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Advancement’s new vocabulary: “Tweets” and “likes”

By Mike Wiese, associate

Should your organization consider using social media to engage young people’s support and involvement? The answer is yes. While in the past this generation may have primarily been reached through a printed letter, newsletter or advertisement, today’s young people are more apt to communicate via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest and other such platforms as well.

Before considering specific tools, let’s understand why social media as a whole works. Young donors like social media because they want to be personally connected with things and people that they care about. Relationships matter to them and they want to stay in touch. If young people are passionate about your mission and want to be active on your behalf, you need to communicate via their tools and let them use those tools to spread the word. Social media is the most effective way that young people share word of mouth endorsements.

Here we offer pros and cons of the two most used forms of social media today—Twitter and Facebook—along with one suggested way your organization can begin utilizing these tools to build relationships with younger donors. As the previous paragraph suggests, however, many younger donors are seeking, first and foremost, not a repository for their funds, but a connection and a relationship. Social media allows them the opportunity to stay in touch with your organization and to be active on its behalf in other ways as they establish their own habits of charitable giving that may benefit you in the future.



• More than one quarter of online adults between 18-29 use Twitter—nearly double the number of users age 30-49.*

• In a short message (tweet) you can let followers know about an activity to generate attendance.

• Followers can easily share information, ask questions, get questions answered and pass your information on (retweet) to their followers.

• You can follow other experts to learn from them and share with them.

• One can monitor keywords (through hashtags) to see what others are saying about your organization.

• Account set-up and use are free.


• Messages are limited to 140 characters.

• Time is required to build community and post meaningful tweets.

• Tweets need to be meaningful and in line with specific marketing objectives and brand.

• Although you can include a link to visual items, Twitter is not good for visual content.

Example: A group of constituents follows your organization on Twitter. On the morning of a major event, you want to remind your followers that the event is later that day. You send a tweet to your followers, some of whom retweet to their friends that they are going, and invite those friends to come with them.



• Users include over 1.1 billion individuals—67% of all adult internet users—from a broad demographic.*

• Visual content can be shared easily.

• Facebook is interactive and allows people to respond to your posts (through comments and likes).

• Content can be linked to websites or other social media sites such as Instagram (sharing photos) and Pinterest (“a tool for collecting and sharing things you love”).

• Ads can be purchased that align to a profile of people who are likely to be interested in your organization.


• Setting up a “Facebook Fan Page” and getting fans for your organization requires time and resources. (People become fans by liking your organization’s page.)

• Posts need to be meaningful, informative and to support your marketing objectives/brand.

• Pages must be kept up to date and regularly monitored.

• Facebook ads require a budget.

• Having reputation management policies in place is important if someone places a negative post on your page.

Example: After your event you post an informative update and photos on your Fan Page to let your fans know what happened. Fans respond to the post by “liking it” and sharing a comment. Some fans post your message on their personal profile page to share with their friends.

Major companies are shifting large portions of their communications budget away from traditional media to social media. If you haven’t already, you may wish to consider adding a social media component as part of your next advancement plan. The two examples listed here just scratch the surface of what is possible. AAI is prepared to offer additional ideas for faith-based nonprofits who wish to incorporate social media into their overall advancement strategy.


*Statistics according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Post-Election Survey, November 14-December 09, 2012.


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Former clients respond: How are you intentionally nurturing donors under 40?

We asked a dozen advancement officers to respond to the question, “How is your organization intentionally nurturing relationships with donors 40 years old or younger?” Their replies revealed an impressive understanding of the needs and desires of this age group, coupled with creativity in their various approaches.

Photo courtesy of Hinkletown Mennonite School

Ruth Leaman, Hinkletown Mennonite School (Ephrata, PA): “We sponsor a business networking breakfast. About 80 local business owners attended, many of them young. The event provides connections for the school with business owners that we would otherwise not have opportunity to connect with, provides a professional presentation of the school and creates collaboration within our community. This is an entry point event for new potential donors and we have had good results in moving new business owners into support for HMS within 6-12 months of our last breakfast, including two new friends who became major donors to our capital campaign.

As a follow-up to the breakfast we have developed a mini-course on entrepreneurship, in which we take groups of students to visit some of these businesses. Students benefit from learning outside of their regular curriculum and business owners are happy to share their knowledge.”

Aaron Adelsberger, Adriel (West Liberty, OH): “We have been moving away from blanket requests for our annual fund, and doing much more in the way of purpose driven requests. This is specifically to attract and engage a younger generation of donors. Rather than just writing us a check and saying, “I hope you put it to good use,” we find that younger donors like knowing that they were a part of purchasing a new piece of equipment, or that they were a part of funding a specific program, and are more likely to respond to that request and to be engaged in a meaningful way.”

Photo courtesy of Freeman Academy

Vernetta Waltner, Freeman Academy (Freeman, SD): “We have hosted a dinner with a special program and provided child care for our local young donors, aged 20-35. One year I hosted an evening that included a supper and time to play volleyball or basketball for alumni who were getting ready to leave for college. Our annual holiday alumni fellowship includes basketball games and a time to visit with those of all ages who are in the community for Christmas. As I plan visits to specific cities or states, I try to meet with young alumni over coffee or a meal. Sometimes that is a group of college students and other times it is young couples.”

