Book Review – Donor Centered Leadership

I’ve been a huge fan of Penelope Burk since I first heard her speak not long after I arrived in the Canadian fundraising world. She was presenting to the Toronto AFP chapter her research on thanking donors and the impact of gratitude on donor retention (which became the landmark book, “Donor Centered Fundraising“).

Penelope is a great speaker and I was excited to hear her speak a year or two ago about her emerging new research on “Donor Centered Leadership.” The new book builds on her previous work, since her focus is how to build a functioning team that keeps the donor front-of-mind, which strengthens donor confidence and engagement. Early on she notes:

One out of every two donors who made charitable gifts in 2011 said they could have given more, but that they held back, waiting for nonprofits to get it right.

If that isn’t enough to make you sit up and evaluate the importance of good leadership, reduced turn over, and a strengthened profession, I don’t know what will. And, if you think this is a book only addresses hiring and retaining fundraisers, you are in for a surprise.

Donor-centered-leadershipThrough five years of research with more than 12,000 fundraisers, leadership volunteers and donors, Penelope dives into the real (seen and hidden) costs of staff turnover (or the desire for greater career mobility and/or compensation), the change in the fundraising landscape (“unfortunately the fundraising system that is in place today is better at making money than profit”), and how to attract, hire and hold on to good great talent (oodles of smart advice, including internal promotions, succession planning and keeping good talent engaged and happy).

This book will add to your understanding of the current issues (some call it a crisis) facing our profession, it will help you learn where to focus your energies in your daily work and strategic planning and help you to create a better team.

Continue reading

More Math for Fundraisers

Following on my last post on Math for Fundraisers, talking about the “equation” for seeking gifts, in my same meetings we discussed how many prospects we were going to need to identify.

The equation I am discussing today is 144 = 9, or 16:1.

Finding qualified prospects can be a challenge!

Finding qualified prospects can be a challenge!

To recap, on my team at Aga Khan University (AKU), we are seeking gifts from nearly all new prospects. Therefore, we are working on identifying many prospective donors, most of whom can make gifts in the seven- to nine-figure range with some in the five- or six-figure giving range simply because all or most of the donors will be first-time donors to AKU. So, we need to meet lots of prospects, begin discussions, and explore the prospective donors’ interests and capacity.

Most fundraisers are familiar with the ABCs of prospects:

  • Ability – Evidence that the person has the ability to make the size of gift you are looking for.
  • Belief – Evidence that the person believes in your cause, or would believe in your cause if they knew about your cause.
  • Connection (or Contact) – Evidence that the person has a connection to your organization (or knows a person within the group of supporters) or some other kind of contact that helps with the Transfer of Trust.
  • Pattern – One thing I would add… Evidence that the person has a pattern of giving. (Jerry Panas talks about people who give mega gifts having a track record of giving… of course, there is always the first large gift a person makes, but I agree that with major donor prospects it is important to know if they are already supporters of other causes.)

Continue reading

Math for Fundraisers

During my time working for the Aga Khan University I was able to meet in Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya with my far-flung colleagues (from Chicago, USA and London, UK).

MathforFundraisers1It is a very big campaign and I’m learning much about reaching out in meaningful ways to prospective supporters, with and without connectors (Ambassadors) to introduce us. My London colleagues (Shelley, Bruce and Steve) developed these equations to help our faculty and other non-fundraising colleagues better understand what we do.

(Knowledge + Engagement) Time = Commitment


Commitment + Capacity = Gift

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: