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A late bloomer in philanthropy

After spending decades watching her husband’s wealth grow, one widow intends to spend the rest of her life giving it away as a philanthropist.

“Years ago, my husband made a very good investment that is still growing,” she told AAI while being interviewed during a feasibility study. “Some of our wealth came from a successful business that he ran for many years and I feel like that should be ours to keep. But the money that we only have due to a lucky investment, that I feel we should give away.”

And so, after her husband’s death several years ago, she began doing just that. Though her husband had made the financial decisions during his lifetime, this philanthropic novice now began recognizing and responding to the various needs around her. She started small and local, preferring to see for herself how her money was making a difference.

But before long, “word got out” and by now, she receives invitations to give from all over the country. While she’s no longer taking on new causes—she’s already in her 90s—she continues to support a variety of initiatives, especially those in her community that focus on education and children.

She spends much of her time in her philanthropy office, where she makes out checks, gathers information about charities and keeps detailed records of how much and where she gives each year. And, while she doesn’t hide her charity list, she also doesn’t broadcast it.

“Having my name in the paper isn’t my style,” she explains when asked why she prefers to keep her giving anonymous. This anonymity extends even to her children, whom she hasn’t involved in her giving decisions for a few reasons.

That said, she believes giving is very important, even for younger people. And as she describes the satisfaction received from supporting causes she believes in, one gets the feeling that had she to do it over again, she too would have practiced charitable giving much earlier in life.

As it is, she’s thankful that good health allows her to be so active in philanthropy now. She recounts what one friend told her as she speculated how long her health might allow her to continue in this work: “God isn’t going to let you die! He’s having too much fun watching you spend your money!”

By definition, a philanthropist possesses “a desire to improve the material, social, and spiritual welfare of humanity, especially through charitable activities.” This friend proves that desire can emerge at any age and in any circumstance—to the benefit of all.


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Ten desirable qualities of an enrollment director

1. Belief in and understanding of “the cause”

• As a “face” of your organization, would represent the organization well

2. Relational ability

• Communication skills (including listening)

• Enjoys people and can earn their confidence

• Can relate in a positive way with both students and parents

3. Familiarity with constituency

• Knows, and is known by, your stakeholders

4. Productive

• Can meet goals for numbers of prospective student/parent contacts

• Willing to be held accountable

• Possesses right combination of relational ability and efficiency

• Can produce a formal enrollment plan and follow it

5. Willingness and ability to travel

• Can follow flexible, irregular work schedule

6. Understanding of marketing concepts and appropriate application of them

• Thinks and works strategically

• Segments prospect pool

• Can customize approaches to prospective students

7. Informed, self-starter, creative, organized, motivated, initiator, goal-oriented, team player

• Can stay motivated, energized and engaged while working solo

• Interested in professional development

• Keeps abreast of “best practices” in enrollment work

8. Works effectively with volunteers

• Identifies enrollment-related activities that can best be handled by volunteers, and trains people for their tasks

9. Comfortable with enrollment technology tools

• Can organize, maintain and use an enrollment database

10. Related experience

• Church organizations, marketing, sales, counseling, etc.


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CEOs discuss development

Edith Yoder
It’s difficult to narrow down the single most important development role of a CEO, since the work of development is, by its’ very nature, so multi-faceted. I have found that being open — visionary, invitational and transparent — in relationships with board, staff and donors is key to development. This approach provides space for dreaming, achieving and celebrating the mission, while acknowledging the difficulties, barriers and learnings as we work to achieve our goals. We all want to be a part of a mission that transforms lives and yet I believe that our donors also want to hear from me in authentic ways about the real-life nature of our work.                                       –Edith Yoder              Bridge of Hope National

We asked several CEOs to reply to this question: “What is the single most important role you, as a CEO, play in development?” While the most popular answer was “to be able to articulate the vision and mission of the organization,” respondents offered these additional thoughts:

• To listen to the dreams of potential donors.

• To maintain a strong relationship with the chief development officer.

• To make the “ask.”

• To build relationships with the community by sharing the organization’s story.

• To be able to intelligently talk about the day-to-day operational successes and challenges, how the organization demonstrates good stewardship, is achieving positive outcomes for its clients, is exercising best governance practices, and is making a difference.

• To be involved in establishing direction for the development program.

• To ensure that supporters have confidence in leaders’ competence and integrity so that they have reasons to invest in the organization’s work.