Photo courtesy of Christopher Dock High School

Susan Gingerich, Christopher Dock High School (Lansdale, PA): “At the senior breakfast I place a card with a penny on it at each senior’s place, encouraging them to make their first donation before they graduate by turning in the card with a $5 bill attached. I promote the Golden Anniversary endowment gift at each class reunion. This concept is to set up a class endowment with the school so that by the time the class has its 50th anniversary, it will have donated $50,000 to their class’s endowment. We provide food and space for a one-year reunion of graduates. We encourage and assist with five-year (interval) reunions for all classes each year.”

Bruce Drayer, Gateway Woods (Leo, IN): “During the summer, we have many young people spend a week or more with us. They work on our campus and interact with the residents during the day. In the evenings, there will be volunteer events to encourage fellowship. Also, every other Monday we play sports with our residents and young people in our church. These events drive participation and passion. We also keep an updated Facebook page and Twitter account. Many of our former volunteers and friends regularly check these accounts.”

Larry L. Swartzendruber, Iowa Mennonite School (Kalona, IA): “We’re using things like Facebook and other social media more. Since the under-40 crowd is increasingly mobile and more tech-savvy, we’ve also made it easier to make online donations by accepting credit cards, automatic withdrawals/deposits, etc. I continue to believe that personal relationships and one-on-one conversations are the best way to engage donors of all ages, but it requires establishing that relationship to know what method of contact and interaction is best. That applies to each and every donor.”


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AAI offers small organizations “good model” for grantseeking

In the past few years, several AAI clients have shown heightened interest in researching and pursuing grant monies. And many of these organizations share a similar profile when it comes to seeking grants:

• Minimal experience

• Limited staff time

• Facing one or more immediate needs

Take, for example, Mennonite Education Agency (MEA). MEA gives support and leadership to nearly 40 pre-K through graduate level institutions. Since 2007, the agency has also overseen the Hispanic Pastoral Leadership Education (HPLE) program.

Begun 24 years ago by the Hispanic Mennonite Church (Iglesia Menonita Hispana) HPLE provides leadership training for pastoral and lay leaders throughout Canada and the United States.

Within HPLE, two “tracks” have been developed: Instituto Bíblico Anabautista (IBA), a biblical and theological education program equivalent to an undergraduate degree; and Seminario Bíblico Anabautista Hispano (SeBAH), a formal alternative program of ministerial education at a graduate or seminary level.

Securing adequate funding for HPLE has been an ongoing challenge for MEA, which contacted AAI nearly one year ago about grant research.

Executive Director Carlos Romero presented Associate Sherilyn Ortman with a somewhat mind-boggling set of parallel circumstances. On one hand was an impressive set of statistics documenting the success of the program:

• Enrollment in IBA has grown by an astounding 73% over the last five years, a trend that is projected to continue.

• There is no typical IBA student; students are males and females whose ages range from 13-80.

• Last year, IBA maintained 45 study centers in 11 different states and Puerto Rico.

• Several regional conferences of Mennonite Church USA have mandated IBA training for all of their Hispanic pastors.

• HPLE has prompted inquiries from other denominations. The Church of the Brethren, for example, has adopted SeBAH as its primary leadership training program for Hispanics.

• MEA hears a clear call to translate materials into English so that they may be used throughout various parts of the church.

• Financial support for the Hispanic Pastoral Leadership Program has roughly doubled each of the last three years.

On the other hand, however, MEA’s Chief Financial Officer Lisa Heinz pointed to an equally impressive—though considerably more sobering—set of data that explained some of the reasons for ongoing challenge:

• Since the start of the national recession, the organization as a whole has suffered a 24% decrease in giving by supporting congregations.

• This loss has been compounded in the last fiscal year by a 12% drop in contributions by individuals other than board and staff members.

• In 2009, in light of financial challenges, a major source of support for HPLE had to reduce its financial commitment. This development required MEA to make up approximately $70,000 over two years, and had prompted an earlier grant research contract with AAI that year.

• Student tuition covers only a fraction of the cost of education for IBA and SeBAH students.

Ortman began her research by revisiting several prospects identified in the AAI contract of three years ago. Using the Foundation Directory, an online database of over 100,000 private foundations, public charities and corporate giving programs, AAI next attempted to generate a list of additional grantmakers that would be compatible with MEA’s mission. The directory allows users to search from among multiple criteria including fields of interest, geographic focus, size of gift and types of support.

For example, in the case of the Hispanic Pastoral Leadership Education program, Ortman searched for foundations that:

• state an interest in funding theological education and/or leadership development among Hispanics/Latinos,

• give either nationally; in Indiana (MEA is headquartered in Elkhart); or in one or more locations of IBA study centers,

• provide general operating support, program development or scholarship funds,

• commonly award gifts of at least five figures.

Further research revealed past grant recipients and additional information about the application procedure that either confirmed or brought into question the worthwhileness of MEA’s investment in pursuing certain grants.

AAI divided the remaining foundation prospects according to their perceived likelihood of funding MEA. The organization received a written report, which contained a profile of and contact information for each resulting foundation, as well as a suggested first step for making the contact.

Romero expressed a desire to continue working with AAI to develop several proposals; both parties agreed to take first steps with four of the grantmakers identified in the report. In each case, Ortman and Romero worked together closely to examine the average gift size and giving priorities for each foundation and to match them with specific projects or expenses in the HPLE budget. Lisa Heinz answered financial questions and provided supporting data. HPLE’s two program directors supplied important insight about the nuts and bolts of the program. AAI Principal Rich Gerig reviewed drafts of each proposal and gave feedback at several points along the way.

