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: Which one are you?

Kelly UpdikeA Fundraiser’s Journey Kelly Updike for PCNRC

Which one are you? 

In the nonprofit industry, we are called upon to juggle, play with fire and swallow swords.

Wait a second, I might have confused my job with working in a circus. … Oh. … Never mind.

Because of this job requirement and also being a practically perfect person (aren’t you?), I find it easy to say that I can do oh so many things.


Truthfully, I am pretty good at some things and not wonderful with others. Please do not text me with your thoughts about which is which.

In the fund development realm of our profession, there is fundraising and there is grant writing. These are closely related but very different jobs. Both seek and bring needed monies to the organization. Both require good communication skills and detail-oriented mannerisms.

The difference is subtle. I have found that the fundraiser is fearless. Unafraid to pick up the phone or walk up to a person in a crowded lobby. She loves the nonprofit’s mission and she loves people. She is passionate about mooshing the two together. She makes the Ask.

The great fundraiser delivers cookies to people he is meeting for the first time. He is rarely in the office because he is taking a potential donor on a tour, dropping off a note and meeting a donor at the coffee shop to catch up. All in one day. He makes the Ask.

In my journey as a fundraiser, my ah-ha moment is concise: A great fundraiser does not put off picking up the phone.  I bolded and underlined this sentence and would make it a different color with flashing letters if I knew how to do that. Something I’m not-pretty-good-at, oops.

It’s important to know the simple difference. In yourself and in your fundraising team. It’s okay to be one or the other. But you need at least one phone-picker-upper.

Online resources: http://hubpages.com/business/Fundraising-Versus-Grant-Writing ; https://www.firerecruit.com/articles/1345606-The-differences-between-grant-writing-and-fundraising ;


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: 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 www.cfgfw.org .

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

A Fundraiser’s Journey: New Kid on the Block

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

There’s this new thing called a sustained giving program. Several nonprofit colleagues, including PBS39, are offering this to their members and donors. This is when you ask members or regular donors to give a certain amount of money each month, say $5 which is about the same as a Grande Mocha at Starbucks, via credit card auto-pay.

According to Mary Male, PBS39’s director of individual giving, the station began the program in 2012 to increase donor retention. Mary knows her organization’s data, saying only about 12 percent of revenue is retained annually from PBS39 pledge drives. “In contrast,” she said, “the monthly giving program has seen a revenue retention rate of 86 percent from year to year. How has this helped us? Over the past two years, our overall revenue retention rate has increased from 49 percent to 62 percent.”

Mary listed donor benefits to this program:

  • Hassle-free, automatic monthly donations
  • Instead of giving one lump sum every year, a small donation each month eases budget constraints
  • Annual statements provided for seamless tax preparation
  • Flexibility to change or suspend the donation at any time
  • Ongoing membership continues month-to-month and year to year until the donor opts out
  • Satisfaction in continual support without the worry of membership renewal deadlines

And of course there are benefits to PBS39:

  • Increased revenue and donor retention
  • No need to send out appeals to sustaining members to renew their support annually which saves on costs such as printing and postage
  • Steady cash flow

With issues that require ongoing attention, Mary says:

  • “Credit card expiration” – Either use a credit card expiration date update service for a fee or contact the donor, which has proved to be challenging.
  • Closed bank accounts – This happens far less frequently.
  • Donor education – Some donors do not realize that we would like this to be an ongoing monthly donation. Some donors think it is simply a 12-month payment plan. We feel that if we can educate donors better on the front end, they would be less likely to feel they are done after 12 months.”

Many thanks to Mary for sharing this PBS39 success story!

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

Reflections on BLF14: Post #4 – Consensus-based Leadership

Gems from the 2014 Board Leadership Forum, submitted by Laura Boyer.


GOB in DC at the 2014 Board Leadership Forum last autumn (Laura is third from the right)

The Get on Board committee is made up of a handful of talented people who are passionate about our community.

I have experience with collective decision making, so I was excited to hear more about it from consultants who train people in the process. They demonstrated the benefits of their process visually by lining us up in different formations that represented different forms of hierarchies.

The traditional business model, where everyone reports to a superior, had the greatest potential for communication delays, errors and personal agendas getting in the way. Specialized small groups reporting to a main leader or group of leaders were the most efficient way of getting everyone’s input.

We heard from a board member who had trained in the model and rose to a high leadership post in his organization. Since everyone has a voice in the consensus-based model, it is easier for people to shine who aren’t obvious leaders. The model encourages facilitates leadership from “talented introverts.” That was an “Aha!” moment for me because I have seen it happen and achieved it myself.

Submitted by Laura Boyer

A special thanks to Laura Boyer for taking the time to share her experiences at Board Leadership Forum 2014 with our community of nonprofits.  You are much appreciated Laura!

Marilynn Fauth