The Fundraisers’ Mission Statement

I am From

Elena Sanchez

I am from the big yellow house in the middle of the street

I am from the street where there’s no bike riding,

The street where the ice cream truck never slows down

I am from the porch you could hide under

I am from the house that had dirt where grass should be

I am from the stolen skateboard

I am from the school where asking for help was tattling

I am from the desk in the back corner

I am from the books read at recess

I am from the pictures drawn in gym

I am from the broken lunchbox

I am from a fight on the playground

I am from a weave in my eight year old hands

I am from ignoring rumors and laughing them off

I am from dismissing the past

I am from learning to trust and making friends

I am from the CD’s on repeat

I am from the notebook under my mattress

I am from 100 pairs of headphones blown out

I am from 1,000 mistakes huge mistakes and meager relationships

I am from dreams of being someone

I am from frustrated tears on a pillow

I am from the tissues that dried them away

I am from a mother who never gave up

I am from crawling through life but

I am from getting back up as well

I am from pain I thought would never end

I am from victory over my younger years

I am from saddle shoes and out of style clothes

And I am from making them work

I am from a mold of my own

I am from perseverance

I am from never staying down

I am from a fight that will never end

Elena Sanchez wrote this poem during her senior year at Saint Martin de Porres High School in Cleveland.  A work study program helped pay her tuition, and a scholarship helped.

Elena then attended Oberlin College – on a scholarship. She is now an Account Manager for a major company in the Midwest.

The development profession helped make her education possible. That is a humbling feeling, indeed.

Major Gifts Book Sneak Peek

We’re halfway through! Since last Fall, and continuing now for the next six months, subscribers to The Weekend Briefing Plus receive bi-weekly installments from our new book, “(Everything I’ve Learned in 44 Years About) Major and Planned Gifts.”

It’s not too late to sign up! Just click on the Subscribe link at robcummingsconsulting.com

Here’s a recap, and a sneak peek, from the Table of Contents:

October 11, 2020: Chapter One, “Trust Yourself, You Know More than You Think You Do”

October 25: “Never Ask for Money”

November 8: “Getting the Visit”

November 22: “Fundraising in a Pandemic”

December 6: “Heartbreak”

December 20: “Listening”

January 17, 2021: “What Is a Relationship”

January 24: “Relationships (Part Two)”

January 31: “Relationships (Part Three)”

February 7: “Energy, Empathy, Enthusiasm and Integrity”

February 14: “The First Visit”

February 21: “The Gift Cycle: Prospect Identification and Rating”

February 28: “Prospective Donor Cultivation”

March 7: “How to Ask”

March 14: “How to Ask, Close, Follow Up, and When You Hear ‘No’”

April 11: “How to Say Thank You”

April 25: “The Three Biggest Mistakes a Gift Officer Can Make”

May 9: “Asking, A Case Study”

May 23: “Asking, A Case Study (Part Two)”

June 6: “The Best Major Gift Tips I Know”

June 20: “More Major Gifts Tips”

July 11: “Raising Major Gifts on the Road”

July 18: “Planned Giving: Bequests, and Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Program”

August 1: “Planned Giving: Beyond Bequests”

August 15: “Dicey Situations Gift Officers Face”

August 29: “Getting Your CEO and Board to Help (The 8 Magic Words)”

September 12: “Why Experience Counts So Much and How to Get It, Not Being Afraid to Make a Mistake, How Should Make the Ask, and More”

September 26: “What Makes a Great Major Gifts Officer”

Coming Up:

Sunday, October 3: Chapter One of “The Perfect Development Shop

Disappointment

Excerpted from Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising, available in print, audiobook and eBook on Amazon.com

I was having coffee with a friend of mine. She’s the director of development for a wonderful nonprofit. Among other things we were talking about our year-end totals and all the thank-you letters those gifts precipitate.

My friend had a sad look on her face. I asked if anything was the matter.

“No, sorry. We had a really great year end. Very fortunate. A lot of hard work by our team. I just had a personal experience with a thank you that wasn’t so great.”

I asked, if it wasn’t prying, would she tell me?

“Sure. Actually, I’ve been wishing I could share it with someone, but my family and personal friends wouldn’t understand.

“You know where I went to college, right? It was a wonderful time of my life. When I started in development, I had grandiose ideas of being a big donor to my alma mater. I owe them a lot.

“But life got in the way.” She smiled. “Now I sound like one of my own donors!”

“My husband and I put our kids through private school, and you know where they went to college. It was really hard for us to make that work but we did. In the meantime, my giving to my own college was nowhere near where I wanted it to be. It was sporadic and not up to my intentions. I was embarrassed about it, but we had responsibilities.

“Anyway, last December I told my husband I wanted to get serious about giving to them on a regular basis. We talked about starting at a modest level and increasing our gift every year, then including my college in our estate plan later on. We talked about them a lot, and a couple other causes we wanted to ramp up our giving to.

“So I sent my school $250. I know it’s not a world-beater, but to be honest, I was really excited to write that check. I even called someone in their development office to watch out for my gift because I didn’t have  an envelope from them. I guess I was reliving what I had always wanted my giving to my college to be and now I was going to make it happen.

“It made me happy.”

I took a sip of coffee and told my friend, “Well, so far so good!”

“You’re right. Now, don’t laugh. I started watching the mail for my thank-you letter. I was like a little kid. It finally came one day.”

“By the look on your face, it wasn’t what you hoped for.”

“Oh, the letter was fine, I guess. It said all the correct things. But it was a form letter. The signer was the vice president. His signature was imprinted at the bottom.

“It was a lousy imprint.

“There’s no way that VP ever got within 25 feet of that letter, or my gift. It was so obvious it was prepared by someone in their development operations office.

“You know what? I really wish that person had signed my letter instead.”

I told my friend I felt badly for her experience. Was this going to affect her future giving to her college?

“To be honest, I don’t know. I’m still sorting out how I feel. It was probably my own fault for getting my hopes up. I don’t know what I expected. “It was only $250.

“Deep down, I don’t feel I was thanked for my gift.

“I feel like I was processed.”

Get Your Nose Out of Your Navel

“I resolve to stop using myself as a gauge for what will resonate with my donors. In other words, stop trying to raise money from yourself.

“No matter who you are or where you are in your fundraising career, you probably aren’t a proper representative for your target donor demographic.

“You’re likely younger and much more ingrained in the inner workings of the fundraising milieu in general and the work of your organization specifically. Your donors don’t eat, drink, sleep and breathe your organization’s messaging, so they aren’t as bored with it as you might be.

“They might not even remember that they get four mailings from you a year – much less the details of what any of them said. They’re not jaded to the specifics of your organization’s work, so you can’t speak to them as though you are.

“Your communications need to be personal, raw, real – and consistent.

“And the only way to sustain that is to get your nose out your navel and start looking at your work through your donors’ eyes.”

By Margaret Battistelli Gardner, reprinted with permission