Romero considers this approach “very, very worthwhile and helpful. Having a group work together meant that each person could make the contribution(s) that best matched his or her skill,” he says. “We ended up with a better, stronger product than if it had just been me doing it.” He also believes this approach has resulted in a greater understanding of program goals and an increased sense of ownership among the staff involved.

The resulting proposals represented requests for support that ranged from technology, to staff salaries and instructor stipends, to translation costs, to funding annual tutor retreats, to producing educational materials. Identifying these priorities, Romero says, “pushed” MEA in a good way. “It forced us to put real financial numbers with our dreams.”

A final component of the project was the creation of a template that MEA can use to develop proposals for additional grants.

MEA submitted the proposals last month and is now awaiting responses. Even if none of them materialize, Romero is committed to cultivating relationships with a number of foundations to which he and MEA board members have personal connections, and also with several to whom he has been introduced in the past year. Sometime in the next few months, for example, he hopes to sit down face to face with one foundation representative from Florida who, in spite of not funding MEA last year, “also didn’t close the door.” Romero is aware of a handful of such foundations who showed interest in the Hispanic Pastoral Leadership Program, but for whom the timing just wasn’t right.

He also appreciates the groundwork that the research and writing processes laid for future steps MEA may take. “I feel like we did some really good foundational work, not just for grants, but also for other development work. Now we have articulated some particular projects that we could easily create a case for support from. The numbers are there; we just have to create the new context.”

Looking back, MEA feels AAI’s collaborative approach is a beneficial one for those organizations that fit the profile above. “For a small organization like us, the ability to team up with Sherilyn and Rich felt like a good model to help us keep moving forward,” Romero says, “and one that we’ll consider using again.”


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Capital campaign achieves more than monetary goal

For Good Shepherd Home of Fostoria, OH, the word “groundbreaking” refers not only to an upcoming event for a state-of-the-art therapy facility; it also describes the journey the continuing care retirement community has been on over the last three years—a journey to build a development program from square one.

Already Good Shepherd Home (GSH) has exceeded its campaign goal, though it won’t enter the public phase of its “Therapy for All” campaign until the groundbreaking ceremony planned for April. This is the first capital campaign undertaken by the home in over 40 years and the first of its kind for CEO Chris Widman, who came to Fostoria 14 years ago.

In the past, Widman explains, projects have been financed largely through tax-exempt bonds or operational revenue. But those projects have also yielded positive Pro Forma statements, a financial document used to demonstrate a projected return on investment. “As we evaluated the [current] project,” he allows, “we identified that, for as much good as it would do, it would not enhance our revenue.”

So leaders asked themselves, how can we fund a project that won’t pay for itself? Obviously, a capital campaign was one alternative. But GSH had no official development program in place and no staff person devoted to development. Widman points to some individual donations, and an occasional will, but says such gifts were sporadic. “If you will, they happened by chance.”

Once the home decided to pursue a capital campaign, Widman talked to Rick Stiffney, director of Mennonite Health Services Alliance, with which GSH is affiliated. “I asked Rick who he knew that offered consulting services,” Widman recalls. Stiffney pointed him in the direction of Advancement Associates (AAI).

AAI Associate Becky Drumm began working with Good Shepherd in early 2011. After a feasibility study, the board settled on a campaign goal of $650,000 and Widman began assembling a campaign cabinet, a group that proved valuable in generating a list of prospective donors for this organization that currently had no such database.

The result has been positive. “I’m very pleased with the generosity of the people we’ve approached,” says Widman, who has been involved in the majority of donor visits. In fact, as of last month, GSH has raised over $750,000 in gifts and pledges.

Widman believes this may be due to several things. First, many donors have had family members directly served by the organization. Second, donors are eager to partner with an organization that is committed to its mission and does it well. And third, both Good Shepherd and its individual staff members are very involved, and therefore well-known, within the community.

His own community involvement has also opened the door for several grants. Widman serves on the board of one local foundation and is acquainted with members on advisory boards of some others. That is not to say these gifts have come without effort: “Even though we just recently got the grant, I’ve been talking to one foundation rep for two years about what we wanted to do and how we should approach them.”

The success of the campaign thus far means that GSH can enhance its original building plans to offer the community even more. “We’re including lots of things that are not typically included in a long-term care facility. This new facility will set us apart from other long-term care providers in the region.”

Once completed, the new therapy center will offer a therapy gym; an aquatic center; a designated area for occupational therapy with a training kitchen, bedroom and bathroom; a speech therapy office; treatment areas; and driving and car transfer simulation devices.

Therapy services will be available not only to the 200 on-campus residents, but also on an outpatient basis to persons from the broader community.

That expanded service is one opportunity Widman sees the current capital campaign offering Good Shepherd in the future. “When people need us, they know that they’ll get great service and that we’ll have great facilities.” He also values the way the campaign promises to enhance people’s awareness that GSH is a non-profit that can benefit from gifts.

Sharing Good Shepherd’s story during donor visits has stretched the CEO, who says the experience has been “interesting,” and one with which he is growing comfortable. “On a personal level, I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for support, and to share how we are important to the community.”

For other organizations considering their first major capital campaign, Widman emphasizes the importance of conducting a feasibility study. “I had participated in one prior capital campaign, but that was for my church so everyone involved understood what the funds would be used for and who they would come from.” In Good Shepherd’s case, the amount originally tested in the study seemed to not have adequate stakeholder support and an endowment component for a chaplaincy program was removed from the campaign.