• To create relationships of trust with constituents in the community and at a distance.

• To be a person of integrity and character, and to be accessible.


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Fundraiser stands the test of time

In his various associations with faith-based nonprofits, AAI Principal Rich Gerig gets to hear firsthand about the ups and downs of all things development, including special events. While such events represent the initial foray into fundraising for many nonprofit organizations, a number of factors call into question their long term viability:

• Fundraising events require a substantial amount of staff time and energy, and rely upon the active involvement of volunteers.

• Attracting adequate numbers of pancake eaters and quilt buyers is a growing annual challenge.

• Depending upon how they are measured, events often offer a poor return for investment when compared to other fundraising approaches.

It is not surprising, then, that some statistics place the average lifespan of a fundraising event at just seven years.

Despite these figures and trends, one Arizona retirement community has had a different experience. Next month, campus will be abuzz as Glencroft (Glendale) holds its 40th Quilt Festival & Auction.

Event Chairman Barb Lenards and Kandy Wagenbach, who serves as vice president of development and officer of Glencroft’s Friendship Foundation, took some time to share with AAI why they feel the auction continues to be worth the effort. In learning about Glencroft’s long standing festival and auction, readers should take careful note of the goals and strategies at play, including key opportunities for both fundraising and “friend raising.”

AAI: Give us some of the history of the Quilt Festival & Auction. How did it get started?

Glencroft: The auction was started by Merle Graber, who owned and operated a trailer factory in Phoenix. Over the past 40 years, it has grown in scope and attendance. In 1989 Glencroft began holding the sale in a huge tent as well as surrounding buildings. The event has always benefited the Glencroft community and residing seniors through the organization’s Friendship Foundation.

AAI: What are the goals of the event?

Glencroft: This year our monetary goal is to net $130,000. A second goal is to maintain the sense of homecoming for those who attend, many of whom visit Glencroft each year only for this event. For us it is a time of community coming together as well as a fundraiser.

AAI: How is the event organized? What stakeholder groups are involved? When does the planning start?

Glencroft: The event operates at the discretion of Friendship Foundation. An Auction Team provides leadership for the various booths, attractions and areas needed to operate the event. This year’s team has 22 members.

Larger donors are invited to donate according to designated giving levels to help underwrite the costs. In addition, more than 100 businesses give smaller gifts that we use for a silent auction. We also depend heavily on our board members to supply financial support and gifts for the auction. We have quilt sponsors who underwrite the cost of the quilts. In total, close to 500 stakeholders are directly involved.

Planning for the next year begins within a month after the event with a trip to Indiana to purchase quilt tops. Furniture and items for the many booths at the event are collected all year long, washed, priced and stored for the big day.

AAI: Share some highlights for those involved.

Glencroft: The highlight for those planning the event this year is a quilt collection with patterns that were introduced 100 years ago in celebration of Arizona’s 100th birthday.

The highlight of the event for our guests is certainly the live auction on Saturday, but festival-goers also enjoy the many chances throughout the weekend to gather for meals, entertainment, our silent auction and the different booths.

AAI: How are the proceeds used?

Glencroft: Recent past projects have included a chapel in Providence Place (our care center) and the development of Sarah’s Place, a memory care facility currently under construction. The board of trustees decides each year how the funds will be used.

AAI: What are your thoughts about the return for investment of this event? Do you attempt to measure those? How do you calculate?

Glencroft: If you took all of the volunteer hours donated and the upfront costs on any fundraiser you will always lose money – even the high profile ones that raise millions of dollars.

But how does one measure the benefits that don’t show in your bottom line?

• How do you know when you get a $100,000 planned gift, that the seed was not planted during a special event?

• Does a new resident move to your facility or become involved with your agency because of the involvement and connection they made through an activity you offered?

• Our campus and our residents take on a new life as the auction approaches and residents know that family and grandchildren will soon arrive. What is that worth?

• What price can you put on our winter visitors who arrive three months before the auction to help and to be part of a bigger cause than just raising money?

• How do you evaluate something as priceless as the closeness of a group of 30 women who quilt together day after day?

Having been in fundraising for 35 years, I’ve had people ask, “Why do we do these fundraisers that cost so much money and take so much energy and time?” We tell ourselves we could just go out and ask for planned gifts and make much more money with much less expense and effort. But I think that is a false conclusion; to me large donations come because of the courtship we do with our donors through special events, which prepares them to say yes to the marriage of a planned gift. So, it is necessary to do special events, but also to then offer our donors that next level of commitment.

