every charity’s dream donor. A very religious woman, who always felt that other people who were in need should be taken care off, helped when they needed help. So she supported many charities, her local church being one of the most important ones. Over the years that added up to many thousands of euros …

I always kept that in mind making my decisions when I worked at the Protestant Church; would I be able to explain to my grandmother that the money she gave all her life was well spent. It kept me keen on not spending money haphazardly, be it for huge mailings or for a cup of coffee. (more…)

Have I told you lately that I love you? (part 2)

OK, so you’ve done your strategic speed-dating (also known as ‘a pitch’), and it’s time to get on with some proper work.

All being well, you’ve genuinely will fallen in love with an agency. Your agency. All being well they will be making you feel that they only have eyes for you. Even so, before getting into bed you may want some form of pre-nuptial agreement. It’s not vital. It’s not always necessary. But it’s generally a good thing to know what you both expect from the relationship. So whether it is a formal contract or a simple exchange of do’s and don’ts, you may want to specify:

  • The team: who exactly will do the work, pick up the phone to you, come to meetings etc.
  • What will it cost? Precisely.
  • Any specific Service Level Agreements.
  • Financial constraints and targets
  • Confidentiality
  • Copyright
  • Review periods.

They may sound like passion-killers, but, hell, let’s hope this isn’t a one-night stand.


Have I told you lately that I love you? (part 1)

Relationships, eh, who’d have ‘em!? We talk about them a lot in fundraising don’t we?

So today I want to give a tender caress to those relationships we probably don’t focus on enough, namely those between clients and their agencies (and vice versa).

Some of the highly embarrassing clipart I used many years ago when addressing this topic.

Some of the highly embarrassing clipart I used many years ago when addressing this topic

In doing so I’d like to tip my hat to the tweets and blogs of Gill McLellan (@gillmcl) and Alison McCants (@alisonmccants). Apart from giving wise words, they prompted me to dust down a training course I used to run on this topic. Apart from some embarrassing clipart, I found some advice that I think still holds true today despite a much-changed agency world from when I devised the training more than 15 years ago.

By changed agency world, I mean massively fragmented.  It used to be that fundraising clients made do with one agency. This tended to be a direct marketing agency, most of which eventually described themselves as ‘integrated’ (meaning: ‘Please let us do everything for you! We don’t know how to do everything but I’m sure we can rope in someone who does!’).


Staff like donors? Recruit, develop, retain them…

101fundraising…OK, so back to the basics of fundraising, hey?!  Let me think, should I speak about ROI, LTV, DRTV, hum… yeah, why not! But something more “CORE”?

Found it! Let’s talk about PEOPLE.

I can see your face, but don’t worry, I won’t tell you for the 102nd time that “People give to people”. You know all about it yet. So, let’s have a look at us fundraisers, after all, we are people … and perhaps the best assets of a fundraising program (OK … just after donors).

So, my first post is dealing with what I spent more time on since I became a Fundraising Director some years ago: human resources! How to recruit, retain and develop the good fundraisers for your program. Because, let’s face it, you can be a real genius, but you need people for implementing the strategy you’ve designed for  your organization. The good news is that dealing with human resources can be compared with dealing with a direct marketing program: you need to recruit staff, engage them, develop their contribution, and get the best of them as long as you can retain them.


AFP Convention 2011: worth the visit?


I could end there and thereby enter some list of shortest blogs ever. But since it’s my goal to inform you on the AFP, I’d better expand on that “No”.

For those of you who don’t know what the AFP is, here’s a short explanation. AFP stands for Association of Fundraising Professionals, which is a group of people active in fundraising mostly in Northern America. Each year there is a big AFP convention (like the IFC in The Netherlands), which normally is where you pick up all the new ideas.

Now let’s get back to my initial question; was it worth the visit?