And he recommends hiring a professional to guide the process. “Becky has been fantastic!” And Drumm is quick to commend Widman for his larger vision. “For Chris, this wasn’t just about raising money for the project at hand. He saw the campaign as an opportunity to identify invested stakeholders, and now he wants to maintain them as part of an ongoing development effort.”

Though undertaking such a large fundraising effort with no development systems in place certainly hasn’t been easy, Widman is happy with how the campaign has progressed and believes the positive experience will bolster the retirement community’s confidence in the future. “When we want to do another campaign, we’ll look back and say, ‘See? We did it before; we can do it again.’”

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Barn raising and fundraising

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” –Matthew 6:26 NIV

Kevin King references this passage when describing the historical fundraising philosophy of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), where he has served as director for the last nine years. MDS is an extensive volunteer network of more than 3,000 Mennonite, Amish and Brethren in Christ churches and districts, which respond to those affected by natural disasters throughout the United States and Canada.

The vision for MDS was birthed at a Sunday school picnic in Hesston, KS in 1950 and was based on a Christian understanding of mutual aid. As the organization’s website explains, “For generations prior to 1950, mutual aid was an informal practice performed by Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups who felt that their faith was best expressed in the day to day actions of caring for one another. Through spontaneous gestures of assistance such as the well-known barn raising and the lesser-known harvest bee, the Anabaptists put their faith into action when fellow church members or neighbors faced calamity.”

Historically, MDS’s approach to fundraising has rhymed with this philosophy of mutual aid. “We have never had full-time development staff,” points out King. “We have a trust with the Church that when our ‘barns are empty,’ we are to let the Church know so its members can provide accordingly.”

However, a unique set of fundraising opportunities and challenges is leading Mennonite Disaster Service to take initial steps toward development approaches that reflect best practices.

One challenge is overcoming what King calls “the CNN effect,” a phenomenon where many new donors give when disasters receive immediate and sustained media attention, especially television coverage.

A particularly remarkable example happened in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina (and one month later, Hurricane Rita) struck the Gulf Coast. National media reported on the catastrophe for months following the event and contributions to MDS totaled $6 million. By contrast, when Hurricane Ike—the third largest disaster in United States history—struck three years later, the media was preoccupied with a national election. As a result, MDS’s contributions capped at just $70,000.

Income fluctuations like these dramatically affect how MDS is able to respond to a given disaster. In the case of Katrina, the large volume of designated donations enabled the organization’s longest recovery effort to date—seven years. MDS hired additional staff to enable the increased need for volunteers and leadership in the Gulf Coast. Nearly 7,000 volunteers served in 2007.

However, by 2010 the number of volunteers in the Gulf Coast dropped closer to the median (2,500 annually) and, like many nonprofits, MDS had seen general contributions drop off in the midst of the economic downturn. Project leaders were consulted about possible cost-saving measures they might take and organizational downsizing—“rightsizing,” says King—was required.

Operating a project site involves feeding, equipping and sheltering volunteers, and costs approximately $38 per volunteer per day. Even while designated funds allowed Mennonite Disaster Service to continue Katrina recovery efforts for another five years beyond the start of the recession in 2008, other project sites (i.e. those responding to relatively under-reported disasters) struggled.

A second challenge organizations like MDS face is the profile of disaster donors. As King describes them, “Disaster donors allow their hearts to be touched by human need and they respond.” But according to a study conducted by The Indiana University School of Philanthropy one quarter to one half of first time disaster donors never give again to the same charity. The hurdle for MDS, then, is to turn more of these first-time donors into regular, faithful givers.

Yet a third challenge is that MDS can’t simply wait for contributions to start rolling in once disaster strikes; constituents also expect the organization to maintain a level of disaster preparedness.

King is grateful for a core of loyal and faithful donors who understand this reality. Following Hurricane Sandy, for example, MDS observed that almost 90% of its faithful donors—those individuals who have contributed each of the last three years—gave to the general fund rather than specifically for Sandy. “These donors understand the full picture of disaster recovery,” says King.

Though they still have no official development officer on staff, Mennonite Disaster Service has already begun implementing a number of fundraising best practices, including:

• Being more attentive to first-time donors, with the goal to reduce attrition rates among this group to 25%.

• Analyzing giving trends of various stakeholder groups and segmenting the annual appeal to fit each.

• Identifying key messages for external communications and strengthening the case for support.

• Preparing accountability reports for donors to let them know how their donations are making a difference within the first six months following a disaster.

• Building a stronger online presence.

• Working strategically to receive grant funding from community foundations.

• Stabilizing funding streams by fully implementing a diversified fundraising program that includes annual appeals, special events, relationships with donors, grants and planned gifts.

• Personally thanking donors, for which King and several board members share responsibility.

King shares a story to illustrate the power of saying thank you. “Just before Christmas, we were swamped from Hurricane Sandy, and I was paging through receipts. I noticed one new donor who had given pretty serious dollars, and decided to call her and thank her.” King was floored by the woman’s response. “I’m glad you called,” she said. “I was just sitting here thinking that I need to give more money. How much do you need?” Not only did she increase her initial donation by five times; King feels confident she will be a long-term donor to MDS.