AAI: What are the opportunities and obstacles faced when considering events as part of a fundraising program? What would you say to another CCRC development director who is trying to evaluate the value of current fundraising events or thinking of starting some for the first time?

Glencroft: The obstacles of an event are always the same: the time and expense of preparing for the event. The opportunities are to bring like-minded people together to champion a common cause and to build a sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization.

My advice to another development director would be to find that event that embraces your organization’s mission, speaks to the heart of its stakeholders and brings community together. Follow up on this event with more personal relationship building with donors, which will help them move up the ladder from just a participant in a special event to making a more permanent commitment that will support your organization.

AAI: What other comments would you like to make about fundraising events?

Glencroft: When planning and holding fundraising events, involve those stakeholders who will give you honest input as well as financial and volunteer support, and who have a clear vision of your organization’s mission.

Fundraising events—even those that seem like a perfect fit for your organization—need to be redefined over time. With all of our events we evaluate what we can do better to produce the best results. If you have an event that has run its course, let it go and create something that will give new life to all of your fundraising efforts.


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Perspectives of major donors

At the 2011 Mennonite Foundation Development Conference, three donor couples shared perspectives of “dos and don’ts” of fundraising. Several are listed below.


• expect us to make a quick decision about a major gift.

• assume our on-going support; we give as an investment, not to create dependency.


• give attention to developing a genuine relationship with us before asking for big gifts.

• know our interests and passions (and respect how they might lead us to decide not to support your project).

• respect our time and availability.

• understand that our giving has integrity.

• be honest and transparent with your request and updates about your organization.

• give us a chance to get personally acquainted with your project.

• let us know how this project fits into a long-term plan.

• see us as we are; it’s not always fun to be entrusted with wealth.



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Planned giving workshops

In the December 2010 issue of AAI E-news we included an article about benevolent care programs, with which retirement communities seek to support current residents who have exhausted their financial resources through no fault of their own, and are unable to pay the full cost of required services.

Among other donors, residents already living in retirement communities should be invited to consider charitable gifts for benevolent care programs. Planned gifts can be especially useful in this regard. How can a development officer identify and cultivate relationships with those friends who are the most likely candidates to make planned gifts for the benevolent fund? One productive idea is hosting a planned giving workshop. Here’s how it works:

1. First, ask officers from the trust department of a local bank, a community foundation, or a church-related foundation to be the featured presenters in your workshop. They will be glad to do it, have the expertise and information materials needed, and can provide helpful, objective follow-up consultation for interested prospective donors.

Rather than speaking only in generic terms, suggest that the presenters feature your organization in the various examples of planned gifts they highlight. Here is an example from a workshop previously held at Living Branches, a system of retirement communities in southeastern Pennsylvania: Are you making a cash donation to Living Branches every year? Would you like to establish a plan whereby this same amount of cash will flow to Living Branches every year into perpetuity? You can do this by a gift through the will.

Personalizing language in this way will let workshop participants know that your organization welcomes planned gifts.

2. Hold the event on the retirement community campus. In every way, make it convenient for your prospective donors to attend.

3. While publicizing the workshop effectively and inviting everyone to attend, list the names of people most likely to consider a planned gift. Make personal contacts with these people, reminding them of the event, encouraging their attendance, and offering transportation or physical assistance if needed.

4. While the workshop is offered free of charge, ask people to sign up in advance. That will help you identify those who might need a special nudge to attend.

5. Be sure to note workshop attendance in your donor database, along with useful file comments that will help personalize follow-up activities.

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Visioning vs. strategic planning

What is the difference between visioning and strategic planning?

Visioning, while a critical first step, is only a part of the strategic planning process. If the vision is the desired destination, the strategic plan is how to get there.

To illustrate, when planning a vacation, we picture in our minds a particular experience at a specific destination. If it stops there, it is nothing more than wishful thinking. To make it happen, we need a plan that includes goals and action steps: What date will we leave? What route will we take? What vehicle will we need and who will drive? If we work the plan, we’re much more likely to end up having the desired experience at the chosen destination.

A strategic plan may be divided into a series of one-year plans, each of which outlines the steps to be taken that year. Plans will need to be evaluated and adapted to emerging realities in order for an organization to achieve its vision.

Read more on this topic.