Fundraising During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Tip #1:   Repeat:  We are all connected to one another, we are all connected to one another, we are all…There is no other.  No “us” versus “them”.  Nothing has pointed out this reality more than Covid-19. We are all connected on planet Earth, and are only as strong as our weakest link. So if you are serving the poor, the vulnerable, the infirm, donors are crucial to helping you meet your mission. Tell them how important they are and connect the dots for them. By helping one another, they save us all. Continue reading “Fundraising During The Coronavirus Outbreak”

Five Ways Major Gift Fundraising and Grant Writing are Alike

For many of us in the fundraising sector, it seems that people get segregated into different specialty areas: annual appeals, major gifts, special events, planned gifts, proposal writing, and grants management. I have the pleasure of working with many capital campaign and major gift specialists, including my colleague Diane Remin. Like others, she initially thought that our two specialties were very different, but upon further thought, the basics of fundraising apply to all development activities. I am happy to present her thoughts on these fundraising best practices that we all should be doing, no matter what our specialty.

Continue reading “Five Ways Major Gift Fundraising and Grant Writing are Alike”

Marketing/Communications: The Flip Side of Foundation Applications with Allison Chisolm, Choice Words/Chisolm & Co.

The program development has been done; a budget developed. You have a fantastic proposal written with a compelling need that any funder would want to fund, right? So you send it off to a new foundation prospect, and what happens?

If they don’t know your agency, the first thing the reviewer(s) will probably do is look at your website. Has it been updated in the past year? Or the past decade? Is it easy to understand and navigate? Does it show how effective you are at serving the population /demographic you serve? If not, that will say a lot about your agency’s capacity and ability to attend to detail. Does it tell an uplifting story about succeeding despite the odds, or just a tale of woe? Continue reading “Marketing/Communications: The Flip Side of Foundation Applications with Allison Chisolm, Choice Words/Chisolm & Co.”

Workforce Training Fund Grants: Are You Leaving Training Dollars On the Table?

Nonprofits have training needs, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has training funds available for non-routine training programs – it’s a match made in heaven! If your nonprofit pays into the state’s Unemployment Insurance tax pool, then you could be eligible for training grants.

What types of workforce training grants (WTFG) are available in Massachusetts? They fall into two different program categories, but for both programs, the training should:

  • make a difference to company’s productivity, competitiveness, and ability to do business in Massachusetts, and
  • the training should result in job retention, job growth or increased wages.

Continue reading “Workforce Training Fund Grants: Are You Leaving Training Dollars On the Table?”


Dear development professionals and other citizens interested in raising money, make no mistake, there are Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) sitting on a lot of cash right now. There has been a huge increase in DAFS since 2008, and they are not going away anytime soon. So how do we as fundraising professionals deal with this phenomenon?

Grantmaking from DAFs has slowed since 2008 – by a lot! Payout rates from DAFs have been declining slowly every year, from 2008 (20% of assets) through 2013 (14% of assets).  DAFs are not subject to excise taxes, payout rules or disclosure agreements, like private foundations. Even worse, no federal law requires that those funds ever be distributed to charity! Call your Congressperson to object, since donors get to take that tax exemption once they put their money into the DAF. It could be decades before those dollars ever find their way to a charity. Continue reading “DAF = DONOR ADVISED FUNDS OR DIFFICULT ASSET FINDING?”

Seven Grant Tips for 2017

I recently requested feedback from a funder when I learned that my really good request was turned down. My proposal was strong, the fit with the funder was excellent, but I knew the competition would be intense. I just didn’t realize how intense. Nonetheless, it is still a best practice to ask, so ask I did.

The funder responded that she had received more than 1000 applications nationwide, and they could only fund 140 total. In New England, she had received 150 proposals, and could only fund 4! So right from the get-go, that funder was only going to fund 2% of all the good proposals that were submitted.
Does it make sense to apply to this funder in the future, vis a vis my client’s time and/or budget?  Continue reading “Seven Grant Tips for 2017”

Big Ideas Matter! Is Your Annual Appeal Thinking Big?

Whether it be politics or philanthropy, having big ideas and goals are crucial to raising money. Exhibit One would be the Bernie Sanders campaign, which was enormously successful considering a small-state Senator candidate who was previously unaffiliated with either major party. He raised $210 Million, from more than 2.4 million contributors. He didn’t win the democratic primary, but he changed the political landscape on how to run, how to engage people and what is possible to request of one’s government.

butterfyA lot of small actions (or contributions) can lead to big changes.  The term “Butterfly Effect” was coined in 1972 by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist.  He had observed that something as small and insignificant as a butterfly’s wings flapping in Brazil could set off a hurricane in Texas! Continue reading “Big Ideas Matter! Is Your Annual Appeal Thinking Big?”


Those of us in philanthropy know the names Rockefeller and Carnegie well. They are large foundations that distribute oodles of money, and have for the past century. But 100 years ago, those names were associated with something else diametrically opposed to saintly philanthropist. They were known as Robber Barons. Talk about successful spin.

They literally brought bags of cash to politicians, to buy their votes. They had the enormous sums of cash, so they felt that they should have all the power. And they did until strict laws were passed in the early 1900s that limited monopoly power.  Large corporations were broken up to ensure competition and fair prices. And to guarantee that the political economy was not swayed in the direction of those with the enormous sums of cash.                                                                         man carrying moneybag Continue reading “CHARITY FOR THOSE IN NEED”

TO PURSUE OR NOT TO PURSUE? The unrequited love of foundation grants

With foundation grants accounting for only 10% – 15% of all charitable gifts in the United States, nonprofits should carefully assess if it makes sense to dedicate time and resources to compete for them.

Make no mistake, grants are extremely competitive. Foundations tend to prefer funding programs (55%) –especially new programs– to general operating (29%) or capital costs (21%). To get a sense of the total number of foundations, amounts given and the sectors to which they give, you can find statistics at the Foundation Center website. You will learn fun facts like only the top 1% of grant recipients captured half of all U.S. grant dollars, and the health sector received the most (28%) grant dollars.

Continue reading “TO PURSUE OR NOT TO PURSUE? The unrequited love of foundation grants”

Guest Blog for Reflection Films: How fundraisers can be more successful

Recently, I was asked by Reflection Films to discuss how fundraisers can be more efficient and improve their odds for success. The results follow.

Q. How should busy fundraising professionals spend their time for maximum return?

A. It will vary a little by industry sector, but a fundraiser can never go wrong by spending more time deepening relationships with existing donors.  A nonprofit organization must continually acquire new donors to offset those that leave the area, die off, etc., but the bulk of fundraising dollars will come from existing donors.  So we need to deepen our relationships with them and our organization’s mission to increase the size of their gifts.

That said, I would recommend doing a good job in a few areas of fundraising concentration, such as major gifts and direct mail appeals, or foundation grants and special events, rather than trying to do everything without enough staff capacity. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to ask for money.

Continue reading “Guest Blog for Reflection Films: How fundraisers can be more successful”