Or how about this story, of a chance encounter King had while going through airport security. “I struck up a conversation with the man next to me and he ended up inviting me to lunch. As we talked, he was moved almost to tears as I described how volunteers from Lancaster County, PA would get up early, drive to Far Rockaway, NY for Sandy clean-up, work all day, and then drive home again. It turns out he is a venture capitalist for a major corporation.” The conversation ended with the man directing King to his company’s website for information on corporate contributions; he expects to visit it soon!

And how about this one, which shows what can come from taking time from one’s own agenda to respond to another’s need, much like MDS volunteers do each year. “After Hurricane Katrina, I got a call from a reporter. I was incredibly busy, and was tempted to not take the call. But something in me said, ‘Go ahead and give the guy a story.’ Just before we hung up, I asked him again which paper he was from. It was the Chicago Tribune! That article alone generated $600,000.”

Stories like these abound within the work and culture of Mennonite Disaster Service, as they do for all nonprofit human service organizations. “Right now on any given weekday, we have 350 volunteers working at 12 project sites around the United States,” explains King. “The genius of MDS is that we have access to all of these practical, hands-on stories.”

Undoubtedly, the strategies listed above reflect a development effort that is more sophisticated than a simple call to a barn raising. But in both cases, compelling stories of human need and compassion are what King believes will persuade constituents to respond.

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What’s in a word?

In our consulting work, we often hear certain words defined differently and used interchangeably:

• Do you use mission or vision when referencing the raison d’être of your organization?

• In creating your strategic plan, do objectives support goals, or is it the other way around?

• And what about advancement and development? Is each synonymous with fundraising, or are there important differences?

While Webster might disagree, we think there is more than one answer to the first two examples, at least when they are used to describe how many human service organizations strive for strength, health and effectiveness. Whatever the definitions, we believe it is important that such words are used consistently across the organization to promote common understandings among decision makers and active support among stakeholders.

In providing consulting services for church-related nonprofit organizations, however, we have found there are important distinctions to be made between advancement, development, and fundraising. The latter two may be interchangeable terms; advancement, however, is a different matter.

Articulating the differences and relationships among these words, and considering them carefully as you build strategies to interact with your stakeholders can make a dramatic difference in garnering necessary support for your organization.

To “advance” means to “move ahead.” To accomplish that result, an organization must develop genuine relationships with a sufficient number and the right sorts of stakeholders. When that has been successfully done, these friends will offer support in five specific ways:

• Giving their time as board members or volunteers at the quilt auction.

Praying regularly for your organization and the vital work it does.

Participating in estate planning seminars and special events.

Advocating for your organization within their church, work and social circles.

• And, yes, making generous, regular financial contributions when invited.

We believe that each form of support is essential for your organization’s overall well being and that none is more important than another. We also contend that, for maximum effectiveness, you must build an advancement program that actively invites your stakeholders to offer support in all five ways–not just money–and that you must truly recognize and value each of these gifts.

Having suggested that fundraising (development) is just one component of the broader advancement effort, we understand that the need for more financial contributions is often the driving force behind an organization’s desire to build relationships with stakeholders and, therefore, the focus for much of our work. Even if that is the case, however, an adequate understanding and application of the advancement concept are essential to securing fundraising success. Here are some examples to illustrate the point.

1. When soliciting financial gifts, invite donors to support you in the four other ways described. They will welcome the opportunity and become even more invested in your organization.

2. To create the best list of potential new donors, first identify those friends who are already giving their time or praying for your organization.

3. It goes without saying, don’t visit donors only when inviting a financial contribution! Think of other opportunities to create strong relationships.

4. Give careful thought to what it takes to build genuine relationships with stakeholders–regular communication, honesty and openness, promptness, genuine interest, and more–and be certain your advancement activities reflect those attributes.

5. If you list contributing stakeholders in an annual report, be sure to include among names of “friends” all those who supported your organization, not just those who gave money.

Our name is Advancement Associates for a reason. Likewise, we believe that building an advancement program—not just a development program—will make a “defining” difference for your organization too!


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For love of neighbor–Lutheran Services in America

For more than a century, Lutheran social ministry organizations in the United States have existed out of an intention to recognize God’s love for humanity, and to respond to that love through service to one’s neighbor. For Lutherans, these “neighbors” have included persons with addictions; those in need of affordable housing; veterans; immigrants and refugees; the aged; the disabled; children and families; and more.

Today more than 300 social ministry organizations are united under Lutheran Services in America (LSA), which officially began in 1997 as an alliance of the two largest bodies within the Lutheran denomination: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). So, while many of its members are more than 100 years old, the organization itself is relatively young.

LSA exists to be what Bob York calls a connector. “The single most important thing we do is find ways to bring folks together.” As Senior Director of Leadership Development and Member Engagement, it is York’s job to understand what LSA’s various members do and what they need to help them do it better.

In addition to an annual conference, LSA sponsors several other resourcing events, including a CEO Academy, a Leadership Academy for junior organizational leaders, and an executive retreat.

Half the benefit of events like these, York claims, is to provide places for people to share their commitment to faith; make their own good ideas available to others; and be reassured that others are facing similar issues.

The last point might seem surprising given the diversity of LSA’s members, which range in age from one to over 200 years old, and in size from “basically a one-person shop” to those who employ literally thousands.

But almost all LSA organizations rely on gifts—monetary and non-monetary alike. “You don’t operate for 100-150 years unless you have some genuine support,” asserts York, who goes on to articulate several ways various donors help to further the mission of a social ministry organization.

