Keep at it – A Fundraiser’s Journey

A Fundraiser’s JourneyKelly pic

Kelly Updike for PCNRC

Two separate instances have converged in my head. Ouch!

The first is from a meeting with Dan Swartz, he of Wunderkammer Company. Dan is planning his second annual Design Week, for which he has obtained a sizeable grant to pay for speakers and marketing. This has given him the freedom to obtain great speakers to participate. People who are significant to their field in a national and even world-class way. Some have local ties to this region.

Dan says he just asks. He figures out how to contact the person, by email or through an assistant, and he asks. He says the person will usually reply and is gracious. Sometimes the person says yes, which means Design Week will again have some phenomenal speakers.

The second is from the My City Summit organized by Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI). This year’s theme was diversity. At this event, too, the speakers were local and national, all terrific.

I left this event thinking about our roles in these changing times. We are cranky, according to the keynote speaker, Rich Benjamin. Another speaker, Fort Wayne’s own Courtney Tritch, pointed out that diversity is a needed economic driver. People move to areas where there is freedom and respect for all. Each speaker asked us what we were doing about it.

On the surface these two meetings were very different. But they both ended up in the same place in my mind:

It does not matter where you are politically, uppercase R or D. What matters is that we work every day to make a difference. Our organizations in particular directly impact others.

What are we going to do to help others continue through these times?

We ask and then we ask again. Simply, purely, clearly. As fundraisers. As advocates. As caregivers. As artists. As one human being to another.

Ask. Don’t stop asking.


The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

Let’s Put On A Show

A Fundraiser’s Journey

Kelly Updike for PCNRCKelly Updike

When I was casting about for upcoming blog topics, a staffer suggested I write about what a bad idea it is to have a stage show for a fundraiser. Oh, yeah, everyone around the table agreed, please tell people it’s a bad idea.

OMG, you say, how can people who work at the Embassy say that?

Because it’s true. Many people approach us with their great idea for putting something on stage because they think it’s an easy path to making a lot of money. However, it’s not the backyard simplicity expressed in Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies.

This is true for any fundraising event. There are risks, even after careful planning. Continue reading

Not Feelin’ It

A Fundraiser’s JourneyKelly Updike

Kelly Updike for PCNRC

There very nearly was not an October Fundraiser’s Journey blog post. I’ve had writer’s block before but this was Gibraltar.

Completely out of options, I asked a superb fundraiser if she had some ideas for you. She was totally jazzed by the question and surprised me with her response. She said I knew the answer already because I had just shared it with a group of very tired staffers.

Like Dorothy clicking her ruby-reds, sometimes we need to be reminded that we have the power all along.

First, take a deep breath, stop panicking. You are a very successful person. Reflect on where you are and how you got there. Then pick one thing to do next, just one. Focus on that. You’ve got to take the first step to begin the journey.

Still not feeling it? Take a different turn in the road: Look at your donor list again. There’s at least one interesting person in there. Then get out of the office. Make a visit with that donor. Saying thank-you is fun. Stay out of the office: It’s energizing to talk with your clients or patrons, the people you serve. And grab a coffee with some colleagues; nothing’s better than a group hug.

Now you’re feelin’ it!

[Special shout-out to Nancy Louraine, our very own Glinda.]

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

A Fundraiser’s Journey – Deep Thinking

A Fundraiser’s Journey Kelly Updike

Kelly Updike for PCNRC

The great ladies at the Paul Clark Nonprofit Resource Center suggested a blog about entering a new nonprofit life cycle. Wow. Deep!

Wait, what?! Not exactly sure what they meant, so I Googled it.

Well, the first links that came up were about older leaders heading to retirement and how to handle that new life cycle. Oops, delete, delete! Don’t want to give anyone ideas.

Looked at many white papers about nonprofit life cycles. Frankly, kinda boring with a tinge of scary: Start-up, growth, maturity, decline, defunct.

Read sage advice about staying in the “sweet spot” between growth and maturity. Ah, to be the perpetual teenager. Hmmm. Need to rethink that one.

Due to my extremely competitive nature, I am quite concerned with the “decline” part of the life cycle. Seriously? No way. I am slightly comfortable with a plateau here and there but decline? Who can afford that? Who wants that? Who is satisfied with that?

We need a new nonprofit life cycle. How about: Start-up, Growth, Maturity, Reflection, More Growth, Evaluation, More Growth, et cetera, et cetera.

Do you take the time to think about where you are and where you want to go? Well, me, neither, not with the new air conditioning needing some sort of fix already and the signage not quite completed, that copier keeps beeping and where the heck is the IT lady today, jeepers!

Hey, let’s be trendsetters and make June our Deep Thinking time. What’s going on that’s cool? Keep doing that. What’s not working? X-nay it. What’s the competition doing? Steal those and do them better. And give equal time to not thinking about anything at all. Meet up with friends to debate and solve the world’s problems. Go to yoga or Turbo Kick. Raise your face to the sun. Rub the dog’s belly until his leg kicks. Sing in the car with the windows down. Then, seemingly out of the blue, that great idea to a nagging work problem will hit you: Solved.