Volunteer labor and in-kind donations allow an organization to support projects it couldn’t otherwise achieve. Private donations can be used to invest in new programs or advocate for a cause that government funding might not support, like an enhanced chaplaincy or spiritual care program. Each year, new LSA members spring up when former organizations merge or multiple congregations cooperate to form a new entity. These new groups, York claims, are not typically rich in cash, but they can be rich in what they do within their community (i.e. tutoring volunteers, taking in food donations, or helping people find jobs).

An organization’s CEO is almost always involved in development. Those LSA ministries with development officers on staff share their ideas to help shape other organizations with less sophisticated fundraising efforts in place. Resourcing events like those mentioned feature strong speakers and presenters like AAI’s own Becky Drumm, whose presentation last year on “Growing Your Own Development Officer” (based on this article) provided relevant and timely advice, York believes, especially for many smaller organizations in attendance. Rich Gerig of AAI will present a session on “The CEO’s Role in Fundraising” at the February CEO Academy.

York also works with consulting services, which affords him the chance to connect members with services they may need, whether in times of fortune (i.e. when an organization wants to grow) or misfortune (i.e. when facing a shortage of funds). In addition to the expertise York and other internal staff can offer, LSA has named several additional preferred business providers; AAI is one.

That relationship takes on flesh through LUMEN Resources, a connection forged between Lutheran Services in America (“LU”) and its Mennonite counterpart (“MEN”), Mennonite Health Services Alliance. The idea originated with a friendship between CEOs of the two organizations, who led a small group of staff in some joint consulting projects and discovered they had much in common.

LUMEN visionaries contemplated how their two relatively small organizations could have larger impact if they combined forces. Since collaborating, the number of consulting and training projects has slowly grown. A recent venture was a joint presentation at the 2012 LeadingAge annual meeting in Denver, which has already yielded several new consulting opportunities.

Bob York believes there will be continued opportunity in the future, as social ministry organizations wrestle with how to best adapt development efforts in a changing world. LSA organizations, he says, are wondering what kind of investments they should make in technology and new media. “One third of Americans no longer have a land line. And everyone screens calls so it’s very difficult to even deliver a thank-you message directly.” Mail, he says, is much the same; who knows if it even gets looked at? “I see a lot of interest in the questions, ‘Is there a new donor profile?’ and ‘How do we best reach people?’”

York further points to the online availability of Form 990s and websites like, where he expects all charities will one day be rated. “I think sites like these will apply statistics—perhaps mindlessly—to any charity.” For instance, York speculates, a prospective donor might see that an organization’s operating costs are higher than average and, “because she might not be as familiar with our organizations as past donors have been (because technology allows her to get her information differently than past donors did) she may not look beyond that statistic when making her giving decisions.”

Service models are also changing. For example, within the last decade, continuing care retirement communities throughout the United States have seen a dramatic increase in the number of persons benefiting from home health services. At the same time, more and more residents are outliving their financial resources, requiring CCRCs to find ways to fund benevolent care. “Our [senior care] organizations are experienced with capital campaigns,” York says,” but what kind of campaign supports in-home services or benevolent care? These are models we are not used to.”

In the meantime, he continues to tout the importance of connections, both between organizations and between them and their donors. One similarity he sees among the many varied organizations with which he works is the incredible benefit that development efforts provide. “That gives [organizations] an opportunity to allow other people to join them in ministry, and that is valuable apart from any monetary contribution they may make. Pats on the back, prayers, and other forms of support are awfully important for sustaining any faith-based social ministry organization.”

And he identifies one more contribution loyal donors can offer: perspective. “The good news is that the people who run our organizations are working hard at it every day, and know every jot and tittle of the organization. That’s also the bad news. Your most public supporters can offer you a broader perspective of your history, how people view you, and what your future is.”

For all these reasons, social ministry is better served when strong connections are forged–and why the formation of LUMEN also makes a lot of sense to York. Smiling, he names another similarity between the Lutherans and the Mennonites. “We both relate to a few different church bodies who don’t always agree on things,” he concedes. “Many of our local congregations, [while diverse], see the same community need and share an instinct to respond to it. While our church bodies might at times differ theologically, this serving of neighbors is something they can agree on and provides a wonderful basis for cooperation.”

That cooperative spirit extends to donors as well. “Our many organizations offer donors a chance to use their resources to truly make a difference in the world. It seems kind of self-serving to say, ‘We’ll help you out by spending your money’ but, in a way, they can join in a mission that is really valuable and that it would be harder for them to do on their own.”


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Positioning your organization for campaign success

Much about a fundraising campaign cannot be predicted or controlled. Will a life-changing event change the anticipated gift of your major donor? Will the actual cost of your new building exceed earlier projections? Will an unexpected, unrestricted estate gift become available? Will a newspaper article about a disgruntled employee give your organization unfavorable publicity in the local community? Surprises such as these–some positive and others concerning–affect most every campaign.

There are some elements of the campaign that remain firmly under your control, however. Using these “best practices” as building blocks will pay dividends, whatever surprises may occur.

Pick the right campaign chair. Doing your homework and then inviting the right person to chair the campaign is a key decision. While a current board or staff member might fit this role, Advancement Associates strongly recommends choosing a volunteer–a friend who is a willing advocate for your organization, mission and program. As the “face” of the campaign, a volunteer chair is in the strongest position to encourage other stakeholders to support the project at hand.

An effective campaign chair:

  • believes in the mission of your organization and has supported it over many years;
  • is well known and highly respected within the community;
  • can effectively lead and inspire others;
  • is a skilled communicator;
  • has the potential to make a sizable campaign gift; and
  • is highly regarded by your key stakeholders.

A beginning list of potential campaign chairs can first be identified during the campaign feasibility study. As the campaign begins, then, board members, senior executives, major donors, and other friends can help qualify these names.

Create a campaign organizational chart. Campaigns require extraordinary efforts from an organization’s board members, executive staff, and volunteers. Each of these groups have other daily demands on their time, and campaign efforts often represent “over and above” duties and activities. The right organizational chart and accompanying job descriptions will help ensure coordination and cohesion among campaign leaders.

Here is an example of a campaign organizational chart:

 As mentioned, a specific list of campaign roles and responsibilities should be created for each person and group that appears on the organizational chart.

Build a realistic gift table. No table can precisely model all of the gifts needed for campaign success. But, it is also true that campaigns often resemble others of similar size–whatever the specific project at hand might be. This happens because most campaigns reflect the Pareto Principle, known as the the “law of the vital few:” While all gifts are valued and needed, most of money you raise will be given by a relatively small number of donors.

Just as a realistic gift table can help test potential support for a campaign during the feasibility study, it can also guide individual gift solicitation visits, measure progress being made once the actual campaign commences, and provide a means to evaluate campaign success.

Unless your own records and data suggest otherwise, here are some assumptions your campaign gift table should include:

  • A lead (top) gift that represents 20 percent of the total campaign goal;
  • Large gifts from 10 – 20 percent of the donors that equal 90 – 80  percent of your campaign goal;
  • Small gifts from the hundreds of remaining donors that will bring your campaign to a successful conclusion.

Freshen the case summary. In a typical feasibility study, representative stakeholders respond to the organization’s plans for a campaign as described in a brief, well-written case summary.

The case summary continues to play an important role once the campaign has begun–but first it should be revised to reflect important learning from the feasibility study. For example, perhaps the statement should reference the extensive planning process that produced campaign priorities. Or, it may be important to point out that estate gifts, as well as cash gifts, are acceptable.

Once these edits have been made, the case summary will help keep campaign messages consistent; guide individual gift solicitation visits; and provide an on-going reminder to all of the primary purpose of your campaign: to strengthen mission.

An apt metaphor for a fundraising campaign is a roller coaster ride, complete with ups and downs, thrills and chills. But these four “best practices” will help keep your campaign on track, all the way to the end!

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What’s in a name?

The mention of a name brings a mental picture. It can be good or it can be bad. It communicates identity. A name reflects reputation. A person with a “good name” is known and admired. He/she inspires trust and confidence. Others want to be associated with him/her. We are willing to advocate for such a person.

The same is true for your organization. When your agency’s name is mentioned in the local community, what do people think? What is the picture that is drawn in the collective public’s mind? How good is your name among the persons that you serve, or want to serve? Do people proudly share your name with others? Do people associated with your organization extend themselves to support you, give time and resources and do they gladly tell the organizational story?

A “good name” is a valuable asset—literally. In the for-profit world marketers call it brand equity and that is how it appears on a firm’s balance sheet.

In the nonprofit world, a name is often not seen as important and is sometimes even a liability. In some cases, the name is a relic of the past and describes associations that are no longer active. Other times, the name does not create meaning or confuses constituencies who do not understand its historical context. There are also times when people associate the name with unfortunate events that undermine positive feelings.

In rare cases, the name may need to be changed. For example, changing service models in senior care have prompted many continuing care retirement communities to dissociate from the perceptions attached to the term, “old people’s home.” One AAI client formerly known as “Mennonite Home for the Aged,” for example, became “Mennonite Village” in 2002 to more accurately reflect the range of services it had come to provide in the previous 55 years.

Another example of a successful name change is found in a church-related organization that provides pension and financial services for ministers. While this organization was known for excellence and integrity, its historical name (“Board of Church Extension”) did not generate excitement among the key constituency. It sounded outdated and institutional, and made it difficult to extend its mission to church groups beyond the founding movement. Recognizing the need, the organization established a new name (“Servant Solutions”), and then implemented a brand repositioning strategy. The result has been greater constituency emotional connection to its mission and an expansion of its opportunities beyond its founding church.

So, what image and feelings does your organization’s name conjure in the minds of your constituents? A name audit is a research project designed to determine whether your name is an asset or a liability.

Here is how you can conduct your own name audit:

1. Identify one or more constituencies that you want to study. A good place to start is with a group of persons that you currently serve, and those on a prospect list that you hope to serve in the future.

2. Get a contact list of persons in the group(s) you want to study. Number the list and then use a random number generator to select 10-20 persons from each group. If you want to study both your current and your hopeful clients, select ten per list.

3. Send each person a mail invitation to complete a short questionnaire. Explain the study in a simple cover letter and then provide an attractive form with a few questions. Keep the responses anonymous to add credibility. Provide a stamped return envelope for the questionnaire to be returned.

4. In the questionnaire, ask a few simple questions.

a. What words come to mind when you hear the name……?

b. On a scale from 1-10 (1 being less appealing and 10 more appealing), how appealing is the name ….. to you?

c. Does the name make it more or less attractive for people to want to be affiliated with …….?

d. Comments about the name and the impression it gives are welcome. Thanks for sharing.