Ha. You caught me. All this is really strategic planning, just without the drama. Enjoy.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

A Fundraiser’s Journey: A.Board.Member.Gave.Me.Fundraising.Tips.

Kelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey series

Kelly picIt couldn’t be ignored: I received an email last week from a board member that … get this … contained a link about helping board members be better fundraisers!

Wow! This was a first for me. I had to share this great news with you and, of course, with my own board members.

To top it off, I just got survey results from the League of Historic American Theatres that said the No. 1 issue for nonprofit directors is that their board members need to be better fundraisers. And the No. 1 issue with the board chairs is that they worry about fundraising for the nonprofit theaters. Hmmm, coincidence? I think not.

So, everybody cares about fundraising. How do we connect the dots? The article my board member sent over gives some simple ways to begin immersing board members into the fundraising pool. The first two – make their own gift and thank others – are easy to implement. Locally, the YWCA of Northeast Indiana is superb, memorable and thus unique in using a board member call-a-thon.

The last few tips are, I think, pretty hard to do. Estate planning requires some needed prep work by the organization. For #4, I have found that asking board members to invite their friends still gets mixed results for our organization. This is not a tactic for everyone. The fifth idea, writing about their passion, is made easy when you “interview” the board member and write up the testimonial or story in your newsletter and appeals.

As you involve board members in fundraising, be sure to start with the appropriate board committee (it could be executive, governance, fundraising/development), include fundraising as a strategic topic on every or most board meeting agendas and give board members the messaging and time frames they need to do these tasks simply.

I also suggest you find a champion or two on the board who will assertively remind (dare we say challenge) fellow board members to do their fiscal duty. The staff can plan and implement. The board’s leaders should inspire, remind and hold their colleagues accountable. Can you guess which board member I’ll be sure to include at our organization?!

By the way, here’s that article: 

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

A Fundraiser’s Journey: The Accidental Fundraiser

Kelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey seriesKelly pic

The Accidental Fundraiser

I only wrote that to get your attention. There is no accident to fundraising.

Fundraising, however, can happen when we least expect it. We just have to be attuned to it, on the lookout for it, able to jump on it, ready to roll. Okay, you get the picture.

Some examples:

  • You’re driving along Highway 30 and notice a new company has installed itself along the road. You make a note (carefully, you’re driving a car!) to do a quick Internet search about the company and its owner. You’ll want to send a “welcome to the neighborhood” card. And maybe involvement with your organization will boost the new company’s community and philanthropic profile.
  • While clearing out weeds from your lawn this past weekend, you start chatting with a neighbor and realize her interests could match what your organization does for the community. Next time you see her – or it’s a note/email/call later in the month – you invite her to take a tour.
  • A long-time donor is in your office for a routine visit. You give him a quick update about the goings-on in the organization and mention a few projects you’d like to do in the next couple of budget cycles. Out of the blue, he expresses interest in an area he’s not really funded in the past. Hoorah! You make a note to talk more specifically with him about this later.
  • After a board meeting, you are chatting about the great spring weather with a board member. She mentions that she is attending a few galas for other organizations. You say, “Hey, I can’t afford to go to that but, boy, it would be great to see that event and learn better how XYZ Nonprofit creates such a great fundraiser.” With little or just a bit more hinting (okay, you may have to outright ask), your board member offers to bring you as her guest.

Fundraising requires planning and purpose yet opportunities present themselves. This is connecting the dots; you don’t have to be pushy. Be ready, be alert, be yourself.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.




A Fundraiser’s Journey: Dave Bennett’s Top 10 List for Grant Writers

Kelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey seriesKelly pic

You are in for a special treat as this post is written by David Bennett, executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne. Since its founding in 1956, the foundation has had a mission of serving the Allen County community by improving the quality of life for all of our citizens. In the last 10 years, nearly 7,000 gifts have been received totaling more than $86 million. At the same time, more than 1,100 charitable organizations and hundreds of students have been awarded nearly $80 million in grants and scholarships. You can read more about the foundation at .

Dave’s expert advice for fundraisers.

top 10Your executive director comes to you and says, “Say, have you ever written a grant application?” Swallowing hard, you mumble something about a creative writing assignment you vaguely remember from first period English class. “Perfect!” she says.

So what do you do next? Here’s a Top 10 list to get you started.


10. Prepare to write – All writers are different; I need a decent chunk of time, a cup of coffee, and a quiet room. Prepare to write like you would prepare for a picnic. What do you need and what is the setting?

9. Read the requirements carefully. I know politicians say, “Don’t answer the question you are asked; answer the question you want to answer,” but that is a recipe for a grant application rejection. Carefully look at what the application asks and tailor your response to that question.

8. Outline first. Before you write a single sentence, outline what your entire application will say.

7. Brevity – Keep your narrative concise and to the point. I have a well-worn copy of Elements of Style in my den. Every so often, I pull it off the shelf and read a chapter. One of the key insights from the book reads as follows:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.

Did you take four paragraphs to convey a message that could be told in one paragraph? Remember, the person reading your application likely is reading dozens of applications and probably under a time deadline. Make the job easier by keeping your application concise.

6. Avoid Acronyms. Never use an acronym that you have not defined. In addition, don’t overuse acronyms even if they have been defined. Continue reading