5. Expect 3-10 responses. Look for patterns that may cause concern. Is there a difference in opinion between those persons in relationship with your organization and those not?

While not scientific, this study will give you a good enough snap shot of your brand equity to determine whether or not there is an issue. If there is evidence that your name is a liability, you may wish to engage professional counsel to conduct formal research.

When evaluating what your organization needs to be successful, a name may seem too obvious to even consider. But do not overlook the importance of keeping your name a “good name.”


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Pennsylvania school re-shapes enrollment effort

Imagine yourself in this scenario: You are the new administrator of a small private Christian school. For a number of years now, your school has enjoyed steady enrollment growth. Families are attracted to its diverse student body; highly qualified teachers and caring staff; Biblically-based curriculum; and abundant co-curricular opportunities. Students come to you, prompted mostly by the word-of-mouth testimonies of loyal constituents. As enrollment continues to climb, your stakeholders see the need for increased student capacity. Leaders conduct a successful capital campaign for major improvement and expansion of your facilities.

But after completing the project, enrollment levels off. Then, it begins to slowly decline. In fact, just four years after building, your student body has room to grow by roughly 40%! Internally, your program is as robust as ever. Your patrons are committed and your constituents are generous. The future may still be bright, but may require your enrollment efforts to shift from “relatively minimal and passive” to “intentional and sophisticated.”

And with limited experience and no enrollment person currently on staff, perhaps your biggest question becomes, “How?”

For Keith Garner, this scenario requires no imagination. He has witnessed it unfold for Lititz Area Mennonite School (LAMS), where he is currently in his second year as head administrator.

Located in southeastern Pennsylvania, LAMS serves grades pre-K-8 and is one of eight such Mennonite schools in the greater Lancaster area. In addition to this high level of competition, several other external factors have, in recent years, influenced enrollment. Among them:

• an increasing number of potential patrons are considering home schooling.

• the nationwide recession has created financial hardship for many families, including their ability to pay for private education.

• Christian education is a waning priority for some parents.

Recognizing these realities, and anticipating that these circumstances may be unlikely to change anytime soon, the school decided to be proactive in addressing its challenges.

Primed to be proactive

A few things were working in LAMS’ favor. First, it already had an active enrollment committee, formed several years ago upon a staff vacancy. The group includes Garner and representatives from the board, staff and patron body. Second, Garner, who has worked at the school a total of 23 years, had noticed enrollment numbers dwindling and so entered his new position eager to try some new ideas.

In the summer of 2012, LAMS also contracted with Advancement Associates (AAI). Principal Rich Gerig first conducted an enrollment audit. Based on the audit, AAI recommended the school take the following steps, and offered suggestions for how to achieve each one:

1. Build the enrollment database.

2. Review retention patterns.

3. Identify distinctives of LAMS.

4. Identify ‘desirable outcomes’ of a LAMS education.

5. Strengthen visitation activities.

6. Identify and mobilize networks of current patrons.

7. Prepare formal enrollment and communication plans.

8. Consider hiring an enrollment director.

Tough questions, concrete steps

Gerig asked—and continues to ask—tough questions, Garner says. “He forced us to really look at what we were doing in the area of enrollment. And what has come to light is what we really were not doing.”

Systematically tracking queries was one thing LAMS began working on right away. They created a tool that each secretary uses to gather information from every prospective patron phone call or drop-in. This information goes immediately into a prospective student database, which will be used when organizing a February open house.

Other immediate steps have also been taken:

1. Garner has begun conducting informal exit interviews with each patron family who leaves LAMS, and plans to develop a more formal exit survey.

2. The school made enrollment growth a part of its strategic plan in its recent re-accreditation process.

3. The board has approved a part-time enrollment coordinator staff position, whom Garner hopes to have in place in early 2013. Gerig is helping to shape the job description for this position, based on his own list of 10 desirable qualities for an enrollment officer.

4. Finishing touches are being put on a written enrollment plan, a collaborative effort between Garner, Gerig and members of the enrollment committee. Having a written plan is helpful, Garner says, because it forces the team to put things in writing “for the world to see.”

LAMS continues to work on some of Gerig’s “tough” questions. “Every school needs a selling point,” Garner acknowledges. “We feel that we do many things very well, so one of the important things we continue to wrestle with is what ‘our thing’ is. What makes LAMS truly distinctive?”

Articulating desirable outcomes of a LAMS education has also proven challenging. “We know what they are,” says Garner, “but putting them into a format that can be communicated through the written and spoken word is important.”

An on-going process

This administrator knows that enrollment in small private schools such as LAMS is likely to be an ongoing concern, and is responding accordingly. While he still believes that the best form of advertising is word of mouth, he is also aware that for many schools, “that just isn’t doing it anymore,” and that such schools will need to be more proactive in order to maintain or grow enrollment. That is one reason Garner expects the enrollment coordinator position to become a permanent fixture among LAMS staff, and one whose time will likely increase as enrollment grows.

But Garner is also realistic that it will likely be some time until the school reaches its total capacity. Based on an intensive self-study completed last year as part of their re-accreditation process, LAMS has set an enrollment goal of at least 288 students (300 preferred) by 2016, approximately a 10% increase from the current student body.

When asked what stands to limit their success, Garner replies without anxiety. “Enrollment in a Christian school is truly a matter of the heart. No matter what we do, the Lord will bless and send the families He wants here. We need to do our part, and then allow the Lord to bless those steps that we take.”